No mere character in a Rob Zombie song, the Phantom Stranger has been around as a comic book character since the 1950s.

He made his debut in a comic book called, surprisingly enough, "The Phantom Stranger", published by DC Comics back in 1952. It was written by John Broome, with art by Carmine Infantino and Sy Barry. The comic didn't last long--it was cancelled in 1953 after just six issues--but the Stranger has stuck around for an occasional miniseries and guest appearances in a number of different comics.

The Phantom Stranger is a mysterious figure. He looks like some guy wearing a dark suit, trenchcoat, fedora, and a medallion. You can never clearly see his eyes. He doesn't really qualify as a superhero, and he doesn't really qualify as a cosmic force, though he's been known to associate with both. His powers have never been clearly defined: he's thoroughly immortal, since he's been around since ancient Egypt; he sometimes displays mystical abilities; he always appears where he's most needed, usually to offer precisely the right information, advice, or warning, then vanishes.

The Stranger bridges the gap between the regular DC books and the Vertigo books: he has appeared in Vertigo comics with the Sandman, John Constantine, and the Swamp Thing, but he's also well-known amongst the spandex crowd in DC's other books. In fact, he was even a sporadic member of the Justice League of America during the 1980s and is currently depicted as a member of a group called the Quintessence--five insanely-powerful characters who have mentored other DC heroes and keep a watch over important events.

No one knows the Phantom Stranger's real name. It has been speculated that he is an angel who refused to fight for either side during Lucifer's revolt, or that he is the Wandering Jew, forced to walk the earth eternally for jeering during the Crucifixion, or that he is a refugee from another planet or even another dimension. More than likely, no one will ever know for sure...

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