The Phantom Stranger is a fictional character of unspecified paranormal origins who battles mysterious and occult forces in various titles published by DC Comics, sometimes under their Vertigo imprint.
The Phantom Stranger first appeared in his own series, publication date August/September 1952, by John Broome and Carmine Infantino. It lasted six issues. After an appearance in Showcase #80 (February, 1969), he received another series on May-June 1969 that lasted until February-March 1976. The first four issues (including the Showcase) consisted of reprints from both the Stranger's 50s title and the Dr. 13: Ghost-Breaker feature from the last nine issues of Star Spangled Comics at the same time, with new, brief framing sequences. These had Thirteen, certain that the Stranger was a fake, determined to expose him. Beginning with issue #4, November-December 1969, the comic went all-new, with stories produced by Robert Kanigher, Len Wein, Jim Aparo, Neal Adams, Tony DeZuniga, and others. In these stories, while the Stranger's past remained a mystery, the writers added a semi-regular cast of characters for him. A blind psychic named Cassandra Craft (first appeared in #17, January-February 1972) would assist him, an alchemist/sorcerer named Tannarak (first appeared in #10, November-December 1970) was first an enemy and would later assist him against the Dark Circle (first appeared in #20, July-August 1972) and a demonic sorceress named Tala (first appeared in #4) would become his major personal enemy. The stories hinted at a romantic attraction between the Stranger and Craft, but he eventually left her, deciding she could not be part of his life, convincing her he had been killed in their final battle against the Dark Circle (#24, March-April 1973). She eventually learned differently and turned up occasionally. Doctor Thirteen, dropped along with the reprints, was given a back-up series here as of #12, March-April 1971, which morphed into The Spawn of Frankenstein in #23, January-February 1973.
However, the Stranger is better known for his role as a supernatural assistant to other heroes, such as the Justice League. His status as either a full, reserve, or honorary member of the League is debatable. After a vote of the majority of the League at the time, they offered him membership, with Superman declaring the Stranger "a member" without qualification, though he left before accepting. The Stranger has twice (at least) asserted his membership status when other Leaguers challenged his input, during the vote on the League's re-admission of Wonder Woman and during the crossover with The Avengers. In contrast, many in-story accounts of League membership fail to include the Stranger; when Zatanna was admitted as a member, Superman and Hawkman clarified that the twelve-member limit in the League's charter had been rewritten previously to admit Hawkgirl as the thirteenth—leaving no room in the roster for the Stranger. His failure to accept the membership offer was reiterated in Who's Who in the DC Universe Vol. XII, February 1986. There is also no evidence that he fulfilled the normal duties of membership—attend meetings, serve on monitor duty, record his activities for the JLA archive, or carry a signal device.
The Stranger also starred in a mini-series in 1987. This series portrayed him as an agent of the Lords of Order. They temporarily stripped the Stranger of his powers, due to his desire to continue a battle against the Lords of Chaos. This went against the wishes of the Lords of Order, who had believed a victory by darkness over light was necessary and preordained. This series also featured Eclipso as an agent of Chaos. In Green Lantern/Superman: Legend of the Green Flame, this role is continued. However the Stranger claims he belongs to no group. The Lords of Order threaten to strip him of his powers, and he leaves, claiming he shall continue to wander. However, no stories have referenced these events since, and they might no longer be in continuity due to the reality-alterations during Zero Hour and Infinite Crisis.
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