Phantom of Fear City (1993) #1-6 by Steve Englehart et al.
This is the second of the four Claypool comics Eclipse distributed in 1993/94, and it’s the first of the three interconnected “Fear City” comics.
The first Claypool book, Elvira, surprised me by being such a nice and breezy read, so I had some hopes that the rest of the comics might also be good entertainment. And the artwork by Matt Haley/John Nyberg looks great!
Very stylish… even if that style is ten years out of date in 1993.
But the story… oh where to start. Ok, perhaps I’ll just keep it short: It’s about a Dutch pirate ghost who needs to win the love of a living woman to become a real boy. Or something. And then there’s a lot of evil people running around that makes that difficult.
Hm, that didn’t really sound that bad, did it? But Englehart’s execution is just so heavy handed and verbose and plodding.
Editor Richard Howell explains how the Phantom came to be, and hints at it starting as the outline for a different, licensed character. Well, he says that, but he sorta hints at who that character was, but I’m not taking the hint.
The three “Fear City” books are interconnected, but were supposed to be readable separately, too. So I wondered how they were going to handle that. So here we learn about somebody called Soulseachers & Co…
… and are told that we can read about that in issue two. And that’s about it. Hopefully there’ll be more to this when reading the other two books, because just having crossrefs like that is kinda lame.
And speaking of lame, Englehart apparently believes that he’s got droves of new readers ever issue, or his readers are amnesiacs, because he spends a page or two in every fucking issue having the characters restate the basic premise of the plot to the general world.
The primary villain is called D’arc. Such a clever villain name. She has a company called D’arcst’ar.
I’m not making this up. Just read that panel above. It’s says “D’arcst’ar”. It’s not a typo.
Well, the nice artwork couldn’t last because nothing nice ever does (or perhaps that’s just the zeitgeist of 2018), Matt Haley diesn’t do the artwork in the third issue. Mark Miraglia/Bill Anderson does instead, and there’s nothing wrong with it. I mean, it has a nice sheen. But it’s slightly wonky.
And Englehart changes the rules constantly on how the ghost business works, as if he can’t quite make up his mind. Or perhaps care that much.
But he apparently said that he hopes it’ll end up being his favourite series of all time, so there’s that. And it’s planned as a twelve issue series, which I didn’t think was mentioned before…
In the fourth issue, Matt Haley is back, which is nice, and Englehart brings back three of his “mystic” comics characters from previous series, like Coyote and Scorpio Rose.
*sniff* They survived cancellation.
And a backup series called Tiberius Fox, written by Kurt Busiek, starts. It’s more intentionally funny than the main story.
And then Haley goes missing for good, and Nick Scholes steps in. And brings us my favourite scene from the series. As our hero explains, when he becomes corporeal every seventh years, his nails and hair gets a seven year growth spurt, which means that he should have take off his boots first.
Cue toe nail clipping scene.
If only the entire series had been nothing but toe nail clipping scenes.
But it’s mostly characters shouting at nobody, explaining to the readers what they read in the previous issue. It’s like Englehart had heard that captions and thought balloons were totally out, dude, so he… made do.
And… then the editor starts putting in a recap page, too.
Perhaps it was the editor who insisted on the in-story recaps, too? It’s just too bizarre.
And here, with the sixth issue, I bid the series a sleepy adieu, because reading it almost put me to sleep. And Eclipse stopped distributing it, because they were in the process of considering whether to go bankrupt or not (which they did some months later).
Claypool did publish the full planned twelve issues, though.
A collected editions is being published this year. I wonder what the reviews are going to say…
I was unable to find any contemporary ones, though.