Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Phantom Stranger #35 - March 1975

The Phantom Stranger meets a man who wants to cheat death!

Arnold Drake, having moved on to other assignments, was replaced by up-and-coming writer David Michelinie, and his first story was titled "The Demon Gate":

The doctor--Dr. N Seine(ahem)--and his three assistants head back to his estate, where we see what he's working on.

Turns out what he's working on is the dessicated body of his wife, who he is keeping alive, against her will, with the aid of a huge menagerie of machines and tubes. She begs him to let her die, but he won't listen to her.

We see what led to this--years ago, he met his future wife, Margaret, and begged her to be his lab assistant, even though she had no experience. Later, some ill-mixed chemicals caused an explosion, nearly killing Margaret!

When medical science told him there was nothing that could be done, Seine turned to the Black Arts:

Seine goes on with his ceremony, sucking the very life out of The Phantom Stranger. The Stranger tries to talk Seine's assistant Gola into helping him, but Seine informs him she is not even an human, merely a collection of "sand and potions" to be used as his slave.

A portal to another dimension opens, the demons coming to feed on the Stranger's soul. But we see Margaret's withered hand reach up and begin to pull out various wires and plugs. She then grabs a key and frees the Stranger!

Seine, desperate for the unholy ritual to finish, sics Gola on the Stranger, but with a wave of the Stranger's cloak:


...what a grim ending, even for a Phantom Stranger story. Not only is this inhumanly cruel to the wife he supposedly loves, he doesn't even get it that she's thanking The Phantom Stranger for allowing her to die. A sad, pathetic figure, as well-rendered as possible, considering Michelinie only had 12 pages to work with.

On the letters page, editor Joe Orlando promises to deliver at least one thing the readers have been clamoring for--the Stranger start (re)playing a larger role in the stories, something we see Michelinie delivered right out of the gate.


Anonymous said...

The Gola character was cool. Michelinie should have kept her around. Actually, the characters and plot of this story reminded me of the old Wonder Woman villain Dr. Psycho; maybe he should have been used instead of making this N. Seine (ugh!) guy up out of whole cloth. It would have been a nice way of tying the Stranger in more to the D.C. Universe and his JLA pals. I believe he actually covered one of WW's "twelve labors" in her own mag in the 70's.
But I'm sure you won't let that slip by.

rob! said...

But I'm sure you won't let that slip by.


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