Sunday, November 30, 2008

Justice League of America #103 - Dec. 1972

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The Phantom Stranger meets The Justice League of America!

In 1972, Len Wein was writing both Justice League of America and The Phantom Stranger, so who better to orchestrate a team-up between the two? The Stranger had met Batman on two occasions in Brave and the Bold, but this was The Phantom Stranger's full immersion into the DCU.

Like the Stranger's solo stories, it opens up with him narrating. In the small town of Rutland, Vermont, a weird ceremony is beginning. A group forms around the old clock tower, and supposedly "Old Mistress Sarah speaks to the spirits--and they tell her dark secrets in return." The "dark secrets" are the names of those who will die in the next twenty-four hours.

Mistress Sarah appears, and begins calling the names of Superman, Flash, Hawkman, Green Lantern, Batman, and Green Arrow!
Cut to the JLA meeting at their satellite, wondering which of them called the meeting. Turns out it was...The Phantom Stranger!:


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None of the JLAers know him, but Batman vouches for him. The Stranger then explains he senses an evil force brewing in the town of Rutland, Vermont. And the force is being summoned by an old foe of the JLA...Felix Faust!

The team decides to head for Rutland, but they aren' ready to let the Stranger leave just yet:

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As the team decides to head to Rutland, we cut to four people on their way there, named Steve, Len, Glynis, and Gerry, who are headed their for the costume parade(seen previously in the classic Batman #237, "The Night of the Reaper"). The parade's organizer, Tom Fagan, meets the JLA and Batman tells him why they're there. Tom then manages to talk the JLA into being part of the parade, on a custom-made power-ring float!

As the parade goes on, suddenly everyone in the crowd is frozen stiff! The team splits up to investigate, and Hawkman and Flash are attacked by three zombified paraders, dressed like Supergirl, Adam Strange, and, er, Commando America!

The demons are inhabiting these people, which give them powers and they actually manage to defeat Barry and Carter! Meanwhile, Batman is taking on another possessed partier, this time dressed in a familiar red-and-blue outfit with a spider on his chest:


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Superman and Green Arrow take on ersatz versions of Captain Marvel and the Golden Age Flash, and end up the same way. Oddly, the Phantom Stranger shows up at the end of all these battles, but does not help the JLA out! What's going on here?

After the Stranger is all alone, midnight strikes again. He then takes a small item he took from each hero and tosses it into the whipping winds:

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As the JLA recovers, the Phantom Stranger returns and they ask him what is indeed going on. Turns out the only way Faust's spell of possession could be defeated was to use a personal item from each of them as a sort of sacrifice--but those items could not be freely given, hence the Stranger waiting for the JLAers to be rendered unconscious.

The Stranger exhausts Faust's powers, the JLA fight the demons, and our four familiar partiers wake up from their stupor.

The JLA is thankful to the Stranger for helping them defeat Faust and quickly decide to ask him to join
. But...


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...so is The Phantom Stranger a member of the JLA or not?

Well, as with most things involving The Phantom Stranger, that's open for interpretation. Some writers have acted as though he was a member, some haven't. I asked Len about it when he did an interview with me for my JLA Satellite blog:
JLA Satellite: There were a lot of membership changes under your tenure. Elongated Man and Red Tornado joined, Phantom Stranger sort of joined, and Hawkman left. Was that your doing or were membership changes something editorial asked for?

Len Wein: Actually, all the new members joining was entirely my doing. Julie just went with the flow. Oh, and thanks for noticing that the Phantom Stranger only sort of joined. He was offered membership but vanished, as per usual, without actually accepting the offer.
Over the years, other writers have just assumed PS was a member, but in my world, he never really said yes.
...since it was Len's idea's to add the Stranger to the JLA's list of guest stars, I'd say he has the final word as to whether the Stranger really was a member or not. So I agree with him that he is not.

Sometimes you just have to take a stand in life.

2 comments:

The Groovy Agent said...

That is one of my all-time favorite JLA issues. Wein's entire run on JLA was gold!

Bribaby said...

I've never read this and always wanted to, so thanks for posting.
Good example of solid JLA storytelling that kept me coming back for more. I always liked Giordano's inking for Dillin.
And man, are those some big collar flaps, or what?

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