I saw a Phantom Stranger comic posted on social media the other day and it got me thinking; if the DCU wanted to build out their universe, could the Phantom Stranger become relevant again? I believe the answer is yes!
When you look at the Marvel cinematic universe, there is no denying that they have done a superior job to DC in laying the groundwork in building up characters and building out the universe. DC, on the other hand, has focused more on individual stories. Theirs features a loose connection point, the Justice League movie. I think there were some good points in there. Overall, if they wanted to build it out, one character could help in weaving it together- the Phantom Stranger.
Who is the Phantom Stranger?
My exposure to this character has been limited. I believe the first time I encountered him was in an issue of Alan Moore’s run on Swamp Thing. When I saw that the MCU was going to be putting out a Doctor Strange movie that dove into the multiverse, I immediately thought of the Phantom Stranger. An analogous character to him in the DCU. With no one-true origin story and the ability to pop in and out of different character titles, including the Justice League, he could be one of, if not the one character, who could weave the DCU together with his appearances. The new Doctor Strange movie is said to have a horror movie feel. If it is successful, I think we could see DC give this type of setting a try. If that’s the case, it would make sense to include the Phantom Stranger.
First Appearance of the Phantom Stranger
The Phantom Stranger first appeared in his own title back in 1952, in Phantom Stranger #1. That book in a 9.2 grade currently has an FMV of $11,500. Comparatively, Doctor Strange, who first appeared in Strange Tales #110, has an FMV of $35,000 in a 9.2. Quite the difference, especially considering Doctor Strange appeared more than 10 years later in 1963. When you compare the current pricing of the Marvel characters, mostly beginning in the Silver Age, you see a huge disparity. This could be due mainly to the popularity of the characters as they appear on screen in the MCU.
The question, in my opinion, is not whether the Marvel books will decrease in value if the Marvel cinematic universe slows down. Rather, it’s when the DC universe will pick up enough in popularity to elevate some of these classic books. Although I grew up a big Marvel fan in the early 1990s, when I got back into comic books I sought out many of the DC stories from the 1980’s. This was due, in large, part to the great storytelling that was going on in that era at DC. My point is, there is no lack of material for the folks over there to utilize when it comes to storytelling. The bigger question is whether they continue to produce one-off -types of movies/stories or if they attempt to tie everything together much like Marvel has done over the past decade.
I believe each company has its strengths. It will be fun to see where all this goes in the future. One thing can be certain. Quality characters that have been published for decades will always have key books in demand. The question is, are they currently discounted or at a peak?