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 Phantom Stranger 30, 1974 “The Children’s Crusade!”

The magical and mystical is an area of comic books that should never get boring. With so many ways you can go with the story, characters, and settings, it’s a wealth of creativity. One of the grooviest characters under the DC comics banner is definitely the Phantom Stranger. His history is shrouded in mystery, but his prowess as a magical being is not. Immortality, teleportation (of the highest order), energy blasts, time travel, all sorts of magical spells and even omniscience!

In this particular issue, we see the Phantom Stranger up against a Pied Piper type villain that has a group of youths mesmerized, and worshiping a demonic entity! The kids are completely in his sway and wish only to do his bidding. And although the Phantom Stranger is powerful, he underestimates the power of his enemy, and pays for it dearly. He’s captured and seemingly helpless against these forces of evil! Written by Arnold Drake, art by Gerry Talaoc, and edited by Joe Orlando!

There’s also a back up story featuring the “Spawn of Frankenstein.” This multi-part story ran in the back pages of Phantom Stranger for a few issues (this was the last chapter, it switched over to Black Orchid with the next issue). Honestly, to say it borders on the bizarre is a compliment. I’ve only read a couple of these so I’m not even 100% sure what the end game was for this story line. Writer, Steve Skeates, artist, Bernard Baily.

 

The Phantom Stranger 33, 1974 “Deadman’s Bluff!”

Supernatural characters are a huge draw for me. Whether it’s movies, television, comics, etc., they always seem to deliver a little something extra you don’t always get from superheroes. Now, take two of these characters, put them in the same book, and you’ve got something special! On one side, you have Deadman- a temperamental ghost that inhabits the bodies of the living to get things done.  On the other end of the spectrum, you have The Phantom Stranger. A guy who has been portrayed in a few different ways over the years with a couple of back stories. Both are intriguing, engaging, and unpredictable.

I’m starting to believe there might not be a better way to start off a comic from this genre than with a cover from Jim Aparo. To say that they’re eye-catching isn’t giving them their due justice, especially when dealing with the supernatural. The story is by Arnold Drake (RIP), a man who began his career in the 1950s, and worked on everything from The X-Men to Batman. Mike Grell (art) is a name most will know from his work on titles like Green Arrow, and a host of others. He’s one of those guys that don’t get mentioned very much but made some fantastic contributions to the industry and should get more credit. The legendary Joe Orlando was the editor of this great issue and rounds out the creative team.

 

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Showcase Presents: The Phantom Stranger vol. 2

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In this second volume of greatness, we get to see more of the same from legends like Len Wein, Dick Giordano, Jim Aparo, Arnold Drake, Neal Adams, and Nick Cardy. Appearances by Deadman, Batman & Robin, Cassandra Craft, Tala, Queen of Evil, Black Orchid, and so on. There are a couple of absolute gems in this trade, and the first couple being stories by Paul Levitz (script) in the latter part of this book. A mummy story that is absolutely insane, and then a couple of tales involving everybody’s favorite spirit, Deadman! Those issues have the Phantom Stranger, fighting for the soul of Boston Brand, and all sorts of craziness! The very last issue in the book has the special House of Secrets #150, starring the Phantom Stranger. In this fantastic issue, we see the Phantom Stranger, as he looks into the past, and witnesses a witches coven, a demon possessed man, and his master…a computer?

The other gems I spoke of earlier, are the back up stories “Spawn of Frankenstein”, by Marv Wolfman & Mike Kaluta. In these, you get a great story (derived from Mary Shelly’s works), and of course, great artwork. The last two I’ll speak of, is The Brave and the Bold #89 & 98. This story involving Batman & Robin is truly spooky, full of ghosts, and a must read! The second Brave & Bold (also by Haney & Aparo), shows Batman, as once again he must be aided by the power of the Phantom Stranger, as he’s plagued by demons and devils!

Instead of being repetitive, I’ll just tell you to get out and grab these trades if you’re a Marvel fan that wants to read something new, but don’t know where to start. These first two volumes are cheap, and give you a great look into the DC side of the magic and the macabre! See you next time!

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Showcase Presents: The Phantom Stranger vol. 1

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A new year is upon us, and it will bring my new blog! Comic books are a big part of my life, so, obviously, they’ll be a huge focus. Twice a week, I’ll post my thoughts on a certain story, book, graphic novel, etc. Once or twice a month, I’ll post my thoughts on a classic movie, and that will most certainly be of the  horror or sci-fi genre! Well, that’s it for now, so lets get started!

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I’ve decided to go with one of the more recent titles I picked up with Phantom Stranger vol. 1! Being a huge fan of Dr. Strange, and all things magic/supernatural, it was only fitting that this title gets the inaugural spot in my new blog. I can honestly make a case for this being one of the top ten titles of the 1970’s, and the talent on it backs me up. Names like John Broome, Carmine Infantino, Jim Aparo, Len Wein, Mike Friedrich, and Neal Adams (covers), are just a few of the creators that made this title an incredible book to read.

The first few stories are your typical ghost stories or cult activity tale, but eventually, more macabre stories followed. A great nemesis, in Tala, Queen of Evil, was an on again, off again villain, that often tempted him with her beauty. She popped in and out for quite a while, always using her powers to cause strife, and threatening innocents. Another cool thing about these issues are the stories involving Dr. Thirteen. The doctor is a parapsychologist that is usually seen trying to debunk  paranormal activity. In some cases, he works side by side with the Phantom Stranger, even though he doesn’t always believe what he sees.

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In one particular issue that stood out, the Phantom Stranger came face to face with an Ice Giant, atop of the world itself. Denny O’Neil, Jim Aparo, and Joe Orlando, brought this chilling tale of intrigue, and a monstrosity that towers over everyone! Once again, Tala is involved, and this adds even a crazier dimension to this awesome story. A tale of voodoo, by Mike Sekowsky, and Jim Aparo follows next, and the villain in this one was super creepy, complete with voodoo dolls, drums, and the whole get up!

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A duel with Tannarak, the sorcerer, the Army of Evil, a swamp creature, the Iron Messiah, a waxworks nightmare, ghosts, and the list goes on and on. When you have creators of this magnitude, honestly, it’s a can’t miss. Anyone out there that knows these names, understands how great a book like this is going to be, and if you’re looking for something being new to comics, give it a try. You wont regret it! See you next time!