The Phantom Stranger is one of the most mysterious characters in all of DC. Every comic fan knows that a secret identity to a hero is worth more than anything Bruce Wayne’s credit card can buy, so I am out to explore this character’s history and possibly even get a name.
First of all the Phantom stranger did get his own issue from the Secret Origins series and as much as I would like to say “Case Closed!” I am afraid that is not the case, for the issue had not one, not two, not three, but four origins. The stories were,
- A man who blames Jesus for his families death is cursed with immortality after taking part in the beating of Jesus.
- A man who gets spared from the destruction of his city tries stabbing himself in the chest after seeing his family die. The man who did not respect the gift of life was given eternal life to help others.
- A time-traveler is sent to the beginning of time and received powers.
- A angel who is undecided on whether to follow God or join the side of Satan.
None of these stories were supposed to be his real canon origin. Now if I could direct your attention to the cover of this issue.
If it seems familiar You are not alone, I thought the same thing. This cover is based on a painting by M.C. Escher titled “Another World.”
Remember when I said DC never intended for any of these stories to be canon? Well in Phantom Stranger #42 an issue of the Blackest Night crossover, a Black Lantern Deadman attempted to dive into the mind of the Phantom Stranger. He didn’t see one clear origin, but all four of the origins from Secret Origins #10. Then Phantom Stranger told a confused Deadman he had seen “Nothing but Everything” The Phantom Stranger is hiding a dark truth and I am trying to figure out what.
When DC released The New 52 almost every character was rebooted, even the Phantom Stranger, a guy who has never been rebooted at all. The New 52 didn’t shy away from giving him a backstory too. The New Continuity proposed he was Judas Iscariot and Phantom Stranger’s amulet was retconned to be the coins in which Judas betrayed Jesus for, forever strapped around his neck. This is very out of character and I do not believe it for a second, that is, until I read Phantom Stranger Future’s End.
We get to see the good old Phantom Stranger we all know and love, and this time he is not wearing the coins around his neck. He even comments on how he left the coins behind because he finally atoned for his sins. The only question I have left is what was the event that started this.
In my time of research I stumbled on an certain issue, it was the issue that changed it all. Vertigo visions: The Phantom Stranger followed Naomi Walker, a young woman working at a retirement home. We are introduced to an older version of The Phantom Stranger who tells Naomi that the retirement home is located in hell. Later it is revealed that Naomi was once a woman named Naamah who gave birth to the demon Asmodeous with The Phantom Stranger. This is actually a story in Jewish lore minus the Phantom Stranger. In Jewish lore Naamah bore Asmodeous with, Drumrole The angel Shamdon.Could the Phantom Stranger have been a neutral angel? Not able to pick a side in the war between Heaven and Hell?
In conclusion, the Phantom Stranger is a Legend and all Legends have their stories. Each of the four stories in Secret Origin #10 are told in the context of Folk Tales and each are familiar events in the DCU, even the time-traveler has some borrowed details from the story of Krona told by the Gaurdians. The Phantom Stranger is anyone you want him to be, although a mystery unsolved, the Phantom Stranger is a hero, trying to make up for his mistakes. Even though I may be asking too many questions my final one is, Is he a stranger at all?