Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Best Cover Ever...?

Or The. Best. Cover. Ever. I vote the latter.

The best part? That scene actually happens (several times). But, I have to report, it's not precisely what you'd expect from a Phantom Stranger comic. We start with a race of humans that has lived underground for eons:

Then, throw in amazingly wonky pseudo-science mutant powers:

Finally, throw in some ill-advised human underground atomic testing:

And you've got what seems more like a wretched 1950's B-sci-fi flick, or a Doctor Who episode--mutants from another race posing as children to assassinate atomic scientists with death vision?--than a Phantom Stranger story. Who's responsible for this?

Oh, that explains everything.

Anyway, back to the cover. Neal Adams pretty much knocked it out of the park there...a mysterious set-up that makes you want to read the issue, without the usual overhype of distraught captions and word balloons. Masterfully composed, and with the great logo, and the odd but wonderful "DC logo inside the stylized bat," and the "computerized" Stranger watching on, well, who the hell could resist this comic?

Adams did the covers for Phantom Stranger #3 thru #19. You can go look for yourself, but here's a few I snatched:

Even though he did only one interior for the book, I'd argue that those covers, in large part, helped create the mystique that the character has today.

The Phantom Stranger is pretty much the epitome of everything I don't like in a character: my generally lukewarm attitude towards horror and magic; eternal mystery about origins, so you can't ever have real character development; undefined power set, which runs from normal human to damn near omnipotent, depending on the writer's deus ex machina needs; smugness and refusal to share his seemingly omniscient knowledge because he fancies himself so damned important...OK, I've never much cared for the character, all right?

Yet covers like these? They make me want to read the stories. So, if Neal Adams ever gets tired of being completely bugf%^& insane on Batman:Odyssey, maybe DC can put him on some Phantom Stranger covers, and find someone to take another stab at establishing the dude (Paul Cornell, anyone??).

1 comment:

Johnny Bacardi said...

Totally agree- I bet Paul Cornell would kill doing the Stranger.

You're right about these Adams covers, too, though I'd vote for #17's, the last one you posted, as the best. His cover for the PS issue of Showcase is pretty sweet too, with the Stranger, sans hat, protecting a group of kids (one of which is wearing the Stranger's chapeau) from some threatening ghosts...