Some comic book titles change their format and begin publishing stories from different genres without actually being anthology or tryout books. The perfect example of this is the classic EC title Crime Patrol , which began featuring horror stories after introducing the character of the Crypt Keeper in issue #15. A more popular example is the course-change manifested by the Marvel title Journey into Mystery in the 1960s (with issue #83) when it effectively shifted its format from publishing horror/fantasy to strictly super-hero fare with the debut of stories featuring the Mighty Thor.
The number of titles that change their format multiple times throughout their run is far less common. Among these titles is the comic I want to discuss in this post: DC’s House of Mystery.
Starting as a straight out horror comic, HoM then shifted to publishing super-hero stories before turning to sci-fi fantasy/super-hero stories and then again back to providing a consistent horror format.
Like its sister series, House of Secrets (the title that gave us the Swamp Thing), House of Mystery was supposed to be both a title and an imaginary place in the DC universe.
As a place, the House of Mystery has been featured in both DC horror and super-hero books such as Sandman. As a title HoM represents the comic with possibly the most diverse content in the DC catalog. More than this, since its inception in the Golden Age, this comic has served as a bellwether of the changing interests of comic fans.
Starting out strictly as a horror themed book, House of Mystery was in fact DC’s very first horror comic when this issue was released in the Golden Age. The Golden Age was the birth of the super-hero and at the time DC was king, but, by 1950, when interest in capes and tights began to wane, they knew it was time to change and give the people genres with more than just super-hero exploits to read. Here DC gives us their first entry into the burgeoning horror format. As data shows this book, in decent grade, is a collectors dream and as important first issues go relatively affordable. While a 9.0 certified copy sold for $1,792.50 in 2006 on Heritage, today that grade would most likely cost you upwards of at least $2, 000.00. However mid-grade copies are still affordable, especially raw. And only 98 certified copies are listed on the CGC census. Verdict: an over-looked and under-valued gem.
The Silver-Age witnessed a revival of the fortunes of super-heroes. HoM seeing the decline of interest in the sanitized horror inspired by post-code comics shifted its format and introduced Super-hero stories. And what a hero it chose! In the DC catalog the Martian Manhunter is under-rated. Sure he’s kind of a mix of Superman and DC’s version of the Vision with green skin but he’s also one of the most under-represented of DC Silver-Age heroes. That’s why it is always inspiring to see this iconic cover prominently featuring J’onn J’onzz of Mars. This comic has broken the $1,000.00 mark in 9.6 grade. With only 124 copies listed on the CGC census, if a 9.8 ever surfaces it will be very valuable as the highest graded copy of this book.
HoM stuck with the super-hero theme but hedged its bets when it introduced Robert “Robby” Reed from Littleville, Colorado. The ‘Dial H for Hero’ feature was DC’s attempt to introduce a sci-fi and fantasy twist on the super-hero genre. Robby could become any kind of super being through the power of a magic dial up device he finds in a cavern. Dialing H-E-R-O gave Robby super-powers, while dialing O-R-E-O gave him dessert (just kidding). This comic can fetch around $400.00 in 9.6 certified grade and is very affordable in mid and low grade even certified. An 8.0 sold for a mere $52.00 in an eBay auction on June 18, 2018.
Get this issue for the brilliant Joe Orlando and George Roussos cover but keep it for the thrilling anticipation of the Bronze Age horror renaissance. This is the issue that brought the book back to its roots and shifted focus on the House of Mystery itself. DC hired horror comic master Joe Orlando to edit, as the format changed definitively back to horror with a mystery tinged theme – all perfectly suiting the name of this title. A 9.8 certified copy of this comic has a FMV of around $2, 200.00. Returns are mostly positive and strongest on certified 8.0 copies (+62.1%, after four sales since 2007).