Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Saga of The Swamp Thing #2 - June 1982

The Phantom Stranger in "Soul on Fire"!

This issue features one of the most famous Swamp Thing covers ever, a photo cover featuring Dick Durock in his monster suit from the Swamp Thing movie.

In the back of the book, The Phantom Stranger's strip is now written by Mike W. Barr, with art again by Dan Spiegle:

I love this splash page--the way the whole top of the page is filled with fire really gives it an exciting, claustrophobic feel. Nicely done, Mr. Spiegle!

Inside the burning house, fireman Roger Jacobs tries to rescue a trapped little girl, when a giant burst of flame appears before him.

It appears to terrify Jacobs, and he falls to the floor in a panic. But he and the girl are about to be rescued by The Phantom Stranger:

As the fire rages, we cut to a small apartment across the city, where a woman and her small children still mourn the loss of their husband and father, Daniel, who was a fireman killed in the line of duty.

With just a fireman's pension to live off of, the kids are hungry and the cupboards are nearly bare. But The Phantom Stranger is here, too, and uses his powers in an act of kindness and generosity:
Back at the firehouse later that night, Roger Jacobs is still tormented by what he saw. He tells the Stranger (who has just arrived) that in the flames he saw the face of his friend Daniel Sweeney, Roger's best friend.

In the fire that killed Sweeney, Roger tried to save his friend, but was helpless. As he saved himself, Sweeney threatened revenge. And even though Jacobs knows he couldn't have done anything to save his friend, the guilt is tearing him up inside.

Jacobs lights a match for his pipe, and in the fire they both see the face of Daniel Sweeney! He again threatens Jacobs, but the Stranger reveals what his wife told him--that Sweeney was drunk that night, and his death was caused by his own carelessness!

When Sweeney threatens to burn them both, the Stranger counters with:

While this story is very, very brief, its one of my favorite Phantom Stranger stories.

I love the Stranger using his powers to feed Sweeney's hungry family, and the final panel to me is very haunting, no pun intended.


Anonymous said...

Now THIS story I remember! That panel you show with the Stranger saving the little girl and the fireman in his cape stands out; the minute I saw it again I thought, YES, I *have* seen this!

Dan Spiegle was an under-rated talent.

Anonymous said...

I mainly remember Dan Spiegel from "Mister E" and "Nemesis." He certainly had (has?) an interesting, distinctive style; thick, dark, heavy lines; not great with faces, but they do draw the eye. You could feel him stretching his compositional sense in the way he chose to depict the Stranger's powers here. His style reminds me of a woodcut. It was well-suited to the Phantom Stranger.
I also thought it was an interesting that the "villain" of this story was really just a simple ghost that manifested as a fire spirit.

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