The Phantom Stranger could have a bright future on HBO Max now that the DCEU is moving toward the dark side.
The DCEU is trying some new things on screens big and small. On the movie side, the focus is shifting away from the Justice League and toward the Justice Society. Then there’s HBO Max, where the company is moving forward with the mystical side of the DC Universe.
Last year, WB announced a Justice League Dark live-action series was in the works, and there is still talk that Zatanna will star in her own show. In recent weeks, the Madame Xanadu HBO Max show was given the green light. It paves the way for a Golden Age DC hero that mainstream fans hardly know exists: the Phantom Stranger.
Technically, the Phantom Stranger is already part of the DCEU. Back in 2019, he appeared in the Swamp Thing series for the DC Universe app. Despite fan protests, the show was canceled and mainstream audiences did not get to know the Stranger. With his connections to Madame Xanadu and the Justice League Dark, the stage is about to be set for him to return to live-action.
WHO IS HE?
For nearly 70 years, the Phantom Stranger has remained a mystery to readers. He does not have a definitive origin story, which makes him all the more fun. Many versions of his past place him originally as a mortal man in Biblical times while other stories describe him as a fallen angel. One backstory attributes his physical form to Darkseid’s Anti-Life as he stopped an avatar of the Anti-Life from using energy from the Big Bang. It resulted in him transferring part of himself to a scientist, who would become the Phantom Stranger.
In a sense, the various origins stories make Phantom Stranger similar to the Joker. No one knows the truth, which leaves it open to interpretation for the writers.
The Stranger debuted in a self-titled comic back in 1952. This original series lasted just six issues before the character was featured in the Showcase title. Over the years, the character has made many appearances in other series, and he has starred in other volumes of his own comics, though he never caught on as a premier hero.
That is why this issue, despite being a Golden Age first appearance, is relatively affordable as far as key issues from the 1950s go. For less than $2k, you can own a copy of The Phantom Stranger #1 all the way up to a 3.5.
When a publisher is as old as DC Comics, most of its key issues, particularly first appearances, are from the Golden Age, which automatically makes them pricey. That is why most collectors lean toward those Silver Age debuts simply out of necessity. However, that does not necessarily mean the issues are cheap, but they are more affordable than most Golden Age keys.
After nearly two decades on the shelf, the Phantom Stranger made his return in 1969’s Showcase #80. As you might expect, this issue is much cheaper than Phantom Stranger #1. In fact, a 9.6 sold for $1,860 in June. If that’s too expensive, you can have a 9.4 for under $700.
Again, I implore you to watch those Justice League Dark keys. Previously, I listed this issue with the Madame Xanadu keys. Considering her relationship to the Phantom Stranger, this will be a comic worth having. Along with Xanadu, the Stranger was a founding member of the Justice League Dark, which made their first unofficial team appearance in this issue. Whether or not the Stranger is part of the HBO Max JLD lineup, there is little doubt that he will be included in that series in some capacity.
At the moment, a raw copy of Blue Devil Annual #1 will cost you between $5-$15. That is an absolute steal.
Will you be investing in any Phantom Stranger? Let us know in the comments!