House of Secrets 92
Story: Jack Kirby, Mark Evanier, Mary Skrenes
Art: Bill Draught, Alan Weiss
So there are two other stories in House of Secrets issue 92 that aren’t “Swamp Thing!”. I’d feel bad for not covering them, especially because they are pretty fun. The first is titled “After I Die!” which was cowritten by Mark Evanier and the great Jack Kirby. The pencils are done by Bill Draught. This must have been shortly after Kirby finally got fed up over at Marvel Comics and took his work to DC.
The story opens with a man named Maxwell James who is obsessed with what lies beyond death. His wife is on her death bed and her last words are a request to take care of her step-brother Hal. She appears to see a haunting visage before passing away and Maxwell is desperate to know what she saw.
The next day at his office, Hal makes his appearance as a spoiled playboy. Wasting no time he is already demanding money knowing his sister’s last wishes. Max kicks him out and receives a phone call about a young boy on his death bed. Apparently he has been paying health care expenses for the child hoping to watch him on his death bed which is incredibly disturbing. He arrives at the hospital to find out the child has made a remarkable recovery.
At this point he has a breakdown and decides that the only way to know what lies after death is to kill Hal. He quickly drives over to Hal’s with a gun in hand but before firing the weapon they get in a fight. The result is that Maxwell shoots himself and finally finds out what is waiting for him beyond death. However, Hal makes the mistake of gazing into his eyes and is not prepared for what he saw, driving him mad. The story ends with Hal being committed to an insane asylum. The two flawed characters both get a fitting end.
The second story, “It’s Better to Give…” is written by Mary Skreenes under the pen name Virgil North with pencils by Alan Weiss. Mary was doing most of her work for Marvel at the time and it was pretty standard to use a different name if you were doing any work for the other company. It’s about a man down on his luck who encounters a crying child in a junkyard. Being a kind man at heart, he comforts the crying child who lost his balloon. He gives the child a dime to buy another and the child runs off promising to pay him back.
To his left he notices a dime trickle out of the faucet of a discarded bath tub. It continues pouring out a seemingly infinite number of dimes. He can’t believe his luck as he fills his hat with the fortune and has himself a fancy dinner and buys a new suit.
On his way back to the junkyard to get more coins, a thug takes notice of him and follows. Once back at the bathtub, the thug sees the fortune and bashes the kind man’s head with a crowbar killing him. As he scoops up the coins the child has returned with his new red balloon.
As the man threatens to kill the child, he unexpectedly makes his balloon grow and surround the man entirely until he is trapped inside. The man begs to be released and the child happily abides, popping the balloon and the man out of existence. A pretty bizarre and dark twist at the end. Abel, the narrator, explains the boy was a baby warlock. Sure why not?
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