Monday, November 24, 2008

The Phantom Stranger #18 - April 1972

The Phantom Stranger faces a legend from the bottom of the sea!

This issue's story grabs you right off the bat, for as you can see Jim Aparo is nowhere to be found. Instead, Len Wein and Tony De Zuniga bring us "Home Is The Sailor":

With the ship back in the harbor, The Phantom Stranger assures the young, beautiful Lorelei is safe. She tries to ask the Stranger who he is and how he got to her boat in the middle of a storm, but he is his usual cryptic self and takes off, disappearing into the mist.

Lorelei makes it home, and her grizzled father is waiting for her. She tells him about this wonderful, kind man who saved her, but he is incredulous and unkind, commanding her to "stop living in a dream world."

Lorelei is lonely and miserable, so much so she says "I think I would give up my soul to find someone who'd love me!" Her father is angry at her near blasphemy.

There's a moment of silence, then a knock at their door. On the other side is a Navy man named Hans Vanderdecker, who says the raging seas have led him to dock at this small town. He says he's lost.

After a warm cup of tea, he heads back to his ship, but not before asking if he coul see Lorelei again, and leaving her with...a black orchid?

Lorelei chases after Hans, and hours pass. Lorelei's father is worried:

Even though the Stranger warns the father to stay out of it, he ignores the advice, and makes a plan...

Meanwhile, Lorelei and Hans get to know one another, and talk of dark secrets each of them has. Hans tells her a story of a sea captain from long ago who was also terribly lonely.

Then one day he met a beautiful woman, and they fell in love and were married. But the captain had to go back to sea, and he promised his bride he would return. But during one journey, the ship got thrown wildly off course, and the loneliness slowly drove the captain mad.

He convinced himself that his beautiful bride did not wait for him, and when he finally got home

Hans and Lorelei's private moment is interrupted by her father, who tells him never to touch his daughter again!

Lorelei is so embarrassed she runs off, and the father is attacked by a giant squid!

Luckily The Phantom Stranger arrives and help free him, then disappearing into the mist once again. The Stranger tells him this great beast was a manifestation of the father's dark thoughts, but he's having none of it, and resumes his quest for Hans.

He grabs a gun, but watches helplessly as he sees Hans and Lorelei take off in Hans' ship. The Stranger arrives again, grabs a small motor boat, and heads out to follow them himself.

As the seas rage, we see the ship carrying Hans and Lorelei change into the legendary Flying Dutchman! When the Stranger gets close, Hans seems to command a lightning bolt out of the sky and right at the Stranger.

But of course The Stranger escaped, and hops up onto the Dutchman. He zaps Hans with some sort of spell, keeping him from touching Lorelei. But he manags to drop a tarpaulin onto the Stranger, as if that would stop him:

...okay, that first panel is a little awkward.

Anyway, Lorelei punches the Stranger, saying she wants to be with Hans, whether he's a ghost or not! She is in love for the first time, and will go wherever the Dutchman takes them

...the end.

A sad, melancholy tale, made more so by De Zuniga's moody art. I don't know whether this was a scheduled "break" for Aparo, or Wein wrote this story specifically for De Zuniga's strengths, either way it works.

This issue also features not one but two Dr. Thirteen adventures, plus another Mark Merlin story. On the letters page, DC assures Phantom Stranger readers that Jim Aparo will return in the next issue.


Anonymous said...

I remember I got this issue from a back-issue box in some comic store or other many years ago, and opened it eagerly expecting to see some great Aparo or Neal Adams artwork, and was disappointed there was none to be found. But I have more appreciation for De Zuniga now, as an adult. I do remember I saw the Flying Dutchman angle coming from a mile down the street, though. And the cover is great--I love anything cephalopodic.

Luis said...

That is one great cover! You can never beat the combination of sexy babes and monsters.

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