First Published: March 2008
Contents: The Brave and the Bold #89 (April-May 1970) and #98 (October-November 1971); Justice League of America #103 (December 1972); The Phantom Stranger #22 (December 1972) to #41 (February-March 1976); DC Super-Stars #18 (Winter 1978); and House of Secrets #150 (February-March 1978)
Key Creator Credits: Len Wein, Jim Aparo, Bob Haney, Paul Levitz, Arnold Drake, Gerry Talaoc, and others
Key First Appearances: Spawn of Frankenstein
Story Continues From: Showcase Presents The Phantom Stranger Vol. 1
Overview: This volume continues the supernatural tales of the Phantom Stranger. Many stories are stand alone tales that use the Phantom Stranger to introduce the issue and then makes a cameo at the end. Other stories cross over multiple issues, to provide an ongoing storyline, such as his battles with Tala and Nathan Seine.
During this era, most issues featured a back-up story. Dr. 13, a.k.a. the Ghost-Breaker, would star in many of them, and his character would often appear as well in the main Phantom Stranger story. Another backup story was the Spawn of Frankenstein, a then-modern retelling of the Frankenstein story written by Marv Wolfman with art by Mike Kaluta. In the final year of the title, the backup story was occupied by Black Orchid, but those stories are not collected in this Showcase Presents volume.
Other Phantom Stranger appearances are collected in this volume, such as his appearances in The Brave and the Bold and in Justice League of America. Those issues have been collected in their respective Showcase titles (see Footnotes), and it may not have been necessary to include them in this volume.
Why should these stories be Showcased?: I am a huge fan of Jim Aparo’s art style, which is why I purchased this book. While Aparo stayed on to provide covers for the title, he left the monthly art duties to a rotating list of artists, with most of the work done by Gerry Talaoc. Talaoc and friends do a serviceable job, but you would rather look at the Aparo covers. My other issue with this volume is that these stories do not carry any impact going forward in the DC Universe. Reading these issues is not critical to understanding what happens elsewhere in another title. I personally prefer the Phantom Stranger that makes the occasional guest appearance in other books over the Phantom Stranger headlining his own title.
Footnotes: The Brave and the Bold #89 and #98 are also reprinted in Showcase Presents The Brave and the Bold Batman Team-Ups Vol. 2.
Justice League of America #103 is also reprinted in Showcase Presents Justice League of America Vol. 5.
If you like this volume, try: tracking down old episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents via DVD or HULU. At the start of each episode, Hitchcock would introduce a story, dropping a joke or two, and a make a vague reference to the story you were about to see. At the conclusion, Hitchcock would return to wrap things up nice and neat. Rod Serling would later follow a similar format with The Twilight Zone. It’s easy to see how this format bled over into comic books, as the Phantom Stranger would often introduce the stories, then fade into the background until the very end to help wrap the story up.