FW Presents: Showcase Gene Colan: PHANTOM ZONE

On this FW Presents: Showcase Gene Colan, Ryan Daly continues to spotlight the work of his favorite artist. This time, however, he's covering more than a single issue. This time, Ryan's discussing an entire four-issue miniseries, 1981's Superman spinoff THE PHANTOM ZONE. And for a story this epic and crazy, he needs more than one guest. Enter Dr. Anj and Martin Gray to discuss the striking art and whacky story (did we mention Steve Gerber wrote this?!!) of The Phantom Zone!!!

Throughout his life, Gene Colan brought his truly unique art style to the pages of Batman, The Tomb of Dracula, Iron Man, Wonder Woman, The Avengers, Howard the Duck, Doctor Strange, The Spectre, and so many others. What issues will Ryan chronicle on this podcast? You’ll have to tune in to find out!

Let us know what you think! Leave a comment or send an email to: RDalyPodcast@gmail.com.

Check out Doctor Anj's blog at: http://comicboxcommentary.blogspot.com

Check out Martin Gray's blog at: https://dangermart.blog

This podcast is a proud member of the FIRE AND WATER PODCAST NETWORK.

Subscribe to the FW PRESENTS:

Support the FIRE AND WATER PODCAST NETWORK on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/fwpodcasts

Intro: Gene Colan interview from “The Men Without Fear”; “The Vampire Hunters” by Wojciech Kilar.

Additional music: “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” by The Animals.

Thanks for listening!

16 responses to “FW Presents: Showcase Gene Colan: PHANTOM ZONE

  1. Great show gents. I somehow totally missed this series when it came out, which is odd, because it definitely was one of the DC projects meant to tie into the US release of Superman II in 1981. I didn’t read it until I checked out the TPB from the local library a few years ago.

    This could easily have been a huge company crossover had DC had the forethought to do one back then. It really does read like Gerber let loose in the DC toybox. It also reads like a comic a few years ahead of its time. Gerber’s take is almost Alan Moore-like, taking an adult look at Silver Age concepts originally written almost expressly for children.

    I’ve always been puzzled about which came first, Faora, or Ursa? Faora didn’t debut until Action #471, May 1977, when the movie was in production. Did the writer Cary Bates read an early draft of the script and inject a similar, DC-owned character into the comic? Or was the comic script in the works when the movie script was being reworked, and Ursa’s “perversions” and man-hatred added to the film?

    Faora was used in a few pieces of merchandise as an Ursa-substitute (like a Golden Big Book released at this time), which is startling considering her character, and scenes like the ones seen in this mini! Geez!

    Again, fun show guys!


    1. I actually referred to Faora as the same character from the movie during our recording, completely forgetting her name was Ursa, but I edited it out because it made me sound like an idiot.

      1. They basically are. But I want Faora to be a jilted Kryptonian Girl Scout, like my fanfic background I developed for Ursa on Superman Movie Minute. That’s why she likes to collect all the military and police badges and put them on her uniform, as she goes about killing men.


          1. She’s similarly malevolent, similarly sexy, and I’m glad she’s dead — partly because I don’t want her coming to our dimension and killing us all, and partly because death should mean something in comics, especially when that death had a profound effect on Superman. Character deaths and resurrections have become far too common in comics, and it’s nice to have a few counter-examples for one of those two things.

  2. I have no problem with the Phantom Zone being than we’ve seen it’s the phantom ZONE not Phantom ROOM. as an adult it sounds interesting. As an 8 year old Bah it’s Superman story with no Superman

  3. This bent my 12 year old mind when it came out in 1981. It was not a favorite read of mine back then the story made no sense, I didn’t care for the art and I missed buying issue 3 until I acquired a copy some 30 years later. How’s it fare now that I’m well into middle age? Colan’s art certainly fits the story by Gerber which is a lot darker than I remember and it certainly is a curiosity of early 80s DC.

  4. Great choice for a story to cover in the Colan shows; I was wondering when you’d get it, as I consider it one of the most memorable and thought-provoking series that Colan played a part in creating.
    I first read this at about the age of 13, and initially parts of it flew over my head and I found it too somber. I grew to appreciate it more when I re-read it a few times in my later teens. I haven’t read it since then, but many aspects of the story still stick in my memory – esp. of course, “Convulse. Burn.” I really enjoyed your conversation, gentlemen.
    By the way, besides the stories you mentioned in the show, other DC stories penned by Gerber that are worth reading include the late ’90s mini-series A. Bizarro and two connected Superman Elseworlds, Last Son of Earth and Last Stand on Krypton. If you consider the Vertigo imprint DC, you could also include Nevada on that list.

  5. This series is long overdue for a re-read by me. I bought it off the racks, and mostly enjoyed it. Bear in mind that I was still a teen. Although Colan’s art was jarring at first, and Gerber’s style was challenging, I really appreciated how much previous continuity was incorporated into the story. I had already read the stories with Faora Hu-Ul and Nam-Ek, and I was pleased to have that sense of recognition. Gerber’s story neither re-tells an old story, nor denies them either. He takes what had been established and builds upon it. He was able to create new Phantom Zone villains and build on the mystique and mythos of that dimension. Gene Colan’s arrival at DC, for me, took a bit of getting used to. Once I did, I thoroughly enjoyed his depiction of the D.C. Super-Stars! Especially for a story like this, with it’s supernatural feel and bizarre Gerberian concepts.
    Perhaps I missed it in the summary and discussion, but was Kandor part of this story? Was it still in the bottle then? There was a P.Z. projector there.
    Unlike Ryan, I had read stories with Phantom Zone villains, and so the movie disappointed me in that regard. To learn that subsequent movies and comics have done little more than re-do the first two films from the late 70s is disappointing, yet unsurprising.
    So great to hear Anj and Martin on this fine show!

  6. Thanks for the kind words Terry. Yes indeed, the bottle city of Kandor has been finally expanded by this time – it took place in Superman 338 in 1979, which came out a couple of years previously. Happiness all round? There was a twist…

  7. Great coverage of a great mini-series, gentlemen. I knew I didn’t understand all of it when it came out, and I probably still don’t, but it was wonderful and freaky. I enjoyed the world-building, or zone-building, as it were. Both the new characters and those that were just new to me were intriguing. The portrayal of the other DC heroes (Supergirl, Wonder Woman, GL, Bats, etc.) dealing with a job for Superman with no Superman on hand was excellent. They were characteristically heroic, resourceful, courageous, and tenacious, but they each still had their own strengths, weaknesses, and idiosyncrasies.

    I’ve been looking up the other Gerber work Edo suggested, and I may have to spend some more Christmas money. It’s interesting to me how the writers who are known for more adult or more off-kilter stories do so well at writing the traditional characters. I’m thinking of Moore, whom you mentioned, but also Morrison, Ellis, Gaiman, and others. I have no issue with deconstruction, and I’ve enjoyed some stories that deconstructed my favorite comic myths, but when writers like these write the characters as the public conceives them, they do a superb job of making them both real and enjoyable.

    More to the point of this podcast, I agree with everything you all said about Colan’s art on the sunshine heroes of the DC universe. They still looked like themselves, but themselves in a more real world, fighting a more palpable evil. This project seemed to give Gene an opportunity to let his imagination run wild a little, and it worked beautifully. My thanks to Anj and Martin for pushing this and to Ryan for taking their suggestion.

  8. Great show guys – really enjoyed it and I wish we’d seen more of Colan’s work on Superman.

    I first came across the Phantom Zone mini series when it was mentioned in a text piece in the UK 1984 Superman Annual. I think Martin said in another comment that he worked on some of these annuals – did he have a hand in this?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *