Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Phantom Stranger #3 - Oct. 1969

The first Neal Adams cover for The Phantom Series proper; and as usual it was a classic combination of action and mystery. I find the horses quite creepy, too.

This issue opens with a bunch of kids jumping the fence of an amusement park.

As soon as they make it over, they see the park's guard, Mr. Yanchus, except that--he's dead!

The kids are of course terrified, so they run away, and then they see a dark figure, who seems to know one of the kid's names...its The Phantom Stranger!

He tells Jody, the son of the man who owns the park and is being driven out of business by a series of accidents there, that he knows Jody's father, and he is after whoever it was who killed the guard!

When the kids say he disappeared like a ghost, that leads him to tell them a story about the first time a ghostly menace haunted this park, which dovetails into "The Stars Screamed Danger", reprinted from the original Phantom Stranger #5, by John Broome, Frank Giacoia, and Joe Giella.

...but before we get into the story, I want to mention this wonderful little panel by Bill Draut:

sgIt's so simple and classic, I wouldn't be surprised if The Phantom Stranger had this on his business card.

Anyway, the story involves a mystic named Vasti, who, among other tricks, predicts that the stars and the planets are in alignment, which will lead to ghosts visiting Earth (huh?).

The Phantom Stranger is in the audience, and he wonders if Vasti is just a charlatan or is really a mystic...

Later that night, we see giant, hooded, green-colored ghosts assaulting the park's visitors, scaring them half to death.

After the Stranger saves a couple and helps them get down off of the Ferris Wheel, the owner of the park tells him that he inherited it from his father. And due to a stipulation in the father's will, any money the first son doesn't earn via the park goes to the older son, Jay. The Phantom Stranger sees a motive for the park to fail!

When the owner and his girlfriend are almost killed in an explosion, the Stranger discovers its Vasti behind it all, who was, Scooby Doo-style, trying to scare people off so the park has to close down and Vasti could buy it for cheap.

Just as the owner looks to thank the Stranger, he disappears!

Back in the present day, the Stranger tells the kids that ghosts never bothered the park again...until now. Jody then mentions that his parents are trying to figure this out, too, by consulting a doctor:

...oh great, everyone's favorite wet blanket.

After Dr. Thirteen bores his hosts with a story called "No Such Thing as Ghosts" from Star-Spangled Comics #126), he decides to head over to the amusement park to investigate.

When he arrives, he is none too happy to see The Phantom Stranger, and asks where Jody is. The Phantom Stranger sees that Jody is...gone!

They hear a scream, and both of them head off to find him.

The scream seems to be coming from the Tunnel of Thrills, where they run into all kinds of trouble:

...after Thirteen saves the Stranger's life after he almost falls into a pit of metal spikes(!), they wind their way down a small passageway into a hidden room.

Inside they see...Vasti!

Vasti makes a break for it, and Thirteen sees the Stranger has disappeared. He chases after Vasti, who climbs up the scaffolding of a rollercoaster.

As he's about to kick Thirteen off, to this death, the Stranger reappears and grabs Vasti from behind.

Vasti struggles, and slips out of the Stranger's grasp, falling to his death. Left behind in the Stranger's hand is...a mask?

Turns out Vasti was actually the older brother, Jay--he hired Vasti years ago, but when the plot fell apart, Jay had Vasti killed when he learned Vasti was going to talk to the police.

The Phantom Stranger shows Thirteen some the dynamite Jay had place all around the park, and does his disappearing act before Thirteen has a chance to ask how he managed to be in the right place in the right time.

The Stranger leaves Thirteen yelling into the night, promising they'll meet again someday...probably in about two months!


Anonymous said...

I'll admit to not knowing of Bill Draut until a few years back. It wasn't until I read TwoMorrow's Titans Companion and the discussion of issue #17 of the original TT run, which Draut was the penciler of. Since then I bought the first Showcase Presents Titans volume that reprinted that story. From that, and what I'm seeing here, it is a shame that Draut is largely forgotten. He mixes the moody shadows and unique layout of Toth with a more traditional sensibility and it's stunning. I may have to pick up the Showcase Presents PS volume based on this alone.


Anonymous said...

Excellent review on this. I recently got the Showcase Presents volume 1 for PS and this story was there. It's much nicer to see it all in color though. :) Keep up the good work!

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