Blog-O-Ween

Weirdo Wednesdays: Elvira’s House of Mystery

I love Elvira. She’s funny, gorgeous, over the top, and she loves horror. I aspire to be all of those things even today. I remember her popping up on TV in the ’80s, and every time she did, even if I didn’t understand all of her jokes, I was mesmerized. Sure, I love Joe Bob Briggs and Svengoolie as much as the next girl, but Elvira was truly the hostess with the mostess with her Movie Macabre.

I remember one Halloween my dad brought home a promotional Elvira stand-up he got from work for my uncle, who was also a huge fan of hers. I really wanted to keep it for myself, but it probably would’ve been weird to have a life-size Coors ad in my 4th-grader bedroom. And Elvira is the subject of one of the cheesiest but raddest pinball games: Elvira and the Party Monsters. It’s basically a pinball machine featuring her and a bunch of monsters, and it’s the best. thing. ever. Seriously. If I could own any pinball machine, it would be that one. What other pinball machine do you know of that has actual rubber monsters that dance? Oh, right. Scared Stiff, which also features Elvira. I’ll take both of those and Monster Bash, which is a pinball machine based on the premise that the Universal Monsters are a rock band.

But I digress. This isn’t about monster pinball or my love of all things related to the Mistress of the Dark. We’re here to talk comics! In 1986, during what I can only assume was the height of Elvira’s popularity (because otherwise why would DC do this?), DC Comics rebranded their horror title House of Mystery (1951-1983) as Elvira’s House of Mystery. The series ran for 11 issues and a special, including issue #3, which was not approved by the Comics Code. (The issue featured a fair amount of implied nudity.) (I don’t own this issue, so I can’t say for sure. When I complete my series run, I’ll let you guys know. I also don’t know exactly what “implied nudity” means, but I’m intrigued.) After issue #11, the series moved to Claypool Comics.

If you’re familiar with House of Mystery‘s horror roots, then you’re not in new territory here. (House of Mystery had a brief hiatus from horror in issues 143-173, when they featured Martian Manhunter and Dial H for Hero. Booooooring.) In the last incarnation of House of Mystery, the house was cared for by Cain, who introduced the stories. (This is similar to EC Comics like Tales from the Crypt or anthology magazines like Creepy.) Cain left the House of Mystery when the series ended in 1983, and with the reboot, Elvira took his place. (Interesting trivia about Cain–he also appeared in Plop!, DC’s horror/humor title, which featured art by the likes of Basil Wolverton and Wally Wood. I’m such a fan of the oddball DC titles.)

The fun of this title is, you guessed it, Elvira. While the stories are standard House of Mystery mild horror fare (not in a bad way, mind you), the intertwining threads where Elvira appears are where the book shines. She’s trapped in the House of Mystery, but she’s still got her sense of humor. The art is nice. The interior art is decent–a bit generic, but Elvira always looks good. Cover art for these books is gorgeous. The best cover is for the last issue, #11, another Halloween special, drawn by the incomparable Dave Stevens.

See? Gorgeous, right?

So the next time you’re perusing quarter or dollar bins (or eBay for that matter) and want a fun, spooky series, check out Elvira’s House of Mystery. If you like these stories, I highly recommend going back to House of Mystery. There are some great stories, especially from #174 to the series’ end, and they feature artists like Bernie Wrightson, Alfredo Alcala, and Jim Aparo. (Bernie Wrightson’s first professional comic work was in issue #179.) If you want to read the first issue with Elvira, this blog has scans of most of it. Here’s the first page of one of the stories, “Death Likes a Lullaby”.

Spooky, right? Speaking of “Spooky”, tune in tomorrow for a brief tribute to one of my Halloween playlist staples.

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