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.
The full review can be found at EssentialShowcase.com.
To find the original issues, or reprints, of The Phantom Stranger, check with your local comic book store. In the Midwest, I strongly recommend Clint’s Comics in midtown Kansas City. Clint’s has been in business for nearly 50 years at the intersection of Main St. and Westport Rd. The back-issue selection is incredible, and what you see in the store is just a small fraction of their total inventory. In addition to the back issues, Clint’s stocks current issues, trade paperbacks, toys, T-shirts, and more. Check out Clint’s Comics to build your own essential collection!