Sunday, May 27, 2012

Number 1164: The phantastic Phantasmo

 E. C. (for Elmer Cecil) Stoner was an African-American pioneer of the comic book field. Already an established artist when comic books began, he fit into the earliest comic books with his solid contributions, working his entire career in comics via various comic art shops.

The Ken Quattro blog, The Comics Detective, has an excellent article and biography of Stoner. You can read it here.

"Phantasmo" was a strip drawn by Stoner. Phantasmo, secret identity of Phil Anson, was trained by Tibetan monks (like several other super-characters of the era, keeping those monks busy). He could release his astral projection, making it extremely big (size varied between panels), and despite being transparent and a projection, it could also lift heavy objects like ocean liners and subway trains.

Large Feature Comic was an early Dell series, reprinting comic strip adventures of Dick Tracy, Popeye, among others, in black line. In #18, published in 1941, it reprinted several of the early Phantasmo strips, including the origin, from The Funnies. Dell never seemed really comfortable with super heroes, and while Phantasmo was around for a couple of years, it was dropped in favor of funny animals. Dell sold millions of comic books without using traditional superheroes.

I have some opinions of Stoner's art on Phantasmo. He used a heavy ink line, all the better for reproduction in those days of quick-and-dirty comic book printing. He drew well-composed, meticulously detailed panels. (There's a jarring sequence of two panels on the top of page 11, with skinny ink lines in panel one, and a misshapen, out-of-proportion head in panel two that I'm sure isn't by Stoner.) In many panels Phantasmo and his young friend, Whizzer McGee, have somewhat goofy smiles even in times of peril. Since I'm Pappy and my mind sometimes needs lifting out of the gutter, I can't help myself. I must mention the phallic look to the cover: the character's hands on the gun barrels, his smiling face as they are going off. I'm sure no one planned's just my dirty mind conjuring up things that aren't there, surely. "Sometimes a gun barrel is just a gun barrel," to paraphrase Dr. Freud. Uh...yeah, sure, Sigmund.


Steve Miller said...

Well, Pappy, my mind went immediately to the same place about that cover... and I have so far from a dirty mind that I used to give my editor fits of laughter with the inadvertent double-entendres I would write.

And his costume doesn't help matters....

Pappy said...

Hey, Steve...with your note at least I know now that even clean minds can be perverted by subliminal messages in comics.

Daniel [] said...

I wonder whether DC might bring back Phantasmo, but make him into a straight character.