Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Saga of The Swamp Thing #1 - May 1982

The Phantom Stranger returns to a solo series!

With Wes Craven's Swamp Thing movie right around the corner, DC revived the Swamp Thing after years of not having a regular title to call his own. Produced by the team of Martin Pasko and Tom Yeates, Saga of The Swamp Thing proved to be a wonderfully creepy series, doing justice to the original creation by Len Wein (who was the editor on this series) and Berni Wrightson.

Unfortunately, this run was sandwiched in between the original, groundbreaking one, and an even more groundbreaking one by Alan Moore, leaving this series a little unappreciated in the history of the character.

But of course, that's not what we're here to talk about--we're here to discuss the return of The Phantom Stranger as solo series star, in a back-up strip in this book.

This first tale is by Bruce Jones and artist Dan Spiegle, and is titled "...In Shadowed Depths":

The reverend's words inspire the congregation, and an old, grizzled woman named Mama Balloo donates the little bit of money she has to the cause.

After the sermon is over, the
reverend meets up with her, but is angered to see she still wears a charm around her neck which is a symbol of voodoo. Mama Balloo claims its just for decoration, and they make plans to meet up the next day.

He then steps into a waiting limo, and the reverend is not all what he seems to be:

On her way home, Mama Balloo is mugged, but The Phantom Stranger is there as well, and makes quick work of the thugs.

The next day, the reverend shows up at Mama Balloo's tiny apartment, bringing her a box of chocolates. He asks her for a favor--for her to make a "delivery for the Lord", and we get the sense this is not the first time he has asked her to do this.

On the way to her destination, Mama Balloo runs into a young man named Pete, who used to belong to the voodoo cult she used to lead(!). An argument ensues, and the package is torn open, and we see inside are packages of heroin!

Later that night, the Reverend is attacked in a drive-by, but the Stranger reappears in time to save him:
Eventually, he makes his way back to Mama Balloo's house to pick up the package she was supposed to bring back with her, but he finds her sitting in the corner of her apartment, performing some sort of voodoo ceremony.

He grabs the box that contains the money, but:

Nice to see The Phantom Stranger back in his own strip, even if it is just as a back-up. With only nine pages to work with, the decision was made to have the stories be less about the Stranger and be more EC-style morality tales, with the Stranger taking part in them.

Dan Spiegle was an interesting choice to draw the strip, and his naturalistic style gives the story an extra layer of gritty realism.


Anonymous said...

I never bought an issue of "Swamp Thing" before Alan Moore began writing it, so I had no idea this Stranger strip existed! Another great service this blog has performed.

rob! said...

Glad to be of service!

Anonymous said...

I remember buying this series when it came out, but I totally do not remember the PS back-ups. Hmmm... selective memory again, I guess.

M W Gallaher said...

Spiegle's one of my top 5 favorite artists, a place or 3 behind Aparo. I wouldn't have pictured him on PS but he did some excellent work on these backups.

Anonymous said...

I never knew Dan Spiegle drew the Stranger, so it's good to hear about this story. Spiegle is one of my favourite artists, and from the pages on display it looks like he did justice to our hero.

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