“Suddenly I realized you could write about your own life”, Norman Mailer says in and interview with Steven Marcus for The Paris Review. These are the words of a man seeing the sky for the first time, a man realizing that there’s no fate, only choice and consequence. In a far more compact form, Dan DiDio tilts at exactly the same webwork of themes in next week’s issue of Phantom Stranger.
Last month’s debut issue of Phantom Stranger ended on the most unexpected twist in the character’s history. Slowly, painfully, over the course of September’s Zero issue and last month’s first issue, DiDio took the trouble to reestablish the core of the Stranger—that the Stranger is doomed to walk alone. That because of some unarticulated sin (during Old Testament days, the word for “crime” was “sin”), the Stranger would be made to karmically repay the damage he’d done, and he’d forever be alienated from others until such time as he’d find redemption.
And last month? In the most curious denouement of all, we discover that somehow, the Stranger has bucked the system. He has a wife, and a child, a loving family and he seems to have found his happy ending. All of which are threatened by the appearance of Pandora, the mysterious figure seen first in the climactic ending of Flashpoint, and again throughout the pages of the New 52.
The Stranger walks out onto the soccer field where his son plays, projecting himself astrally to confront Pandora. Pandora, for her sins, threatens the Stranger’s safety and the safety of his family directly. And in that precise moment, we’re returned to Norman Mailer. To an established writer remembering himself as a young writer, wrestling with the kinds of protection that anonymity can purchase.
“This is a democratic country”, Mailer will say years later on Charlie Rose, “and democracy is noble. And because it’s noble it’s always in danger. Nobility is always in danger. A democracy is perishable. I think the natural government for most people, given the perversities and the depths is fascism…”. What happened to Mailer in those intervening years? What changes and evolutions did he manage to trace out that led him from articulating that nexus of the problem first at the level of the personal in 1963, and then at the level of the political in 2003?
Whatever the change, it is exactly the same moment the Stranger faces confronting Pandora on a children’s soccer field, in a place where everyone surrounds him, but no one can see him.
Please enjoy our exclusive preview of Phantom Stranger #2.