- I steer, but I cannot lead. That has always been my fate.
- -- The Phantom Stranger src
- -- The Phantom Stranger src
The Phantom Stranger is a mysterious figure in the history of the world. His origins, nature, even his name, have never been revealed. Various stories about his origins exist, including:
- One tale postulated that the Stranger was a fallen angel who sided with neither Heaven nor Hell during Satan's rebellion and thus condemned to walk the Earth alone for all time. This is also backed by The Word who said that the Phantom Stranger was a fallen one.
- Another proposes the Stranger was originally a private citizen during biblical times and was spared God's wrath. An angel was sent to deliver him from divine wrath. After questioning God's actions, he commits suicide. The angel forbids his spirit from entering the afterlife, reanimates his body and condemns him to walk the world forever to be a part of humanity but also forever separated from it. He then discovered his divine charge, to turn humanity away from evil, one soul at a time.
- In a variation of the Wandering Jew story, he was an adult family man named Isaac with a wife (Rebecca) and boy at the time when Jesus was a small child. When King Herod sent his army to kill all small male children (in an effort to slay Jesus) the army slew his son and wife. Blind with anger, he spent the next 30 years in a rage against Jesus. As Jesus was being tortured, Isaac bribed a guard to assume his role in whipping Jesus. Jesus then sentenced him to walk away from his home and country; to be errant until Doomsday. Eventually, his misplaced rage expunged, he spent the rest of his time helping society, even declining God's offer to release him from his sentence.
- The last was a proposal that the stranger is a remnant of the previous universe. At the end of the universe the Phantom Stranger approaches a group of scientists studying the event, warning them not to interfere in the natural conclusion of the universe. The story concludes with the Phantom Stranger passing a portion of himself to a scientist, the universe is reborn, and the scientist from the previous universe is the Phantom Stranger in the new universe (a recursive origin?).
- Another possible origin was hinted at in The Kingdom, in which it was implied that Jonathan Kent, the future son of Superman and Wonder Woman, might grow up to be the Phantom Stranger. This also tied some of his abilities into the Hypertime concept, saying that he had the innate ability to enter other alternate timelines and to exist in the spaces between them. However, the adventure ultimately revealed this to be a red herring. The person in question had been deliberately placed in shadows to suggest that he was the Stranger; but when Wonder Woman finally saw his face, she said that she now realized he was not the Stranger.
Yet another adventure, Conjurors, has him as the Father of Magic, the first human ever to wield arcane forces through his medallion stolen from extra-dimensionnal Lovecraftian-type deities, arcane forces he then shares with humanity.
In his earliest appearances, the Phantom Stranger would prove supernatural events to be hoaxes. In later adventures, the supernatural events were real and the Phantom Stranger was given unspecified superhuman powers to defeat them. He later appeared in various other adventures, sometimes as a major participant; in others, the Phantom Stranger just appears and gives advice or warning to the featured heroes. Occasionally he serves simply as narrator. In some stories, he seems to be answerable to a mysterious Voice, implied to be God.
The Phantom Stranger played a major part in The Books of Magic, taking protagonist Tim Hunter through time to show him the history and nature of magic. He has assisted the Justice League on numerous occasions, even being formally elected to the group. The Stranger also tried to foil Eclipso's plan to cause a nuclear war.
He also attempted to prevent Hal Jordan from uniting the resurrected body of Oliver Queen with his soul in Heaven. This earned him Jordan's wrath; indeed, the Spectre threatened to judge the Stranger to see whether God had "punished" him properly by refusing him access to Heaven itself. Nonetheless, the Phantom Stranger has assisted Hal Jordan during his tenure as the Spectre on numerous occasions as well, most notably in a short stint babysitting Hal's niece, Helen.
During Day of Vengeance, the Stranger had been turned into a small rodent by the Spectre. He was still able to advise the Detective Chimp, who sheltered him in his hat while he recovered his powers. He changed back using recovered energies  and aided the Shadowpact, allowing them to see the battle between the Spectre and Shazam. That makes a point that the supernatural community generally regards the Phantom Stranger as invincible. The first reaction of some people to the Spectre's assault on magic is simply to presume that the Stranger will take care of it. Other adventures have shown the Stranger nearly as powerful as the Spectre. This however, is a recent interpretation. While others have never considered the Stranger as an easy foe to combat, given his unknown abilities, they also never considered him as invincible.
The Phantom Stranger's relationships with the other mystic heroes are usually a bit tense. The Stranger has no qualms gathering various forces in order to combat a certain evil (the Sentinels of Magic, but also other loose outfits), often invading those people's personal lives. However, he does not usually extend them that same courtesy. The Phantom Stranger has resisted such people as Doctor Fate (notably Hector Hall) in this, although Fate is in almost any incarnation an ally of the Stranger. Despite this, he does get along well with Zatanna; he appeared by her side to help remove the influence of Faust on Red Tornado.
Since he is ultimately an unpredictable force, others often meet the Phantom Stranger's appearance with distrust. Nonetheless, most heroes will follow him, seeing not only his immense power, but also knowing that the Stranger is in the end, a force for good. Notable though is Madame Xanadu, who has refused to join the Stranger on a few occasions, although she is a member of his Sentinels of Magic.
The Stranger also holds a unique relationship with the Spectre, as the two forces often come into conflict. He was responsible for gathering a group of mystic heroes in order to combat the Spectre, when its human host Jim Corrigan seemingly lost control of the Spectre. (It was during this time that they destroyed the country of Vlatava.) The Phantom Stranger participated in Jim Corrigan's funeral, when Corrigan's soul finally earned its rest and left the Spectre. The Stranger subsequently became one of the forces that stood against the Spectre when it went on a rampage without its human host, until the soul of Hal Jordan bonded with it. The Stranger occasionally took on an advisory role for this new Spectre. Aware that the Spectre now has yet another new host, the Phantom Stranger gathered a large group of magic wielders in an unsuccessful attempt to solicit the Spectre's assistance in the Crisis.
The Stranger was totally aware of the restructuring of the universe manipulated by the entity known as Pandora after the Flash attempted to correct the timestream. He followed after Pandora and chastised her for the changes. The Stranger subsequently battled Pandora which resulted with him being defeated. Pandora then remarked that neither the Stranger nor the Spectre intimidate her, as her powers are far above theirs. Before leaving, she cryptically states that she knows the Stranger's true identity and acknowledges that the Justice League will help her complete whatever goal she is working towards - regardless of whether they want to or not.
Powers and AbilitiesEdit
The nature of these are as mysterious as the man himself. The Phantom Stranger has demonstrated enormous powers and capabilities, the exact origin of which is undetermined.
Sorcery: The Stranger almost never uses spoken spells or magical rituals more complex than a seance or a circle of entrapment. However, his magical prowess almost knows no bounds. When the Stranger is acting in his bailiwick, he is almost supremely powerful. If he is not taken by surprise and can plan and act, he can be baffled only by universal forces. It is unknown if the Stranger has more than just these powers but he has exhibited:
- Inter-dimensional Teleportation: He can travel at will among the magical dimensions, including the Realm of the Just Dead, the Antechamber of Souls, Heaven, Hell, Apokolips and the realm occupied by the Quintessence.
- Mental Awareness: He has at least some telepathic abilities, and can ordinarily perceive truth and deception, good and evil.
- Spectral Sight: He can see spiritual entities and travelers invisible to normal sight; he can perceive magical events at a great distance.
- Teleportation: He can mysteriously vanish and appear at will, suggesting magical teleportation (when the JLA had a satellite in orbit 22,300 miles above Earth, the Stranger routinely entered and left it without use of the JLA teleportation tubes).
- Oneiromancy: He can send dreams of omen, warning, or information, though possibly only with the permission of Dream of the Endless.
- Transmutation: He can perform some feats of transmutation, such as turning fired bullets into flowers and sticks into snakes and back.
- Space Adaptation: He can survive and even communicate in outer space, though he may not be able to travel of his own volition while there.
- Dispel: He can dispel magic and sorcery, especially magic of mental control or illusion and deception.
- Eldritch Blast: He can fire energy bolts of great force.
- Hand-to-Hand Combat (Basic): He is a moderately skilled hand-to-hand combatant, often surprising with a punch someone who smugly thought their protection against magic rendered them untouchable.
- Storytelling: The Stranger always comes onto a new adventure as a story. He thrives in it and even acts in it, manipulating the events how he sees fit. When an event seemed to be supernatural in nature he depicted it to be normal and vise versa.
- Non-Direct Interaction: The Stranger's most important weakness, if that is what it is, is the sharp limitation on his acting directly and overtly. Threats which he would presumably have the raw power to directly defeat he must instead warn others about, especially if those others have some particular responsibility at stake. Even his information he apparently cannot provide clearly and explicitly; in many cases his warnings or clues are cryptic. It might be, for example, that he is forbidden from removing the responsibility from humanity's shoulders; he definitely believes in free will, and the availability of a balance of choices to humans. (The very entertaining free will debate in the Books of Magic was in fact perfectly in character for the Stranger.)
- Magical Downside: The Stranger is not physically invulnerable. Especially when he is heavily outnumbered when his magical abilities are already in use, or when he is taken by surprise, he can be injured or knocked out. He can be imprisoned by magical means; and his innate magical energies can be siphoned away. His physical form can be destroyed and he can die in at least some circumstances. He has often thought that a particular combination of threats might destroy him, particularly those which combined magical imprisonment with physical attacks or magical drains. It may be that the Stranger is mistaken and that there is nothing which could permanently destroy him (nothing has yet, obviously); but he definitely believes that there are things which can.
- Talkative: A weakness of a different sort is his oft-noticed tendency to speak too much; but this may be related to his need to make those around him understand the consequences of their choices and the fact that they face choices. He must not act in their place, so he must make them understand what their actions mean.
- Although this character was originally introduced during DC's Earth-One era of publication, their existence following the events of the 1985-86 limited series Crisis on Infinite Earths remains intact. However, some elements of the character's Pre-Crisis history may have been altered or removed for Post-Crisis New Earth continuity, and should be considered apocryphal.
- The character of the Phantom Stranger debuted in 1952, four years before Flash (Barry Allen) ushered in the Silver Age of comics. Although this would tend to place him on Earth-Two, he has always been considered an Earth-One (and later, New Earth) character. It does mean, however, that he lags behind the Golden Age characters of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, by a scant 12 years or so, making him a relatively long-lived citizen of the DC Universe, though perhaps not as well recognized by the public at large as are his peers.
- The Spectre transforms the Stranger into a rodent, rather than killing him outright, because even the Spectre's power would be insufficient to kill the Stranger.
- In Blackest Night #2, when the Spectre was defeated by a Black Ring, Black Hand couldn't comprehend the Stranger's true nature. Given that Black Hand is connected to Nekron (Lord of the Dead), and can sense whether or not something is alive or a reborn being (i.e. someone who died and was brought back) or an immortal, the fact is that the only description Black Hand can give the Stranger is "stranger than that".
- The Stranger has some unique abilities, like the ability to understand and decipher the events of DC Challenge; and some almost unique ones, like the ability to break the fourth wall and address the reader directly.
- 334 Appearances of Phantom Stranger (New Earth)
- 49 Images featuring Phantom Stranger (New Earth)
- 37 Quotations by or about Phantom Stranger (New Earth)
- Character Gallery: Phantom Stranger (New Earth)
- Phantom Stranger (New Earth) at Wikipedia.org
- Who's Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe XVIII
- I Am the Phantom Stranger blog
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- ↑ It should be noted though that within the DC Universe, stories commonly identify, either at the time or after the fact, mysterious, benign Voices as the Lords of Order. (An example of this is the origin of Hawk and Dove.)
- ↑ Justice League of America #103 (although he did not acknowledge his membership until Justice League of America #143)
- ↑ Day of Vengeance #6
- ↑ Justice League of America #6
- ↑ Infinite Crisis #6
- ↑ Justice League (Volume 2) #6
|Justice League member|
This character is or was a member of the Justice League of America, or the Justice League in any of its various incarnations, sworn by a duty to act as guardians of America and the world by using their skills and/or superpowers to protect Earth from both interstellar and domestic threats.