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DC Comics History: Mark Merlin (1964 - 1967: The New Look)
By Deejay Dayton
February 2, 2020 - 09:19


Mark Merlin had his series in House of Secrets come to an end during the period 1964 – 1967: the New Look. Well, sort of. The series would actually continue, as would the supporting cast, but Mark Merlin himself would be replaced. The supernatural investigator fought his main foe, Doctor-7, a few times, and in perhaps his best tale had his mind switched with a giant Memkata, but none of this could save him when Mark Merlin wound up in a dimension with a six-sided sun.


A talking mongoose is the villain in House of Secrets 69.  Not a person in a mongoose costume, it looks like a real mongoose.  It also calls itself the Mongoose.  And it has a strange weapon that can alter the size and dimensionality of the animate or inanimate objects it fires at. I think the Mongoose is a frustrated actor, because the first targets it goes after are theatre patrons, transforming and then robbing them.  When Mark and Elsa try to stop him the Mongoose uses his gun to shrink Mark. Mark switches his mind with Memakata, and though the Mongoose does not realize this, he uses his weapon on the cat as well, making it giant sized.  Elsa rides Memakata as they pursue the villain, and after some more body switching with the cat Mark catches the guy.  Or goose.  Or whatever.


Doctor-7 returns in the Mark Merlin story in House of Secrets 67.  Mark and Elsa Magusson are alerted when Doctor-7 escapes from prison and begins a series of strange thefts. Researching what has been stolen, Mark figures out that Doctor-7 is gathering what he needs to bring to life a magical creature, the Morloo. Doctor-7 is using the Marloo basically as muscle for more thefts.  Well, and transportation, as the Morloo can fly.  Mark finds the spell that can banish the Morloo, but messes it up the first time.  Then he figures out what he did wrong, and gets the spell right. Yeah, that's about all that happens. 


The Mark Merlin story in issue 68 is very much a sequel to that from the previous issue. Doctor-7 is back out of prison, and builds himself another Morloo.  We find out that he hadn't really completed the process in the earlier story, and this Morloo looks different, and is immune to Mark's spell to get rid of it. I think I enjoy this Mark Merlin story more than his earlier ones.  Doctor-7 uses the Morloo's powers to create some unusual havoc.  First he turns a statue into gold coins, which drives a crowd into a frenzy. Mark uses a magic eye to create the illusion of an alien invasion to get people to stop fighting over the coins. Then Doctor-7 and the Morloo hand out magic mirrors, in which people can see idealized reflections of themselves, but wind up turning hideous.  Mark quashes that plan as well, so Doctor-7 has the Morloo turn Mark into a long stretchy thing, as per the cover image.  Elsa Magusson uses one of the mirrors to restore Mark's body. Mark finally triumphs by casting a spell to create a Morloo of his own.  The two creatures battle, but as Mark's loses power he orders it to grab the other one.  When his Morloo vanishes, it takes Doctor-7's Morloo with it.


Doctor-7 and the Morloo make their final appearances in House of Secrets 72. The art is much more dramatic in this outing, thanks to Bernard Baily, as Doctor-7 once again breaks out of prison, first re-creating the Morloo in order to do so. For a guy with amazing powers on his own, and a magical entity with even further abilities, all Doctor-7 really seems to want to do is be a jerk.  He creates a fountain of youth, but once people have dove in, turns it to concrete. Then he messes up traffic, turning a highway into a loop. Mark resorts to casting illusions to defeat Doctor-7, making the villain think that the Morloo has turned against him.  Once Doctor-7 has revealed where he keeps the serum to destroy the Morloo, Elsa runs to get it and eliminate the creature, and Doctor-7 just gives up at that point. The best villain Mark Merlin would have.  And not a great one at that.


Miller and Baily more or less conclude the Mark Merlin series in House of Secrets 73, although it just sort of morphs into the Prince Ra-Man series. The story begins as Mark gets into a battle with an "old foe" (not someone we have ever seen before) called the Gargoyle.  The Gargoyle uses a strange device which sends Mark completely out of reality. Mark winds up in a realm populated by immortal ancient Egyptians, also banished to that realm long ago.  He makes friends with Kranak, one of the leaders, and his daughter, Rimah, who winds up getting captured by men who want the secret of the cat charm. Kranak does not know the secret of how to get the statue to release the charm, but Mark notices the resemblance between it and the amulet he uses to change bodies with Memakata.  And indeed, the amulet does release the charm, which is a miniature version of the six sided sun which lights the realm.  The release of the charm gives Mark telekinetic powers, which he uses to defeat the guys who are holding Rimah.


As a reward of sorts, Mark is told of the one way he can make it back to his own realm, although it costs him his body and his consciousness.  Effectively, he dies to give life to Prince Ra-Man, along dead Egyptian mystic, who makes it back to Earth in time to save Elsa from the Gargoyle.  Ra-Man simply tells Elsa that Mark is dead, not going into the whole way Mark donated his body to Ra-Man.  And his series as well, as Prince Ra-Man now appears in Mark Merlin's place for the remainder of this book's run.

Mark Merlin: House of Secrets 66 – 73 (May/June 1964 - July/Aug 1965)

Next up – Justice League of America!

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