Tuesday, February 10, 2009

DC Comics Presents #72 - Aug. 1984

The Phantom Stranger teams-up with Superman and...The Joker?!?

The Phantom Stranger continues his tradition of teaming up with Superman and then Batman (or the reverse) in succession with this return appearance in DC Comics Presents.

The story is titled "Madness In A Dark Dimension" and is by Paul Kupperberg (who will soon become a very important creative figure to the Stranger), Alex Saviuk, and Dennis Jensen:

Superman prevents a Metropolis high-rise from getting hit by a bolt of stray lightning, and notices that this lightning storm seems to be something beyond your ordinary weather event. He heads into the darkest patch of clouds in the sky, only to find himself...in another dimension!

Inside this alternate dimension, a bunch of rocks fly around, and make their way out of the rip into Metropolis! Superman manages to smash most of them, but one slips by him, smashing a woman driving in her car to bits!

Superman thinks she's been killed, but...:
At Arkham Asylum, Superman tells the Joker he needs his help. The Joker, of course, finds all of this terribly funny, but Supes convinces him its no joke, and escorts the Clown Prince of Crime outside, where The Phantom Stranger is waiting for them:
The Stranger explains the crisis involves the being known as Maaldor, who was seemingly defeated by Superman and Madame Xanadu (in a previous issue of DCCP, also written by Kupperberg) and turned into formless energy. But now the dimension Maaldor's consciousness exists in is collapsing, and his evil is threatening to break its way into all the neighboring dimensions!

The Joker isn't interested in helping, but one...persuasive look from the Stranger changes his mind. The Stranger tells Superman he must enter the alternate dimension with the Joker alone, and must use his madness to help guide him through it.

After dealing with several different "realities", Superman and the Joker find their way to the problem...Maaldor!:
Maaldor is able to reach into Superman's mind, and creates foes for the Man of Steel that unnerve even him. He's not able to figure out what's real and what's not.

The Stranger reappears, and instructs the Joker to open up his mind to this dimension's madness, letting he and it become one!

The Joker of course is just crazy enough to go along with this, which allows him to develop amazing powers and fight Superman. Supes, thinking The Joker is really Maaldor using an illusion, follows him into the "center" of this dimension, where the true consciousness of Maaldor resides.

The Joker informs Maaldor that with all this new power, he plans to be the new ruler of this mixed-up dimension. While he is distracted by the Joker, Superman focuses his mind, concentrating, and blasts Maaldor with a beam of heat vision:

...the end.

After years of The Joker being a homicidal maniac (and many more years of it just around the corner), Kupperberg's Joker is more the goofy clown of the mid-60s, Julie Schwartz-era Batman stories, which works for this kind of adventure.

Interesting that The Phantom Stranger could control The Joker's mind, albeit temporarily. If he wanted to, he could save Batman a lot of time by visiting Arkham Asylum every so often...

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