House of Secrets 99
Story: Bill Meredith, Jack Oleck, John Albano
Art: Nestor Redondo, Jack Katz, Vic Catan, Frank Redondo
Cover: Mike Kaluta
I picked this issue based on the cover. I think it’s one of the coolest covers of the Bronze Age if not all time. Drawn by Mike Kulata, it is both minimalist design and yet shows the sheer terror of the man trapped inside the crystal ball. The stories inside all were entertaining, but the art was the real star here. I haven’t heard of any of these artists – they seem to have been lost in time and that’s a shame.
The first story, “Beyond His Imagination” is written by Bill Meredith and drawn by Nestor Redondo. The story begins with a young man named Alex who is working at an ad agency and has lost his talent. Worried about losing his job, he seeks out a seance with Madam Tanzosh. She asks him to think of a spirit to contact limbo. Not buying into the act, he makes up his Aunt Emily and then is whisked away to limbo!
He wakes up in the middle of a massive spider-web with a giant spider approaching. Realizing his mistake and screaming in terror he is then transported to a primordial shore in a barren wasteland. Climbing out of the waters onto shore he is greeted by disturbing hooded men and women. They are enraged that he came here only for personal gain and tell him he can never leave. He is then presented with visions of young women in the pools and drink.
He realizes that they are tempting him because he can leave. This snaps him out of the realm and brings him back to the Madam who is also angry. Despite stepping over a lot of spirits, he has now found inspiration from the horrors witnessed in limbo. He rises through the corporate ladder with his new talents until inevitably, he runs out of ideas again. So years later he revisits Madam Tanzosh to go back to the spirits in limbo. Unwillingly to help him, he chokes and forces her to help. This time however, the strain is too much for her and she dies mid seance. Alex is left trapped in limbo forever, stuck in a coma in the outside world…
The second story is titled “Beat The Devil”. The script is by Jack Oleck, with pencils by Jack Katz. It begins with a man robbing a church. The priest who is held hostage tries to talk him out of the robbery but it just makes the man realize he can always repent as long as he lives and be forgiven for his crimes.
So he stabs the priest and runs off. With the guilt of the priest’s death on his hands, he continues his crime spree eventually leading to the police hunting him down. He runs down into a sewer and is shot in the back just as he makes it inside. Hurt and bleeding, he encounters a hooded figure in the darkness. The figure reveals himself to be Satan and tells the man he has been waiting for so long for him to come. The man cries out that he can repent, it is not too late. Satan then corrects him and points to his own corpse that has collapsed in front of his spirit. Enjoy Hell!
The last story is called “Goodbye, Nancy” with story by John Albano and pencils by Vic Catan and Frank Redondo. It opens with a young girl from the title Nancy antagonizing a boy named Andrew who is afraid to jump across a roof. She goads him into it and he barely makes it. His mom then calls him home to eat and avoid further dangerous encouragement from Nancy.
The next day as he is walking home from school she appears again from an alley, which is super creepy. She wants to go blow up a shack with a stick of dynamite like young kids do but he says he has to get home. She “accidentally” pushes him into an oncoming truck but luckily the truck swerves out of the way. She apologizes and gives him a box of cookies to make up for it.
At home his parents ask him about the roof incident the previous day as some neighbors witnessed it. He explains to them that Nancy wanted him to do it as he feeds the gifted cookies to their parrot. The dad calls Nancy’s mom to inform her of their antics when he finds some disturbing information. At the same time the mother finds the family parrot is dead, poisoned by the cookies. Horrified, they run upstairs and take the cookies away before Andrew can eat them.
Andrew’s father has the two of them go to where Nancy was last seen that day. They confront her and tell her that is a ghost, that she passed away from an illness and that she can’t have her son. She is forbidden from visiting him again. It’s both creepy and sad.