In the course of talking to comic creators this year, I started to think about their unique talents and what I think they would be best suited to. Inspired by all kinds of wonderful ideas I’ve seen online and heard from creators, I’ve put together my New 52. These are the 52 books I would publish if DC’s offerings were up to me and, as my friends and I have had a good time discussing them, I thought I would share them with you.

I tried to consider the actual feasibility of these titles, not only in the sense of immediate sales but in their ability to expand DC’s brand long-term. I also recognize that this is a dramatically simplified version of what DC actually has to do. As such, I made a couple of rules for myself. First, as I don’t have the same knowledge of the creators’ availability and timeliness as an actual editor, I decided that I would allow myself access to any writer currently working in comics, but that I could only assign a creator to one book. Second, I tried not to put a writer on the same book that they’ve already worked on, though some were moved to similar concepts or allowed to expand short work they’ve already done. Finally, while an actual relaunch might do well to include some new books, I limited myself to preexisting titles and IPs for this project.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, on why I’m right, why I clearly screwed up, who should be illustrating the series, etc. But, regardless, I hope you enjoy.

DC has a long and complicated relationship with horror comics. While they were never primary purveyors of four-color frights and accepted the CCA’s horror ban, DC was all too happy to start smuggling horror back onto spinner racks in the 1970s, calling up the latent influences in many of their Superheroes and even skirting the letter of the law to put a horror book back on the shelves. Before Batman returned to his gothic roots or Swamp Thing shambled out of the Louisiana bayou, there was House of Mystery.

 

CAIN AND ABEL’S HOUSE OF MYSTERY BY JUSTIN JORDAN

DC has a long and complicated relationship with horror comics. While they were never primary purveyors of four-color frights and accepted the CCA’s horror ban, DC was all too happy to start smuggling horror back onto spinner racks in the 1970s, calling up the latent influences in many of their Superheroes and even skirting the letter of the law to put a horror book back on the shelves. Before Batman returned to his gothic roots or Swamp Thing shambled out of the Louisiana bayou, there was House of Mystery.

House of Mystery was the oldest and most resilient of DC’s horror anthologies, predating most of them and the 70s horror boom that spawned them, by almost twenty years. House of Mystery told tales of wolf men and pulp strangeness until the Code forced DC to change its focus to science-fiction. During this time it gave the Martian Manhunter his first headlining feature and introduced us to Dial H for Hero. But comics tend to revert to the familiar and by 1968, the House of Mystery had opened its doors to its traditional patrons once more. With a return to horror, HoM gained a new and “able care taker” in the form of Cain. Cain served as the anthology’s host, followed a year later by his brother Abel, who took over similar duties in the sister series, House of Secrets.

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The original House of Mystery finally shut its doors in 1983, with subsequent attempts at revival materializing in 1986 and 2008.

While I’d love to see DC return to publishing a monthly horror anthology, the economics of it aren’t that stable and it would likely revert to Vertigo without some continuous plot to ground it in the DC Universe. Changes will have to be made, but I think there’s a way to make it work.

Most important for a series like this is a writer of some experience who can put out a consistently engaging comic on a monthly basis. Given the subject matter, I think Justin Jordan would be the right choice. Jordan brings a dash of horror to just about everything he does, bursting onto the scene with The Strange Talent of Luther Strode, a beautiful Charles Atlas fever dream he described as a story “about a geek who thinks he’s becoming a superhero when he’s really becoming a slasher”. In fact, one of the things about Justin Jordan that most impresses me is the degree of variety in his work, despite the general theme of horror that runs through the majority of it.

He blinded Kyle with science!

This panel from an early Justin Jordan issue of Green Lantern: New Guardians demonstrates both Jordan’s mind for horror and his comfort working with artists.

Not only has he proven capable of writing everything from in your face gore to quiet unsettling moments, Jordan has also demonstrated the skills necessary to write in a work-for-hire environment. His work on Green Lantern: New Guardians is a particular favorite of mine and seemed to relish taking the DC universe to places it wasn’t used to.  New Guardians was like the DC Universe version of Star Trek but with more omnipotence and the optimism turned down. And that’s important because, if you’re going to build off of the memory of a classic anthology title, you better be able to write short, intriguing adventures. Needless to say, Jordan qualifies.

House of Mystery presents Jordan with a myriad of options. We could focus on the fact that the house, the setting for the framing device, is actually a sentient character. There’s plenty of room to build some sort of survival horror out of that. Alternately he could come up with a story centered around Cain and Abel. Or maybe he would just like to play with the classic characters that appeared in House of Mystery and House of Secrets: Swamp Thing, Martian Manhunter, Dial H for Hero, Eclipso, I, Vampire, etc.

While I’d be amenable to exploring any of these ideas, I would propose the series to Jordan with the following raison d’etre. Each issue of this proposed House of Mystery revival would feature an unrelated short tale of horror, however the second issue would make some reference to the events of the first. I’d encourage Jordan to find nooks and crannies in the DCU to inspire some of his stories, while creating seemingly independent situations for the others. After five or six standalone stories, the lingering elements – the witnesses, the artifacts, the survivors – would start to appear in a final new story, leading to the introduction of Cain and Abel in some form or another. In fact, if Jordan wanted, we could even try to fit a backup featuring, if not necessarily starring, Cain and Abel into the earlier issues to help give a sense of continuity and encourage readers not to jump off of the series.

By finding a middle ground between the sheer range and creativity of an anthology series and the comfort of a familiar narrative, I think we could give this series another shot. It’s not like there aren’t enough different elements to base a new take on, the house itself could be interpreted any number of ways! House of Mystery would be a way station for those who are looking for something a little less directly tied to the complex web that is DC continuity. The title has always changed to suit the times. Able to call upon the strangeness of a world of lantern-jawed men desperate to pretend they’re not wearing spandex as readily as it could follow the normal and powerless, House of Mystery would keep on doing what it does best.

Tomorrow… Ah, ah, ah, you didn’t say the magic word

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