Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Phantom Stranger #4 - Dec. 1969

Now we're getting somewhere!

With all due respect to the talents of Mike Friedrich and Bill Draut, I feel like the "true" Phantom Stranger starts here--first off, we have the debut of The Phantom Stranger's new, "mod" look, one that would last for decades.

Second, we have the first issue entirely illustrated by Neal Adams, which is always a plus, and this is the first issue of the new series that features an all-original story, courtesy Bob Kanigher.

Thankfully, someone at DC (editor Joe Orlando?) must have said "Enough with the shoe-horned reprints! What are we, Marvel in the 70s?" So we get a brand-new, slam-bang exciting Phantom Stranger adventure! Let's get to it!

As you can see, the story--"The Dead Don't Sleep Forever!"--starts off with a bang, with the creepy new visage of The Phantom Stranger warning us of the sinister tale to follow.

Dr. Thirteen (oh, him again?) and his wife Maria are in Haiti, where they watch as a throng of townfolk start chanting "Tala, Tala, Tala..."

Suddenly, at the top of the waterfall, a fellow tourist from the hotel appears, and jumps into the raging waters below!

Thirteen follows, but sees the man as he gets sucked into an underwater tunnel. He makes his way to the surface, just in time for all the townfolk's candles to be blown out by a powerful wind.

The next day, he has the authorities explode the tunnel, to prevent anyone from being trapped in there again. Spoilsport.

But Dr. Thirteen does not see that the explosion has freed someone--a noxious cloud that rises from the water, turning into the beautiful but sinister-looking Tala!

On the flight back home, the sunny day suddenly turns dark and ominous, and we see Tala sitting atop the airplane!

Then there's a thundercrack, and The Phantom Stranger appears, ready to do battle with the evil Tala!

As the plane makes its way to New York, all the lights and power in the city go out. Dr. Thirteen takes a gander outside the window, and doesn't like what he sees:

The pilots try the difficult maneuver of landing the plane safely in total darkness--luckily the Stranger is there, who fills himself with light. The pilot are then able to use him as a guide to know where to land.

Tala tells him "The battle has only just begun" and then turns into a wisp of smoke, disappearing into the sky. Suddenly, all the lights in New York come back on...

The next day, we see a group of teens as they head into a local junkyard, looking to sell its owner, a man named Shark-Tooth(!) some stuff to get some "bread." Shark-Tooth seems very ornery, and he throws them some cash as well as a book to raise the dead! Um, ok...

The kids wander into a deserted tenement, where they see a painting of a beautiful woman. What they don't notice is another painting, one of Tala. When one of the kids drops the book, breaking open its lock, Tala reaches out of the painting, and starts to turn its pages...

Later, the kids are reading a passage from the book, an incantation, which produces two giant gargoyles! Suddenly The Phantom Stranger appears, grabs a curtain rod, and turns it into a sword:

...that first one gets it right in the head! Ouch!

Soon, the gargoyles return to being piles of dust and plaster.

Tala then steps forth, out of the mirror, and plants a passionate kiss on the Phantom Stranger!

She tries to talk him into joining her, vowing to be the woman "man has dreamed of through the ages--Scheherazade, Cleopatra, Helen of Troy!"

The Phantom Stranger, thankfully, thinks with his head, not his medallion, and breaks off the kiss. Tala flings herself out of a window, promising "I also have teeth!"

Later, Dr. Thirteen shows up (The Phantom Stranger gets a great dig in when he does--"Still chasing answers with a slide rule, Dr. Thirteen?"), and tells the kids this is all fakery.

Thirteen also tells them this house was owned by a millionaire, Reed Jones. The painting is of his girlfriend, Linda Phillips, who mysteriously disappeared in 1869.

The group is startled by a loud moan, and the Stranger--using a laser beam radiating from his hand--cuts open a small chunk of wall, aged Linda Phillips!

She tells them that, back in 1869, she told Reed she had fallen in love with another man. Reed didn't take too well to this, so he did the next logical thing--buried Linda in a wall!

And there she stayed, as they both got older. Finally Reed died, and the house remained untouched for years.

The house then begins to shake and rumble. They all make their way out, to see Tala on the roof, waving her arms and laughing.

As the dust settles, Linda finally passes away, in the Stranger's arms:

The Stranger and Thirteen bury the woman. Just as Thirteen tries to get the Stranger to admit this is all a hoax, perpetrated between him and Tala, the Stranger disappears...but the flowers he left on Linda's grave remain.

A really solid issue, creepy and weird, and of course the perfect tale for Neal Adams to pull off. The panel above is a great example of that--moody and dynamic, with great colors. With this issue, The Phantom Stranger was kicked up a notch, or two.

(This issue's story must have run a little short, because it also features a three page, non-PS ghost story, "Out of This World", by Kanigher and Murphy Anderson, which was also all new)

1 comment:

Richard said...

Everytime I read about Dr. Thirteen I get more pissed off. I assume the idea was to convince a generation of children that "skeptic" means "being an asshole who ignores empirical data in front of him" instead of, you know...what it actually means, which is THE EXACT OPPOSITE.

Richard Dawkins should sue him for malpractice and defamation of character.

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