Monday, December 1, 2008

The Phantom Stranger #23 - Feb. 1973

The Phantom Stranger faces...The Phantom of the Opera??

Well, not quite, as we'll see in a moment (and it's not the Gentleman Ghost, either, even though our cover baddie looks a lot like him).

This time, The Phantom Stranger is in the city of lights, Paris:

Meanwhile, the Stranger and his erstwhile girlfriend Cassandra Craft arrive in Paris at the Orly International Airport. They both have vague "senses" of trouble, leading to Paris.

They take up in a sumptuous room:

...I love Cassandra's body language in that second panel. Aparo conveys a sense of ease she has with the Stranger, even though that would seem sort of tough to achieve.

The Stranger heads out alone, where he meets up with an " old friend" named Marcel. The Stranger wants info on The Dark Circle, but Marcel has never heard of them.

That night at the Paris Opera House, in the middle of
La Traviata, the giant crystal chandelier above starts to sway. On top of it is some sort of ghost! He starts sawing away at the chain holding the chandelier in place, but the Stranger is there to stop him:

The Stranger quickly disappears, and returns home, only to find Cassandra gone, and the place ransacked. He meets up again with Marcel, who now has some info on the Dark Circle.

But before he can share it, a bolt of energy comes and immolates him! Marcel is dead, and the Stranger sees there's another ghost on a nearby roof who's to blame!

He chases after the assassin, but it disappears before the Stranger can catch him.

Meanwhile, in the sewers of Paris, Cassandra is a hostage to a masked man all in white, along with his hunchbacked helper. The hunchback speaks in terms of "we"--indicating he is part of the Dark Circle--and reminds the masked man to fulfill his part of the bargain.

The masked man says all he wants is to get rid of The Phantom Stranger and Cassandra:


Tannarak uses his seemingly magical-powered organ to inflict pain on the Stranger. But as the Stranger lays there crumpled on the floor, he reminds Tannarak that once The Dark Circle has no more use for him, they will surely kill him.

Tannarak doesn't believe this, but the Stranger persists enough for Tannarak to start to have doubts.

Meanwhile, we see what the hunchback and his group are up to:

That's one awesomely-drawn blimp.

Anyway, Tannarak arrives, telling him that he has succeeded in his task, killing The Phantom Stranger. With that accomplished, the hunchback does exactly what the Stranger said he'd do, blasting Tannarak into nothingness.

As The Dark Circle goes back to its task, The Phantom Stranger and Tannarak appear and start to punch out the members of the Circle! Tannarak was testing his partners, to see if they would indeed betray him!

The hunchback manages to climb aboard the blimp, and take off, but Tannarak follows him. He grabs the hunchback's mystical staff, and tosses him out the blimp's open hatch.

As the hunchback hangs on the blimp's tether, begging for mercy, Tannarak blasts him with the staff, sending the hunchback hurtling to the ground.



...not the ending you were expecting! The Phantom Stranger and Tannarak--partners?!?

An interesting, off-beat idea--turning the book's #1 villain into the hero's partner in battle against an even bigger foe. A neat idea, as was Wein's combining of two classic horror characters--The Phantom of the Opera and The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

With this issue, the Dr. Thirteen back-ups were gone, to be replaced by the The Spawn of Frankenstein, written by Marv Wolfman and drawn by the incomparable Mike Kaluta

Back-up features were ideal for someone like Kaluta, who just couldn't go fast enough to draw a monthly book. It really is astounding how much stuff the reader got for 20 measly cents here--stories by Wein and Wolfman, art by Aparo and Kaluta. Wow!


Anonymous said...

"...Tannarak uses his seemingly magical-powered organ to inflict pain on the Stranger..." Ouch.
Nice to see Cassandra in something other than her pink action outfit.
I've never read an interview with Aparo about this book, but I bet it was fun for him to draw, getting to do things like sticking the Stranger's sillouhette in corners and stuff like that.
Aren't things getting chummy, with Tanny throwing his hand in with the Stranger & Co.? They're sorta like a mystical Mod Squad.

rob! said...

"...Tannarak uses his seemingly magical-powered organ to inflict pain on the Stranger..."

er, oops.

Unknown said...

That is a awesome blimp. I love your columns Rob but it does make me miss Jim Aparo.

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