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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Justice League of America 154, 1978 “I’ll Kill You in Your Dreams!”

My first encounter with the JLA, was in the form of television and the Superfriends. The stories weren’t anything heavy, but they were fun to watch and kept me entertained. I didn’t buy my first JLA comic though until just a few years ago. This wasn’t the first issue I bought, but it’s a good one! A story is only as good as its villain (just my two cents). Back to animation for a minute…The Justice League television show from the early 2000s was  a fantastic show, and the episode with Doctor Destiny was incredible (they haven’t yet reached that specific episode, but the JLUcast is a great podcast about that show)!

Back to this book. Like the TV show, we see Dr. Destiny control the dreams of the League, in an attempt to kill them (it’s obvious the show lifted its premise from here), but of course, good guys beat bad guy. Not that it’s boring mind you, the villain really makes the heroes look pretty pathetic for a while. We also get to see the heroes as their civilian alter egos, and normal everyday stuff. It was quit refreshing.

As expected, the names in the credits are absolute staples of the Bronze Age. Writer Gerry Conway does a fine job with the script/story, and does insert some of his personal beliefs/social commentary in the issue as well. He, along with a lot of the other writers of the time were very good at sending messages without being overt or preachy about it (kudos).  The artistic chores fell on the shoulders of another pair of names synonymous with the age. Dick Dillin (pencils) and Frank McLaughlin (inks) were both on point here and did a fine job with a lot going on in this issue. Two more names in Jerry Serpe (colors) and Ben Oda (letters) round out the interior art team. The cover is by Mike Kaluta and Al Milgrom, and although it is pretty good, it’s also not quite what you’d expect. Not sure if it’s the team up of these two guys or just not the greatest layout or composition.

 

 

Time Warp 1, 1979 “Doomsday Tales and Other Things”

In the late 1970s, DC cut back on their titles, and laid off a ton of employees. The comics just weren’t selling, and they needed to regroup. The early 1980s would bring some new hope in the form of All-Star Squadron, and New Teen Titans, but there were also some additions that are very obscure, but noteworthy for the comic book aficionados out there!

A short series of only five issues, this weird book gave us some rather interesting material. Mostly sci-fi (with a little horror), this first issue is chocked full of creators with a long list of credits, and quite frankly, legends in the business. From aliens to spider-men, you’ll be whisked away to fantasy worlds that will take you back to a time when comics were great!

Cover by Mike Kaluta, interiors stories by Denny O’Neil, Michael Fleischer, George Kashdan, Mike Barr, Jack Harris, Bob Rozakis, and Paul Levitz. The art teams are nothing short of spectacular and include the late, great Rich Buckler, Dick Giordano, Steve Ditko, Tom Sutton, Jerry Grandenetti, Don Newton, Dan Adkins, and Jim Aparo!