Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Justice League of America #146 - Sept. 1977

The Phantom Stranger finishes up his adventure with the Justice League!

Having helped defeat Count Crystal and save Superman, the Stranger is among the other JLAers when an old friend returns--The Red Tornado!:


Red Tornado has miraculously returned, but with no memory of what happened to him since he seemingly died(in JLA #129).

The Stranger tries to peer inside Reddy's "soul" to discover who's really in there, but he can't divine anything. The JLA is suspicious, and Superman asks Reddy some questions only he would know. When that trips him up, he suddenly attacks the JLA, with a voice not his own, but one they recognize as...The Construct!

As the JLA decides to go after the real Construct, Hawkman moves to have eternal guest-star Hawkgirl made an official member! Superman puts up an argument, but the Phantom Stranger advises to table the discussion for the moment, in a rare moment where the Stranger acknowledges he is, in fact, a JLA member:

The Stranger is gone from the story at this point, as the JLA takes on The Construct.

Eventually, Red Tornado's true identity is confirmed, and he and Hawkgirl are added (or re-added, in Reddy's case) to the Justice League

The Phantom Stranger may have not been around for the vote, but he wouldn't be gone for long!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Justice League of America #145 - Aug. 1977

Inside this issue--Superman dies! No foolin'!

Barely five issues after his last guest appearance in Justice League, The Phantom Strange returned to play a major role in:


"The Carnival of Souls!" by Steve Englehart, Dick Dillin, and Frank McLaughlin. We open with the mysterious Count Crystal, who summons the demon Azgore, who promises the demon that, in exchange for power, he will offer up the souls of the Justice League!

Azgore warns that other sorcerers have tried and failed, so Crystal had better make good on his promise, or he will pay dearly!

Crystal then materializes on the JLA satellite, where his magical abilities quickly overcome Superman.

Meanwhile, the Halls and Oliver Queen and Dinah Lance are having an evening out, which is interrupted by Superman's JLA distress signal. They head to the satellite to find Superman...dead!

The JLAers, trying to figure out what's going on, are then met at the satellite by...The Phantom Stranger!:


After The Phantom Stranger's startling announcement, the JLA follows the mystic trail to Rutland, Vermont(which appeared in JLA before, in #103, also guest-starring the Stranger), where they discover the Carnival of Souls, with Count Crystal there waiting for them.

As Crystal puts the JLA through various death traps, he manages to..."kill" the Phantom Stranger!:

Crystal manages to kidnap Hawkgirl, and leave the other JLAers to the same fate as the Stranger.

As the JLA fight for their lives, Crystal makes a deal with the comely Hawkgirl. If she submits to him, to be his slave, then he might spare her friends. Hawkgirl goes against every feeling she has of loyalty and devotion to her husband and agrees to be with Crystal, to save her friends lives. Crystal then gets a tad too confident, and Hawkgirl has had enough:


Hawkgirl helps rescue her friends, when the demon Azgore returns, demanding a soul! Crystal says he gave the demon Superman and the Phantom Stranger's, but since even on "the other side" the Stranger has managed to keep their souls from the demon's clutches! Azgore then does what he threatened, and takes Crystal's, who screams in agony.

The JLA wakes up in the morning, dazed but thankful they survived:

Hawkman tries to delicately ask, er, how far did Crystal get, but Hawkgirl assures him she emerged unscathed. Suddenly, an old friend suddenly appears...The Red Tornado!

The story is continued into the next issue, where the Stranger appears yet again!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Justice League of America #139 - Feb. 1977

The Phantom Stranger returns to team-up with the JLA!

After his solo book was cancelled, The Phantom Stranger was homeless. Luckily for him, longtime Marvel scribe Steve Englehart was just beginning his superb run on Justice League of America, and under Englehart the Stranger would make more appearances in the book than he had before or since.

His debut under Englehart was in the second story of this issue, Englehart's first as JLA writer:


The JLA arrives in Ecuador, where the country is victim to a sudden mysterious ice age!

While the JLA is saving lives, they're not doing anything to stop the brutal freeze, until they hear about three super-villains--Captain Cold, The Icicle, and (don't laugh) Minister Blizzard--are on a crime spree! Flash doesn't want the team to stop what they're doing, when Wonder Woman chastises him for not realizing the two events must be related.

The JLAers stop the villains, but that doesn't seem to change anything. Then Hawkman realizes that its his old foe, The Shadow Thief, who is behind the plot. They confront him, and he almost gets away, until a stranger shows up to stop him:

Meanwhile, in Ecuador, the ice age has stopped. Is it because of the villains being stopped, or is it...a miracle?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Limited Collectors' Edition #C46 - 1976

The JLA got its own treasury-sized edition of DC's Limited Collectors Edition series, featuring reprints of two classic JLA tales.

Like almost all of DC's treasuries, there were added features to make the books extra special, and this book is no exception. In addition to some way-cool Alex Toth model sheets for the Super Friends cartoon show, there's a 2-page pin-up of the JLA throwing a shindig at the satellite, drawn by Terry Austin and Dick Giordano.

And as you can see, The Phantom Stranger makes an appearance:
(click to see a bigger, more festive version)

There's also a key to all the characters, and PS is described thusly:
...I like how most of the characters personality traits are indicated in the pin-up, even in the context of a party. Batman is planning stuff, Red Tornado is helping out, Green Arrow and Metamorpho are what looks like telling tall tales, and, of course, The Phantom Stranger is alone.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Amazing World of DC Comics #11 - April 1976

For its 11th issue, DC's in-house fanzine, The Amazing World of DC Comics, concentrated on super-villains, as this crowded cover (by the late, great Dick Dillin) will attest.

It features an article by Phantom Stranger writer David Michelinie about returning villain Dr. Nathan Seine:
(click any page to see a bigger version)

Nice to see that The Phantom Stranger wasn't immediately forgotten by DC--with all of their much more famous bad guys to feature, its a pleasantly surprising touch for a Phantom Stranger foe given a little attention, especially a behind-the-scenes view like this one.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Wonder Woman (Vol.1) #222 - March 1976

The final Trial of Wonder Woman!

The Phantom Stranger's first post-cancellation appearance in the DCU was in Wonder Woman, just as that book was wrapping up its "12 Labors of Wonder Woman" storyline.

Batman narrates the last labor, in a story called "Will The Real Wonder Woman Please...Drop Dead!" by Martin Pasko, Jose Delbo, and Tex Blaisdell:

From this point on, Batman relates the story of Wonder Woman battling a duplicate of herself in an amusement park.

At the end of the story, its time to vote, and that's when The Phantom Stranger shows up
Boy, the Stranger is mercurial, isn't he? He keeps ditching out on the JLA when they need to ask him a question, but here he actually bothers to show up and vote Wonder Woman back in. What a swell--if mysterious--fella!

Notes on the Process: As we'll see down the line, The Phantom Stranger made a lot of appearances that are barely more than one or two panels in the entire book. When that happens, like here, I won't be getting into the details of the story, rather I'll just be concentrating on the moment(s) the Stranger enters and/or effects the story.

I think he would want it that way.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Phantom Stranger #41 - March 1976

The final issue of The Phantom Stranger!

After a truly awesome cover by Jim Aparo (even by his standards), regular PS team Paul Levitz and Fred Carrillo bring us "A Time For Endings":

Seine explains to Craft why she is his prisoner, and that its part of a revenge plot against The Phantom Stranger.

The demon he conjured up last issue returns, and informs Seine that, despite the Stranger having defeated their "sister", Tala, (in PS #24), they will not kill the Stranger themselves--Seine must do that himself.

Cassandra, despite being a prisoner, is relieved, because she now knows that her friend is alive. As Seine begins a physical transformation due to power granted him from the demon, Cassandra tries to send a mental transmission to her friend.

Meanwhile, The Phantom Stranger is having it out with Deadman:

The Stranger follows the mystic trail, which of course leads to Seine. He bursts in, and attacks Seine, bringing Deadman with him.

Seine isn't aware of Deadman's presence, so Deadman tries to help out, by hopping into the body of the nearest person, the unconscious body of Cassandra's friend and co-worker at the school.

The Stranger, nearly unconscious, tries to warn Deadman not to do that, but he doesn't listen. Seine attacks the awakened man, and:


Deadman is horrified that his actions have led to this man's death, and attacks Seine just as The Phantom Stranger is recovering.

The Stranger uses his powers to "transfer" the pain inside himself and Deadman, causing Seine to feel the despair they both feel. This helps rid Seine of the magical powers he received from the demon.

The demon returns, demanding a soul, and decides to take it from Seine!:


...a very downbeat, horrifying, and weirdly unresolved ending here for the series.

Seine gets pulled into some sort of hell, which is nightmarish but fitting. But its interesting how the Stranger essentially blows Deadman off, grabs his fine, fine woman, and splits.

As mentioned, this is the final issue of The Phantom Stranger, and editor Joe Orlando breaks it to the readers on the last letters page:

And with that, The Phantom Stranger was cancelled.

Except for one brief burst in the late 80s (and almost exclusively under the hand of one writer, Paul Kupperberg) The Phantom Stranger as a character would never really regain the kind of (near)top-tier status he enjoyed in the DCU when he had his own title.

Sure, The Phantom Stranger was never that big a star, when you consider that, even when he had his own title, he always had to share it with parade of co-stars (Dr. Thirteen, The Spawn of Frankenstein, Black Orchid, and Deadman), most of whom got just as many pages as he did. But at the same time, a 41-issue run is no small feat, especially in a time when comic book sales were on a nearly-permanent downhill slide.

So now that we're done with the regular series, things start to get really interesting, as we see when, where, and how The Phantom Stranger popped up in the DC Universe...and other places.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Phantom Stranger #40 - Jan. 1976

The Phantom Stranger and Deadman in "In The Kingdom of the Blind"!

Now saddled or enriched (take your pick) with a partner, The Phantom Stranger and Deadman continue their otherworldly adventures:

Deadman, left to his own devices, takes over a random passerby to follow the man and woman nearby--Deadman thinks they have something to do with his future.

Meanwhile, at The Sanders School for the Blind, Dr. Nathan Seine is finding it difficult adjusting to his new condition. He angrily rejects the help of a kindly woman trying to teach him braille, preferring to sit and stroke the skull sitting on his desk, talking to his dear departed wife Margaret.

His thirst for revenge seems unabated, and with the help of a mystic tome, he calls forth a demon--and a really icky one, too:

The demon heads out into the night, hunting after anyone with even a meager amount of supernatural powers. It first attacks a palm reader, draining the life out of her and leaving her body crumpled on the ground.

It continues its search, and it finds a woman we--and The Phantom Stranger--are familiar with, Cassandra Craft!:


I love Cassandra's "Let go, dammit!"--when did you see any female comic book character ever talk like that?

But of course The Phantom Stranger isn't going to allow Cassandra to be hurt, and he shows up and attacks the demon. It turns its attention on him, overwhelms him, and then grabs both of them and takes off!

Deadman sees all this, leaves his host body, and follows.

He looks for another person with any trace of mystic powers to use as "bait" for the demon, and he finds one, taking over his body. He then tries to get the attention of the demon, which he does, stalling it long enough for the Stranger to wake up:


...that's a great, unusual last page.

It seems like things are building to a real head here--we've got Deadman, the return of Cassandra Craft, and a continuing revenge plot by Dr. Seine. All will be resolved in the next--and last--issue of The Phantom Stranger!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Phantom Stranger #39 - Nov. 1975

The return of Deadman in "Death Calls Twice For A Deadman"!

After his guest-appearance in The Phantom Stranger #33, Deadman makes a return appearance, one that would turn into a more-or-less permanent spot as the series winds up its run.

The Phantom Stranger opens the issue (again by Paul Levitz and Fred Carrillo) giving us a recap of the Deadman's origins:

The Sensei continues relating Deadman's story, and how it ended with Deadman and Batman foiling the Sensei's invasion of Nanda Parbat.

To settle The Sensei's debt, he must reclaim his honor by killing Deadman! He also tells Cleveland Brand (whom The Sensei thinks is Deadman) that his two friends--accidentally caught up in the machine's ray--must die also, since no one can leave his sanctuary alive!

After quickly dispatching the strongman, The Phantom Stranger gets involved:

The Phantom Stranger battles the Sensei with his magic powers, and the Sensei finds himself outmatched. Since the Stranger has won, he allows Deadman and his friends to leave his sanctuary.

But as he leaves, he throws his staff at his machine, causing it to explode, triggering a security device that fills the room with gas and begins to collapse the roof!

The Stranger uses his powers again to help them escape:


Be here next issue to see The Phantom Stranger and his new unofficial partner, Deadman, and the return of an old friend!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...