Friday, November 01, 2013

One Night in Rutland: 1977, Part 2

But Rutland Vermont had not seen the end of the Phantom Stranger, finely toned and defined as it was. A few months after his last appearance, the Ghost Who Walks and Who Is Also a Stranger in These Here Parts returned to Rutland to have another spooky Satanic adventure, but this time he's got some help from the bombastic mortally-challenged circus acrobat Deadman! I always felt that Deadman should have his own team-up series, and this could have been the pilot for it. Every issue Deadman would occupy the body of a different DC hero to solve a mystery or stop some fiendish other-wordly plot. Wouldn't you buy that? Especially the issue where he teams up with Wonder Woman and the story would be named after that famous Beatles quote: "Turn Me On, Deadman!"

Splash page of DC Super-Stars #18 (Winter 1978), script by Martin Pasko and Gerry Conway, pencils by Romeo Tanghal, inks by Dick Giordano, colors by Tatjana Wood, letters by Milt Snapinn

Geez, it looks like they statted that "DC Super-Stars" in at the last minute, didn't they? Maybe this was supposed to be Deadman Team-Up. And take note of the scripter and penciller for this titanic tale...there will be a test revelation later.

Anyway, Deadman Team-Up this comic begins with a misty and mysterious double-page spread of the Phantom Stranger back in Rutland, Vermont, while simultaneously some needlessly gleefully entertained Rutland children are kidnapped by the Unhooded Claw, or whoever the villain will turn out to be. The message is clear: kids, never ever play in piles of raked leaves.

(Click picture to fly-like-an-eagle-size)

Suddenly: Deadman gets off a bus! Wait, as Deadman, can't he fly places? I guess he just missed his fine mortal experiences in traveling on a cross-country Greyhound bus, sitting next to a man who will tell you all about the time aliens kidnapped his pigs.

Deadman originally thinks he's at one of the less formal meetings of the Justice League of America, set in a place 22,300 miles from nowhere, but turns out he remembers reading the ghost of a Wikipedia entry about the Rutland Halloween parade, where townsfolk gleefully wear the costumes of those famous DC comics superheroes, Superman, Captain Marvel, Batman and She-Daredevil. Also present: conveniently shaped title logo.

Then, Salvador Dali stops by Rutland! A mystic evil has inserted an extra hour into this late October night! 'Round these here parts we call that the end of Daylight Savings Time, and we don't need no Planet of Flaming Gates to remind us that this very weekend you should put your clocks forward one hour. Remember: spring back, fall ahead!

First appearance: Lizard-Hawkman! He came from the planet Lizard-Thanagar to curl up on our warm, sunny Earth rocks!

Meanwhile, Deadman finds himself in the middle of one of James Cawley's Star Trek: Phase II fan films. This episode: "The Devil in the Dark II: The Wrath of the Devil in the Dark!"

Deadman takes possession of a Rutland woman and finds out what an incredible smell he's discovered! Yes, the fresh scent of new Glade Plug-Ins will drive the demon gargoyles from this earthly realm! Glade Plug-Ins™! Now available in Lavender, French Vanilla, Sugar Cookie, and Peat Moss*.

In the second part of the story, Dr. Terry Thirteen, skeptical ghostbuster, arrives in Rutland along with his wife Fourteen Marie Thirteen. He's here in Vermont to disprove the existence of the Calhoon Farm ghosts, the mysterious Devil Cats, Slipperyskin the Demon Bear, and U.S. Senator for Vermont Bernie Sanders.

Here's where a comic set in Rutland truly becomes a comic that takes place One Night in Rutland™: with the appearance of Rutland Halloween Parade founder Tom Fagan, fresh from his appearance in the "F" volume of Who's Who in the DC Universe.

Get ready for a universe-bustin' Earth-Prime crossover meta-appearance that renders the fourth wall in serious need of some replacement drywall and replastering: Meet some DC creators, many of them making of this very comic book: from left to right, Carla Joseph Conway, wife of (next) scripter Gerry Conway, rakishly handsome co-scripter Marty Pasko, editor Paul Levitz, and the story's artist Romeo Tanghal. Take that, Grant Morrison!

Gerry and Paul admit they're totally Phantom Stranger fanboys. Or is that phanboys? Also: Terry Thirteen's forehad begins to melt.

Then, some Scooby-Doo stuff starts happening. Hey, have I mentioned that Tom Fagan is wearing a green suit? If I were Dr. Thirteen, I'd be investigating that first: "WHERE DID YOU GET THAT GREEN SUIT?" Also: Dennis Weaver appears as "McCloud" by kind permission of the NBC Sunday Night Mystery Movie.

They're greeted by surreally spooky gentleman Quinton Abel, the original owner of the house, and he's a little ticked off, and I'm not sure why. Perhaps that DC never offered him one of those sweet, sweet gigs hosting a DC horror comic. he and his finely groomed mustache are the perfect hosts, however, serving up a strange brew of a deep red nectar:

Then, some other stuff happens that I don't have jokes for, and then Tom Fagan and McCloud are possessed by the demon Qabal, who you know is evil because he doesn't have a "U" after the "Q" in his name. Poor Tom! Always being held hostage, hijacked, or threatened by the powers of darkness. I don't care how much fun that furshlugginer parade is, I'd be pulling up state, hammering a "FOR SALE" sign in the front lawn of Chez Fagan, and moving off pretty-post haste to Burlington or Montpelier.

Later, the Phantom Stranger and Deadman meet in the parking lot behind Denny's to do the wrap-up and compare Crime Notes. The story makes it crystal clear how the space gargoyles and Qabel were connected. I think it was something about them both appearing on the same episode of Hoarders.

Special bonus feature!: Paul Levitz relates the history of the story and of the Rutland Parade comic book appearances, and also casually slips in that this issue is the last in the DC Super-Star series.

In a more just and right world, this would have been Deadman Team-Up #1, which would have had a long and successful run past Crisis on Infinite Earths. Issue #6: Deadman/Batman! Issue #23: Deadman/Lex Luthor! Issue #53: Deadman/Teen Titans! Issue #109: Deadman/Sugar and Spike! Issue #232: Deadman/Angel Love! You get the idea. Someday I'll be editor of DC Comics right here in New York City, and then you'll see.

*Not to be confused with Superboy's Pal, Pete Ross.


Blam said...

Just FYI: At some point the letters switch from Milt Snapinn to Bed Oda. I don't have the issue in front of me, so I can't say where, but although that's obviously Snapinn on the splash page I disagree with the GCD index that Oda letters only the Deadman sequence based on the panels you reproduce from what appear to be later segments.

Blam said...

*Ben* Oda, of course. Apparently I have a cold. I took another look at your mock-up cover just now, by the way, and love the way you took that lower-right banner from DCCP #1.