Showcase Presents The Phantom Stranger Vol. 2

Showcase Presents The Phantom Stranger Vol. 2

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. 

Showcase Presents The Phantom Stranger Vol. 1

Showcase Presents The Phantom Stranger Vol. 1

First Published: October 2006

Contents: Showcase #80 (February 1969), The Phantom Stranger #1 (May-June 1969) to #21 (September-October 1972)

Key Creator Credits: Neil Adams, Mike Friedrich, Jim Aparo, Mike Sekowsky, Len Wein, Robert Kanigher, Tony DeZuniga, Murphy Anderson, and Gerry Conway

Key First Appearances: The Phantom Stranger*, Dr. Thirteen*, Tala, Cassandra Craft, Tannarak

Story Continues In: Showcase Presents The Phantom Stranger Vol. 2

Overview: Meet the Phantom Stranger, a man with a mysterious background forced to live in the shadows of the supernatural and unexplained. No one knows where he came from or how he came to be.

The Phantom Stranger first appeared in a six-issue self-titled anthology in 1952. Those stories are reprinted in Showcase #80 and the first three issues of the 1969 series. Similarly, Dr. Thirteen first appeared in the pages of Star Spangled Comics, but his early stories are collected in these first issues as well.

Beginning with issue #4, new ongoing stories featured both characters, either together in the same story or in solo stories. These early issues have Dr. Thirteen at odds with the Phantom Stranger, trying to prove that he was a fraud. Dr. Thirteen eventually comes around to accept the Phantom Stranger as an ally, even if he may not fully understand him.

Two longtime foes are introduced in this volume, Tala, Queen of Evil would challenge the Phantom Stranger over and over, while the sorcerer Tannarak would be a thorn in his side. The psychic Cassandra Craft was brought in a potential love interest for the Phantom Stranger. In an effort to protect Cassandra (or maybe a fear of commitment), the Phantom Stranger faked his own death to let her move on with her life.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: Read this for the art – most covers were done by Neil Adams, and many issues featured work by Jim Aparo. As much as I like the character of the Phantom Stranger, I believe he works much better as a supporting character, such as his appearances in the Justice League of America. I find this to be an average collection.

Footnotes: In the backup story of The Phantom Stranger #14 (July-August 1971), Dr. Thirteen battles a mysterious creature from the murk that bears a striking resemblance to the Swamp Thing. The story was written by Len Wein, with art by Tony DeZuniga. Call it coincidence or accident, at that same time on the newsstand, House of Secrets #92 (July 1971), the Swamp Thing made his first appearance as a mysterious creature from the murk. That story was written by Len Wein, with art by Bernie Wrightson.

If you like this volume, try: tracking down Secret Origins #10 (January 1987). In 1986, DC launched an ongoing Secret Origins series to detail the new origin stories of characters following the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths. Most issues were double-sized and featured two characters, often a Golden or Silver Age character in the first story, and a modern age character in the other. For this issue, the entire issue was given over to the Phantom Stranger, with four possible origin stories. Each story featured a different creative team: Mike W. Barr & Jim Aparo; Paul Levitz & José Luis García-López; Dan Mishkin & Ernie Colón; and Alan Moore & Joe Orlando. The last story has been reprinted in the various editions of DC Universe by Alan Moore collections. The other stories can only be found in this issue, so it is worth finding.