Saturday, July 09, 2005

Guest Star Poll Results: The Phantom Stranger

I'm suprised (but shouldn't be) that the winner of our Favorite Guest Star Poll turned out to be the Phantom Stranger.

It makes sense. Although virtually nothing is know about the Phantom Stranger (other than that he favors Wendy's), he was designed to be a guest star; it's what he does.

"Stop," commanded the Stranger. "The decision you make now could affect your life, the lives of others... the fate of the world! If you choose wisely, things will be good. If you choose poorly, things will be bad. You have been warned, but I can help you no further for I am no friend, merely... a stranger."

Uh, thanks, PS. Now that you've reaffirmed my belief in the radical theory of "cause and effect", can I get back to perusing the menu in peace? I hope my choice of Combo Meal 4 with Dr. Pibb won't collapse the multiverse...

The man was basically a guest star in his own title, always lurking about as a shadow on the wall. That's how all the spooky comics worked back in the day. Some overarching interlocutory force (Cain or Abel, the Cryptkeeper, the Three Witches, Fate) was used to give a sense of continuity to one-shot EC style stories. Phantom Stranger was the most "pro-active" and actually appeared in the stories, but he's a comic book Greek chorus. He comments on the action, warns people, helps readers understand what's at stake and how they should feel about it. But in the end, the characters' fates are in their own hands, not his.

He has been traipsing around the DCU, as hard it is to believe, since 1952. Hard to believe because the character resists even well-meant attempts to give him backstory, explanation, or context. Those are just stories to him, and he remains exactly as unknown and unknowable as he was 50 years ago. But all that walking must be tiring....

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