House of Mystery #229

Here’s another of DC’s brilliant 100-page comics from the mid-70s. This one is House of Mystery #229, cover-dated March 1975. My main reason for buying this one is a fabulous strip by Nestor Redondo — I’ll buy anything drawn by him. I’d imagine a lot of comics fans have not heard of Redondo, but he really was one of the finest illustrators ever to work in the field. His main forte was short stories, but he occasionally drew full comics. He’s probably best known for his work on Rima, and he was the artist tasked with following Bernie Wrightson on Swamp Thing.

HoM #229 is special for the Redondo fan as it has a very long, 36 page, story by the great man. Written by Robert Kanigher in full on bonkers mode, Nightmare Castle is a visual tour-de-force by the Filipino artist. The final splash page revelation is a killer — and no doubt a bit of an eye-opener to those unfavourable to the, er, permissive 1970s!

As with all the 100-page comics, the backup strips are a fabulous mix of vintage reprints. The quality of art in these is really something to savour. First up is a 1969 strip drawn by Jack Sparling. Now Sparling is something of an acquired taste, but I like his stuff a lot. He reminds me of Mike Sekowsky. The next reprint is a strip drawn by Jerry Grandinetti, who’s generally not great (you only have to look at the Prez, or the Outsiders, to see that), but is here inked with an assured hand by George Roussos and the results are quite nice.

The Berni Wrightson drawn The Dead Can Kill is short but sweet. From 1969, it’s early Wrightson, but it’s interesting to see an artist in development. 1957’s I Was a Spy for Them is drawn by Mort Meskin. His style looks rather dated now, but he was a major influence on Steve Ditko back in the day.

Alex Toth was a comics master. His economy of line is astonishing, and the story reprinted here, Mask of the Red Fox, shows his style to maximum effect. Toth had the amazing ability to be able to sketch three lines, add a blob of ink, and suddenly have a fully-rendered panel!

The Wayne Howard drawn Grave Results brings up the rear of this lovely anthology. Howard mostly worked for Charlton Comics, and he had a style influenced by Wally Wood. Some Sergio Aragones humour panels round out the package.

All in all, a darn fine comic!