Friday, December 5, 2008

The Phantom Stranger #27 - Nov. 1973

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The start of a new era for The Phantom Stranger!

Changes were obvious for regular readers of The Phantom Stranger right from the get-go; beginning with this issue Nick Cardy--who was drawing approximately 10,000 covers for DC at the time--took over the cover art duties. And on the inside, the debut of the new team Arnold Drake and Gerry Talaoc:



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During a concert, rock musician Jango goes nuts, bashing his guitar, climbing onto the rafters, and even threatening violence against members of his own band!

The Phantom Stranger arrives, covers Jango up with his cloak, which knocks him out. A friend of Jango's says that they will take him to "Dr. Matt"
:


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"...ahh, but the years have been unkind to her!" Oh, snap, Phantom Stranger!

The Phantom Stranger of this Dr. Matt, so he enters the doctor's office, pretending to be a patient. He then is introduced to Dr. Matt Zorn, who promises a cure to the Stranger's "depression" with a mixture of chemicals, chemicals that the Stranger recognizes as instruments of sorcerers!

But he does take what Zorn hands him, and:

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The drug momentarily makes the Stranger feel giddy and "high" (as the young people say nowadays), but he soon comes down and sees who else is visiting Dr. Zorn. He follows two new patients enter Zorn's clinic--Admiral Tulin, Chief of the Navy, and a man named Reeves, head of the Army!

Zorn, through the drug, has managed to turn them into virtual slaves to do his bidding. He shows the two men footage of a Parapsychology center near Peking, where a mystic named Madame Cheng operates. Cheng has the ability to move objects through space just with her mind, plus there are a set of twins who can communicate with each other telepathically.

Zorn says these people have taken control of the President of the United States (Nixon!) and the two men fall for it!:

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The Stranger demands to know what Zorn's plan is, but he won't talk. He heads out, towards...The White House!

Meanwhile, we see a meeting being held between Reeves, Tulin, and some others, as they wait for the President. When he walks in the room, Tulin and Reeves attack him! But all is not what it seems:


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...I can only assume Dr. Zorn, Reeves, and Tulin were tried and executed for, you know, trying to assassinate the President of the United States.


This issue was the beginning of an infamous phase for The Phantom Stranger, and fans of the book would soon let DC know their displeasure over the change.

Reading this story over, its not that bad, really, and it does have a charmingly goofy quality (The Phantom Stranger meets Nixon!). But, with all due respect to Mssrs. Drake and Talaoc, it ain't Wein and Aparo, who worked together so, so well.

To make matters even harder to swallow, there was a big change in store for the back-up Spawn of Frankenstein feature, too
:



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Marv Wolfman and the great Mike Kaluta were replaced by Steve Skeates and Bernard Bailey. Skeates was a fine choice as writer, but Bernard Bailey replacing Mike Kaluta? That's a tough pill to swallow.

1 comment:

Bribaby said...

I dunno...I agree, the artwork isn't Aparo, but I kind of like it. The way the Stranger's cape is drawn on the last page is cool. And I kind of like the goofy elements of the story as well, though the ending was way too abrupt. Interesting how on the cover the shadow of the Stranger is in his old trenchcoat with the collar turned up.
Well, for an infamous phase, the book certainly continued on for quite some time.

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