Monday, November 26, 2007

Looking at DC's solicitations for March, I noticed, much to my surprise, that SHOWCASE PRESENTS: PHANTOM STRANGER VOL. 2 was among the solicited. Having enjoyed the first one, especially the stories early in the run that I hadn't owned and read, I am happy to see it.

This one will start off with a bang- issues 22-24, by Len Wein (still PS' best writer) and Jim Aparo, are the concluding chapters of their Dark Circle saga, and are probably the Stranger's finest published hour. #25 is by Wein and Aparo too, but is just a mystery story that smacks of inventory, and marks their final issue. #26, which you might recall from my Spawn of Frankenstein post series, (Imageshack seems to have lost a couple of the scans, which annoys me no end) was the big grande finale for that era. After that, a whole new writer and artist came on board- the late Arnold Drake and unknown Filipino Gerry Talaoc, and that ushered in a long period in which for all practical purposes the Stranger became another Cain & Abel-style horror host, introducing, and even once in a while participating in a passive fashion in, stories which pretty much seemed to be recycled House of Mystery/Secrets fare. It was during this period that I first discovered the character and the book, at a drugstore in nearby Cave City. I still vaguely recall the day- I was scanning the racks, looking for something different, and noticed the cover to #31; why this caught my eye I can't say, especially when I had failed to notice other issues of the Stranger in the past. Regardless, I bought it, read it, and liked it enough to get #32 (the contents of which I don't remember to this day) and more importantly I got interested in the pre-#31 run, which was not easy to find in those pre-comics shop and internet days, believe you me. By #33, fan reaction to the new Rod Serling Stranger was pretty much uniformly hostile- if the letters pages were any indication- so they gradually began to make PS more of an active participant in the stories, even having guest stars such as Deadman pop up. Eventually, David Michelinie and a young turk named Paul Levitz ended up writing the book, even attempting to create an ongoing continuity of sorts with a recurring villain, something which the book hadn't had since Tannarak and Tala- before it finally got canned with issue #41. It was the first time in a few years that I had had a comic that I regularly bought and liked get cancelled, the previous instance being the Adams/Thomas X-Men in the late 60's. Kinda messed with me at the time, but I soon grew to get used to it.

Besides, PS kept popping up in titles like Justice League; this volume also features the Stranger's not-bad first appearance in issue #103- I was buying Justice League at the time and it was written by Len Wein, so it was triply cool. Also included are two Brave and the Bold appearances, only one of which (#98) I've read, and a late 70's House of Secrets, which seemed to be a testing-of-the-waters for a PS comeback, but apparently it didn't impress. While the art was by Gerry Talaoc, the script was by Gerry Conway, who was utterly mediocre on his previous stint on the character. I used to have this one, but don't anymore and couldn't tell you what it was about to save my life.

So, anyway, SHOWCASE PRESENTS: PHANTOM STRANGER VOL. 2. Supposedly coming out in March. I'm geeked for it.

And yeah, I know- this is a comics post. Am I already coming out of retirement? Stay tuned.

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