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Sunday, July 19, 2015

The House of Daemon

The House of Daemon is beautiful in many ways: the fictional house itself was designed by Bellini of Rome and had such extras as a hidden swimming pool under the lounge, although the breathtaking views out over the ocean are ruined by the broken windows, torn wallpaper and cobwebs that deck the main bedroom; it is also beautifully written by Alan Grant and John Wagner and stunningly drawn by Jose Ortiz.

House of Daemon was one of the comic strip highlights of the early issues of Eagle comic when it relaunched as a primarily photo story magazine, following on from that other Ortiz classic, 'The Tower King' (also available from Hibernia). The story's opening owed much to Poltergeist, which was released in the UK in September 1982, coinciding with the start of the story, but had debuted in the USA. in early June. Elliot Aldrich reveals that his wife Cassandra's family had been troubled by a Poltergeist when she was a child, making her sensitive to the supernatural influences in the dream house that he has bought her.

As they explore the house, a demonic presence makes itself felt and Elliott brings in an expert, parapsychologist Doctor Cormack, who brings with him a couple of students who set about trying to find the demon known as Daemon. Before long, they are all transported to a nightmare world that constantly reshapes itself

The key element to a horror story is: is it scary? And the answer is... not really. It has many of the same elements as a classic horror movie—the creepy creature trying to drag the beautiful young wife through the mirror, the tap that drips blood, doors that won't open—but in a comic aimed at kids, there's none of the graphic, visceral elements that a movie can rely on, no bumps or strange noises, no guiding soundtrack and no adrenaline rush excitement that reaches a crescendo. Quite the opposite, in fact—there's a seven day gap between episodes and in the four pages allotted to the story, it's difficult to build up the tension, let alone the heart rate, blood pressure and respiration increases that a movie can cause.

That said, it's still worth reading as a comic. Grant and Wagner made sure it was an inventive, fast-paced tale that confounded expectations—in the nightmare world of Daemon they are eaten by a worm and encounter American soldiers in a twisted nuclear war setting; even when they return to the real world, the floor dissolves into an ocean and... well, to say any more would be revealing too much. The big reveal is an unexpected twist, the characters reject sanctuary and risk eternal torture in order to return to their own world and the journey is not an easy one.

Jose Ortiz's artwork is superb throughout: he was a master of horror stories, as his years working for Warren proved, and he brought those well-honed skills to 'The House of Daemon'. So the strip might not be scary, but it is creepy and that, along with the quality of the writing and artwork, is enough to make this a little gem that's well worth rediscovering.

'The House of Daemon' is available from Hibernia Comics via their Comicsy website, price £9.00.

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