Saturday, March 1, 2008

Justice League of America #103 - Dec. 1972

sgGuest-starring...The Phantom Stranger!

The Story: "A Stranger Walks Among Us! by Len Wein, Dick Dillin, and Dick Giordano. The JLA meets at the satellite, wondering which of them called the meeting. Turns out it was...The Phantom Stranger, who manages to appear in the satellite taking the team by surprise!

None of the JLAers know him, but Batman(having met him in the pages of The Brave and the Bold) vouches for him. The Stranger then explains he senses an evil force brewing in the town of Rutland, Vermont. And the force is being summoned by an old foe of the JLA...Felix Faust!

As the team decides to head to Rutland, we cut to four people on their way there, named Steve, Len, Glynis, and Gerry, who are headed their for the costume parade(seen previously in the classic Batman #237, "The Night of the Reaper"). The parade's organizer, Tom Fagan, meets the JLA and Batman tells him why they're there. Tom then manages to talk the JLA into being part of the parade, on a custom-made power-ring float!

As the parade goes on, suddenly everyone in the crowd is frozen stiff! The team splits up to investigate, and Hawkman and Flash are attacked by three zombified paraders, dressed like Supergirl, Adam Strange, and, er, Commando America!

The demons are inhabiting these people, which give them powers and they actually manage to defeat Barry and Carter! Meanwhile, Batman is taking on another possessed partier, this time dressed in a familiar red-and-blue outfit with a spider on his chest. Green Lantern meanwhile is fighting a Norse Thundergod. They, too, succumb to some mysterious force.

Superman and Green Arrow take on ersatz versions of Captain Marvel and the Golden Age Flash, and end up the same way. Oddly, the Phantom Stranger shows up at the end of all these battles, but does not help the JLA out! What's going on here??

As the JLA recovers, the Phantom Stranger returns and they ask him what is indeed going on. Turns out the only way Faust's spell of possession could be defeated was to use a personal item from each of them as a sort of sacrifice--but those items could not be freely given, hence the Stranger waiting for the JLAers to be rendered unconscious.

The Stranger exhausts Faust's powers, the JLA fight the demons, and our four familiar partiers wake up from their stupor.

The JLA is thankful to the Stranger for helping them defeat Faust and quickly decide to ask him to join
. But...:
Roll Call: Superman, Batman, Flash, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Hawkman

Notable Moments: As a kid, I was very concerned with the JLA's roll call, and it bugged me to no end that the Phantom Stranger was a sort of quasi-official member. They did vote him in, but he didn't accept, but he didn't say no, so...grrrr! I need closure on this!

Len Wein was obviously having a blast with this issue, writing himself and his friends into the story, to say nothing of the "cameos" by Spider-Man, Captain America, and Thor. Much like Neal Adams from a few issues ago, doesn't this mean Len deserved a Who's Who listing?

sgSpeaking of Neal Adams, there's this one panel from the book that sure looks like Neal Adams, rather than Dick Dillin, to me. I wonder, did somebody spill some coffee on Dillin's original page and Neal was around to pinch hit?

After a long run, Joe Giella is gone as inker, replaced by Dick Giordano, one of the finest artists in the business(who did part of last issue, as well). While Giella tended to simplify Dillin's pencils to the point of almost coloring-book proportions, Giordano added a nice strong line to them, making for a really attractive package.


russell said...

Ah, another awesome Len Wein issue. This story works on SO many levels. And the Nick Cardy cover is also another good one. Poor Phantom Stranger...he never got another cover appearance as nice as this one. PLUS it's the full-time debut of Dick Giordano, an awesome artist in his own right. I can't think of any character in the next 15 issues who did not look awesome while Dillin-Giordano were handling the art.

Ted I said...

Yes, I can see the resemblance, but it's probably due to Dick Giordano's inks. He inked a lot of Adams' work during the 70s and his own art was heavily influenced by Neal. The Dillin/Giordano run on JLA was one of my favorites as a kid.


Adama said...

Man, that DOES look like a Neal Adams frame. In fact, it looks almost exactly like Jacob from issue 77 of Green Lantern vol. 1.

Robert McKinney said...

Hi. Just discovered your blog today. Pretty nice!

I have to say this is my favorite issue of one of my favorite JLA runs. I loved those Rutland Halloween stories, and I think it's all due to this comic.

Earth-2 Rev. Nørb said...

I also agonized over whether or not the Phantom Stranger was really a member of the JLA. WHEN YOU'RE DRAWING THIS CRAP WITH BALLPOINT PEN IN A SPIRAL-BOUND NOTEBOOK, IT'S FRIGGING IMPORTANT!

David F said...

Good issue as I remember. I loved the way they sneaked in some DC/Marvel crossover under the table. We saw a couple of Marvel characters, with names carefully omitted of course. And the Halloween partiers (Len Wein and friends) were also featured about that same time in a Thor comic. I thought that was cool.

And the art ... I never really liked the team of Dillin and Giella. Now and then they had a good month, but I always thought their figures looked a little sloppy and out of proportion. But when Giordano replaced Giella, it was like the difference between night and day. Much better.

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