This is the seventh post in this series. The series pits non superhero genre characters from DC and Marvel against each other. The first post looked at Westerns and Western heroes (http://foxhugh.com/2009/02/13/dc-vs-marvel-western-heroes/), the second post looked at war comics and war heroes (http://foxhugh.com/2009/03/21/dc-vs-marvel-war-heroes/), the third post looked at women’s comics and working women (http://foxhugh.com/2009/04/11/dc-vs-marvel-working-women) and the fourth post looked at space operas and spacemen (http://foxhugh.com/2009/04/20/dc-vs-marvel-spacemen/). The fifth post analyzed funny animals (http://foxhugh.com/2009/06/10/dc-vs-marvel-funny-animals/). The sixth post looked at the teenagers of teenage humor comic books (http://foxhugh.com/2009/07/15/dc-vs-marvel-teenagers/). The eighth and next post will look at kid’s comic books.
This post looks at the horror genre. I had problems separating the horror genre from the superhero genre. This would not have been a problem when I was reading comic books in the sixties and seventies when I was younger. However, since at least the eighties, DC and Marvel heroes that belong to the horror genre have been incorporated into their mainstream comic book universes to the point that they are often just another type of superhero.
For example, Blade, who fights vampires, has done so many crossovers with mainstream Marvel characters that he is no longer a hero of the horror genre but a hero with horror roots who inhabits the Marvel superhero universe. The mystery that is essential in horror is lost when the characters of horror are overused in a flashy superhero universe that in many ways is the antithesis of horror. Superheroes wear bright colors and fly off into the sunset versus inhabiting a world beneath the moon, moss and worms. When you juxtapose a creature of horror with a superhero the creature of horror is lessened. The suspension of disbelief is just too much. I can temporarily believe in a world of horror. I can temporarily believe in a world of superheroes. I can only believe in a world with both superheroes and horror with difficulty.
The entire Vertigo line, a DC imprint, can be seen as an excellent attempt to bring the sense of horror back to DC by creating boundaries between creatures of horror and superheroes for the purposes of better story telling. So who represents pure horror in the DC and Marvel universes? I would argue the horror hosts do! Most horror comic books are anthologies with one-shot characters that often die a horrible death at the end and are never seen again. You have the same problem with romance comics. Both genre focus on single shot stories and finding ongoing characters in both genres is hard do. So what sort of character survives in a horror comic book? The host of the stories is who!
A horror host is the host of a horror comic book anthology. The most famous horror host does not belong to either the DC or Marvel line but to EC Comics. The host for the EC comic book Tales of the Crypt was the Crypt Keeper and perhaps the only horror host to make the transition to TV where the same character hosted the very popular and long running TV show of the same name and also two movies and even a Saturday morning cartoon named Secrets of the Cryptkeepers Haunted House. The Crypt Keeper was one of the GhouLunatics and that included fellow EC horror hosts the Vault Keeper and the Old Witch.
The DC horror hosts include Abel, Cain, Charity, Destiny, Eve, Mad Mod Witch, Madame Xanadu, and Macbeth’s witches (Mordred, Mildred and Cynthia). Abel was the host of the House of Secrets. Cain was the host of the House of Mystery. They are the Cain and Abel of Biblical fame and an ongoing gag is that Cain kills Abel over and over again whenever there is a crossover between the two brothers. The two houses sit next to each other so a little neighborly interaction is only to be expected. Charity was the host of Forbidden Tales of the Dark Mansion and probably wins the title of most obscure and forgotten DC horror host. Destiny hosted Weird Mystery Tales. Eve hosted Secrets of Sinister House from issues # 6-16. Eve later generally replaced Destiny as the host of Weird Mystery Tales. Abel and Cain are officially cousins of Eve. The Mad Mod Witch was the, on again of again, host of Unexpected from issue #108 onwards and with the alias Fashion Thing was rebooted by Neil Gaiman in the Sandman. Madame Xanadu was the host of Doorway to Mystery. Madame Xanadu returned in the first direct sales only comic book in Madame Xanadu. The series is a one-shot. The witches Mordred, Mildred and Cynthia hosted the Witching Hour. Lucian was the host of the short lived Tales of Ghost Castle. Neil Gaiman made use of all the DC horror hosts, except Charity, in his Sandman series. Heck, even Lucian, perhaps the most obscure of the horror hosts became a librarian of the Sandman. All the horror hosts have gone onto new fame and prominence in the Vertigo line that probably exceeds the fame and prominence they had during their original title runs in the sixties and seventies.
In the Sandman title, Destiny and is one of the Endless who in turn are mightier than gods. Destiny has been able to resist the influence of Zeus. Zeus is in turn much mightier than for example Superman. Zeus can create a female version of Superman, Wonder Woman. Destiny is one of the most powerful characters in the DC universe but is also considered the most boring story teller by Abel, Cain and Eve.
Despite a slew of horror tiles by Marvel/Atlas including Beware, Chamber of Chills, Chamber of Darkness. Creatures on the Loose, Crypt of Shadows, Dead of Night, Fear, Giant Size Chillers, Journey into Mystery (2nd series), Tomb of Darkness, Tower of Shadows, Uncanny Tales (2nd series), Vault of Evil, Weird Wonder Tales, Where Creatures Roam and Where Monsters Dwell only one of these titles had a horror host! Digger and Headstone P. Gravely hosted Tower of Shadows that was designed to go head on against DCs House of Mystery and House of Secrets. I do remember Tower of Shadows and I even remember the story of the first issue and I was like 14 years old at the time! I don’t remember the horror hosts at all. Two unknown hosts versus an interconnected family of DC hosts that are major part of the current DC/Vertigo universe? This contest doesn’t seem fair at all and I am going to change the rules! I am going to bring in a Marvels number one comic book host! The Watcher!
The Watcher acted as a host to futuristic stories in Tales of Suspense starting in issue #39 in the sixties. The Watcher acted as second story to the main Iron Man story. The stories were titled Tales of the Watcher. I actually often preferred the Watcher stories to the Iron Man stories and am totally aghast that Marvel has not made an Essential version of Tales of the Watcher. I mean Werewolf by Night and Spiderwoman get an Essential volume but not those great stories by the Watcher? The tradition was carried on in the first volume of the Silver Surfer. Later still the Watcher became the host of What If stories that were 100% superhero stories but the original Tales of the Watcher were mainstream science fiction complete with a Twilight Zone sort of lesson about the universe and/or humanity told by the Watcher at the end.
Despite their genre difference the Watcher and Destiny actually have an awful lot in common. The Watcher is a cosmic entity. Destiny is a cosmic entity. Destiny is a lot more powerful but like the Watcher mostly tells stories, and despite being blind, “observes” and doesn’t really do much. The Watcher is bald and for all we know Destiny might be bald as well. Destiny always wears a cowl and this is probably to hide his baldness. I would see Destiny as being somewhere in the power class of the Living Tribunal over at Marvel. Destiny and the Living Tribunal both wear cowls by the way. The Watcher is at least two hierarchical levels below the Living Tribunal.
The Living Tribunal is even more powerful than Eternity or Death that only represent the totality of one universe. Both Destiny and the Living Tribunal are multiverse type beings that more or less bring balance to the multiverse. There isn’t a different Destiny or Living Tribunal in each universe but one for the whole dang multiverse. A being that performs a balancing multiverse function has to be more powerful than any being limited to one universe no matter how powerful they are in that one universe. Destiny could squash the Watcher but this won’t happen.
Destiny and the Watcher are hyper rational, Mr. Spock is emotional compared to those two, and I do mean the old Mr. Spock, not that new guy French kissing Uhura, and would never engage in aggressive behavior except in self defense and neither would attack the other first since that would be illogical, uncivilized and just bad manners. Destiny and the Watcher both exchange the very best stories from their mutual universes and agree I am not a very good story teller and perhaps should find another hobby. This “DC versus Marvel” story ends in a draw.
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GREAT REVIEW! I agree with all you said in your post, especially at the beggining of your article. Thank you, this info is very useful as always. Keep up the good work! You’ve got +1 more reader of your blog:) Isabella S.