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DC Showcase (Part 8): The Phantom Stranger

Hello, my friends.  Throughout history, our beloved planet has been the home of many events that often occur within the obscuring shadows.  While some of those have eventually come to light within the public conscience, others remain isolated within their own plane of existence.  This kind of supernatural feat will be going down as I welcome you all once again to another entry of…

For this outing, this otherworldly hero shall find himself in need of protecting an innocent soul from falling into absolute temptation.  With that in mind, it’s time that we shine a light on him as we travel into a period piece known as…

Originally released on February 25, 2020, this also serves as a Blu-Ray bonus feature for “Superman: Red Son”.  As usual, you can click on the link if you’re interested in knowing how I felt about that Elseworlds adaptation.  As for everyone else who’s staying put, let’s delve into the unknown and see what kind of trippy event will transpire.

We begin on the open road as a young woman named Marcie (voiced by Justice League Action’s Stargirl herself, Natalie Lander) is riding with a group of hippies.  As they arrive in California, it turns out that she’s been allowed to spend the night with them at their friend’s place.  Despite the fact that their host hasn’t met her before, the head driver named Ted (voiced by Roger Craig Smith) assures her that the guy is perfectly fine with letting “the right kind of people” stay over.  Afterwards, the plump hippie named Violet (voiced by Grey DeLisle-Griffin) tells Marcie that he’s constantly looking “for cool, young people who see the system for what it is”.  From there, they delve into why Marcie left her parents in the first place.  She mentions how her folks were far too busy “keeping up with the Joneses” that they ultimately “lost touch with their souls”.  As he lights up a joint, the curly, red-haired hippie named Harry (also voiced by Roger Craig Smith) then tells Marcie that their host “knows all about souls”.  While the gang continues on their journey, the titular Phantom Stanger (voiced by Denarian Saal & The Tick himself, Peter Serafinowicz) gives a quick narration about how “not all those who wander are lost”, yet those who are “may truly be lost forever”.

By the time that night falls, the group arrives at their destination.  Despite it looking semi-dilapidated, Violet mentions that the house used to belong to a former movie star.  From there, the hippies proceed to head inside.  However, Marcie decides to stay put for a bit in order to have a cigarette.  She then checks out her reflection within the fountain’s moss-filled water before a fish’s corpse pops up.  From there, the Phantom Stanger appears and tells her “the reflection is just an illusion” before also exclaiming that the grandest of wisdom comes from “seeing through appearances”.  She mistakes him for the hippies’ host before he asks her why they seem to follow this mysterious guy.  Marcie then says that they’re probably looking for some kind of truth, to which he tells her how “truth lies not at the end of the road, but inside those who walk the road” before he properly introduces himself.

Just as she starts to make her way towards the house, he warns her not to go in since she’s not like the hippies, at least “not yet”.  However, she rebelliously says that he doesn’t know her.  Just as she turns around to tell him to leave, she discovers that he’s suddenly disappeared.  From there, she reaches the front door before getting spooked by the sudden appearance of an eyeball as a doorknob.  Immediately afterwards, it regains its regular appearance before Marcie is met upon by the skinny hippie named Dee Dee (also voiced by Grey DeLisle-Griffin) who proceeds to bring her inside.

As she rejoins the rest of the group, Marcie wonders where the host is as Harry assures her that he’ll be arriving soon.  As they look at an adjacent portrait, Ted informs her that it’s actor Jonathan Lord and that he used to own this house.  Afterwards, Violet tells her that he gave the place to its current host.  From there, he finally shows up as Seth (voiced by Michael Rosenbaum) becomes immediately smitten by Marcie.  While she’s initially surprised at the fact that he already knows her name, he puts her at ease by stating how he can relate to her as someone who was also “searching for meaning in a world all screwed up by war, pollution and lies”.  As he mystically lights up every last candle within the room, he says that he ventured in search of his purpose.  Eventually, he came across it as he discovered that it was to help “other people find their true selves”.

From there, Marcie and the hippies proceed to dance away in a psychedelic jam session.  While this is going on, Seth manages to discreetly dip his finger into his goblet and marks each of the hippies’ foreheads.

Unbeknownst to Marcie who’s busy losing herself to the sounds of the music, each of the hippies wind up hypnotized and immobilized as a result of Seth’s actions.  From there, he kisses each of them as his pendant glows.  As each of them lose their consciousness, another one of his candles gets blown out.

Afterwards, Seth approaches Marcie who’s already grown fond of him.  Shortly after he tells her that she’s given him “purpose” while she’s giving him “life”, his pendant begins to glow as he heads in for a deceitful kiss.

Suddenly, the Phantom Stranger appears in time as he magically pulls her away before telling the mystic fiend that he’s “feasted enough on these children”.  Seth exclaims that they willingly came to him before he summons a sword from the fireplace and attacks.  The Phantom Stranger retaliates by turning a poker into his own blade before kicking Seth towards the couch and vows to put a permeant end to his scheme.  However, he tells our hero that it’s unlikely since his Ouroboros pendant gives him eternal life.

From there, they proceed to fight while Marcie takes cover at an adjacent doorway.  After a fierce clashing of sharp metal and some opposing blasts of magic, the Phantom Stranger manages to gain the upper hand as he grabs Seth’s wrist and hits him with a stunning magical surge that’s able to disarm the fiend.  As he kneels in defeat, Seth offers to use his vast magic in order to help our hero out and end his “wandering”.  However, the Phantom Stranger decides to slay him and end his private reign of terror.

Unfortunately, he gets knocked out at the most inconvenient time as Marcie hits him over the head with a small statue.  When she asks Seth about our hero, he proceeds to magically tie the Phantom Stranger up and proclaims him to be “the man”.  Our hero tells Marcie to stay away from Seth, since his outer appearance is “nothing but a lie”.

From there, the fiend detects the vast aura within him before he begins to absorb the Phantom Stranger’s life energy into his pendant.  Shortly after Seth exclaims that he’ll be able to live for a century and not have to worry about “draining scraps from these lost whelps”, our hero tells Marcie to run before he gets a metal mask summoned over his mouth.  From there, she backs up before she comes across the corpses of her hippie friends.

Despite the horrid site, she tells Seth that she’s amazed by his vast power and limitless life.  However, she says that he doesn’t have everything before she tells him that she’s finally found her purpose, which is to be by his side.  From there, Marcie leans in for a kiss before she swipes his Ouroboros pendant and completely shatters it with a single stomp.  With his immortality dissipating at a rapid rate, Seth attempts to strangle her.  Unfortunately for him, he erupts into magical flames and withers away.  With the fiend entirely defeated, she instantly finds the Phantom Stranger to be completely free.

As they leave the house, he asks Marcie if she’s going to keep looking for her truth.  She mentions his earlier quote about truth lying within “those who walk the road”, before she gets into the van and says that she’ll continue her travels while hanging on to her own truth.  After noticing that he’s disappeared again, the film ends with her driving off towards her own self-discovering venture.

Now that our brief yet mystical journey is done, let’s delve into my character analysis and kick things off with Marcie.  Just like the previous DC Showcase, this focuses more on a regular human who gets the central character arc while also getting some guidance from the supernatural-esque hero.  While “Death” showed a struggling artist dealing with his legacy & life right before his demise, this tale shows us a young woman who’s in the middle of her own self-discovery venture.  Because of her youthful nature and backstory, she initially starts out as a bit rebellious after she breaks away from her parents in order to join the hippies.  Though her newfound friends are more familiar with Seth than she is, the combined group has no idea of his devious operation.  Even when the Phantom Stranger warns her while she’s heading for the house, she’s blinded by her youthful ignorance since she hasn’t been exposed to the deceitful terror that awaits her despite his subtle hints.  She even falls for Seth due to his charming appearance and seemingly-caring description of what he does.  If not for a timely interference from the Phantom Stranger, then her naïve nature would’ve doomed her and she would’ve wound up in the same deceased state that the hippies ended up in.  Thankfully, the climactic fight and her unintentional discovery of her friends’ corpses allowed her to take advantage of her last opportunity for change.  As a result, she gets to head out on a quest that will more than likely help her truly discover her self-identity.  Natalie Lander felt genuine and wholesome with her performance, giving the right kinds of tones needed for a young woman who felt innocent, yet lacking a mature awakening.  By the end, she gives Marcie a confident delivery once she’s gone through the events of this tale and it felt comfortably satisfying.  As such, it felt as nice as it could possibly get with this part and she ultimately landed in good graces with this role.

Finally, let’s tackle our otherworldly protagonist in the Phantom Stranger.  Just like the main hero from our last entry, he’s more of an observant guardian who seems to know all due to his own immortality and omnipresence.  Unlike Neil Gaiman & Mike Dringenberg’s creation who lets the human protagonist of that tale defeat the closest thing to an antagonistic force by himself (mainly because they were his own inner demons), he actually engages Seth for the climax.  Had it not been for Marcie’s misguided nature at that moment, then it would be a foregone conclusion that he would’ve slayed the foul fiend himself.  However, that would’ve prevented her from completing her character arc.  After all, he did have a key meeting with her as he subtly warned her of what was to come.  With that moment combined with him telling her of what Seth truly is while he’s magically bound, it all makes sense to Marcie as she ultimately defeats the vile being and gets placed on the proper path towards finding the absolute best version of herself.  As for how our titular hero displays himself throughout this tale, he presents himself as knowledgeable, skillful and fluent in various forms of combat.  Combining with these trustworthy traits of competency is Peter Serafinowicz’s performance.  Though his part is somewhat off to the side due to the nature of this story, he still makes the most of his leading role by delivering a grand tone that emphasizes his ages-old intellect, his caring nature towards Marcie and his disdain for Seth.  Even if it ultimately comes off as a bit minimalistic due to the role that his character has for this tale, he still brings a confident delivery that helps this hero stand out for the sake of this story.  All-in-all, he makes our central figure get a particular level of presence within this tale in order to make enough of an impact, given how he’s ultimately presented here.

The story deals with two themes throughout its runtime.  While the search for one’s self-identity is the more prevalent concept here, it also deals with the notion of not judging things at surface level.  After all, Seth initially presents himself to Marcie as a good-looking, caring and helpful individual who says that he’s discovered his true calling by assisting others with their own self-realization of their own selves.  However, he’s delved into dark magic in order to constantly cheat death by robbing several individuals of their life energies.  It plays into Marcie’s character arc since he & the Phantom Stranger are both attempting to convince her that they’re right and that their opposing adversary is trying to trick her.  While I was disappointed that our main hero wasn’t the one who got to deliver the finishing blow upon Seth, his influential talk and her discovery of the fiend’s devious handiwork upon her hippie friends did ultimately help in stopping this deceitful operation once and for all.  Either way, the narrative moves at a good clip and balances its pacing between downtime for necessary exposition and for the duel that awaits us by the end.  For the film’s action sequence, it mainly takes place during the climax.  Given the short runtime and the scale that this story presents, it’s nicely handled with a good range of spells throughout.  Not much else to say about that aspect, so we can now get to the flick’s animation.  Seeing how Bruce Timm is back in the director’s chair for this one, his signature style is in full force here.  It’s as fluent as ever, has a good range of color depending on the scene and is a comforting sight to DC newcomers & longtime veterans of his past works.  In the end, it’s an aspect that continues to maintain a high level of quality.

Overall, this is an interestingly good time.  The voice cast is solid throughout, the animation is wholesomely great, the main story has some steady pacing and the action is brief, yet feels impactful by the end.  While our titular hero serves more as a somewhat mysterious, yet positively influential figure towards our actual main character, this tale presents him in a confident manner and gives a nice demonstration of what he can do for a general audience.  If you’re interested in going outside of the DC norm, then give this character and his short story a watch in order to have a groovy good time.

Next Time: A mining operation is about to unintentionally unleash a hidden evil.  As such, it’s going to take a certain intergalactic hero to rise up from his personal woe in order to properly combat this kind of menacing assault.  With that said, prepare to take to the stars as we delve into an out-of-this-world venture centered on “Adam Strange”.

Phantom Stranger (created by John Broome, Carmine Infantino & Sy Barry) is owned by DC Comics.

By coolcomix0221

Love Comics, Video Games, and Sports. Aim To Become a Sports Writer.

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