Cain and Abel (comics)

Infobox comics character
character_name=Cain and Abel

caption=Cain, Gregory, and Abel approach the House of Mystery (the House of Secrets looming in the background) in Berni Wrightson's cover artwork to "Welcome Back to the House of Mystery" #1.
publisher=DC Comics/Vertigo
debut=Cain "House of Mystery" #175 (July-August, 1968) Abel "DC Special" #4 (July-September, 1969) (cameo); "House of Secrets" #81 (August-September 1969) (full)
creators=Cain Bob Haney, Jack Sparling, Joe Orlando Abel Mark Hannerfield, Bill Draut, Joe Orlando
alliances=The Dreaming
powers=Cain apparently indestructible and possibly immortal; diabolical cunning; bears the "Mark of Cain" which protects him from all harm Abel possibly immortal and apparently indestructible; Resurrects from any fatal wound

Cain and Abel are a pair of fictional characters in the DC Comics universe based on the Biblical Cain and Abel.Citation | last = Wallace | first = Dan | author-link = | contribution = Bushmaster | editor-last = Dougall | editor-first = Alastair | title = The DC Comics Encyclopedia | pages = 63 | publisher = Dorling Kindersley | place = New York | year = 2008 | ISBN = 0-7566-4119-5 | oclc = 213309017]

Publication history

Originally they were the respective "hosts" of the EC-style horror comic anthologies "House of Mystery" and "House of Secrets", which ran from the 1950s through the early 1980s. During the 1970s, they also co-hosted (along with Eve), the horror/humor anthology "Plop!".

Cain the Able Care-Taker, created by Bob Haney, Jack Sparling, and Joe Orlando, first appeared in "The House of Mystery" #175 (July 1968), modeled on writer Len Wein, who was new to the field. [Mark Waid. "Millennium Edition: House of Mystery" #1 (Sept. 2000), inside back cover]

Abel, created by Mark Hannerfeld, Bill Draut, and Joe Orlando, first appeared in "DC Special" #4 (July-September 1969) and began hosting "The House of Secrets" with #81 (August-September 1969). The comics had been running Dial H for Hero and Eclipso, respectively--though the latter had been canceled almost three years.

On the letters page of "Weird Mystery Tales" #3, Destiny stated that Cain, Abel, and Eve were not their biblical counterparts, whom he said he found much more pleasant. All three originally hosted "Secrets of Haunted House", though it eventually became Destiny's title. Cain, Eve, and to a lesser extent, Abel, would taunt Destiny for being dull.

"House of Mystery" was cancelled in 1983. The final issue showed Cain in front of the House, for sale, with his bags packed, and Gregory, his pet gargoyle, behind him. The cover of Vertigo's mostly-reprint "Welcome Back to the House of Mystery" showed him returning with Abel and Gregory. "The House of Secrets" and "The Witching Hour" were eventually merged with "The Unexpected" and cancelled around the same time.

It was Neil Gaiman's series "The Sandman" that more fully developed the "reinvented" characters into more mature, post-Comics Code versions of themselves, and who helped fully drag them out of obscurity.

Fictional character biography

"House of Mystery/Secrets"

Cain frequently told tales of various people who boarded at the House of Mystery. Abel stammeringly took abuse from both Cain and the House of Secrets itself, and had an "imaginary" (it was always rendered in quotes) girlfriend named Goldie, who berated him, too. In the early issues, Abel told the stories directly to her, but he always appeared to be alone. He said she was a ghost.

Cain is a thin, long-limbed man with an angular, drawn face, glasses, a tufty beard, and hair drawn into two points above his ears. Cain is often mean to Abel, but he is jovial and a friendly storyteller to children and did everything he could to help Superman when the need once arose. Abel is a nervous, stammering, kind-hearted man. Abel is somewhat similar in appearance to Cain, with a tufty beard and hair that comes to points above his ears, though his hair is black rather than brown. He is shorter and fatter than Cain, with a more open face. It is eventually stated (in "Sandman" #40) that the only time he doesn't stutter is when he is telling a story, and this was characteristic of his earlier appearances. Cain owns a large green draconic gargoyle named Gregory, who first appeared (as a baby) in "House of Mystery" #175, apparently the offspring of enchanted sculptures who come to the house for a French sculptor who murdered the artist who designed them. He grew to maturity over the course of the series and continued to appear in "Sandman" stories.

Abel moved in with Cain in the House of Mystery shortly before "DC Special" #4, which Cain states (to children visiting for stories at Hallowe'en) is a temporary situation until the House of Secrets is transported (which occurred in "House of Secrets" #81, which appeared one month later).

Cain and Abel live as neighbors in two houses near a graveyard, Cain in the broad House of Mystery and Abel in the tall House of Secrets. According to their appearance in "Swamp Thing", the difference is that a mystery may be shared, but a secret must be forgotten if one tries to tell it. The houses are in small-town Kentucky, and it was later revealed that they simultaneously exist in the Dreaming. It has also been suggested that this is not the case, and that there has been a location change as a result of the Crisis on Infinite Earths. In "House of Secrets" #81, when the House of Secrets is moved to the cemetery where the House of Mystery is, as Cain and Abel part company for the evening, Cain apologizes for what happened last time they met.

During the Crisis, although not mentioned in that series, Elvira stumbled onto the House of Mystery, which charged her to find Cain, who had disappeared, possibly because of the Crisis.

They were depicted together in Abel's first appearance, and they parted to their respective Houses at the end of the story, the House of Secrets having been recently moved, with Cain promising things not to go the way they happened before. Although Cain would abuse Abel, he was not shown killing him until "Swamp Thing" vol. 2 #33. More often than not, though, they did not appear together, and Cain directed more of his taunts at the reader, while Abel tried to reassure Goldie or the reader.

In 1985, the characters were revived by writer Alan Moore, who introduced them into his "Swamp Thing" series in issue #33, retelling the Swamp Thing's original origin story from a 1971 issue of "House of Secrets". They reappeared in issue #50, where they acted as observers and commentators on a fierce battle in Hell.


In Gaiman's "Sandman" universe, it is implied by dialogue between Lucifer and Cain (who had been sent by Dream as a messenger due to his invulnerability) that the biblical Cain and Abel come to live in the Dreaming at Dream's invitation. To support this Lucifer quotes the verse in the Bible which says that Cain was sent to live in the Land of Nod. This could be a post-Crisis retcon, however, as Destiny claimed in "Weird Mystery Tales" #3 that they were not the same as the Biblical Cain and Abel. The nature of reality in the Dreaming is often multiple and when Cain, Abel, and Eve are telling young Daniel Hall three stories Cain objects to Abel's "Lil' Endless" style retelling of their origin claiming that "...we didn't even look remotely human, no one did!" Abel later responds to Matthew the Raven's query about whether they are their biblical namesakes or not by stating; "...oh, none of this happened on Earth..." before being interrupted by Cain. Eve also states that she is not Cain's mother to which Cain replies, "You're everyone's mother." This sequence of events would seem to indicate that rather than being the actual literal beings Cain, Abel, and Eve the Dreaming's incarnation of them are closer to their archetypal roles of first murderer, first victim, and first mother. This is supported by several incidents when Cain or Abel have identified themselves as such and claimed that their cycle of murder and resurrection is punishment for their roles in the first murder. ["Swamp Thing" vol. 2 #33]

Gaiman's Cain is an aggressive, overbearing character. He has been described (usually by Matthew), as sounding "just like Vincent Price." The earlier stories showed Cain sometimes torturing Abel (for example, in "House of Mystery" #219, Cain chained Abel to an anchor and stuffed him in his water cooler (full, allegedly because Abel put banana peels in it) that helped inspire Gaiman's development of the character.

Cain frequently kills Abel in a kind of macabre form of obsessive-compulsive disorder, re-enacting the first murder. In the Dreaming, Abel's death is impermanent, and he seems to recover after a few hours. Cain seems unable to control his frequent murders of Abel, and occasionally expresses remorse over them; there is a genuine bond between the two, beneath the surface contempt. Abel remains dedicated to Cain, and frequently dreams of a more harmonious relationship between the two.

In turn, in the graphic novel "", Cain is so distraught when Abel is murdered permanently by The Kindly Ones, he sinks into a rambling mess when asking the new Dream to restore him. In preparation for the funeral services for the deceased Dream, Cain's anger boils over yet again, but he is calmed by a reprimand and restrains from murdering Abel.

In the first appearance of the characters in "Sandman", issue #2, Cain gives Abel an egg that soon hatches into another gargoyle, a small golden one. Abel is delighted and names the gargoyle "Irving," but Cain forcefully insists that the names of gargoyles must always begin with a "G." When Abel resists, Cain murders him, and after Abel revives he renames the gargoyle "Goldie," after a friend of his who "went away."

The main function of Cain and Abel throughout "The Sandman" is as comic relief. However, the two play significant (though not key) roles at several points in the series; it is they who take Morpheus in until his strength is restored following his 72-year-long imprisonment. In the fourth story arc, "", Cain is sent to Hell to give a message to Lucifer because the Mark of Cain protects him. Those who would harm Cain would have the full wrath of God visited upon them.

Cain and Abel also aid The Corinthian with the child Daniel during "", the penultimate story arc of the series. They also appear with Morpheus in "The Books of Magic" (vol. 1) #3.


External links

* [ Cain Appearances List]

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