Phantom Stranger #26 (Aug.-Sep., 1973)

Let’s start today’s post with a bit of gushing over Michael W. Kaluta’s incredible cover for its primary subject, OK?

Back around the first half of 1973, DC Comics editor Joe Orlando seemed to have settled on a preferred “house dress” for the titles in his charge that included a solid color banner that ran behind the title logo (as well as the DC emblem, price, etc.) and took up the top third of the cover area (more or less).  Not every single issue of every Orlando title during this period followed this design model (see Jim Aparo’s cover for Phantom Stranger #24 [Mar.-Apr., 1973] for one conspicuous outlier)… but most did.  And frankly, sometimes — maybe most times — you really wished he’d let his talented cover artists (a roster that, at the time, included Bernie Wrightson, Bob Oksner, Luis Dominguez, and Nick Cardy, in addition to Kaluta and others) have the entire area of the cover to work with, instead of limiting then to the bottom two thirds or so, 

But then, every so often, you’d get a cover like this one, where the artist has leaned into the design challenge by embracing the negative space that’s already there via a relatively simple, but still dramatic and eye-catching composition that uses even more such space; a cover which then adds further focus to that space with exceedingly bold color choices.  Seriously — who’d have dreamed that you could have so much pink on a “mystery” cover, and have it turn out so well?


OK, enough about the cover.  Let’s move on to… well, actually, before proceeding to have a look at the interiors of Phantom Stranger #26, we need to back up a ways to review how we left things at the end of the last issue of the series we covered on the blog, the aforementioned #24.  As you will hopefully recall, that issue saw quite a few matters brought to a close; not only did it feature our hero’s ultimate victory over the sinister Dark Circle, but it also included the (apparent) deaths of his two most important recurring foes, Tala and Tannarak; and, to top it all off, it wrote finis to the Stranger’s tentative romance (if that’s even the right word) with the beautiful blind psychic, Cassandra Craft.  If you didn’t know better, you might think that writer Len Wein and artist Jim Aparo had decided to wrap up their two-year run on the series with one big blowout.

As it turned out, that wouldn’t be too far off the mark; Wein and Aparo did each have one foot out the door at this point, or so at least it seems in hindsight.  But there were still two issues left to go before they’d both bid farewell to Phantom Stranger.

The first of those issues, PS #25, led with a Luis Dominguez cover (his first for the title) fronting a standalone Stranger story drawn by Aparo and scripted by Wein, but plotted by Michael Pellowski; not a bad yarn, but one that might have run in any issue over the last couple of years, and not one that seemed to build on, or even follow on from, recent events in the series.  On the other hand, the issue’s installment of the title’s ongoing backup feature, “The Spawn of Frankenstein” — which, depending on your point of view, could be considered either a revamping of the previous such feature, “Doctor 13”, or its full-fledged replacement — was less disposable, continuing as it did the ongoing storyline that writer Marv Wolfman and artist Michael Kaluta had inaugurated with the serial’s first chapter back in PS #23.

We’re going to spend a bit of time reviewing the “Spawn” story in PS #25, for a couple of reasons: first, because it sets up the “main event” of our post, i.e., issue #26’s book-length crossover between the title’s lead and supporting features; and second, because it represents Kaluta’s last work on the strip (not counting his cover for #26, naturally), and I love this stuff too much to pass up the chance to share more of it with you (I mean, why else do I have my own blog in the first place?).  So, without further preamble…

After knocking out Rachel Adams (who, you’ll remember, is the widow of Victor Adams, the semi-mad scientist who resurrected the Frankenstein Monster in the present day, then died in his lab when his laser equipment subsequently overloaded), the bizarrely-dressed strongman dumps her into her own car, and then drives them both to a solitary, creepy old tower-adorned house… after which, he picks up the now empty car and tosses it off a cliff.  Yeah, this guy’s really strong… maybe even as strong as our tale’s true protagonist…

Having exhumed the corpse of his re-animator, the Monster carries him away in search of shelter…

But why have they chosen her for their sacrifice, Rachel Adams wants to know.  The elderly Satan cultist explains:  “You called for the devil, Mrs. Adams — so I sent Mammon to fetch you here –”  Seeing as how Mammon (that’s the name of the big strong guy, obviously) showed up at Victor Adams’ grave just a couple of seconds after Rachel mentioned Ol’ Nick, he must be really, really quick on his feet.  Or maybe he and his master have powers of instantaneous teleportation, as well as long-range surveillance capabilities that allowed them to scry out somebody relatively nearby who just happened to be invoking the Devil?  Yeah, it’s all rather contrived and random.

But, moving on… even as Mammon begins to chant the spell that will summon Satan, the Monster quietly ascends to the top of the tower…

Determined to let no harm befall “the mate of Victor Adams”, the Monster begins to fight with Mammon, only to find that the two are almost evenly matched.  Fearing that Rachel may be hurt or killed as a result of their struggle, he allows his opponent to knock him flat…

And on that grim note, Marv Wolfman and Michael Kaluta wrapped up their all-too-brief run on “The Spawn of Frankenstein”… sort of.  As we’ve already noted, Kaluta had a cover still to contribute.  And Wolfman’s role in issue #26’s crossover between the Stranger and the Spawn would be even more significant, as he’d be co-writing the story with Len Wein:

Len Wein and Marv Wolfman had been friends since the mid-1960s, when as fans they’d take the scheduled weekly tour of DC’s Manhattan offices on a regular, ongoing basis.  Their first collaborations as professional comics writers appeared in Adventures of Jerry Lewis #109 and Teen Titans #18, both of which came out in September, 1968.  Soon after that, a second Titans tale by the pair was spiked at the last minute; since then, their divergent career paths had only allowed the two men to write as a team a couple more times (although one of those stories, Detective Comics #408‘s “The House That Haunted Batman!”, was a near-instant classic).

As you can see, the first half of the second page of the present story essentially reprises the final page of Wolfman and Kaluta’s “Spawn of Frankenstein” installment in Phantom Stranger #25 (and actually revises it a bit, as the Monster’s parting words to Rachel Adams recorded here are different than those in the original version).  As for the second half of the page, it’s interesting that while the Wein-Wolfman narration refers to the “black cult’s satanic spark” in the singular, the Aparo visuals show us what appear to be two ethereal, but vaguely humanoid, presences rising from the ashes of the burned tower room.  Should these be taken for the ghosts of the recently departed Mordecai and Mammon?  That would certainly seem to be a logical guess — though, as we’ll soon discover, the reality will turn out to be somewhat different.

As we’ve discussed in previous posts, when DC revived the “Phantom Stranger” property in 1968, it was primarily as a vehicle for reprints, as 1950s-vintage tales of the Stranger as well as Dr. 13 were presented in the context of a brand-new framing sequence featuring both characters.  While the reprints were eventually phased out, the new stories continued to feature the two heroes interacting within the same adventure, until Dr. 13 was ultimately shunted off into his own separate back-up strip.  Prior to PS #26, the Stranger and the Ghost-Breaker hadn’t appeared on-panel together since issue #10 (Nov.-Dec., 1970).

Seizing Marie Thirteen up in his arms at the command of the voices in his head, the Monster batters away the hospital staff who attempt to impede his path; he then proceeds to carry the unconscious woman, on foot, all the way out of town and back to that creepy old house, somehow without attracting any further notice (or any that we’re shown, at least).

While Rachel Adams was indeed unconscious when the Monster left her back on page 2, we readers of the previous issue’s “Spawn of Frankenstein” story know that, after he left, she’d woken up and, seeing her dead husband’s corpse lying on the floor, “screamed long through the night and into the morning.”  I guess the poor woman must have worn herself out with all that screaming, and then fallen back into unconsciousness… yeah, that’ll probably work…

And now, the true identities of our story’s antagonists are revealed — they’re a couple of malevolent spirits named Flagermot and Pornipus, in need of a couple of fleshly bodies to inhabit.  Were these entities previously housed within the physical forms of Mordecai and Mammon, the bad guys of the prior “Spawn” installment?  It seems likely, though the story never actually tells us that.

A more important question, however, is why the two spirits sent the Monster after the laser device, and Marie Thirteen, in the first place.  If all they needed to restore themselves were a couple of vacant human bodies (living or otherwise), why wouldn’t the two Adamses serve their purpose?  Again, the story never attempts to provide an explanation.

Shouting “I will be free!“, the Monster hurls the animated armor away from him; as the suits clatter to the floor, he waits for his “unholy foemen” to attack him once again…

As a number of readers have noted over the years, the problem with teaming the Phantom Stranger and Terrence Thirteen in the same story is that the latter character’s skepticism — which makes all the sense in the world in his solo adventures, where he inevitably goes up against outright frauds, or otherwise deduces the truth behind some faux supernatural phenomena — comes off simply as stubborn foolishness.  Such is the case in this story, I’m afraid.

Freed from his chains, the Monster leaps from the pit, delivering a feet-first blow directly to the face of “Victor Adams”…

It’s a nice touch by Wein and/or Wolfman to have the Phantom Stranger address the Monster as “child of Frankenstein”, rather than as “spawn”, “folly”, or, well, “monster” — a choice that subtly reinforces the idea that the Stranger sees the other being not just as innocent, but as human.

P.S. goes on to appeal to Dr. Thirteen’s reason, asking him to consider how his comatose wife and dead friend could possibly perform the acts they’ve just witnessed.  But Terrence continues to be a little slow on the uptake, as he calls out to “Marie” by name…

“Then you can dream just as well outside, Terrence!”  On the one hand, I hate how Dr. 13 is characterized as a boob through pretty much this whole story; on the other hand, that’s a pretty funny line.

“From Dust Thou Art…” is one of those stories that I remember with great fondness from when I first read it fifty years ago, but which, upon revisiting after several decades away, doesn’t hold up quite as well as I’d hoped.  Half a century ago, I was so jazzed to see the Phantom Stranger, the Frankenstein Monster, and even good ol’ Terry Thirteen interacting in the same book-length story that I may not have actually cared that much about the actual plot, as long as the action was well-drawn (which of course it was, being by Jim Aparo).  Today, I’m more inclined to be irked by the general unsatisfactoriness of the story’s main villains, the demons Flagermot and Pornipus, whose origins are never really explained and whose actions don’t make very much sense.  (From the way that they basically subsume and then displace the whole “resurrection of Victor Adams” plotline that Wolfman had been developing in the “Spawn” solo back-up feature, I suspect that Wein and Wolfman may have whipped up the demonic duo rather quickly once it was understood that Phantom Stranger #26 was going to be both writers’ swan song on the title.)  I’m also rankled by an element of the story that I probably didn’t even notice as a fifteen-year-old reader, which is that the tale’s only two female characters (the only human ones, anyway) are both unconscious through the whole damn thing.

And yet… at the end of the day, it is still fun to see the Phantom Stranger meet the Spawn of Frankenstein.  And even if Jim Aparo doesn’t grace us here with a spectacular splash panel on the order of issue #17’s rising phoenix, or #24’s Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, he still goes out at the top of his game with another typically fine job of graphic storytelling.

Plus, y’know, there’s that cover.  Sigh.

To sum up: just because a fifty-year-old comic book isn’t quite as great as you remember, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad fifty-year-old comic book.

One reason that Phantom Stranger #26 has stood out so positively in my memory over the decades is, I’m sure, the contrast between it and the issues that followed immediately after.

The letters column of #26 ends with this intriguing, but rather cryptic message from editor Joe Orlando:

In retrospect, the phrase “new directions” can be seen as something of an understatement.  Certainly when my younger self picked up the next issue of Phantom Stranger in July, 1973, the cover (by Nick Cardy) offered no clue as to how drastically things had changed within two months’ time.   Once I’d looked within the book’s pages, however, I was stunned to discover that — with the exception of Orlando, whose role as editor I only dimly understood — everyone was gone.  Both Len Wein and Jim Aparo had departed the lead feature, their places taken by Arnold Drake and Gerry Talaoc, respectively.  And while the Spawn of Frankenstein continued to hold down the back third of the book, the Monster’s doings were no longer being chronicled by Marv Wolfman and Mike Kaluta, but by Steve Skeates and Bernard Bailey.

Of course, Phantom Stranger had seen plenty of previous changes to its creative roster before now.  But they hadn’t tended to happen all at once before now, and not after a long period of relative stability, at least as far as the lead feature was concerned; after all, Wein had been on the book since issue #14, published two years ago, and Aparo had been around since #7, which had come out all the way back in March, 1970.  Granted, Wolfman and Kaluta’s “Spawn of Frankenstein” tenure had lasted only three episodes, which had yielded but 22 pages of material — still, coming as they did at the same time as Wein and Aparo’s leaving, those creators’ sudden departures made it seem as though there’d been a housecleaning of some sort on Orlando’s watch, even a purge.

Judging by subsequent letters pages, the changes were not, on the whole, greeted warmly by Phantom Stranger‘s readership, with multiple fans writing in to express disbelief that DC would shake up the status quo so radically when things had been going so well.  The situation became bad enough for Orlando to commandeer almost the entire lettercol in issue #31 (Jun.-Jul., 1974) to explain that, hey, it hadn’t been his idea.  Among his comments were the following:

We did not want to lose the services of the two people who had been working on The Phantom Stranger magazine — Len Wein and Jim Aparo.*  Nonetheless, we lost both their services at once!  Len was accepting more and more work: Swamp Thing, Justice League, and outside commitments,** which led to deadline problems and a mutual decision that he would leave PS.  Jim Aparo’s services were requested for Batman in Detective Comics.  Since DC’s most important characters are Superman and Batman, these assignments generally get first pick of artists.

I’d like to think that my younger self was understanding of the difficulty of Joe Orlando’s position, back in 1974.  Nevertheless, I’d be remiss not to acknowledge that I was one of the fans who felt that the quality of Phantom Stranger went down considerably after issue #26.  As far as I was concerned, the title never recovered from Wein and Aparo’s departures — though that didn’t stop me from buying it all the way through to the bitter end, which came with issue #41 in November, 1975.

Here’s the thing, though.  Just as my opinion regarding how great some comics (e.g., Phantom Stranger #26) were fifty years ago has clearly changed over time, my opinion about some comics I originally found not-so-great may be up for modification as well.  So, I’m thinking that over the next several months, I’ll continue with my re-reading of Phantom Stranger, just to see if I find any of the later issues substantially better than I remember them being.  If I do, there’s a good chance you’ll be reading about one or more of them on this blog.

And if I don’t?  Well, we’ll always have Wein and Aparo.  (And Wolfman and Kaluta.)


*Orlando didn’t address the departure of Wolfman and Kaluta from “The Spawn of Frankenstein” in his column, probably because their dual tenure had been so brief, and perhaps also because the feature itself had become a moot issue, having been replaced in this same issue (#31) by “Black Orchid”.  But, for the record, Wolfman was now on the editorial staff of Marvel Comics, making it difficult if not impossible for him to continue to freelance for DC; and Kaluta was gearing up to start work on The Shadow, meaning that something on the painstaking but slow-working artist’s schedule would have to give.

**Wein’s “outside commitments” were primarily to DC’s primary rival, Marvel Comics; from 1973 to 1975, Wein was virtually unique among that era’s comic book writers in having his work appear regularly in the publications of both companies.  Recalling this period in later years for a interview published in Comic Book Creator #6 (Winter, 2014), Wein explained:

I ended up at Marvel in the early ’70s sort of by accident.  Gerry [Conway] and I were roommates for a good chunk of that.  I was at DC, Gerry was at Marvel, and every time Gerry would leave a book, I would get offered the gig.  I only found out later that this sequence of events was intentional, that Gerry and [Marvel editor-in-chief] Roy Thomas planned it that way.  Gerry would say, “I’m leaving Marvel Team-Up.  You want to take it over?”  I said, “You mean like write Spider-Man?  God, sure!”  He would consistently offer me books he was leaving so that I woke up one day and realized I’m working for Marvel.  Y’see, little by little, I had to give up DC assignments to take on the Marvel stuff and it turned out to be a calculated plan on their part to get me over there.  I was never aware of it. [laughs]

Ironically, Wein’s subsequent elevation to the position of editor-in-chief of Marvel’s color comics in 1974 would incense Gerry Conway — who felt he’d been in line for that promotion — to the extent that he’d leave Marvel altogether, returning to DC after a five-year absence to become an editor as well as writer.  (See Sean Howe’s Marvel Comics: The Untold Story [Harper, 2013].)


  1. Steve McBeezlebub · 26 Days Ago

    I have absolutely no memory of the Aparo-free issues but I can still recall Black Orchid clearly. Weird.

    Also, why is Frankenstein’s creation always green? Was plant matter used? Do dead bodies mold?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alan Stewart · 26 Days Ago

      Black Orchid showed up in Adventure Comics too, so maybe you remember her from there, Steve.

      IIRC, Mary Shelley described the Monster’s skin as looking like yellowed parchment. I *think* that the green came in with the color posters for the 1931 black-and-white movie, but don’t quote me on that. 😉


      • Steve McBeezlebub · 26 Days Ago

        I remember Black Orchid from both, especially as Dezuniga being nowhere near a favorite, he was my favorite Orchid artist. I bought a metric butt ton of comics back then.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. DontheArtistformerlyknownasfrodo628 · 26 Days Ago

    Poor Phantom Stranger…such a great character…so many great stories…and yet, so difficult to tell because of DC’s absolute refusal to create any backstory for the character whatsoever. And no backstory means no supporting cast, because as even poor doomed Cassandra proved, you can’t have a friendship or a romance without the give and take of life stories and histories. Sure, they could have intimated that PS had shared some of these things with Cassandra, but what good would that do us as readers? The best the Stranger could do for a supporting cast was poor ol’ Terry Thirteen, who wasn’t really the Stranger’s friend…not really his enemy…just really more of a chaotic neutral dick, there to give PS someone to talk to and fight with, but not really anyone he’d ever confide in. What a shame.

    Despite it’s shortcomings, there is much to enjoy in this story. Kaluta’s cover, as you pointed out, Alan, is a thing of beauty, and Jim Aparo was working at the top of his game in the seventies, so his interior art was equally lovely. Phantom Stranger may have been a pain in the butt to write, but no one handled him better than Len Wein, and, plot holes aside, this collab with Marv Wolfman is excellent.

    But fifty years later, those plot holes do stick out, don’t they? What happened to the Satanic Cult from the issue before? Where did Flagermot and Pornipus (known in my head as Fingerhut and Pornhub) come from and what was their connection with the Satanic Cult? Why was Rachel Adams unconscious for so long (did it occur to anyone else that Wein took a look at room-mate Gerry Conway’s ASM #21 and say, “Wow, Gwen’s unconscious for the whole book? What a great idea!”)? You asked why the demons didn’t just use Rachel Adams as an unwilling host, but perhaps that’s because she was more alive than Victor, who was actually, literally, dead and Marie, who was deeply in a coma. We’ll never know, because Wein didn’t explain it.

    To me, the thing about this story that underlines the biggest trouble with the Phantom Stranger is that you had to go outside his own book to find characters and story that would make him seem interesting. DC wouldn’t allow any character development of PS himself, they got rid of his supporting cast; the only thing to do was either make him a bookend character like Cain and Abel were for the two “House” books, or to constantly insert him in other people’s stories as an observer and outside agitator. Obviously, the second option is the one they chose, but I have to wonder what it would have been like if character had trumped mystery and Orlando and Wein, et al, had chosen to make Phantom Stranger a real three-dimensional character in the DCU and not just a cardboard cut-out of one? I guess we’ll never know. There are depths to be mined with the Phantom Stranger that no one has ever really plummed and it’s a shame such a great character was wasted the way he was.

    Oh, and Spawn of Frankenstein was in this issue too, wasn’t he? Yeah…he was nice.

    Sorry to go on so long, Alan, but Phantom Stranger is one of my favorite characters and this story sorta’ pushed my buttons. Thanks for a great post!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Steve McBeezlebub · 26 Days Ago

      And when they did give PS a back story, he was Judas Iscariot.

      Wolverine kinda proves you don’t need back story but it also showed it can only be done either within a team setting or with a dedicated supporting cast to interact with.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Alan Stewart · 26 Days Ago

      I used to think that I wanted to know the Phantom Stranger’s origin, but over the years I’ve come to change my mind. As Steve suggests, once you make a bad choice (Judas Iscariot, ugh), you’re stuck with it — at least until the next multiversal reboot. Hints are good, and some history is fine — but keep his actual beginnings a mystery.

      I did like the 1980s “Secret Origins” issue that provided four completely different backstories for P.S. and said “choose your own (or choose none at all)”. (I favored Alan Moore’s — big surprise, right?) I also enjoyed Matt Wagner’s “Madame Xanadu” series for Vertigo, which had the Stranger and Xanadu interacting at various times over the centuries, but didn’t attempt to nail down his origin.

      Liked by 1 person

      • DontheArtistformerlyknownasfrodo628 · 26 Days Ago

        I don’t know that I need an “origin” story either (especially not the Judas thing), Alan, but some background, even if it’s just a look at the dude’s Facebook profile would have helped. His relationship with Cassandra certainly suffered for her lack of knowing his first name! I just don’t think it would have hurt the character if he’d had a bit more depth to him, that’s all. As someone said earlier, it’s easier to be mysterious in a group (like Wolverine) when you have so many other characters around you with personal histories on display for everyone to see. Phantom Stranger has always suffered as a character because he’s so poorly filled in as a character he has no chance to evolve or grow.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Chris A. · 26 Days Ago

    Mike Kaluta loved using interesting perspectives on some of his covers, such as this one and Adventure Comics #425, cover dated January, 1973:

    I was not surprised when he abruptly left Spawn of Frankenstein, as he did the same with Pellucidar (backup feature in Korak, Son of Tarzan) and subsequently with The Shadow after only five issues and a few additional covers. He seemed to be a better fit for covers and one-off short stories, and it wouldn’t be until Starstruck, published in Heavy Metal magazine in the early to mid 1980s, that he did a protracted series. I saw on his Facebook page a few years ago that he was commissioned to recreate this Phantom Stranger cover. Looked just like the original!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Marcus · 18 Days Ago

      It was only after reading the post for Captain America #164 with art by Alan Weiss that I remembered that it was Weiss who did the art for the Pellucidar series in Weird Worlds and that the feature in Korak was Carson of Venus.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. frednotfaith2 · 26 Days Ago

    Many beautiful covers indeed on the Phantom Stranger issues. I remember seeing them on the racks but they never compelled me to purchase them as I was strictly getting Marvel mags at the time. I did get a few issues of P.S. in the ’80s, after having gotten into Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing, wherein P.S. made a few cameos.
    Interesting about Wein being unknowingly but purposely groomed to take over several Marvel mags from Conway. Aside from Marvel Team-Up, there was Amazing Spider-Man itself. Can’t think of any other series Wein took over directly after Conway left. I know Conway took over several titles directly after Thomas left, including Fantastic Four, but on that one, Thomas returned after Conway left, and eventually Wein took over from Thomas. Then on both the FF and Spider-Man, Wolfman took over after Wein left.
    Back to the old DC vs Marvel theme, my favoring of Marvel in part was due to my younger self finding most DC heroes boring and rather stuffy and the Marvel characters much more interesting. Intricate plots couldn’t hold my interest if I didn’t feel any reason to care about the characters. In hindsight, I know things had significantly changed at DC by 1973, but some of that stuffiness still persisted, apparently by editorial dictate.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Chris A. · 26 Days Ago

      Gerry Conway was writing The Incredible Hulk until #178 (which he only plotted;Tony Isabella was scripter), then Len Wein took over with #179, cover dated September, 1974. Two issues later we would see Wolverine on the cover.

      Liked by 2 people

      • frednotfaith2 · 26 Days Ago

        I’d forgotten Conway had a brief run on the Hulk between Englehart’s and Wein’s long run.

        Liked by 1 person

    • John Minehan · 19 Days Ago

      Wein took over Werewolf by Night from Conway in late 1972, Kull the Conqueror (for a fill-in involving a Werewolf) in early 1973,and then MTU. Wein took Thor from Conway when Conway left Marvel in 1974-’75 and FF as well (although Thomas took it from him, agter the Doom/Silver Surfer story).


  5. Agreed, this story doesn’t make much sense, but the artwork by Jim Aparo is stunning.

    I hope you’ll take a look at least one of the PS issues by Arnold Drake & Gerry Talaoc. I’m a fan of both creators.

    Liked by 2 people

    • B Smith · 26 Days Ago

      May I second this – my first issue of PS was #27

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Fraser · 25 Days Ago

    Lack of background or an origin didn’t trouble me with the Stranger and still doesn’t. Black Orchid neither — I hated Gaiman giving her an origin.
    I think I missed some of the problems with this issue as i missed the predecessor so I assumed it would have made sense there. Seeing them both, I was wrong. And why would the Satan worshipper need a sacrifice to ensure he gets to Hell?
    I cordially loathed the subsequent run of Phantom Stranger stories, though I stuck with it right to the end.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. brucesfl · 25 Days Ago

    Thanks Alan. I agree that the cover of PS 26 was amazing. Kaluta certainly produced some beautiful covers for DC during this time period. I’m not sure that I appreciated that at the time but certainly do now. I do recall that PS 26 was the last issue of Phantom Stranger that I bought. The reason was, I believe, similar to something you’ve discussed on this blog previously. The next issue PS 27 came out in the summer of 1973, and I missed it; I don’t recall ever seeing it, or perhaps there was poor distribution of it in my area. By the time I did see a later issue of Phantom Stranger, I believe I was aware that Len Wein and Jim Aparo were no longer on the book, and the covers may not have seemed that Interesting, so I stopped buying PS. I agree with your comments about PS 26. The art is amazing, Aparo is really in his prime here with very detailed pencils and inks. However, the plot holes, which I’m sure I would not have noticed 50 years ago, are very clear now. Also Dr.13 is still very irritating and a completely useless character. Regarding the Spawn of Frankenstein, it is interesting that both Marvel and DC tried to do something with the Frankenstein legend, but by late 1975 both versions would be sent to oblivion. Oh well… I will be interested to see what you have to say (if anything) about the later issues of Phantom Stranger. I was not aware that Arnold Drake returned to DC after his brief time at Marvel.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Henry Walter · 25 Days Ago

    I didn’t read these issues contemporaneously. I picked them up in the early 90s, but I echo your sentiments. I greatly preferred the PS issues up to #26, prior to the creative changes you discuss here. This was another great Aparo outing. I love everything that he drew during this time period! I always believed that Aparo left PS to draw the Spectre in Adventure. I didn’t realize that there were a few months in between PS and Adv. when he drew Detective. I hope that your teenage self bought those Detective and Adventure issues!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alan Stewart · 25 Days Ago

      Adventure, yes… Detective, sadly, no. 😦 (That younger self of mine sure made some boneheaded decisions back in the day.)


      • brucesfl · 24 Days Ago

        Aparo went over to Detective 437 and 438 (on sale July and September 1973). Those two issues were written by Archie Goodwin and were quite good. It appears to have been planned to be a longer stay, but he left Detective and went over to Adventure apparently to work on the Spectre. He did return to Detective for another brief run in late 1974.

        Liked by 1 person

    • John Minehan · 19 Days Ago

      He did the Batman stories in first two issues Archie Goodwin edited. Julie Schwartz brought him back for HIS first three issues when he returned after Goodwin left (with Len Wein as the writer, just b efore Wein became EIC at Marvel in 1974-’75.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Jim Kosmicki · 25 Days Ago

    DC used pink a LOT on covers – just as Charlton had Ditko green and Marvel tended toward a pale green or gray early in their superhero days.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Terry · 24 Days Ago

    The only issues of this title that I bought were #23-26 (the three Kaluta Frankenstein issues and this conclusion by Aparo). I agree with much of what others are saying here, namely: Aparo was at the top of his game in this period, Kaluta was awesome, and Dr. 13 was annoying. However, I would have preferred to see the team-up to have been drawn by Kaluta. Anyway, I had one of the subsequent issues with the Frankenstein issues drawn by Bernard Bailey. It was horrible (and I loved Bailey’s Golden Age work on Spectre and Hourman). I did not know that the Black Orchid series picked-up in this title a few issues later. I only knew about her three appearances in Adventure (and the much-later graphic novel). So maybe I’ll see about tracking some of those down — at least a couple of them were drawn by DeZuniga.

    Liked by 1 person

    • frasersherman · 24 Days Ago

      If you’re a Black Orchid fan Super-Friends #31 has a sequel to one of the Phantom Stranger backups. As usual E. Nelson Bridwell does a good job, keeping her identity and even her powers mysterious, and rebutting the fan theory she was Kryptonian.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Terry · 24 Days Ago

        Cool. I did like the fact that everything about her was “mysterious” — at least at first. Thanks for the tip!

        Liked by 1 person

    • Chris A. · 23 Days Ago

      If you look at Diversions of the Groovy Kind (blog archives) you will scans of all of the Black Orchid appearances in Phantom Stranger. It was from Groove that I first learned of this blog.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Chris A. · 23 Days Ago

        ,,,you will *find* scans…


      • Brian Morrison · 15 Days Ago

        Thanks for this, Chris. Like others who have commented I really enjoyed the three issues of Adventure Comics that featured the Black Orchid. I only found out that she had been the back up feature in Phantom Stranger in his second last issue and always wondered what the other stories were like but couldn’t find them collected anywhere. Happily, thanks to you, I have now read them all on Groovy Kind and have resolved that nagging question.

        Liked by 1 person

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