Phantom Stranger #23 (Jan.-Feb., 1973)

Artist Jim Aparo’s dramatic cover for Phantom Stranger #23 depicts a scene that unmistakably calls back to Gaston Leroux’s 1909-10 novel Phantom of the Opera, or one of its several film adaptations; meanwhile, a blurb at the top plugs the opening installment of a new back-up series, “Frankenstein”.  A prospective buyer eyeing this one in the spinner rack back in November, 1972, might well have wondered:  didn’t the comic’s publisher, DC Comics, know that Halloween was last month?  Why were they releasing this kind of Double Creature Feature now, after the spooky season had already passed?

On the other hand, this was the latest issue of Phantom Stranger — and “spooky” was what this comic book title was all about, not just in October, but all year long.  So I suspect most fans probably didn’t think twice about the double dose of classic horror stars, half a century ago; in any event, I’m pretty sure I didn’t, either when I first eyed the cover, or when, after buying the book and taking it home, I finally turned to the first page…  Read More

Phantom Stranger #22 (Nov.-Dec., 1972)

Last November, we discussed Phantom Stranger #17, the fourth outing on the title for writer Len Wein. In that issue, Wein and his collaborator, artist Jim Aparo, showed us a more human side of the mysterious titular hero than we’d seen previously, largely through the introduction of a potential romantic interest.  But the Phantom Stranger bid farewell to that interest — a beautiful blind psychic named Cassandra Craft — at the end of #17; and the potential for more characterization-rich storytelling (and perhaps even a touch of issue-to-issue continuity) that Ms. Craft’s advent had seemed to signify wasn’t followed up on in the next couple of issues, both of which featured standalone adventures in which the Stranger operated as solitarily as he had before. Read More

Phantom Stranger #17 (Jan.-Feb., 1972)

About a year ago I wrote my first blog post about an issue of Phantom Stranger; if you happened to read that one, you may recall that PS #11 was the first issue of the title I’d ever bought, and that I ended up liking it enough to become a regular reader henceforth.  Beyond the basic appeal of the series’ supernatural subject matter, my younger self was highly intrigued by the mysterious but noble-seeming title character; I was also a fan of the look given the comic by artist Jim Aparo, who not only pencilled and inked but also lettered each installment.  Meanwhile, Neal Adams continued to turn out one classic cover after another for the title, which, even if it wasn’t enough to make me buy the book just by itself, certainly didn’t hurt its appeal.  About the only thing in Phantom Stranger I wasn’t all that crazy about was the backup strip, which featured Dr. Thirteen, the Ghost-Breaker; but even that had the appealing artwork of Tony DeZuniga going for it, and anyway, it didn’t appear in every single issue.  Read More

Phantom Stranger #11 (January, 1971)

In August, 1970, DC Comics retired the logo that had, with minor adjustments, appeared on the cover of their publications since 1949.  (For the record, the red lettering had been added in 1954.)  It was replaced by a new branding approach that basically consisted of the letters “DC”, the comic’s title, and a graphic representing the comic’s subject matter.  That approach gave us a few imaginative and distinctive new logos, such as the eagle-and-shield emblem that graced the Justice League of America’s covers for a couple of years; for the most part, however, the publisher’s books defaulted to a simple formula of “DC” + title + image of the headliner(s), often with some or all of those elements enclosed within a circle.  The end result was that every series seemed to have its own individual (if not necessarily memorable) logo, with even those comics that were part of a larger “family” of titles — such as those starring Superman or Batman — standing on their own, with little sense of a shared identity.

There were a couple of exceptions, however, both of which involved anthology titles that didn’t have continuing characters who starred in every issue — specifically, DC’s romance and mystery comics.  Read More