Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Phantom Stranger #32 - Sept. 1974

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The Phantom Stranger meets a woman in love with someone from the great beyond!

Gerry Talaoc got the month off, to be replaced by original series artist Bill Draut for an Arnold Drake story called "It Takes A Witch!...":



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The young woman Carol starts to meet some of the regulars at the library, including an old woman named Mrs. Haggerty, who is constantly checking out books on the occult. She says she's doing all this reading because many people are practicing witchcraft nowadays, and "You gotta know evil to fight evil!"

Later, Carol meets up with Miles, who is talking with the town sheriff, who discovered a slaughtered goat (ew!), in what looks like part of a ritualistic offering. Hmm, maybe Mrs. Haggerty was right...

Carol visits Mrs. Haggerty and visits her creepy house, but can't bring herself to ask the old woman anything about the occult. She later goes fishing with Miles, where they catch a fish, but put it back because Carol doesn't want to kill it.

The sheriff finds them and shows them that a sign of the devil has been painted on a church door. Miles decides to ban all the occult books from the library(?!?).

Later on, "Old Mary" Haggerty is walking home, when she is accosted by four men on motorcycles, accusing her of being a witch! But someone is there to help her
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The man's gun turns into a snake, which scares them off.

The sheriff meets up with Old Mary, and puts out an A.P.B. on the gang. The next day, Miles decides to not only ban the occult books, but burn them!:


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...this is a really beautifully page drawn by Draut. So simple, so clean, and I love the goofiness of the conversation between Miles and Carol while a raging fire goes on behind them.

Carol heads back to the cemetery to rubbings of Miles' parents' tombstones, as a way to make amends(?). But she can't find them, despite the fact they are new graves. The Stranger arrives and tells Carol to keep looking.

Meanwhile, someone sneaks into Old Mary's house, knocks her over the head with a wrench(!!), and starts to pour gas all over her home.

Carol eventually finds Miles' Father's grave, but it says he died in 1904! How is that possible, when Miles is so young?

Back at Old Mary's house, the townspeople, the sheriff, and Miles have gathered. Miles says it was the motorcycle gang that did this, but the sheriff says that's impossible, since they were caught and jailed earlier in the day!

Carol shows up and accuses Miles of being a sort of zombie, and the grave of his Father is empty. Then Mary appears, and accuses him of being the one who hit her--she says she smelled formaldehyde before she got hit, the trademark of an undertaker!

Inside the house, a wax bust of Miles burns, and:

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...what an ending!

There's something so much more gruesome when a story like this is rendered by someone with a clean, crisp style like Bill Draut. Sure, the story is a bit confusing, and I wish The Phantom Stranger had had more to do, but it's ghoulish weirdness makes it my favorite of the non-Wein/Aparo Phantom Strangers.


1 comment:

Bribaby said...

I was rather charmed by this one too. Some nice elements here. I liked the banter between Carol and Miles...there's some stuff real people might actually say or think. There's a scandalous whiff of necrophilia in the goings on, and a satisfyingly gruesome ending, with Mile's eyeball sliding down his cheek. Even though I didn't understand why Old Mary had a wax bust of Miles in her house, or why Miles would burn it down, or even if Old Mary was really a woman, because in the two pictures we get of her here on the blog she looks kind of like an old man. Yes, the Stranger didn't get to contribute a whole lot, but remember, in some of the best X-Files Mulder and Scully didn't do a damn thing.

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