Saturday, January 3, 2009

World's Finest #249 - March 1978

The Phantom Stranger helps Batman take on a vampire Superman!

Continuing his tour around the DCU, The Phantom Stranger made a guest appearance in World's Finest, in a story by Bob Haney, Kurt Schaffenberger, and Tex Blaisdell titled "The Vampire of Steel":

Bruce and Superman arrive at The Albatross, "The floating home lab of the legendary sea researcher Captain Kalamari."

To investigate the subterranean shocks heard underwater, Superman is sent to investigate, but:
Some of Kalamari's assistants head into the water, and find Superman unconscious! They bring him back up, and they discover Superman is in a coma!

As Kalamari volunteers to try and head down there and see what the problem is, Bruce overhears Superman mutter the word "magic"--the one thing Superman is vulnerable to. He suits up as Batman and heads down there, as well.

But when he gets there, he is hit by the same mysterious force and is knocked out. He wakes to feel himself being grabbed by two gloved hands(!) and drawn inside of a giant rock, which is then hurled to the surface, saving Batman's life. Kalamari surfaces as well, and meets up with Bruce Wayne, saying they will continue their work tomorrow.

That night, Bruce hears a frightening growl, and wakes to see some sort of werewolf-type monster in the ship's hold! They snag it with a net and tranquilize it, with Bruce insisting magic is afoot.

Kalamari dismisses this, and says this beast is a marine vampire called a Trillig, "who have haunted the seas for eons." Uh-huh.

At dawn, Batman heads back down under water, where he is nearly killed by his Wayne Enterprises jet falling to the sea floor! He manages to dodge it, but something else just as surprising is waiting there for him

The next night, another attack occurs, turning another crew member into a Trillig. Kalamari sees Batman, and thinking he's a vampire, fires a tranquilizer dart into him.

Batman wakes up in the ship's brig, with Kalamari insisting he's a vampire. Hasn't this guy ever heard of Batman?

The Phantom Stranger arrives as soon as Kalamari leaves, frees Batman, leaving an illusory duplicate in his place so Kalamari doesn't chase after them.

That night, Bruce Wayne is waiting all alone, playing bait for the Trillig. He is soon attacked, and The Phantom Stranger aims a spotlight on the attacker:
The Phantom Stranger then follows Kalamari's men into the crevice in the sea floor, where he sees some sort of a lost city, and a throng of glowing sea ceatures!

Kalamari's men seem to draining energy from the creatures, and then the Stranger heads inside a nearby temple. Inside he sees a glowing stake, and "intuition" tells him to grab it! He tries to, but magic forces seem to resist him. With great struggle, he manages to get it free.

Aboard the Albatross, Kalamari is furious at The Phantom Stranger for releasing Batman, but Batman being out in the daylight finally convinces him Batman is not a Trillig.

Kalamari seems to be familiar with the Sacred Stake the Stranger is holding, and he tells them that since Superman is a vampire, they must use the stake to kill him!

Batman volunteers to perform the grim task of killing his friend, lest he become an indestructible vampire. The Stranger wanders outside to watch the sun set:

Wow, does the World's Finest Team owe The Phantom Stranger one, or what?

As a comics historian/blogger, I grit my teeth when I see a story has been written by Bob Haney--not because he's a bad writer; on the contrary, his stories are almost always a captivating read.

No, its because of something other people have mentioned, and I think I have to--its because Haney packs so much plot into just a few pages, that trying to write a summary while still having it make sense is nearly impossible. Haney's comic stories were meant to be read as comic books, and they don't work well outside of that format.

Kurt Schaffenberger's work is, as usual, solid here, and he renders a decent Phantom Stranger. Though of course it was nice to have Jim Aparo doing the cover, once again gracing us with his version of the Stranger!

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