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Saturday, 29 April 2017

Phantom Stranger 13 - the boy who killed with a toy gun, and the haunted clock

I just love the Neal Adams cover for Phantom Stranger 13 (May/June 1971). More than the Kanigher and Aparo story itself, really.

Except for the helmet, the picture conveys the opening scene, as a young boy living in a remote government lab kills his grandfather with a toy gun. Later, we see him do the same thing to another scientist. The deaths draw the attention of the Phantom Stranger.

When he shows up, another of the scientists attacks him, but only winds up injuring himself. A lot of the story deals with the rivalry between those working on the atomic weapon testing, each juggling to be in charge. 

There is so much of that that it feels like it will be central to the resolution of the tale, but it isn't. There is a French woman scientist, who is the only one to survive facing the boy and his gun, a hint that something more is up with her.

The conclusion of the story heads into completely different territory, as we find out the boy is not a child at all. He is a mutant, and millions of years old. He and others of his kind live in caves below the Earth. They are distressed at all the warfare, so he came above ground and got adopted to infiltrate the lab and kill the scientists to prevent the weapons from being developed. Sounds like a bit too elaborate a plan to come off.

The French woman turns out to be Tala, although as usual she doesn't really have much of a function in the story. Might have worked better if she had taken on the role of the boy's adoptive mother, rather than just meeting him once he was already at the lab. The boy winds up getting killed accidentally when he runs into a minefield.

Tala returns a couple of years down the road.

Kanigher also scripts the De Zuniga Dr. Thirteen story, which opens with an auction of supposedly haunted items.

One of these is clock. We see the man wind the clock, and the demonic figure in it come to life and kill him.

Dr. Thirteen comes to investigate, and tries winding the clock himself. He has the same vision as the dead man, but fights off the killer. It was all a scam to kill the guy for vengeance. Weird that the killer would go through all the hassle of rigging the clock with a hallucinogenic gas and dressing up to kill the man, and then try it a second time to cover his crime.

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