Wednesday, October 28, 2015

A ( Phantom ) Stranger in a strange land

Last year I did a Halloween special with Jim Aparo´s THE SPECTRE so I wanted to do something similar for this year. And because I don´t have that much on his DEADMAN issues I decided to pick another of DC´s supernatural characters he worked on : The Phantom Stranger.

Part of the reason for that is that I´m still hoping to generate enough buzz on the internet to shame DC into finally giving these issues the hardcover treatment. Although with the way the 2nd volume of LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT : JIM APARO turned out maybe it´s better this way.

Come on, I can´t believe I´m the only one whose copy has really bad reproduction. Back when I was working at the printing company the clients would have returned this or at least refused to pay for it. Now if DC had given away these as free comics the comic fans could not have complained. But is there really no kind of Ralph Macchio type guy who has the originals ? DC has always prided itself that it has a more complete back issue collection than Marvel. But if that is the result - don´t bother.

But this post is not for complaining about DC but praising the Phantom Stranger. It´s a character I have always liked and one of the few series I followed with the NEW 52 although I have to admit that I only suffered through the last issues because Norm Breyfogle did some of the art.

He´s another artist that doesn´t get nearly enough credit from DC. At least they have started reprinting his BATMAN work but they need to change their attitude and fast. Anyway, the Phantom Stranger was always a mysterious character. I mean who else had four different origin stories ? Okay, lots of DC characters. Some even more than four. But I´m talking about four origin stories in one issues. Now that´s something different.

What also was cool was that you never knew exactly what his abilities were which made the stories much more interesting. With somebody like Superman you knew his powers and he could do almost anything - unless somebody turned up with a little piece of green space stone. In the case of the Phantom Stranger because you did not know what he could do or not do there was always the possibility he could get hurt. It was not like with Spider - Man where you knew his spider - sense would warn him from a surprise attack. The Phantom Stranger could be decked from behind.

Of course the fact that his powers were never clearly defined enabled the writers to give him whatever power was needed in the particular story to defeat his opponent but they never abused the deux ex machina formula too much like the writers on Marvel´s Doctor Strange did too often.

But the powers of the Phantom Stranger were not that important since he often took a back seat to the little morality play like stories that unfolded in the book. Like Rod Serling in THE TWILIGHT ZONE he often appeared as the narrator of the story just commenting on what happened and not really doing too much, leaving the other protagonists to make their own choices. With sometimes heartbreaking and even devastating results.

Unlike other heroes in the DC universe who solved their problems with fisticuffs the Phantom Stranger was not unbeatable and back when Batman was allowed to crack a smile or outright laugh at the misfortune of his opponents the Stranger often was overcome and even lost his hat.

Combined with Jim Aparo´s art, which lends itself to the mysterious, mist filled places where his adventures took place, this was a great series and I plowed through all his appearances that I could get my hands on and I was equally excited whenever he guest starred in an issue - like when Kurt Busiek and George Perez included him in their JLA / AVENGERS series.

Now I wanted to do something similar to last year´s SPECTRE post but I don´t have many black and white pages of the PHANTOM STRANGER. And I´m sure that I don´t have all the pages of the story which I can´t confirm because I only bought the first volume of the Phantom Stranger showcase.

There was just not enough Jim Aparo in the second volume for my taste but maybe I can get it one of these days just to complete the collection. Anyway, I picked issue 22´s story CIRCLE OF EVIL of the Phantom Stranger because I DO have some black and white pages of that AND a lot of the regular pages which I found - of all possible sites - on this thread of the MARVEL MASTERWORKS website. The thread has lots of other neat Jim Aparo art from series like AQUAMAN or the ADVENTURER`S CLUB - which I have to check out AFTER writing this post or else I´ll never finish this.

And if you know where I can find more of the pages from this story, in the regular version or in black and white, please contact me via e - mail.

Now maybe you want to read FULL stories with Jim Aparo art and thanks to my old pal from DIVERSIONS OF THE GROOVY KIND I do get to include DEADMAN in this post with Murder Haunts the Midway from ADVENTURE COMICS 459, you can read Charlton Comic´s The Mist from THE MANY GHOSTS OF DOCTOR GRAVES 8, The Imitation People from SPACE ADVENTURES 4 , the NIGHTSHADE story Masque of Mirrors from CAPTAIN ATOM 89 and also feast your eyes on the epic John Byrne / Jim Aparo combo story In the Beginning from THE UNTOLD LEGEND OF BATMAN 1.

There is also I AM THE PHANTOM STRANGER , the main resource page for all things Phantom Stranger - ish which include all his appearances like in BATMAN AND THE OUTSIDERS 8 , JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA 200 and THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD 145 but especially the PHANTOM STRANGER by Jim Aparo which are issues 7 , 8 , 9 , 10 , 11 , 12 , 13 , 14 , 15 , 16 , 17 , 19 , 20 , 21 , 22 , 23 , 24 , 25 and 26 . Tell ´em Subzero sent you and don´t forget to check out the posts on Power Girl while you´re there.

I mentioned my other favorite Batman artist, Norm Breyfogle, in this post but I do not know if I already mentioned that he suffered a stroke this year. He´s well on the road to recovery but he still can´t draw and the guy has to live of something. I know from personal experience how something like this plus paying medical bills can turn your life upside down. It is one of the reasons why DC has finally released the LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT : NORM BREYFOGLE hardcover and you can help Norm by buying this or the new WHISPER trade which contains never before reprinted issues 3 to 11. You can find all details about that on this post from 20TH CENTURY DANNY BOY where you can also find an extensive interview with Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle , a post on Norm Breyfogle´s Batman costume redesign from 1992 and THE DANGER`S DOZEN issues 1 and 2 .

And if you don´t want to buy any comics but prefer to make an anonymous donation there´s also the NORM BREYFOGLE STROKE FUND .

GEEKS OF DOOM also has a spotlight on THE DANGER`S DOZEN , Jeffery Klaehn on GRAPHIC NOVEL REPORTER has an interview with Alan Grant on Batman and Beyond , Mike O´Ryan on O`RYAN`S OBSERVATORY has a Norm Breyfogle interview in three parts and an incredibly long post on Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle´s DETECTIVE COMICS , there´s also the interview with Norm Breyfogle and Chuck Saterlee about BATMAN and their series OF BITTER SOULS form the guys at COMIC BOOK RESOURCES which I haven´t posted yet because I haven´t gotten around to do a big post on that series ( he´s also number 199 on their list of 365 Reasons to Love Comics ), Esteban Pedreros on the spanish blog COMICVERSO has a Norm Breyfogle Spotlight with many wonderful art pieces, Dan Greenfield at THE GOTHAM TRIBUTE also pays homage to The Norm and last but not least make sure you listen to the SIDEBAR podcast´s episode with Norm Breyfogle . I also want to mention RANDOM THOUGHT´s post on JLA / AVENGERS although that is not where I found the page from issue 3.

We start Today´s video section with the documentary A History of Horror : Hammer Films and the British Horror. To tell you the truth when I think of Jim Aparo´s PHANTOM STRANGER it can be ONLY a hammer movie.

It´s certainly not DC´s cowled white and green embodiment of the Lord´s wrath but I think the new Bond with Daniel Craig will be cool nonetheless.

Sometimes I really have my head in the part of the anatomy most people sit on because otherwise I can´t explain why I still haven´t posted this video about THE IRON WARRIOR versus BIG BONG from Black Tower Comics. I just hope Terry Hooper is not going to kill me for this snafu !

I really could use a time machine making these post because Yesterday´s music video Calling all Guitars by Emily and the Strangers would have been just perfect for this post. But because I´m too lazy to re - write two posts - once again - I can only top that video with the delightful Kiki Dee.

We started the video section with a hammer and we end it with a hammer although a slightly different one : Mickey Spillane´s Mike Hammer. I was a big fan of the tv series with Stacy Keach - mainly because of the plethora of big breasted women with generous cleavages that were on the show.

Although I should probably post episode 6 from Mike Hammer, Private Eye called Halloween here´s one of the pilot movies Murder Me, Murder You with Tanya Roberts as Velda ( a role played by softcore actress Shannon Whirry in the Mike Hammer tv movie Songbird and by Lindsay Bloom in the tv series Mike Hammer, Private Eye and the continuation The New Mike Hammer ). I think I saw a DVD with both tv movies at a rummage table at a One Euro store once but because I did not know that this is one of the few Mike Hammer DVDs available in Germany I did not buy it.

And for the fans of the classic version here is My Gun is Quick from 1957.

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Terry Hooper-Scharf said...

Phantom Stranger -an inspiration and certainly one of my MAJOR DC favourites of the past (and I forgot he was in Avengers-JLA!!).
Big Bong...well, these things never sell and the videos are there so why not?
Mike Hammer -I loved that series. Anyone who was a "good, long time friend" helped the story. And the woman were typical Tec Noir "good girls" -yes, a LOT of cleavage. And Spillane began writing comics. Good connection there.
Now, back to retirement!

SUBZERO said...

The Mike Hammer series was in reruns about the time when I watched a lot of Columbo. And after that watching Mike Hammer stumbling about without a clue was really hard. But where the series scored points is in the atmosphere. From the title track " Harlem Nocturne " to the descriptions of life in the big apple .... that´s the main appeal of that series.

And of course the femme fatales. Talking about big apples .....;-)