Monday, December 15, 2008

The Phantom Stranger #33 - Nov. 1974

Jim Aparo is back! Sort of.

Just as readers were slowly--slowly--beginning to warm to new Phantom Stranger artist Gerry Talaoc, Jim Aparo was brought back to the book to draw the covers, yet another comic book discipline he excelled at--the above cover jumps out at you, with the bright red of Deadman (looking really mad!) popping off the image. Nice.

Inside, more changes abound, as Gerry Talaoc got another issue off, to be replaced by new up-and-coming talent Mike Grell:

...that's a hell of a last image to end the intro with!

At the offices of Ubric Captival Investment Corp., we see the new head of the company (who has just replaced the guy we saw rubbed out on the previous page), a dapper-looking man complete with top hat and cape, as he heads off to the opera.

But on the way, he has some sort of massive attack inside his head, and he asks his driver to take him to see...Dr. Zorn! Him again?

Later, we see Zorn probing the man with another one of his cockamamie machines. He then shoots a beam of light into the man's eyes, which is just enough for Zorn to implant his hypnotic message--"Operation Swiss Cheese continues! 10% of all syndicate money goes into my Zurich account!"

Now that this man is the head of Ubric, he stands a greater chance of being elected head of some mysterious "World Syndicate", which is part of Zorn's plan. Oh, Dr. Zorn, will you ever learn?

The man heads back out onto the street, and runs into...:

Alone in his office, Dr. Zorn listens to an audio tape he made of his patient confessing to crimes committed as a youth, which Zorn is using as blackmail.

The tape mentions Boston Brand--aka Deadman--and how a hit was put out on him. Zorn then wants to talk to The Phantom Stranger, and "sends out his thoughts" to try and communicate with him...

Meanwhile, we see Boston Brand, Deadman, who is still searching for the man who killed him. He's beginning to get a message, and he knows that it involves someone whose name begins with...Z!

But even in his search, Deadman has time to goof around a bit


In Part 2 (this is a book-length story) the Stranger is meeting with Zorn, who is claiming he wants to "make peace" with the Stranger. He talks of a gun he saw in a window marked "Boston Brand" and how he thinks the gun was evil somehow.

The Stranger scoffs at this, saying only people create evil, not objects. He then disappears, leaving Zorn alone.

Turns out that this was all a ruse, and Zorn was taping the conversation. A few Nixon-esque edits and now the tape seems to suggest The Phantom Stranger is admitting he killed Boston Brand!

Deadman eventually finds his way to Zorn, and takes over his body:

While contemplating this new (if false) news, the Stranger reappears to talk again with Zorn.

"Zorn" attacks the Stranger directly, but the Stranger easily parries the blow, leaving Zorn crumpled on the floor. Deadman accuses the Stranger of murder, and the Stranger notices something is different about Zorn now, but he can't quite figure out what.

Meanwhile, two men arrive at an airport and make their way to Ubric Corp. They are being tailed by some sort of police agent, but they lose him. They two men arrive, where Ubric's new leader is waiting for them.

In Part 3, Deadman discovers Zorn has framed the Stranger, and listening to the scraps of edited tape learns that his new head of Ubric was involved in his murder! He then heads for Ubric Corp. while the three men are talking:
That pose of Deadman there was used a bunch of times by DC when they needed a stock shot of Deadman. I hope DC threw a couple extra bucks at Grell for it.

Deadman takes over the head of Ubric, while the police agent tailing the men is caught by a guard, and brought inside.

The two men hand a gun to their pal, now inhabited by Deadman, and order him to off the police agent. Deadman can't kill an innocent man, but if he doesn't, they'll kill him, and Deadman will lose his best lead towards finding his real killer!

The Phantom Stranger arrives, but only Deadman can see him. He refuses to tell Deadman what to do, and insists it is up to him to make the right decision.

When it looks like Deadman is going to pull the trigger, the Stranger reappears to chastise him. But he is visible to the others this time, and one of the other men grabs the gun and shoots at the police agent himself.

Deadman instinctively jumps in front of the agent, taking the bullet:

...whew! Arnold Drake was second only to Bob Haney for how much weird stuff he could pack into a single story.

Nice to see Drake bring his creation Deadman back into the fold, especially since (at the time) Deadman's original story line had not gotten a chance to resolve itself.

Mike Grell at this point in his career was an odd choice for The Phantom Stranger, since his work was thoroughly unmysterious (ironically enough, his work would evolve and grow, and by the mid-80s he would've been a great choice to draw a Phantom Stranger series).


Anonymous said...

wow, I remember seeing an ad for this comic somewhere and wondering what it was all about...but I had no idea it featured art by Mike Grell, who I always liked. I'll have to try to track down this issue!!

Anonymous said...

I remember this cover from an ad as well. And as soon as I saw that crouching shot of Deadman, I thought of that mid-70s "Line of DC Super Stars" ad where they were pushing their new line of adventure books (Stalker, Claw, Justice, Inc, Tor, etc.). That Deadman pose is seared in my brain from that. I always assumed it was Adams!


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