House of Secrets 92
Story: Len Wein
Art: Bernie Wrightson
Shortly after House of Mystery was rebranded for horror anthology, the series House of Secrets that had been cancelled for 3 years was brought back to life in 1969 for the same purpose. Cain’s brother Abel would run host duties in this book. I want to focus on the 1st story in House of Secrets 92 instead of the 1st issue of the rebrand. The story is titled “Swamp Thing” that would end up being the origin of the titled character that would spawn several series including an exceptional run by Alan Moore in the 80s.
The character was originally conceived by writer Len Wein and artist Bernie Wrightson. According to an interview in Wizard magazine with Wein, he came up with the idea for the character while riding a subway in Queens.
“I didn’t have a title for it, so I kept referring to it as ‘that swamp thing I’m working on.’ And that’s how it got its name!”
Bernie Wrightson visually designed the character using a rough sketch from Wein. Wrightson was a burgeoning horror artist who would go onto becoming one of the greatest of all time. His covers and interiors would be used across both House titles for years to come. I doubt either expected the character to continue on for decades. At the time the story was a stand-alone set in the early 20th century.
It begins with a creature watching over a house in the rain. We see it’s internal thoughts, confused and trying to remember what it once was. The next page introduces us to a young woman named Linda who was recently wed to her husband Damian. She thinks back to her time with her previous lover named Alex who died in a tragic explosion while performing scientific experiments.
Luckily Damian, Alex’s best friend and co-researcher, was there to comfort Linda and coerce her into marriage. Nothing creepy or suspicious about that! The creature begins to move towards the mansion with the two inside. You can really appreciate Wrightson’s line work and use of shadow in the heavy rain. Through Damian’s internal thoughts its revealed he sabotaged the experiment to murder his best friend. He always loved Linda and was jealous of their relationship. After the explosion he made sure to carry Alex’s corpse to the swamp to remove any evidence of the foul play.
Linda decides to retire early and recoils when Damian tries to touch her. As she moves upstairs to get ready for bed, Damian’s paranoia reaches a breaking point. He assumes her body language is the beginning of the end and that she is starting to suspect him (she is not). He decides the only course of action is to kill her with a lethal dose before she can figure it out (that escalated quickly). As he creeps up behind her while she brushes her hair the creature crashes through the window, lunging towards Damian.
The creature chokes the life out of Damian before he can hurt Linda. Standing there with the lifeless man in its hands, the creature begins to remember her and the life they shared before this. She doesn’t make the same connection and is completely terrified of the monstrosity in front of her letting out a scream. Not wanting to hurt her anymore, he moves away and wanders off into the swamp – taking comfort in it now.
A nice little gothic horror story with some great art. I loved how Wrightson would sometimes not use panels at all but embrace the negative white space of the page. The writing is a bit dated but is still readable. The ending was appropriately morose which I appreciated. That being said it’s hard to imagine that this 8 page story would take off like it did.