Who's Abel?

Who's This? The "horror host" of the House of Secrets, and very first entry in DC's Who's Who series.
The facts: A year after the success of House of Mystery's switch to a horror anthology hosted by "Cain, the Able Care-Taker", House of Secrets made the leap with its own host, Abel, long-suffering brother to Cain. The fidgety host came onboard as of House of Secrets #81, but in spite of Who's Who listing, his first appearance came two weeks before in DC Special #4 (a sampling of reprinted spooky tales with a new framing story, also featuring Cain and other horror hosts). He would go on to host the remaining 81 issues of House of Secrets, including the first official appearance of the Swamp Thing in #92.
How you could have heard of him: After the House of Secrets closed its doors, Neil Gaiman folded the horror hosts and their abodes into the Dreaming. Cain and Abel became part of Sandman's supporting cast and essentially, "where nightmares came from". In the mid-2000s, the Secret Six moved into the House of Secrets, but Abel was not on hand to welcome them. He, his brother and Goldie the Gargoyle still appear in DC's current Sandman line of books.
Example story: House of Secrets #81 (August-September 1969) "Don't Move It!" by Mike Friedrich, Jerry Grandenetti and George Roussos; "Aaron Philips' Photo Finish!" by Gerry Conway and Jack Sparling; linking material by Conway and Bill Draut
Very interesting. Abel's first issue actually starts with him moving into the House, which has its own story, as told TO Abel by the a fellow "employee" of Cain and Abel's "employer" (oh let's just say it's the Devil). And you know it's pure evil because it was built by a Senator from Kentucky with his bare hands, entirely with Kentuckian materials. And if you're pure Kentucky stock, do not dare enter, or it will try to kill you with falling chandeliers and such. Once, a guy called Mr. Barkus was barking mad to try and move it to another state. Mid-transit, he tries to get at a locked room, but even bullets won't piece the lock. Feeling the terror rise within him, he runs from the house, but it gets unmoored from the tractor and follows, laughing its front door awning off. Crunch!
In DC Special, Abel was apparently living at the House of Mystery, but in this issue, he's driven to the House of Secrets so he can take the job of caretaker there. Caretaking runs in the family, as does lugging books around.
His employee bought the House and surrounding land, but his identity is a mystery--no sorry, a SECRET. At this point, Abel talks to Goldie, his pet gargoyle, but it appears to be a figment of his imagination. No one else can see it, not even us. 42 rooms, and he's responsible for them all, except that still-locked room on the second floor, which he must never enter! Oooh, mysterious--I mean, secretive! But who's that coming down the stairs?
It's CAIN! Come to help his brother launch his companion book, I see. Goldie's not the only imaginary being in the House, because Cain can't see the realty agent (so not a reality agent then).
The agent becomes part of the House, or perhaps always was. Creepy! And to show Cain he's not delusional, and he's not a coward or a milksop, he'll tell his brother a chilling story to scare HIM. This is where the book embraces its new format, and Abel tells the story of a blackmailer who leeches money out of rich men with his compromising polaroids. His next mark is Senator Sandsfield, the very man who built the House of Secrets, a year after his wife died, mad, in that House. He finds, however, that the House won't register on a photograph. He walks in, it's crazy in there, he never walks out. The end. Well, Cain is unimpressed and goes back to the House of Mystery, which is just on the other end of the adjoining cemetery. Abel counts himself lucky that his brother doesn't kill him this time, and wonders just how he knew the story. It was as if the House itself was whispering into his ear.
But not EVERY story will take place in and around the House, even if that's the impression given here. I do like it when Cain and Abel have their own little story though. So yes, horror anthology, by all means, but if you're going to use hosts, give them a couple of character bits, make them live (and die, repeatedly, as the case may be), I think I would tune in for that regardless of the stories' relative qualities.

A note on Who's Who... Personally, I would have put Cain and Abel under H for each of their Houses. The entry is mostly about the House anyway (and does not really stray from the information imparted by the issue I decided to cover). THAT'S the actual brand, and it would have allowed them to be on adjoining pages. It's not the only placement change I would make...

Who's Next?
They should have appeared under "D", but Who's Who decided to go another way.



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