The Phantom Stranger

NAME + ALIASES:
None

KNOWN RELATIVES:
None

GROUP AFFILIATIONS:
Justice League of America, The Trenchcoat Brigade, Sentinels of Magic

FIRST APPEARANCE:
Phantom Stranger #1 (Aug./Sept. 1952)

+ History

The origin of the being called the Phantom Stranger is unknown, though many varying and contradictory theories exist as to his beginnings and true nature. (Secret Origins v.2 #10)

One legend asserts that the Stranger was an angel who refused to take a side in the war against Lucifer. He was stripped of his wings and his very name and identity. He was then banished from the Silver City forever and was known as the Brotherless One, or the Grey Walker.

Another legend posited that he is the legendary "Wandering Jew" who offended Jesus on his way to the cross. This is unlikely because a tale involving the Spectre predates this event, and places the Stranger in ancient Egypt. (Spectre v.3 #??) Also, another legend tells of a man named named Josephus who became the Jew. (Arak, Son of Thunder #7-8)

He seems to appear most often to persons who are deeply troubled or confronted with some spiritual or moral dilemma. In these cases he has been known to offer advice or counsel, always letting the person counseled make his own decision as to his actions.

In cases where some supernatural or physical threat is involved, the Phantom Stranger has been known to take direct action. At these times, he often exhibits abilities that can be explained only by supernatural means.

The Stranger first graced the adventures of the Justice League of America when he visited the JLA Satellite to warn the Leaguers of Felix Faust's diabolical invasion of Rutland, Vermont. After this adventure, the JLA did actually vote to admit him as a member, but the Stranger did not accept the offer. (JLofA #103) Regardless, he continued to intervene in their adventures. He went on to snatch each and every on of the JLAers from the jaws of death during a protracted bout with the Key, (#110) and later began a series of mysterious appearances in which he would aid the JLA in its endeavors, always declining any formal invitation to become a member.

He returned to help against miscellaneous villains (#139), initiated a ritual to revive Superman after an attack by County Crystal (#145), and appeared during the fight against the Construct. (#146) Oddly, he declined to participate in another case against the Key, which further suggests that his involvement had a hidden agenda. (#150) His last case with the League was the defeat of the ancient malevolent gods of Oceania. (#156-157) No explanation was ever given for his motivation to participate and discontinue participation in the JLA.

But as always, the Phantom Stranger kept himself busy. He has twice aided the Swamp Thing, and recently became involved in the struggle between the Lords of Order and the Lords of Chaos. He was offered membership but never accepted it, preferring to remain a… stranger.

The Trenchcoat Brigade (John Constantine, the Phantom Stranger, Dr. Occult and Mr. E) travels back in time to 1648 to battle against Constantine's ancestor Piotr and the cancer god M'Nagalah.

Lately, he is sometimes associated with the Sentinels of Magic.

In recent times, another man from an alternate timeline (Hypertime) has appeared in much the same dress and manner as the Phantom Stranger. This man is the grown child of his timeline's Superman and Wonder Woman. Raised by his parents and godfather, the Batman, this man has also interceded during crises which involved the crossover between his time and that of the mainstream DC universe. He was originally drawn to the DCU by the machinations of the Superman-killer, Gog. He is an agent of his world's Quintessence — Ganthet, Highfather, Zeus, Shazam and ??. (The Kingdom)

 

Notes

The Phantom Stranger's status as an official member of the origina Justice League has always been debated.

But there are several instances which confirm it. The confusion originates in Jusitce League of America #103 (December 1972), when the League voted to accept him as a member. But before they could formally ask the Stranger, he disappeared. Batman stated "Somehow I think he knows ... and that we'll see him again."

Later, there's some controversy in Wonder Woman #222 (March 1976), when the League is present to re-admit Wonder Woman to the team. When Phantom Stranger shows up to vote, the League's reaction is almost hostile. The Stranger asserts "I am a member of this league, am I not?" and is allowed to vote.

Years later, when Zatanna was admitted as a mbmer (JLofA #161, December 1978), Superman made a comment that the JLA's original charter restricted them to 12 members. Hawkman stated that Hawkgirl was the thirteenth. This would mean that the Phantom Stranger was not one of the twelve.

But, the Stranger always appeared in the image on the letters page, which depicted only other full-time members.

Regardless, the book's creators were happy to leave it mysterious. Which is appropriate, I suppose.

— Special thanks to James Garland

 

+ Powers

Just as the Phantom Stranger has often exhibited abilities that defy rational explanation, these abilities also defy any attempts at classification. They frequently seem to involve the manipulation of supernatural energies under the Stranger's control. At other times, however, he has been heard to converse with alleged supernatural beings, pleading with them to intercede in a struggle in his behalf, or on behalf of his charge. He is a formidable opponent, but can be overcome by greater supernatural powers and, if taken unaware, physical attacks. He possesses no superhuman attributes, such as strength, flight, etc.; or at least, his innate abilities have never been manifested as such.

Although he is without a doubt one of the most powerful inhabitants of the universe, the Phantom Stranger is a very subtle operator. He always uses the minimum amount of necessary force and prefers to work through intermediaries. This is why he worked with the Justice League so often in the first place. It was always much simpler for the Stranger to alert the JLA to some forthcoming cataclysm than it was to use his own powers to handle the situation.

The Stranger is not bound by space and time. In mentoring the young Timothy Hunter, the pair journeyed back through time to begin the boy's education in the ways of magic.

Exactly why the Stranger protects the denizens of the Earth remains as mysterious as his background.

Appearances + References

» FEATURED APPEARANCES:

 Books of Magic v.1 #1-4
 Brave & Bold
#145
 Secret Origins
v.2 #10
  Showcase #80
 Swamp Thing
#50, Annual #2
 The Trenchcoat Brigade
#1-4
  World's Finest #249

» SERIES:

  Phantom Stranger v.1, 6 issue (1952-53)

  Phantom Stranger v.2, 41 issues, (1969-76)

 Phantom Stranger v.3, 4-issue limited series (1987)

  Vertigo Visions: Phantom Stranger, one-shot (19??)

» SEE ALSO:

 The Phantom Stranger