Monday, 27 June 2016

Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love

Another genre that got big play in the Bronze Age, and that went almost completely ignored by our gang, was that of Gothic Romance novels, then dominating the shelves of supermarkets everywhere.
Marvel had half a go at it, with Gothic Tales Of Love, a text and illustration magazine that lasted only three issues, but DC initially went at it full tilt, with The Dark Mansion Of Forbidden Love.
DC, of course, were old hands at both romance and mystery titles, and had really sown up comics-code approved horror with House Of Mystery, House Of The Secrets & The Witching Hour, so female centred gothic wasn't that much of a leap.
Each issue of DMOFL presented a complete 'novel-length' tale of romance and mystery, and though it's slightly churlish to say that all genre tropes were fully in place, ( spooky house, handsome brooding male lead, terrified but still plucky female lead ) it's how they played out that makes them fun. Besides, what genre doesn't have it's own cliches.

Dark Mansion didn't last long, unfortunately, for some reason failing to find an audience, and was transformed into the more anthology themed, and less romantic Forbidden Tales Of Dark Mansion.
That was good too, but it's a shame this didn't work, as these are nice little mystery mementoes of a simpler, and more varied, time in comics.
The first issue is written in part by Dorothy Woolfolk, a fascinating character who was an editor at DC, Timely and EC, and who sort of invented Kryptonite, amongst her other accomplishments.
It's drawn by Tony Dezuniga, and it might just be one of the best things he ever did, being beautiful and atmospheric and superbly spooky.
Settle down in front of the fire, pour a glass of wine, and indulge.


  1. DC had two Gothic romance titles, Dark Mansion, and Sinister House of Secret Love which became Secrets of the Sinster House after four issues.
    Marvel took a different route, doing a b/w magazine called Gothic Tales of Love, with illustrated text stories.
    It only lasted three issues...
    BTW, Charlton's entry, Haunted Love lasted eleven issues!

  2. Don't ask how a young fanboy found a copy of this, but I did and I've long loved this book. It was so very different from other comics of the time both in its subject matter and its look. This was my introduction to Tony DeZuniga, who would be a major talent throughout my reading career. I never though got any more, just this one. Thanks for featuring it.

    Rip Off

  3. The DC romance books are a bit of a lost treasure vault for me - lots of good stuff in there.
    D'you know, I don't even recall where I first saw DeZuniga's work. He just seemed to always be there ( in a good way )

  4. This was a part of the search for new trends that was going on in comics in the 70's, when it looked like the Silver Age superheroes were running out of gas. It was a pretty exciting time to be a fan; I loved that more varied genres were being revived and sometimes originated. I think I bought this comic based on the ad you've posted claiming it was "the shape of comics to come." It certainly had a different feel, from the gloomy painterly cover to DeZuniga's photo-romantic art. I remember thinking that the illustrated captions were on the verge of a new type of comics storytelling (though it never went anywhere) and that it added to the novelistic feel of the comic. I also remember DeZuniga did another book-lengther for an early issue of Sinister House of Secret Love that was also pretty impressive.

  5. Tony did great romance comics work, as well as horror for HOUSE OF MYSTERY and related titles, and, of course, westerns, co-creating JONAH HEX! He never lost his stride, even coming back to do one last JONAH HEX graphic novel before he died (even though the movie was abysmal, but that was not his fault). Tony was also the first of "the Filipino Invasion" at DC and Marvel, followed by Nestor Redondo.

    I met Rudy Nebres and his wife at a con last month. Very sweet-natured man, and what a fine talent! One of the last of his generation of talented Filipino comics artists who are still with us.

    Chris A.

  6. I liked reading the genre stuff as a change of pace from the superheroes, but they rarely drew me in like the superhero comics did. This title was before I got into comics, but that DeZuniga art is incredible! As an example of what did draw me in, I really liked Doorway to Nightmare when it came out.

  7. As I say, I never read this stuff at the time, and feel an absolute dumbo now, so it's great to catch up.
    Think I did a piece on Madame Xanadu a while back if you scroll down by the way.

  8. Presumably, Dark Mansion and Sinister House were aimed at fans of gothic romance/suspense paperback novels. But those fans were mostly women and teenage girls, who did not read comics. So, when DC realized that women and girls were not buying these comics, they changed the titles, to emphasize horror and mystery, instead of romance.

    But the fans of horror comics already had House of Mystery and House of Secrets, just as the gothic romance fans already had paperback books by Victoria Holt, Mary Roberts Rinehart, and Agatha Christie (when she was being Mary Westmacott).

  9. It's actually these kind of failed experiments that make the Bronze Age for me, TC.