The Phantom Stranger 23, 1973 “Panic in the Night!”

In this second week of October fun, it will be my last week spotlighting the Phantom Stranger, sadly. No worries though, as I’m sure he’ll make more appearances down the road. This is my last issue from this run, though. but the other issues that feature a different creative team are still pretty good. The character is awesome but for me, these two creators took him to heights no one else had before or since. Alright, onto the story…

The setting is Paris, France, and the police find a prowler in a cathedral. He’s ringing the bells and laughing at his behavior at the same time. The villain looks like the Gentleman Ghost, but the police refer to him as Quasimodo. A plane lands at the airport, and the Phantom Stranger and Cassandra Craft exit the aircraft, and she tells the Stranger that her powers of perception are telling her this is the place of a disturbance. The Stranger then begins to question some locals about an organization that calls itself the Dark Circle. Later that very same night, a crowd is horrified to see the same ghostly figure from the cathedral sawing through the chain of a huge chandelier. If it falls, it will surely kill a few dozen people at the least. The Stranger jumps in at the last moment to save the day. But he still must contend with the Dark Circle, and they have abducted Cassandra! Awesome story by Len Wein in this issue. He really gets this character perfectly, and I feel it’s one of his best jobs in comics. Jim Aparo (interior and cover art) has done more than a serviceable job on many characters/books, but this one for me is right up there with his best (The Spectre, The Brave and the Bold). What a great team.

The back up story in this book is something to be celebrated as well. Marv Wolfman and Mike Kaluta (via Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley) bring us “The Spawn of Frankenstein!” Two men digging in the Arctic find the remains of the Monster and are hell-bent on reanimating this abomination. A welcomed switch from Dr. 13. for sure!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Phantom Stranger 21, 1972, “The Resurrection of Johnny Glory!”

October is finally here! As you can see, it might be a new month, but I’m going to continue to spotlight the Phantom Stranger! These issues by Wein and Aparo are right up there with any short run in comics for me. The stories are creepy and moody, and you also get a Twilight Zone vibe from them. This run needs to get more airtime, and I intend to give it to the masses. Both creators are nothing short of legends, and they deserve it.

The story starts out with a guy named Johnny, as he’s being led to the electric chair for his crimes (murder). The switch is thrown, and Johnny is toast. The onlookers flinch from the scene. Later at the morgue, two shady looking individuals show up with paperwork stating that the body of Johnny is now their property. They take the body to an underground cave, where the rest of their satanic buddies are hanging out. They perform a ritual and bring Johnny back to life! The head man tells Johnny he was resurrected to murder a saint! There’s a spiritual leader from a middle eastern country that is touring the area, and this group wants him dead! Written by Len Wein, with art by Jim Aparo!

As usual, we get a Dr. 13 backup story. “Woman of Stone” is the usual set up where he debunks something that appears to be magic/sorcery. Not a big fan of the character, but I do recognize good scripting by Len Wein and art by Tony DeZuniga.

The cover is super cool, but I do have a nitpick about it. It’s the exact same image from the first splash page inside the issue. And I mean exact, no variation whatsoever (except the background). So kudos to Aparo for the cover, but the fact that it’s reused for an interior page is not awesome.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Phantom Stranger 19, 1972 “Return to the Tomb of the Ice Giants!”

Welcome, to week four of the Halloween siege! In this week’s post, I’ll be spotlighting one of my favorite characters from DC comics, The Phantom Stranger! This character has been a favorite of mine ever since I began diving into the supernatural universe of DC comics. I talked about a story starring him on a podcast for Halloween in 2019 (click here to listen in!), and that is probably my favorite story about this enigmatic entity! But now, on to this story!

Our tale begins with the Phantom Stranger giving a monologue to us about the follies of mankind. We then see two men searching for something in the Arctic Circle. They have some machinery working to pump oil out of the ice, but then the pressure decreases rapidly. When they check the line, they’re stunned to see a sword the size of a Cadillac cutting through the line! We see a giant hand reaching out for them, and then they are gone. Back at the main office, two more men talk about how many have gone missing up here and they aim to find out why. A man named Blake then takes a jeep out to the work site, but an earthquake opens up a hole in the ice, and it looks like he’s a goner. A hand reaches out to save him, and it is none other than the Phantom Stranger that comes to his aid. The man in charge still wants to proceed with pipeline, though, but the Phantom Stranger and Blake try to talk him out of it. His greed will not allow him to stop, and it might just be his undoing!

This morality play by Len Wein (writer) and Jim Aparo (art) is not only a good one, but still holds relevancy in 2020. It doesn’t feel like you’re being force-fed their opinion or nonsense either. The story works well in all phases and truly shows the ability of both creators to tell a good story. The dialogue and visuals are both on par with anything of its time.

There’s also a backup story about Dr. 13, by Steve Skeates (writer) and Tony DeZuniga (art). This one involves a man that is being haunted by a ghostly voice that sounds like his dead father!

A bonus feature of Mark Merlin, Sleuth of the Supernatural closes out the issue nicely. This reprint stars the talents of Arnold Drake (story), and the art team of Mort Meskin and George Roussos!

This incredible issue is kicked off by the talents of Neal Adams! The cover is spectacular!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Brave and the Bold 108, 1973 “The Night Batman Sold His Soul!”

From the cover, you’d think that DC put out a comic book with Batman and Sgt. Rock versus a vampire. Well, if they ever did, this isn’t the issue. No, this isn’t a bait and switch, but the contents certainly don’t match up (100%) with the cover. Rest assured though, this book is highly entertaining, and will leave you happy you’ve read it!

Somewhere up near the Canadian border, Batman has cornered a kidnapper. The guy has a kid, but Batman insists it’s not who the kidnapper believes it is, so there will be no ransom. The kidnapper is losing his mind, so Batman attempts to jump through a window to try and surprise him, but it doesn’t work. The kidnapper shoots Batman, then for some odd reason dumps him in a well. As batman is coming to, he’s helped out of the well by some cloaked stranger. The man has a hat on as well, so you cannot see his face. Batman thanks him for the assist, then heads back to apprehend Mad Dog Dorn (the kidnapper). After returning to Gotham, and his guise as Bruce Wayne, he then slumps over in an alleyway, still reeling from the wounds from the gunshot. As he’s trying to get up, that same cloaked figure appears, and tells him that he owes him for the help he gave him in the well. Wayne tells him he owes him nothing and the strangers tells him that his soul now belongs to him! As the man shuffles away, Wayne attempts to catch up. He does, or so he thinks, and grabs a man in the foggy street, but that man was also following after the cloaked figure. The man Wayne grabbed turns out to be none other than Sgt. Rock! Rock then reveals the identity of this mysterious figure, and Wayne cannot believe it!

I know of a few encounters between Batman and Sgt. Rock, and this is a good one. Sure, it’s a bit ludicrous, but it’s a ton of fun as well. You can’t deny that Bob “Zany” Haney writes wild, but fun stories. I honestly haven’t read one yet that disappointed me. The artwork is by Jim Aparo (cover and interiors), whom I, and quite a few others feel is the best artist to ever draw Batman. Of course there are plenty of other fantastic artists that drew him over the years (Neal Adams, Irv Novick, Bill Finger, etc.), but Aparo seemed to really get the character and his moody scenery better than anyone. Colors by Tatjana Wood, and letters by Jim Aparo (cover letters by Gaspar Saladino).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Best of DC Blue Ribbon Digest 26, 1982 “The Brave and the Bold”

Thanks to a podcast (Digestcast on Fire and Water), I discovered this wonderful series of books. I’d never heard of them before, but when I was trolling eBay recently, I saw them at a good price. I snagged this super cool edition of The Brave and the Bold! Other than a slight tear of the cover, the book is on fantastic shape, too! This series was an anthology reprint (most of the time) book that brings some of the best DC had to offer from the Silver Age! Six big stories (part six having three chapters) are encased in this powerful, pint-sized book, and it’s all led off with a great cover by Jim Aparo (framing sequences as well)!

After some framing material, the first tale is from issue 86, 1969. “You can’t Hide from a Deadman!”, brings some incredible action from the Dynamic Duo, as they’re busting up an extortion racket and run into Deadman! Written by Bob “Zany” Haney, and art by Neal Adams!

Next, is “Three Arrows Against Doom!” This fantastic Robin Hood story is from issue 9, 1956/57. In this story, we see how Robin escapes from the sheriff’s men yet again, but this time with only three arrows at his disposal! Written by Bob Haney, with art by Russ Heath!

The third tale is called “Menace of the Mirage People!” It’s from issue number 38 (1961), and involves the Suicide Squad (no, not the lame movie characters from 2016)! Colonel Rick Flag, Jess Bright, Dr. Hugh Evans, and Karin Grace must fight against illusions that seem like reality! Written by Robert Kanigher, and art by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito. For further reading on this team, click here and here!

The following story, “Threat of the Ice King (issue 18, 1958)” is a tale of the Viking Prince! These ongoing stories were great and not only because they gave you epic fantasy tales, but because they had names like Bob Kanigher (writer) and Joe Kubert (art) behind them!

In the days of Camelot, knights and warriors ruled the day (story from issue 21, 1958/59)! And in “The Sword in the Lake,” we get to see some great action involving the Silent Knight! He’s tricked into the service of Morgan Le Fey, and must retrieve some incredible artifacts for her! Written by Robert Kanigher, with art by Irv Novick!

Lastly, we have some wild adventures of Cave Carson! In three separate chapters, we learn “The Secret Beneath the Earth!” These chapters from issue 31 (1960), show us some crazy adventures involving dinosaurs, lava men, and other shenanigans. Written by Ed Herron, art by Bruno Premiani. For more on Cave Carson, click those links above in the Suicide Squad section!

Do yourself a favor and grab some of these as they are a great way to get some fantastic material from the Silver Age at an affordable price!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Brave and the Bold 119, 1975 “Bring Back Killer Krag”

After sitting down and thinking about what book to cover next on my blog, it seemed like quite a while since I covered a DC book. Looking back, it has been, and to be specific, it was all the way back on November 11th! Since then, I’ve acquired a few more DC books, this awesome issue of The Brave and the Bold being one of them!

The creative team on this one (and many awesome DC books from the Bronze Age) is fantastic, but we’ll get to them later. For now, I’ll just say that this crazy (or zany) story has Batman investigating a murder at an equestrian event. The murder makes the newspaper, and Dr. Kirk Langstrom sees it. He realizes a reward of one-hundred thousand dollars could benefit him quite a bit, so he ingests his formula, and the Man-Bat is back! This one has it all, a Great White Shark (remember, it’s 1975) restless natives, real bats, and a second Man-Bat…?

As usual, this book is super entertaining for me. Mostly because I enjoy Bob “Zany” Haney (writer) and Jim Aparo (interior and cover art, Tatjana Wood colors). These two creators are probably my favorite team from DC comics. The stories are always solid and borderline on the bizarre, which suits my tastes perfectly. From an artistic standpoint, I can’t get over how much Aparo reminds me of my favorite artist, Gene Colan. He’s the perfect artist for Batman, Phantom Stranger, The Spectre, etc. His moody pencils create an atmosphere I don’t see consistently from any other artist from this era in DC books (not even Neal Adams).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Brave and the Bold 115, 1974 “Batman and The Atom!”

The DC 100 page comics from the Bronze Age are nothing short of gems. These multi-storied books bring a variety like no other to a reader, and they do it by simply providing extraordinary content. With one original story and four reprints, this book is an excellent representation of what made DC comics a great company.

A new Batman story, straight from the mean streets of Gotham! We see Batman down for the count, as he’s nearly killed by some hoods! It’s up to the Atom and Commissioner Gordon to save the Dark Knight! Written by Bob “Zany” Haney, with art by Jim Aparo!

Next up is a reprint of Challengers of the Unknown (issue 12) with “Three Clues to Sorcery.” You get it all in this one – a gorilla, a gigantic squid, a mysterious gem, and more! Written by Ed Herron (most likely), with art by Bob Brown.

In the following reprint, we get a good one (and a personal favorite of mine)! “Solomon Grundy Goes on a Rampage!”, features just that, Grundy going ape and kicking the crap out of Dr. Fate, Green Lantern, and Hourman! Written by Gardner Fox, with art by Murphy Anderson.

in the fourth installment, a legend in the comic book industry brings us one of his best illustrations with the “Origin of the Viking Prince!Joe Kubert is the artist, and he delivers the goods. Script by Bob Haney.

Lastly, we get another titan of the comic book industry (well three really), as Ray Palmer, A.K.A. The Atom, is brought to us in “The Case of the Innocent Thief!” – by Gardner Fox (story), Gil Kane (pencils) and Murphy Anderson (inks)!

The cover features illustrations by Jim Aparo (Batman), Murphy Anderson (Grundy), and Bob Brown (Challengers).

 

 

 

Limited Collectors’ Edition C-32, 1974 “Ghosts”

As October marches on, so do the macabre posts! This time around one of DC comics over-sized books will get the treatment! Limited Collectors Edition ran for 1972-1978, and had all sorts of strange comic book stories attached to it. In this edition, we see reprints from the ongoing series “Ghosts.” You get some pretty good quality in this one, and it’s a perfect book for the special treatment!

The stories are all “ghost” based, but some are just straight up ghosts, some are voodoo, a couple of witches, and more. There are also games, puzzles, a diorama, and other fun surprises inside this great book. This one definitely needs to be in your collection!

Writers include – Murray Boltinoff, Leo Dorfman, and Bob Rozakis! Artists include – Nick Cardy (cover), Art Saaf, Jim Aparo, Gerry Talaoc, John Calnan, Tony DeZuniga, George Tuska, E. R. Cruz, Ernie Chan, Jerry Grandenetti, Frank Redondo, Jack Sparling, and Sam Glanzman (back cover/diorama). Letterers include – Milt Snapinn, John Costanza, Jean Izzo, Ray Holloway, and Ben Oda.

 

The House of Mystery 192, 1971 “Dare You Enter?”

Eight simple words, that’s all it takes to get my blood pumping. Do you dare enter The House of Mystery? An anthology title from DC comics that started in 1951, the book went on for an amazing 321 issues! The stories were all over the place of course, as the times changed (and the comics code), so did the material. Honestly though, it wasn’t until the Bronze Age that the book had some of the best creators on it.

The cover to this book is by none other than Neal Adams (pencils and inks). He proved that no matter the genre, he can produce incredible work. The inside brings three different stories (along with some extras). The first is “The Gardener of Eden” by John Albano (writer) and the exquisite work of Jim Aparo! A doctor learns a new lesson the hard way! “Image of Darkness” brings a tale of terror when a husband and wife are having domestic problems. Written by Robert Kanigher, and art by Gray Morrow! Finally, “Nobody Loves a Lizard!” shows a boy with a pet lizard that has an incredible secret. Writer Virgil North, with art by Don Heck!

 

The Brave and the Bold 199, 1983 “The Body-Napping of Jim Corrigan!”

I’ll come right out and say it, I’m not a huge fan of The Spectre. Probably because I haven’t read very many of his appearances. Batman however, is a different story! In this penultimate issue of the series, we see the Spectre separated from Jim Corrigan (the two were sort of bonded together for most of the character’s existence). Two magic users (Kalindra and Stephos) kidnap Jim Corrigan, and The Spectre (isn’t he supposed to have cosmic awareness?) needs to locate his host (Corrigan), so he enlists the help of the greatest living detective, Batman! It isn’t long before the heroic duo find where Corrigan is being kept, and then the two begin to clean house.

The highlight of the issue is the cover, but that’s not a slam against the interiors (Ross Andru and Rick Hoberg). It’s just that Jim Aparo (cover) is so good, he overshadows the other two gentleman. There is a two page splash, where The Spectre is fighting a demon that is fantastic. The script is fine but the story (Mike Barr) is very bare bones. A nice little action issue with solid art, but nothing Earth shattering.