Sunday, October 16, 2016

House of Secrets #140 (1976)

House of Secrets #140 (February-March, 1976)
"Reprise: The Patchwork Man"
Writer - Gerry Conway
Artist - Nestor Redondo
Editor - Joe Orlando
Cover Price: $0.25

Managed to wrangle a horror book out of the horror-show that is my comics library... today we're going to discuss an issue of House of Secrets featuring a character introduced in the pages of Swamp Thing.


Welcome to Stacy's Department Store, where the elite shop for the newest fashions.  Here we meet a pair of young women as they discuss their romantic options and future in the sales biz.  As they pass through the lingerie section a horrid Frankenstein's Monster-esque figure emerges, and lunges toward the pair.  The women's scream alerts the nearby elderly security guard... who happens to be packin' heat.  He unloads his pistol into the monster which barely slows him down.  Officers appear on the scene and finally manage to take him down.

The monster is kayoed when a bullet grazes his crooked dome, and the officers escort him downtown.  Before they can "book" the beast, a creepy crew of dudes enter the station.  One introduces himself as Dr. Elijah Chomes, and he brandishes a court order for the Patchwork Man's release, signed by a Justice Ford no less.  The officers are powerless to stop Chomes and company from taking their man, however, once they make it to the street... the Patchwork Man lashes out.  It takes a burst of a concentrated chloroform package to finally down the beast.

The Patchwork Man awakens to find himself strapped to a strange round table... surrounded by folks in lab coats.  Chomes tells the story of their subject's past life... his life as Gregori Arcane, the father of Swamp Thing's main squeeze Abigail Arcane!

We enter into a flashback wherein Gregori was fearful that Abigail would be taken from him by force of the government.  Abby's mother had recently passed on, and he himself was often busy on expeditions or some such.  They stayed with his brother who continually reassures him that he will help him maintain custody.

Several weeks pass, and Gregori, having heard that the government was comin' a'callin', cancels a trip and heads back to his brother's home.  He strolls up through a parcel of forest he hadn't walked before... which, unfortunately is home to an ancient German mine field!  Whoops.

Gregori wakes up to find himself before his creepy brother.  He's done his best to rebuild his blasted bro, relying on the "spare parts" he had laying around.  This is how Arcane got all Patchworky.  He continues reflecting... on his dungeon incarceration among the Un-Men, on his meeting with Swamp Thing... and even sorta-kinda reconnecting with his daughter Abby.

Back in the present, the Docs discuss how helpless and childlike the Patchwork Man is.  This subject makes Dr. Darleen Greer go all pale and lightheaded.  Her contemporary, Dr. Andrew Harty is called upon to escort her home.  As they leave, she steals a peek back at the Patchwork Man.  As the pair approach the Andy-mobile, Darleen reveals that she is pregnant... and not terribly happy about it.

Back inside, the remaining Docs prepare to pump the Patchwork Man full'a laser beams... cuz that's just what you do when you've got a monster strapped to a table.  This winds up filling the PWM with such immense pain that he tears himself off the table and lashes out at his captors.

He wanders outside, right into the path of an oncoming taxi.  The cabbie exits the car to see if he can be of any help.  The Patchwork Man proves he can speak when he verbally refuses a trip to the hospital.  The cabbie... and this is kind of weird... decides that that's cool, he'll just take the frickin' monster home with him!  Dr. Chomes watches as the taxi speeds off.

To wrap up, we check back in with Dr. Darleen.  She's decided that if she were to have this child, her career as a doctor is over!  She brings up the idea of having an abortion (in a CCA-Approved book from 1976?).  Dr. Andy doesn't quite dig the idea... though Darleen kind of uses their recent run-in with the child-like Patchwork Man as justification for her decision.  Well, that certainly escalated...


Ehh, not half bad.  That isn't to say it was all that good, mind, but not something I flat-out disliked.

This is a weird one... I mean, we've got a burgeoning abortion piece with the backdrop of a Frankenstein's Monster story.  When I picked this one up, I certainly wasn't expecting any social relevancy to show up... especially in a book of this vintage.  I've done a fair amount of research on the Comics Code Authority, and I gotta say... I'm pretty surprised that they'd let an abortion story fly.  I mean, saying "go to hell" was iffy at this point in time.  Dunno... just surprising is all.

Speaking of surprises... I had no idea that this fella was tied into Swamp Thing.  I found that really neat.  I often think of these "House of..." stories as falling outside of DC Comics canon, I was really happy to be able to actually fold this one in.

The story itself was... decent.  I'm not sure what the Patchwork Man's motivation for attacking the two young ladies in the lingerie department was.  Neither of them looked anything like Abigail Arcane, so it couldn't be his mistaking them for her.  Just felt like a means to an end... and I suppose that's all it really needed to be.

Now it's been a long while since I've read much Swamp Thing, so I'm unsure how well all this lines up with what is established there.  Not sure if Patchwork Man still jives with it... I'm guessing Gregori's brother is Anton, as I'm fairly certain he's been referred to as Abby's uncle.  Though, as I said... it's been awhile, I could be completely off.

Now... how about that cabbie, right?  Run almost headlong into Frankenstein's Monster, and offer to bring him home with you.  Crazy... he's loading the Patchwork Man into the back of the cab, and the only thing he's scared of is how his wife's going to react!  Dem cabbies is made outta strong stuff I tells ya!

Overall, you probably don't need to read this.  You've seen one take on the Frankenstein story, you've seen 'em all.  It's only interesting for the strange abortion twist toward the end... a twist that I'm not even sure gets followed up on.  Actually, I kinda doubt it does... though, I could be wrong.  I guess I'd say this is for Swamp Thing completionists only.


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The scariest thing in this book!  Look at her FACE!

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