Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Saga of The Swamp Thing #12 - April 1983

The Phantom Stranger in "Ageless"!

Comics writer (and then-DC staffer) Nicola (aka "Nick") Cuti took over the Phantom Stranger strip for two issues, starting with one, centered around a man who desperately wants to see the future:

Hank Barri suffers from a cruel genetic disease which ages his body before its time. He's only eighteen, yet he looks and feels like an elderly man.

He is very much in love with his friend Kara, but who cannot love him because of their supposed age difference.

Later, he visits his doctor, who offers him an experimental treatment, which he says may reverse his condition. Even though he's warned of side effects, he rushes to try it:
Hank, who had tried out for NASA's astronaut program (but was rejected because of his condition), reenlists, and is accepted. He tells Kara he is going on a deep space mission, but promises he'll be back. The Phantom Stranger is not so sure.

Barri takes off on his mission, and while in space he runs into a cosmic radiation storm. It knocks him and his ship out, and when he awakens, its twenty years later:

I know this angle has been used before in fiction (and specifically science-fiction) but the whole in-love-with-another-member-of-the-same-family angle always kinda creeped me out.

Of course, this being a Phantom Stranger story, you could read this ending that way, or as a purely happy one. The Stranger doesn't like to make things clear for people.

On the letters page, readers are torn over the rumor that the Phantom Stranger back-up will be dropped, in favor of one starring Dr. Fate (which was a rumor that had no truth behind it). While two writers say he has worn out his welcome and should go, another says the reason he buys the book is because of The Phantom Stranger! What's an editor to do?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"She'll be over forty..." The horror!
Odd story, in which the Stranger didn't figure much at all. It wasn't even a supernatural menace-morality-play-type story, though it did have a little O'Henry punch at the end. But that's what I always liked about Nick Cuti's stories...his writing made "Midnight Tales" one of my favorite non-DC/Marvel books.

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