Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Cancelled Comic Cavalcade #2 - 1978

I recently got the chance to see complete copies of DC's infamous Cancelled Comic Cavalcade two-issue series (see Dial "B" for Blog's excellent summary), and I was surprised to see The Phantom Stranger makes an appearance, albeit a brief one!

Included in the second issue of CCC was the cover to Dynamic Classics #3, done by none other than Jim Aparo. DC was a reprint title that lasted all of one issue before becoming victim of the even-more-infamous DC Implosion. Presumably this issue was going to feature reprints of Archie Goodwin and Walt Simonson's Manhunter and (I'm guessing) Wein/Aparo's Phantom Stranger, which would have been an amazing combo to put between two covers. What a crying shame this book never saw print!

I keep thinking I've found the last iteration of The Phantom Stranger by the late, great Jim Aparo, and then I find another one. I can't tell you how happy that makes me.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Phantom Stranger (Vol.4) #3 - Feb. 2013

"Family Matters" by Dan Didio, Brent Anderson, Phillip Tan, and Rob Hunter.

When last we left The Phantom Stranger, he was hanging by a noose held by the ghostly demon known as The Haunted Highwayman, which makes him recall another time he faced such a horrifying situation:

Dr. Thirteen tries to beg for the Stranger's life, saying it was he who drew the Stranger there. HH doesn't care, but is perplexed as to why his flaming noose hasn't burned it's way through the Stranger's neck yet. When he gets close, he is repelled by the Stranger's cloak, which possesses some sort of power the Highwayman cannot comprehend.

With dawn approaching, the Highwayman must depart, but he promises he will return the next night and "end this once and for all":
With the Stranger recovering, Dr. Thirteen explains where all this began: in the 1800s, with an ancestor of the doctor's who was also in the business of ghost-hunting. Having battled the Highwayman then, a feud was launched, with various members of the Thirteen clan suffering at his hands.

Dr. Thirteen needs the Stranger's help to make sure he isn't next in line, which he believes is too little a reason for him to get involved. The Strange departs, returning to his family.

With his wife, he attends a neighborhood party, which is a send-off to one of them, a husband and father who is going overseas for six months for work. When they are alone, the man and the Stranger talk about heady subjects, like faith and fate. The man isn't sure leaving his family is the right thing to do, but he can't say no to the money. He asks the Stranger to help keep an eye on his family in his absence. Later, another neighbor gets a call on his cell, but it's for the Stranger. He takes the call, and within moments assumes his more familiar look to return the call in person:
True to his word, the Haunted Highwayman returns, ready to kill Dr. Thirteen. The Stranger holds him off, but the Highwayman insists he will overpower them both. So the Stranger calls in some reinforcements: namely, the ghost of the original Terrance Thirteen, who was the first to face the demon.

As the battle, the younger Dr. Thirteen is amazed at what he's seeing, from seemingly a purely scientific/ectoplasmic level, thinking this is actual proof of ghosts--something his elder dismisses out of hand, despite what's going on right in front of him!
The Stranger admonished Dr. Thirteen for acting as though they are friends, and disappears. Dr. Thirteen's response is succinct: "Awesome."

This was my favorite issue of the series so far. The art of Brent Anderson and Philip Tan is really coming together, with the Stranger doing a lot of the cool fading-in-and-out-of-the-mist stuff that he did in his heyday. There's also more humor than has been seen previously, which works well as a nice contrast to the ever-serious Stranger. The Haunted Highwayman is a cool villain, both in back story and appearance; he'll be a good foil for the Stranger--assuming he comes back. But when you're talking about ghosts, demons, and the like, are any of them ever gone for good?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Justice League Dark #14 - Jan. 2013

"Enter The House of Mystery" by Jeff Lemire, Graham Nolan, and Victor Drujiniu.

I have not read Justice League Dark before, so I really have no idea what's going on in this book. It opens in Nanda Parbat, with the JLD apparently just having defeated some mystical super-baddies, like Necro and Felix Faust. Two of the team members, Zatanna and Tim Hunter, have disappeared, leaving the others--John Constantine, Deadman, and Madame Xanadu--to try and find them.

Meanwhile, Amethyst, Frankenstein, and Black Orchid are hanging out on the steps of the House of Mystery, waiting for the others to show up. They get bored and go inside--big mistake!

Back outside, Madame Xanadu tries to use her powers to find Zee and Tim, to no avail. But luckily someone is here to help:
...To be continued, of course!

Considering the line-up of the JLD, it makes total sense that the Stranger would eventually show up. After all, this book is littered with former Phantom Stranger guest-stars like Deadman, Black Orchid, and Frankenstein! Not to mention his former squeeze Madame Xanadu. How could he not show up?

This is a fun book with nice art, and characters I generally like. Now that the Stranger is here, too, maybe I'll add Justice League Dark to my pull list.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Fire and Water Podcast, Episode 36

The official podcast of THE AQUAMAN SHRINE and FIRESTORM FAN

Episode 36 - The Phantom Stranger

Special Episode! Shag takes the week off and I welcome Special Guest Co-Host Chad Bokelman ("The Lanterncast") to discuss the history of one of our favorite DC Comics characters, The Phantom Stranger!

Have a question or comment? Send us an e-mail at:

Also, you can leave a comment on our sites:


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Intro theme, "That Time is Now," by Michael Kohler. Outro music by Daniel Adams and The Bad Mamma Jammas!

Thanks for listening! Fan the Flame and Ride the Wave!

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Phantom Stranger (Vol.4) #2 - Jan. 2013

"Visitations" by Dan Didio, Brent Anderson, and Phillip Tan.

In a small Long Island town, the man we know as The Phantom Stranger watches a Little League soccer game:

As the game progresses, the Stranger sees the ghostly visage of the being known as Pandora appear on the field. The Stranger excuses himself to his wife and assumes his familiar look and confronts her. After initially threatening him--which the Stranger ignores--Pandora reveals the real reason she's here: she needs the Stranger's help:
Pandora disappears, leaving the Stranger back with his family. They go home, and as the Stranger's wife gives the kids a bath, he concerns himself with more pressing matter. Namely, the presence of the demon Belial, son of Trigon, who is waiting for the Stranger in the living room!
Belial seems to like the Stranger on a personal level, talking with him in a conversational tone. But then Belial reminds the Stranger that he and his brothers will not be as easy to deal with as Raven:

The Stranger returns to his family, determined to protect them. He answers the phone, and on the other end of the line is a name very familiar to old-time Phantom Stranger fans--Dr. Terrance Thirteen!
Dr. Thirteen has been cataloging every single instance of supernatural incidents across the globe, but now realizes that his investigations have him in over his head. He needs help from the Stranger to save him from a being known as The Haunted Highwayman, who arrives bathed in hellfire riding a coal-black horse. The Stranger and the Highwayman do battle, which leads to the Stranger throttled by the Highwayman's noose. He then points to Dr. Thirteen, claiming he will be next!

Meanwhile, we are back at the diner the Stranger and Raven were in last issue, with a man asking questions of the diner's owner, questions about what happened to the two people. The man is...Jim Corrigan! To be continued!

I liked this issue quite a bit; the (re)introduction of Dr. Thirteen is a nice touch, and the art combo of Brent Anderson and Philip Tan is coming together. Giving the Stranger a family adds a necessary human element, although right now they're really more of a plot device than fleshed out characters at this point. I fear they're going to have a lot of sadness in their future.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Adventure Comics #459 - Oct. 1978

"Murder Haunts the Midway" by Len Wein and Jim Aparo.

Even though I did what I thought was an exhaustive and complete list of the Phantom Stranger's chronological appearances, this one from Adventure Comics #459 managed to slip right by me:

Yep, there's the Stranger, alongside Aquaman (bonus!) in a story by Len Wein and Jim Aparo no less!

This cameo was the last time Wein and Aparo handled the Phantom Stranger since ending their brilliant run on his solo book in 1973, and the last time they ever worked on the character together, ever. A lot of history packed into this one panel!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween from The Phantom Stranger!

It's Halloween--time for a spooky superhero blog crossover!

All across teh interwebs today, various superhero blogs are covering their particular characters from a Halloween-esque perspective. Originally I Am The Phantom Stranger wasn't going to take part because, with a couple of exceptions, we've already covered every PS appearance, so there was nothing new to add.

But then I thought, of all the holidays for this blog not to miss, it's Halloween--the Stranger's favorite time of year, to be sure. So I went out and found something Halloween-ish: someone in costume as The Phantom Stranger!
I found these pics via a Google search, and they are of someone named Caranth, who posed in London in May 2011. You can read a little backstory about the costume on their DeviantArt page. Quite a nice job, love that oversized medallion!

Happy Halloween everyone!

Make sure to visit the other participating sites to see other spooky content:

Thanks to Chad Bokelman for putting this all together!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Phantom Stranger (Vol.4) #1 - Dec. 2012

"When You're A Stranger" by Dan Didio, Brent Anderson, and Phillip Tan.

A young boy playing soccer in New York City chases an errant ball off the field, and bumps into...a stranger:

The boy retrieves his ball, only to carelessly run into the street, where he is hit by a car and killed...while the Stranger watches, never stepping in. Cut to the young boy's funeral, where a young woman tearfully seems to be talking to the dead boy. No one knows who this woman is, how she knows the boy.

Overcome by emotion, she runs out of the funeral home, with the Stranger watching nearby (how many times have I typed that on this blog?). Out on the street, she is faced by mysterious glowing wraiths, but she is defiant: she emits a large, raven-shaped shadow which briefly holds back the wraiths. Its then that the Stranger (finally!) steps in:
The Stranger takes the young woman--named Rachel--to a nearby diner, where she sees nearly every other patron as a sinister threat: followers of her father, "The Church of Blood." Suddenly, all of the people don blood red hoods, and approach.

The Phantom Stranger teleports himself and Rachel to Stonehenge, which enrages Rachel. She says this is where her father will look for her first. The Stranger's only response is to say that the voices that guide him have told him to bring her here.

That may be so, but it appears Rachel is right--her father, the demon Trigon, appears:
Trigon takes his daughter, despite her screams to the Stranger for help. Trigon mocks the Stranger, suggesting this this is some sort of "trade" offered by a higher power to keep the peace. Trigon rubs salt in the wound, by saying that no matter what happens, the Stranger will be stuck on the sidelines, always stuck watching, never truly participating.

But that doesn't seem to be true: soon after, the Stranger shows up at a small suburban home, where he enters, takes off his coat and hat, and is greeted by...his family?
sg be continued!

I felt like this issue was a distinct improvement over issue 0, both in story and art. The Stranger's bystander-y tendencies are cranked up to eleven here, as he lets a young boy die in the first three pages, a fairly startling act (or non-act, in this case). It only gets worse as he seemingly betrays Rachel, all under the pretense of "It's all God's plan." I've always had my issues with that excuse, whenever it's used, so if I was Rachel getting sucked into the pit of Hell I'd be pretty mad too.

Art-wise, I'd say Phillip Tan is a better match for Brent Anderson than Scott Hanna was in the previous issue, but I'd still love to see Anderson ink his own work, as he's doing on the covers. Anderson is a supremely talented artist, I've been a fan of his for years, and I think he has a shot at being one of the Great Phantom Stranger Artists if given the chance (maybe it's purely a deadline thing).

The Phantom Stranger versus the Church of the Blood is a perfect, no-brainer match, so I'm eager to see where this goes from here!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Action Comics (Vol.2) #13 - Dec. 2012

"The Ghost in the Fortress of Solitude" by Grant Morrison and Travel Foreman.

It didn't take the Stranger long--less than a month, in fact--after debuting in the New 52 before he started popping up in other DCU books, but what's a little thing like the time stream mean to...The Phantom Stranger?

In this issue, a Halloween story (nice) that opens on Krypton, we meet Doctor Xa-Du, who is banned to The Phantom Zone for his crimes against society:
Xa-Du's first chance at parole (obviously these Kryptonians are a little less harsh than the ones seen in Superman: The Movie) just happened to be on the day Krypton exploded, which by our calendar would be considered Halloween.

Many, many years later, on Earth, in Superman's Fortress of Solitude, Xa-Du seems to have been able to return from beyond the grave to haunt the Man of Steel:
Xa-Du manages to ensnare Superman into the Phantom Zone, transporting himself to Earth. As he contemplates what further revenge to wreak, we catch up with Superman, who is met by...a stranger:
The Stranger, with the help of Krypto (now there's an issue of The Brave and the Bold!), allows Superman time to escape The Phantom Zone and suck Xa-Du back to the his otherdimensional prison.

The Stranger, not being limited to the bonds of this world, summarily disappears, leaving Krypto behind, waiting for his Master. But Superman would never break a promise to his best friend, and he does indeed return, reuniting a Boy and His Dog again. The End!

While I had my issues with The Phantom Stranger as portrayed in his new series, I absolutely loved this guest appearance--it's classic Phantom Stranger: he shows up, says a bunch of cryptic stuff, helps the hero out, and splits. Well done, Mr. Morrison!

Special thanks to Fantom Stranger Oscar Olaide who mentioned this guest appearance to me over on IATPS's Facebook page. I might have missed it entirely if he hadn't pointed it out. Thanks Oscar!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Phantom Stranger Vol. 4 Ad - 2012

Now that The Phantom Stranger is back--in his own book and in the New 52 in general--we're being treated to some ads starring DC's Man of Mystery, something we haven't seen in any DC comic in, what, twenty years?

Specifically about this ad, I think it's pretty sharp. It looks like the work of Brent Anderson alone (which is a good thing), and it's sufficiently spooky and horror-y, befitting The Phantom Stranger!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Phantom Stranger (Vol.4) #0 - Nov. 2012

"A Stranger Among Us" by Dan Didio, Brent Anderson, and Scott Hanna.

In an unexpected move, DC decided to give The Phantom Stranger his own title again, part of the second (third? fourth?) wave of new New 52 titles--written by DC head honcho Dan Didio no less!

This premiere issue--part of DC's month-long series of "0" issues--opens with nothing less than the origin of The Phantom Stranger:
Turns out that this young man--this sinner--who so desperately wanted to die isn't given the "easy" way out. Rather, he is cursed to walk the Earth forever, wearing the robe of Jesus Christ himself, stolen from him the day He was crucified:
We flash forward to Gotham City, where the Stranger seeks out police detective Jim Corrigan (him again!). He gets involved in a case that Corrigan is on, leading him to what he thinks is the location of a woman Corrigan is trying to find.

But when they get there, the Stranger is surprised to find she's not there, and thanks to someone else waiting in the shadows, Corrigan is shot to death, which leads to his becoming The Spectre. The Ghostly Avenger wants to take revenge on the Stranger, but is called away by God, leaving the Stranger once again alone:
sg be continued!

As I mentioned above, I was shocked to learn that The Phantom Stranger, of all the characters that had yet to be reintroduced in the New 52, would be given his own title again. As a fan of the character, I'm of course quite happy this has come to pass!

My reaction to this first issue was, sadly, mostly negative: I think giving the Stranger a concrete origin does disservice to the character, and mixing him so heavily in Judeo-Christian history seems like asking for trouble, in terms of offending readers who are not believers. But hey that's just me--this isn't the first time The Phantom Stranger's beginnings have been mixed in with the story of Christ.

Art-wise, I have been and am a fan of Brent Anderson, but I think pairing him with Scott Hanna is a mistake--Anderson's loose, scratchy style (seen on the cover) is a good fit for the character, but Hanna's ultra-smooth inks, to me, squeeze a lot of the life out of it. I'd love to see Anderson do the book all by himself, if possible.

Still, I'm glad the Stranger is back--he deserves to be, so let's hope this book is a big success!

I realize that, in the year or two since this blog went dormant, we've missed a bunch of PS appearances in various DC books. I jumped ahead because I wanted to get to this new series ASAP--so while I can't promise a full-time return for this blog, I promise at some point we'll catch up. After all, The Phantom Stranger deserves no less!

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