House of Secrets Comic Book Price Guide
by Christopher Tanis and Ashley Cotter-Cairns
House of Secrets was the name of a Silver Age anthology series that featured mystery, suspense and/or horror stories, published by DC Comics from 1956-1966, and again from 1969-1978.
When it was rebooted after the three-year gap in 1969, it became the 'brother' series to DC's House of Mystery, and together the two titles represent one of the last gasps of the anthology style as the Silver Age became the Bronze Age.
Like any "horror" anthology series of the Silver Age, House of Secrets had to stick with somewhat tame subject matter.
In the Comics Code era, it just didn't pay to take risks, and DC Comics certainly didn't want to have any title that made money go the way of the EC Comics titles that had fallen victim to post-Seduction of the Innocent hysteria.
In the 1970s, things would eventually relax, and by the mid-1980s, the emergence of the direct sales market would render the code obsolete, even for DC and Marvel.
Ironically, it was a title born from a character introduced in the relatively tame House of Secrets that brought about the real change.
House of Secrets #92 introduced the Swamp Thing, and after 15 years and some changes, Saga of the Swamp Thing #29 in October of 1984 was the first "mainstream" comic published by one of the "big two" to forgo the Comics Code seal of approval.
In general, with the exception of the aforementioned #92, most issues of HoS do not command huge prices. But like any important Silver or Bronze Age comic, the values generally follow this pattern: early issues from the first run are worth more than later issues.
#92 is the most sought-after, because of the Swamp Thing. Values of issues from the second run vary greatly, mostly based on the cover art. The Wrightson, Adams, or Kaluta covers fetch higher prices than others from the same time period.
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The premiere issue, House of Secrets #1 appeared in December of 1956. Even without the appearance of a character who would later become important or the work of a distinguished artist or writer, this first issue of HoS is important and desirable to collectors.
It is quite a rare comic from the dawn of the Silver Age, and even copies in mediocre condition will fetch a nice price.
This issue features four mystery and horror stories, with one illustrated by DC and Marvel Silver Age journeyman Jim Mooney and one illustrated, surprisingly, by Mort Drucker, best known for his MAD Magazine work. There are also four one-page humor comics. The cover is by Ruben Moreira.
You might not look twice at this comic if it turned up at a yard sale, but you'd be missing out if you ignored it. Copies in good shape can sell for several hundred dollars.
Record sale: $760
Minimum value (poor but complete): $20
In July of 1963, HoS #61 introduced the first "superhero" type character to appear in its pages that had any staying power.
In the story entitled Eclipso, the Genius Who Fought Himself, Eclipso was billed as "hero and villain in one man."
Creators Bob Haney and Lee Elias have both said that they were thinking of a sort of "Jeckyll and Hyde" character when they came up with the story of Bruce Gordon.
A scientist specializing in solar energy, Gordon was in the jungle to view a solar eclipse when he ran afoul of a tribal sorcerer named Morphir. The sorcerer wounded Gordon with a black diamond just before Gordon fell off a cliff to his death.
Gordon comes back to life, much to his own surprise, and finds that every time an eclipse occurs, he becomes the villain Eclipso. While in villain form, Eclipso would create various types of trouble that Gordon would later have to sort out.
Copies of HoS #61 became more valuable after Eclipso was retconned for the early 1990s series The Darkness Within. Copies in good shape trade for several hundred dollars.
Record sale: $1,700
Minimum value (poor but complete): $10
HoS was cancelled in 1966, owing to slow sales.
After a three-year hiatus, it was revived as a sort of throwback, adding the word "The" to the title, to the old-fashioned horror comics of the 1940s and 1950s, at least in terms of the look.
Featuring cover art by Neal Adams, HoS #81 appeared in September of 1969, and established a new formula for the series. There would now be a host, named Abel.
Yes, he *was* the biblical Abel, and his brother Cain was the host of "brother" series House of Mystery. From then until the series was canceled, Abel would introduce each story in each issue.
Like any copies of THoS with Neal Adams cover art, this one fetches a good price, with the added bonus of being the first of the new series.
Record sale: $1,900
Minimum value (poor but complete): $5
HoS #92 was the first issue to feature cover art by Bernie Wrightson, and also introduced a character who would prove, later, to be a game-changer for DC: The Swamp Thing.
Although the Swamp Thing of this story is not exactly the same Swamp Thing who would later become famous, the genesis of the character is the same. Alex Olsen (who would later be renamed Alec Holland) is a scientist who worked in a remote lab, near a swamp.
His best friend, Damien Ridge, envied Alex's relationship with a woman named Linda. After Alex marries Linda, Damien kills him by sabotaging his equipment so that it would explode.
He buries Alex in the swamp, and woos Linda, taking advantage of her grief, and eventually marrying her and moving the two of them into an old plantation house.
Linda eventually begins to suspect the truth, and Damien plans to kill her, but Alex has been reborn from the swamp, as a "swamp thing", a creature with a body made of mosses and plant materials, but with a glimmer of the consciousness of Alex Olsen.
He rescues Linda by murdering Damien, but she runs in horror from him, not realizing that she has been saved by Alex.
The story, written by Len Wein and illustrated by Bernie Wrightson, created a significant response in the readership, enough so that Swamp Thing comics, with Wein and Wrightson helming, would premier in 1972 and run for 24 issues in its first incarnation.
The character, of course, under Alan Moore, would become very significant later.
Record sale: $3,300
Minimum value (poor but complete): $50
Click any link or image to check the current market values for these great old Neal Adams cover issues.
All the Bernie Wrightson HoS covers. Click any to see values.
Michael Kaluta is also a highly collected artist. Click for prices.
DC Comics Characters in House of Secrets
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