House ad for Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love #1 (September-October 1971); printed in Detective Comics #413 (July 1971)
Ad designed and lettered by Gaspar Saladino
This rather unique series had changed its title by the time it debuted came out, from The House of Forbidden Love to The Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love. Not to be confused with The Sinister House of Secret Love, Spooky's Haunted House or Archie's Madhouse. But you know it's gotta be good when there's two adjectives in the title! Here's the very goth, visually-arresting painted cover, which resembles a gothic romance paperback more than a comic book:
Cover of Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love #1 (September-October 1971); painted by George Ziel
DMFL promised something unique in a market of chiller and romance comic books: a combination of the two, placing an intrepid heroine in danger and love in a gothic-inspired setting. What's more, each ish was double-sized and contained a single "novel-length" story, so you were actually getting a whole lotta comic for your two bits. Here's some ever-so-spooky-and-lovey-dovey panels from the issue #1:
Panels from "The Mystery of the Missing Bride" in Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love #1 (September-October 1971), script by Dorothy Woolfolk and Ethan Mordden, pencils and inks by Tony DeZuniga, letters by Ben Oda
This already looks a lot different than so many comics of the time: I love the little icons in the sidebar caption boxes. And the heroine is pretty active in investigating and solving the mystery, unlike some other gothic heroines (I'm lookin' at you, Bella).
The responses (from this letter column in issue #3) were mixed: either wildly enthusiastic or disgustedly panning. And there's a larger percentage of post-teenage women writing in about this than your average comic:
Letter column from Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love #3 (January-February 1972)
Praise even came from pro comic book artist, letterer, and founder of the San Diego Comic-Con, Shel Dorf!
Issue #2 broke the "novel-length" story format by including one longer and one shorter story, as well as beginning its focus on examining ESP and other explained phenomena, which, as we all know, cannot be disproved. Why, if this comic book were being published today, you could probably get the editor to make an appearance on Coast to Coast AM with George Noory. And even comics' own notable skeptic as far as Coast to Coast is concerned, my pal "Mighty" Mike Sterling, would probably stock it. But he'd make fun of this following text page and letter from ish #2 on his blog. And so shall I!
But there's still plenty o' bikini-goth mystery and romance to go around...
Panels from "The Mystery of Dead Man's Cove!" in Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love #2 (November-December 1971), script by Mary Skrenes, pencils and inks by Don Heck, letters by Ben Oda
...that is, until issue #4, at which point the series ended.
...well, sorta. But not quite. Tune in on Monday and I'll tell you all about the completely-different totally-new no-connection-at-all no-siree Forbidden Tales of Dark Mansion!*
*Okay, there was a connection.