Sunday, September 22, 2013


John Broome and Carmine Infantino created The Phantom Stranger in 1952, giving him a six issue series, but it wasn't until 1969 when he was reintroduced in Showcase #80 that we got the Stranger that is most familiar to comics fans. Originally, the Stranger was a hoax breaker, disproving supernatural events and had no supernatural power himself. Since then there have been five different possible origins given for the Stranger, none definitive except the last one in Phantom Stranger #0 (2012) where he's revealed to be Judas and his never ending journey is his penance for betraying Christ.
Fans have seen the Stranger fade in and out of various DC titles for years and occupying his own
excellent series and mini-series. The mysterious traveler would show up out of no where, be cryptic, help the Justice League or Swamp Thing and disappear into the great unknown.
When I was a kid, there was no Phantom Stranger series (until the '87 mini series drawn by Mike Mignola, but I was unaware of it until later). It was only guest appearances in Swamp Thing that I first became aware of the character and started seeking him out. I've always said DC Comics's greatest strength outside of Batman was in the B, C, and D list characters. Especially the supernatural/horror super heroes. The great, weird and eerie 1970's adventures of the Stranger are perfect examples. Mixing  costumed adventuring with Lovecraftian horror, keeping his origin, purpose, even powers vague, and giving an ultra-cool and unique look made those comics some of the best I've ever read. Particularly, issues featuring Deadman (who I rank right up there with the Stranger) really drove home just how unique DC's universe was. Yes Marvel and other comic publishers have and do mix the supernatural into their super heroing, but DC had a look and a style that was unmatched.
Marvel's great horror titles of the 70's, like Werewolf By Night, Tomb of Dracula, and Ghost Rider were exciting and cool, featuring great artwork and writing, but they never had a Phantom Stranger. The new Stranger series in DC's new 52 and his appearance in Justice League Dark have been more than satisfying and worth following. #0, which I mentioned earlier, was a cool jumping on issue for the uninitiated, written by Dan Didio. It lacks the darker spook house feel of the 70's, but I doubt anyone can recapture that.
The Stranger has shown up in the cartoon series Justice League Unlimited and in a darker episode of Batman Brave and the Bold. I've heard rumors about a Phantom Stranger tv series coming from JJ Abrams, but I'll believe it when I see it. But if there is any character that would lend itself to a cool and creepy hour of weekly tv it would be the Stranger.
Keep watching the sky, nerds!

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