Will Foley, 21, is a drummer and guitarist who attends Rowan University. He’s been apart of multiple bands, but lately has been working alone to become a better guitarist. Below he shares why he thinks comics are popular and how they have influenced him. He also shares a song he’s been working on about the man who dresses up as a bat.
Most superhero comics feature the titular hero and his secret identity, but the Phantom Stranger is a character that has none.
Batman is Bruce Wayne, a vengeful billionaire who witnessed his parents’ death as a child, Superman is Clark Kent, the last son of an alien world, The Flash is Barry Allen, a police detective who was struck by lightning, but no one knows who the Phantom Stranger is. This is abnormal in comics. Even if other characters don’t know the hero’s identity, usually it is known to the reader, but the Phantom Stranger is just an unknown entity to both reader and characters in story alike.
The Phantom Stranger is a being that works for God. Usually he works in tandem with the Spectre to make sure that judgment of other is correctly delivered.
Secret Origins Vol. 2 #10 is an issue that readers who are interested in the Phantom Stranger or oddities or good storytelling should read. It is an issue that features four origin theories for the Phantom Stranger written and illustrated by multiple people.
The first story written by Mike W. Barr and illustrated by Jim Aparo is a take on the Wandering Jew myth. The Stranger in this story is a man whose family was slaughtered by Romans who were looking for Jesus as a babe. The Stranger writhes with anger until he finds Jesus thirty years later. He trades places with a Roman who was meant to torture Jesus and as the Phantom Stranger gets his revenge. Jesus then condemns him to walk the Earth until his return. The Phantom Stranger finds that he can no longer enjoy any human activity and has to wander forever. He earns his powers in this version by studying magic. At the end of the story, he is granted forgiveness by God, but declines the offer to heaven.
The second story done by Paul Levitz and Jose Lopez explains that the Phantom Stranger was a man in biblical times that lived in what can be assumed to be Sodom or Gomorrah. As the city is being destroyed around him, he is offered salvation by an angel for being a decent man in an indecent world. The man however declines the angel’s offer and stabs himself out of anger for God not saving his people. The angel does not allow the man’s spirit to enter the afterlife and damns him to walk the Earth for eternity with powers to help humanity.
The third story done by Dan Mishkin is about a group of humans who are trying to keep their universe from being destroyed. The Phantom Stranger, as the Phantom Stranger, attempts to stop them from unknowingly destroying all of reality. As he succeeds, he touches one of the scientists who is plunged into space into a new universe and becomes that universe’s Phantom Stranger. This could mean that the Phantom Stranger is either a force that travels from universe to universe or that the Phantom Stranger is stuck in a time loop and must relive the same universe over and over.
The fourth story done by Alan Moore and Joe Orlando gives theory that the Phantom Stranger was originally an angel who didn’t pick a side when Lucifer confronted Yahweh. As a result of not siding with God or Satan, the angel is kicked out of heaven. He then goes down to Hell to see if Lucifer will take pity on him and allow him to stay, but he is denied that comfort. Instead Lucifer and his followers tear off the wings of the angel and force him to walk Earth alone for eternity.
Readers may never know who the Phantom Stranger is, but he’s one of the few heroes out there where no one knows who he truly is or where he came from which makes him one of the last mysterious heroes out there.
The New 52 titles launched last August and if you’re still wondering which ones to check out or just new to comics then start with these.
A younger Barry Allen is the current Flash. He’s still getting used to his powers and still meeting his classic foes.
Why you should read it: If you are interested in seeing how a man who runs really fast balance his career, romantic life, and superhero antics then read Flash. Also the art is incredible.
Batman in this new series has been facing off against a new villain society known as the Court of Owls. The Court of Owls is as old as Gotham and wants to get rid of the Bat. So far they’ve thrown him in a maze where he hallucinated his dead parents, stuck him with a bunch of knives, and have managed to make Batman fear something, the owl.
Why you should read it: Most Batman titles up to this point don’t have a lot of Batman losing. This new series shows how human Batman really is. It shows him being beat up, getting scared, and not being sure of himself. That’s something not seen too often.
Batman and Robin
Bruce has returned from the dead and has taken his son under his wing to be the new Robin. Meanwhile an old companion of Bruce’s during his training years has come back to seek revenge on him. The old companion is known as Nobody and he’s attempting to get Damian to betray his own father. At the same time, Damian has recently killed someone and it will be interesting to see how Bruce reacts to such behavior.
Why you should read it: Most of the Robins that Batman has had in the past weren’t as capable as Damian is. Damian is Bruce’s biological son and was trained his entire life to be an assassin. Previous Robins served as a contrast to Bruce’s dark streak by being a lighter, brighter character, but Damian is just as dark as Bruce, perhaps even more so. Reading Batman and Robin is reading Batman and Batman Jr.
The Shade miniseries is about a reformed villain trying to find out who put a hit out on him. The story features a lot of magic elements and demons looking to destroy the Shade. It also features a few cameos from other DC characters that haven’t appeared up to this point, in the rebooted universe, as allies and enemies for the Shade to encounter.
Why you should read it: The Shade is the most obscure title that is being recommended here. That’s because it features great art, a solid story, and good humor. It also features battle scenes that rival classic mysticism books such as Doctor Fate and Doctor Strange. It is a story of redemption that isn’t often seen in comics.
This series starts right from the birth of the Justice League. It shows how the team got together, the origin of Cyborg, and their first encounter with Darkseid. The team members; Batman, Superman, Green Lantern(Hal Jordan), the Flash(Barry Allen), Wonder Woman, Cyborg, and Aquaman have a hard time getting along with each other. They don’t even want to be a team, but are doing so in order to get the United States government off their backs for being superpowered vigilantes.
Why you should read it: The book features a lot of great humor through conversations between superheroes. In the first few issues, everyone thinks Batman is either pure legend or that he has superpowers. They don’t believe he’s just a guy in a bat costume. There is also an interesting struggle for who should lead the team. Each member thinks that they are the best suited for role of leader.
Evan Carroll is a New Jersey poet who performs his poetry with a slow cadence that he compares to Jim Morrison.
In some of his works, he subtly references DC heroes in his works.
From his poem “Flecked with glass,”
“Your jaw and features are ragged, cut like a goblin sword, jagged
Retinas dull and reflective, scanning like the Detective’s”
This is a reference to Batman being known as the world’s greatest detective or just “detective” by most notably Ra’s Al Ghul.
A big fan of the Dark Knight, that is to say the character, not the film, Carroll considers the Bat as a big influence for himself.
Below he shares an early Batman memory.