Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Phantom Stranger #37 - July 1975

Beware the images of the dead!

This issue--boasting a beautifully simple, iconic cover by Jim Aparo--features the return of Arnold Drake, along with a new writer, scripter Paul Levitz, along with artist Gerry Talaoc, in a tale called:

Meanwhile, two men are having a heated discussion. The older one--named Osburn--wants the younger one, Alan, to forge an ancient artifact for his museum. Even when offered $20,000, Alan refuses. He tells Osburn to "stuff it", and storms out.

We stay with Alan, and we see that he is the husband of Ann, the young woman driving the cab. He is desperate to make enough money so his wife can quit her job, but now that he has turned down Osburn's offer, he's broke.

But his day is getting worse--a police officer finds him, tells him what happened with Ann, and takes him to the hospital. He is told Ann's care with be long and costly. And since they don't have health insurance, Alan tells himself he has to work for Osburn.

He goes outside for some air:

He returns to Osburn, and agrees to work for him. Osburn puts him to work, creating an "authentic" mummy case and wrappings.

Time passes, and Alan's work is completed. He presents it to Osburn:


Osburn reveals he had planned to off Alan all along, and directs him to climb into a nearby vat of acid solution, which will disintegrate Alan's body in seconds.

Suddenly, The Phantom Stranger reappears to tell Osburn his plan is doomed. Osburn shoots at the Stranger, to no avail, and then turns the gun on Alan, threatening to shoot him if they both don't do what he says.

He points them both towards the vat, and then we...

Cut to later, and Osburn is showing his sarcophagus off to his museum's backers. As they examine it, the cover pops off, and a mummy comes roaring out of it, and begins to chase Osburn!:

As Alan is about to throw Osburn out a window, the Stranger appears and beseeches Alan not to kill.

Alan thinks the reason he survived death was to extract revenge, but the Stranger manages to talk him out of it:

As the men watch Osburn on the floor, a crumpled heap, The Phantom Stranger slips away.

The story may be over, but the issue is not. We end with this, a teaser for the next issue, and a return of previous foe, Dr. Nathan Siene:

...not a bad issue, but the sequence where the Stranger and Alan are about to be thrown into the vat, and then the story cuts away to later, is so odd I looked over the book a few times to make sure it wasn't missing a page or two.

If Alan and the Stranger did survive the acid bath through the Stranger's magic, it means, at some point, Alan did have to be in there, dying as his body was eaten away by acid. Yikes.

On the letters page Joe Orlando mentions that this plot idea was left behind by Arnold Drake and fleshed out by Paul Levitz, and with the next issue he takes over as the sole writer.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Interesting issue. I didn't care for the florid, overwrought dialogue, but the story itself was pretty good. And the idea of the hero of the book and another character actually experiencing a painful, gruesome demise but then returning--off-camera, so to speak--to finish the action is exactly the kind of weird, mysterious detail that sets this comic apart.
I'm grateful that the writer didn't feel it necessary to explain how this was accomplished.
I liked the art, but that close-up of the Stranger in the 4th panel of the next-to-last page makes him look like Karl Malden! Miles away from the handsome character depicted by Jim Aparo.

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