Men Call Him... The Phantom Stranger!

A Visual Index

The Phantom Stranger was a short-lived DC title from the 1950s.  He was a mysterious ghost-breaker: he debunked the supernatural menace of the current story (3 stories per issue, 6 issues total), then left in an inexplicable manner.  "Was he man -- or ghost?" The readers never knew.

Phantom Stranger (vol. 1) #1
Phantom Stranger #1 (August-September 1952), "Haunters from Beyond"

George Burroughs
Martha Carrier
'50s Phantom Stranger

Anne Parris, descendant of Rev. Parris of Salem, is haunted by the ghosts of two accused witches (actually relatives trying to kill her for an inheritance).
Phantom Stranger #1 (August-September 1952), "When Dead Men Walk"

The Ghost

After three men die in a plane crash, their associates are haunted by their ghosts (actually a thief trying to kill a witness).
Phantom Stranger #1 (August-September 1952), "The House of Strange Secrets"

Robart's apprentice

Neal Hunter is directed to a lonely house where a would-be sorcerer is trying to kill him to gain immortality.
Phantom Stranger (vol. 1) #2
Phantom Stranger #2 (October-November 1952), "The Killer Shadow!"


Myra Hunter is haunted by her own shadow (actually her guardian, trying to gain her inheritance).
Phantom Stranger #2 (October-November 1952), "Death's Strange Deputy"


Velie the sorcerer has created a man, Adam, and sent him out to kill. Adam is actually the Assistant District Attorney and his intended victim is the D.A., who is trying to convict Velie.
Phantom Stranger #2 (October-November 1952), "The Three Signs of Evil"

The Moon Cult

Artist Mark Davis comes across a meeting in a park and notes three odd symbols on their signboard in his notebook. Attempts are then made to kill him. The meeting was of The Moon Cult and the symbols were clues to their murderous plans.
Phantom Stranger (vol. 1) #3
Phantom Stranger #3 (December 1952 - January 1953), "Ghosts for Sale!"

Tabor the medium

Greystone the stage magician is afraid his magic is becoming real, as he seems to have made two people actually vanish. It's part of a swindle by the stage manager, who is also a fake medium, and the two vanished people relatives of a wealthy woman he's fleecing.
Phantom Stranger #3 (December 1952 - January 1953), "Dead Man's Hand!"

Jim Pomeroy

A rodeo star is being sent aces and eights -- the legendary "dead man's hand" supposedly held by Wild Bill Kickok when he died. It's part of a plan by a rival rodeo performer, trying to shake his nerve.
Phantom Stranger #3 (December 1952 - January 1953), "The Day of Destiny!"

Leonard Hall

A man's dreams come true on a particular day, so he decides to risk an investment he dreamt would pay off -- as planned by some swindlers.
Phantom Stranger (vol. 1) #4
Phantom Stranger #4 (February-March 1953), "The Hairy Shadows"

The Hairy Shadows

A man disappears in an old house after reading an incantation from a book. Two ghost hunters investigate and find the incantation opens a doorway to another dimension inhabited by hairy green men.
Phantom Stranger #4 (February-March 1953), "The Riddle of the Ghostly Trumpet!"

"Kix Dexter"

A would-be trumpet player seems possessed by the spirit of a recently murdered trumpet star. It's all a plot by the wannabe, who killed the star.
Phantom Stranger #4 (February-March 1953), "The Dream Killer!"


A painter gets inspiration for macabre paintings from his dreams. Then people start dying in the manner he dreamed. It's a plot by a rival painter who wanted to kill the painter and hide the crime among other mysterious deaths.
Phantom Stranger (vol. 1) #5
Phantom Stranger #5 (April-May 1953), "The Living Nightmare"

Windy Baxter

A boxer is inadvertently re-creating the feats of the biblical Samson. Is he Samson reincarnated? No, it's a plot by a rival boxing promoter to make him lose his nerve through a seeming betrayal by his own "Delilah".
Phantom Stranger #5 (April-May 1953), "The Unseen Familiar"

The Familiar

A man is haunted by an invisible "familiar", who wants him to agree to swap of services: the familiar will do him a good turn in exchange for his signing a paper agreeing to serve the familiar. It's all a plot to gain an inheritance.
Phantom Stranger #5 (April-May 1953), "The Stars Screamed Danger!"


A carnival fortune teller predicts a coming invasion of ghosts -- and the carnival starts being haunted. It's all a plot by the fortune teller to buy the carnival cheaply.
Phantom Stranger (vol. 1) #6
Phantom Stranger #6 (June-July 1953), "The Ghosts in the Locked Room"


A woman tries to explain the disappearance of some Babylonian jewels by telling how a spell caused Babylonian gods to reclaim them. A skeptic thinks they were extradimensional aliens. It's all a plot by the skeptic to steal the jewels and blame the woman.
Phantom Stranger #6 (June-July 1953), "Doorway in the Sky!"

"the Doorway in the Sky"

A movie scene involving an interdimensional doorway seems to be coming true. It's all a plot to remove the actress from the production.
Phantom Stranger #6 (June-July 1953), "Horror in Miniature!"

The Elves

Elves chase people away from a mine. The elves are actually from a depleted future world, and want the mine's resources themselves.

In the late 1960s, DC resurrected the character for the tryout book, Showcase, along with a similar character from the same period, Doctor Thirteen (who appeared in 9 issues of Star Spangled Comics in 1951-52). Terrance Thirteen was also a ghost-breaker -- the Ghost-Breaker, according to his stories -- and it was decided to pit the two characters against each other: There'd be a mystery, The Stranger would tell of a similar supernatural story he was involved in, Thirteen would appear and tell how he also debunked a similar mystery, and then the original mystery would be addressed. The Stranger would do something mystical, and Thirteen would vow to prove The Stranger a fraud some day.

This pattern allowed the editors to reprint stories from the '50s as part of the "past cases" the two had solved, so I suspect the Stranger was resurrected because they had a hole to fill in the Showcase schedule. But it apparently sold well, because DC decided to give the Stranger his own title.  Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #1 appeared. The first few issues repeated the reprint-with-original-framing-story bit with Dr. Thirteen, and the Stranger was promoted by appearing with Batman in an issue of The Brave and the Bold.  By issue #4, writer Robert Kanigher had created the Stranger's first recurring foe: Tala, a mystic entity herself, some sort of temptress spirit, luring humans into evil. 

As the series progressed, the Stranger (who was never given an origin in these tales) unequivocally demonstrated sorcerous powers, and Dr. Thirteen was relegated to a back-up feature, where he got to debunk fake ghosts and was about as happy doing so as this dour character ever was. The Stranger's powers were never clearly defined. He appeared and disappeared on command, could walk on water or survive apparent death, and occasionally threw mystic bolts from his hands, but such direct combat was not typically his style.

Too often, he became a mere narrator of someone's else's story, stepping in to warn the character against a course of action, then returning to moralize at the end. But when well handled, he developed a fan following. After his book was cancelled, he often guest-starred in other mystical characters adventures -- and even the occasional Batman or odd Superman story.

A revival of the character has occurred as part of the next wave of DC's "New 52", so it seems like a good time to start a visual index to The Phantom Stranger.

Showcase #80
#80 (February 1969), "Men Call Me the Phantom Stranger"
Phantom Stranger
Dr. Thirteen
The Phantom Stranger
Dr. Thirteen

For his later appearances, Dr. Thirteen gained a pair of glasses -- presumably to make him stand out more.  After The Phantom Stranger was cancelled, he turned up occasionally in Batman stories, along with rarer guest appearances elsewhere.  But for a comics audience happy to accept the supernatural along with super-powers, he often came off more as a crank than a hero.
Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #1
Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #1 (May-June 1969), "Defeat the Dragon Curse...Or Die!"

servant of Ching Hi Fu

Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #2
Phantom Stranger
(vol. 2) #2 (July-August 1969), "The Man Who Died Three Times"

Mr. Big

Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #3
Phantom Stranger
(vol. 2) #3 (September-October 1969), "Some Day in Some Dark Alley..."

The ghost of the fortune teller from the Phantom Stranger #5 (1953) story returns to scare people away from the same carnival. It's all a plot by the owner's brother to steal the carnival.
Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #4
Phantom Stranger
(vol. 2) #4 (November-December 1969), "There Is Laughter in Hell This Day"

The Phantom Stranger gains his first recurring adversary: a female spirit of evil named Tala.

He also gains a set of mystery-loving young people: Spartacus, Atilla, Wild Rose, and Mister Square appear in the next few stories. Were they inspired by the gang from Scooby-Doo, which premiered a couple of months earlier? Hard to tell. There's just enough time for Scooby-Doo to air and author Kanigher (a notoriously fast writer) to create this story -- but this is also a story with an actual supernatural villain, rather than a fake ghost, so it may just be a coincidence.
Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #5
Phantom Stranger
(vol. 2) #5 (January-February 1970), "The Devil's Playground"
Earl Winthrop III

Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #6
Phantom Stranger
(vol. 2) #6 (March-April 1970), "No. 13 Thirteenth Street"

Thing, poltergeist
Headless Highwayman

The Brave and the Bold #89
The Brave and the Bold
#89 (April-May 1970), "Arise, Ye Ghosts of Gotham"

Josiah Heller

Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #7
Phantom Stranger
(vol. 2) #7 (May-June 1970), "The Curse"

Vanessa Vulcan
Count Druga
Sea Siren (Tala)

Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #8
Phantom Stranger
(vol. 2) #8 (July-August 1970), "Journey to the Tomb of the Ice Giants"
The Ice Giants
The Ice Giants

A race of giants living in the Arctic, the Ice Giants faced The Phantom Stranger twice, when humans stumbled across their home and had to be rescued.

Although never explicitly identified as such, the Ice Giants might be seen as DC's version of the Norse Frost Giants, as they also wielded swords.
Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #9
Phantom Stranger
(vol. 2) #9 (September-October 1970), "Obeah Man"


This is the last appearance of the teenaged quartet.
Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #10
Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #10 (November-December 1970), "Death ... Call Not My Name!"

The Phantom Stranger's first recurring human adversary, Tannarak was forced to face his mortality (by being shoved into a crypt with a mummy) as a child, and spent his adult life searching for immortality.  As such, in addition to his own schemes, he often turned up as a pawn of other mystical entities, whether unnamed "dark gods" or Tala's Dark Circle.

He, too, turns up in modern comics from time to time, usually as an urbane amoralist, as happy to work with heroes as with villains, as long as he expects to come out ahead in the end.
Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #11
Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #11 (January-February 1971), "Walk Not in the Desert's Sun ..."

The Messiah of Evil

Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #12
Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #12 (March-April 1971), "Marry Me -- Marry Death"

Jason Phillips

Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #13
Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #13 (May-June 1971), "A Child of Death"


Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #14
Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #14 (July-August 1971), "The Man With No Heart"
Broderick Rune
Broderick Rune

In issue #14, the Phantom Stranger was captured and his heart transplanted into ailing millionaire Broderick Rune. But The Phantom Stranger's body disappeared in the midst of its being disposed of, and Rune was besieged by a series of nightmares in which the Stranger demanded his heart back. Eventually, this drove him to have a heart attack, and he died, but when his doctor found him, Rune had no heart at all.

It was later revealed that Rune was a member of The Dark Circle, so this story is significant as the Stranger's first encounter with agents of that group.
Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #15
Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #15 (September-October 1971), "The Iron Messiah"

Cyberneticist John Kwame returned to his African homeland following the death of his father, only to find it in rebellion, as a foreign oil company sought to control the country for its mineral wealth. So Kwame built a rallying point for his people: a robot version of Chuma, their god of war. But he built better than he realized, and Chuma developed a personality of its own, so much so that it killed John Kwame in order to win the hand of a woman both loved. The woman denounced the robot, and it was destroyed by the people after putting down the rebellion.

This was one of those stories where the Stranger acted more as a narrator than as a participant. But Chuma was an interesting idea.
The Brave and the Bold #98
The Brave and the Bold #98 (October-November 1971), "Mansion of the Misbegotten"

Enoch Birnam
female guardian

Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #16
Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #16 (November-December 1971), "Image in Wax"
Judah Tallow
Judah Tallow

Tallow's House of Wax was the scene of mysterious events. Two wax figures went missing, only to be replaced by ones with the faces of robbers who had attempted to harm Judah Tallow. Young Delia was often drawn there by some impulse, to the dismay of her fiance, Ernie. Aiding Ernie, The Phantom Stranger revealed that Tallow was an ancient Egyptian sorcerer, acting as watchman over the bodies of his people, who were preserved over the ages in wax-like suspended animation. Somehow Queen Dalia's spirit escaped her body and found a new one, but Tallow knew her place was with her people. And when the wax museum went up in flames, young Dalia melted, too, leaving a broken-hearted Ernie.

I took some coloring liberties with Judah Tallow. While he appeared in the comic with Caucasian skin, he was supposed to be Egyptian, so I gave him what I hope is a darker, but sallow due to age, skin tone.
Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #17
Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #17 (January-February 1972), "Like a Ghost from the Ashes"
Cassandra Craft
Cassandra Craft

In aiding one human, The Phantom Stranger succumbed to a mystical attack in the subway.  A young woman, Cassandra Craft, found him and nursed him back to health.  Blind, she had an affinity for magic and found herself drawn to it. She became a friend to The Phantom Stranger and turned up from time to time over the course of the original series, and the years since. She was the closest thing to a love interest ever to appear in the Stranger's series.

In the static world of comics character design, she still sometimes appears today in her 1970s' bell-bottomed jumpsuit.
Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #18
Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #18 (March-April 1972), "Home is the Sailor"

Capt. Vanderdecker

The Flying Dutchman is actually the name of the ship.
Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #19
Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #19 (May-June 1972), "Return to the Tomb of the Ice Giants"

Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #20
Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #20 (July-August 1972), "A Child Shall Lead Them"

When his High Lama was killed by demons, Tibetan monk Kamset led the search for the new incarnation of the Lama. To his dismay, the indisputable mark of "The Chosen One" appeared on the brow of the baby brother of the boy whom he had framed for the Lama's death, rather than the babe whom he planned to use to control the country as regent.  The Phantom Stranger aided the boy and his brother, and in their battle, Kamset revealed he was aided by "a dark circle of wizards and sorcerers that touches the four corners of the earth".  Kamset fell to his death, the boy was exonerated, and his brother hailed as the new High Lama.

This was first reference to The Dark Circle, whose members were to plague the Stranger over the next few issues.
Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #21
Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #21 (September-October 1972), "The Resurrection of Johnny Glory"
Johnny Glory

Johnny Glory

Following his death in the electric chair, handsome criminal Johnny Glory was claimed by agents of The Dark Circle.  The sorcerer Cerebus resurrected him and gave him a mission: kill Chandu Gamal, a Middle Eastern politician whose death would serve the Circle's goals. Johnny charmed Gamal's daughter, until the Stranger arrived to save Gamal and expose the cost of Johnny's resurrection: the loss of his good looks. Johnny turned on Cerebus, and both perished.
Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #22
Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #22 (November-December 1972), "Circle of Evil"


Justice League of America #103, "A Stranger Walks Among Us"

Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #23
Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #23 (January-February 1973), "Panic in the Night"

Phantom of the Opera

Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #24
Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #24 (March-April 1973), "Apocalypse"

The Dark Circle

Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #25
Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #25 (June-July 1973), "Dance of the Serpent"

The Serpent Cult

Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #26
Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #26 (August-September 1973), "From Dust Thou Art..."

Spawn of Frankenstein

Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #27
Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #27 (October-November 1973), "Dr. Zorn: Soul-Master"

Dr. Matthew Zorn

Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #28
Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #28 (December 1973 - January 1974), "The Counterfeit Madman"

Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #29
Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #29 (February-March 1974), "The Devil Dolls of Doctor Z"
The Pupelucifo

Justice League of America #110, "The Man Who Murdered Santa Claus"

Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #30
Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #30 (April-May 1974), "The Children's Crusade"

Ara Ben-Baal

Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #31
Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #31 (June-July 1974), "Sacred is the Monster Kang"
Anra Kang

Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #32
Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #32
(August-September 1974), "It Takes a Witch!..."

Miles Lanyard

Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #33
Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #33 (October-November 1974), "Deadman's Bluff"

Louis Ubric

Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #34
Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #34 (December 1974 - January 1975), "A Death in the Family"

Alonzo Varda

Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #35
Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #35 (February-March 1975), "The Demon Gate"

Dr. Nathan Seine

Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #36
Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #36 (April-May 1975), "Crimson Gold"

Carolyn Teigs

Wonder Woman #218 (June-July 1975), "Give Her Liberty -- And Give Her Death"

Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #37
Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #37 (August-September 1975), "Images of the Dead"

Jason Osburn

Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #38
Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #38 (August-September 1975), "The Curse of the Stalking Skull"

Dr. Nathan Seine

Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #39
Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #39 (October-November 1975), "Death Calls Twice for a Deadman"


Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #40
Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #40 (December 1975 - January 1976), "In the Kingdom of the Blind"


Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #41
Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #41 (February-March 1976), "A Time for Endings"

The Nether Gods

Justice League of America #145 (August 1977), "The Carnival of Souls!"
Count Crystal; Azgore

Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #22
DC Super Stars #18 (January-February 1978), "The Gargoyles"
The Gargoyles

House of Secrets #150
House of Secrets #150 (February-March 1978), "A God By Any Other Name"
Robert Korman

World's Finest #249
World's Finest #249 (February-March 1978), "The Vampire of Steel"

Captain Kalamari

DC Comics Presents #25 (September 1980), "Judgment Night"

The Brave and the Bold #145
The Brave and the Bold #145 (December 1978), "A Choice of Dooms!"


Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #22
Superman #344 (February 1980), "The Monsters Among Us"

Count Dracula
Frankenstein's Monster
animated fictional versions
Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #22
DC Special Series Vol. 4 #21 (Spring 1980), "The House of Mystery"

The Three Witches
Madame Xanadu

Phantom Stranger (vol. 2) #22
Swamp Thing (vol. 2) #1 (May 1982), "...In Shadowed Depths"

Rev. James Foster

Swamp Thing (vol. 2) #2 (June 1982), "Soul on Fire"

Daniel Sweeney

Swamp Thing (vol. 2) #3 (July 1982), "The Beauty of the Beast"

Rachel Markham
Sue Markham

Swamp Thing (vol. 2) #4 (August 1982), "Hospital of Fear"

Dr. Frederick Rune

Swamp Thing (vol. 2) #5 (September 1982), "...But the Patient Died!"


Swamp Thing (vol. 2) #6 (October 1982), "...Till Death Do Us Join..."

Margaret Brennan

Swamp Thing (vol. 2) #7 (November 1982), "The Haunting of Amanda Dove"

Amanda Dove

Swamp Thing (vol. 2) #8 (December 1982), "If the Sword Should Slay the Dove"

Gen. John Whitman

Swamp Thing (vol. 2) #9 (January 1983), "Sanctuary of Shadow"

gargoyle mutants

Swamp Thing (vol. 2) #10 (February 1983), "...By All That's Holy!"


Swamp Thing (vol. 2) #11 (January 1983), "And I Shall Stand in the Shadow of Death"

Millicent Benford

Swamp Thing (vol. 2) #12 (January 1983), "Ageless"

Hank Barri

Swamp Thing (vol. 2) #13 (January 1983), "The Man Who Isn't There"

Yehudi Jones
Dan D. Candy

Swamp Thing (vol. 2) #14 (January 1983), "Crystal Visions, Shattered Dreams!"

Swamp Thing

Swamp Thing (vol. 2) #15 (January 1983), "Empires Made of Sand"
Nathaniel Broder

Batman and the Outsiders #8 (March 1984), "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle..."

DC Comics Presents #72 (August 1984), "Madness in a Dark Dimension"

Fury of Firestorm #32 (February 1985), "Ghosts!"

Swamp Thing Annual #2 (1985), "Down Amongst the Dead Men"

Blue Devil Annual #1 (1985), "The Day All Hell Broke Loose"

Swamp Thing (vol. 2) #46 (March 1986), "Revelations"

Swamp Thing (vol. 2) #50 (July 1986), "The End"

Secret Origins (Vol. 2) #10, "Tarry Till I Come Again"

Secret Origins (Vol. 2) #10, "...And Men Shall Call Him Stranger"

Secret Origins (Vol. 2) #10, "Revelations"

Secret Origins (Vol. 2) #10, "Footsteps"

Action Comics #585, "...And the Graves Give Up Their Dead"

Justice League of America #2

Superman, Vol. 2, #3

The Spectre, Vol. 2, #2

The Spectre, Vol. 2, #3

Doctor Fate #3

The Spectre, Vol. 2, #7

Phantom Stranger (vol. 3) #1 (October 1987), "The Heart of a Stranger"

Phantom Stranger (vol. 3) #2 (November 1987), "The Soul of a Man!"

Phantom Stranger (vol. 3) #3 (December 1987), "Thunder in the Night!"

Phantom Stranger (vol. 3) #4 (January 1988), "A World Full of Voices!"

The Spectre, Vol. 2, #11

Power Girl #3, "Heritage!"

Swamp Thing (vol. 2) #76 (?), "L'Adoration de la Terre"

Action Comics Weekly #610, "Kenny and the Demon"

The Spectre, Vol. 2, #18, "Zombie Transit"

Action Comics Weekly #613, "Can't Judge a Book..."

Action Comics Weekly #614, "Death God"

Action Comics Weekly #617, "Channel Switching"

Action Comics Weekly #623, "The Devil Was a Baby"

The Spectre, Vol. 2, #21

The Spectre, Vol. 2, #23

Action Comics Weekly #631, "Cat and Mouse, Chapter I"

Action Comics Weekly #632, "Cat and Mouse, Chapter II"

Action Comics Weekly #633, "Cat and Mouse, Chapter III"

Action Comics Weekly #634, "Cat and Mouse, Chapter IV"

Action Comics Weekly #636, "All That Jazz"

Action Comics Weekly #641, "Tommy's Monster"

Created October 16, 2012; modified December 27, 2017.