Adapt This: Could “The Phantom Stranger” make terrifying television?

phantom stranger

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With Hollywood turning more of its attention to the world of graphic novels for inspiration, I’ll cast the spotlight on a cool comic book each week that has the potential to pack a theater or keep you glued to your television screens. At the end of some “Adapt This” columns, you’ll also find thoughts from various comic creators and other industry experts about the books they’d like to see make the jump from page to screen.

This Week’s Book: The Phantom Stranger (DC Comics)

The Premise: A mysterious, magic-using character who made his debut in 1952, The Phantom Stranger turns up unexpectedly when supernatural forces are afoot and gives characters a nudge in the right direction (or outright helps them) in overcoming a mystical dilemma. Little is known about the Stranger’s origin, though we learn a little more each time he steps out of the shadows to act on a supernatural threat.

The Pitch: Scary television is at an all-time high these days with shows like “American Horror Story” serving up dark, adult-themed scares on a weekly basis while series like “Supernatural” offer a lighter take on ghosts, demons, and other things that go bump in the night. A television series based on “The Phantom Stranger” could be easily served up to either audience, and offer a bit of monster-of-the-week serialized adventure and an overarching tale that teases out the title character’s past.

A “Phantom Stranger” television series could feature a recurring cast of human characters introduced over the first few episodes who get caught up in a supernatural event far beyond their understanding or abilities to overcome. His true role in the events could be left a mystery, along with the nature of his intentions and other elements that could be teased out over the course of a season, with even greater mysteries about him and the supernatural world he polices unfolding over the course of the series. As the human characters struggle to make sense of the terrifying events happening around them, they’re drawn together by the mystery of who the Stranger is and why he’s helping them.

Basically, the framework for the show could take many different forms, but the mystery of the Phantom Stranger will be the narrative glue that holds the entire series together. Whether the human characters are separate elements brought together over several episodes or something as simple as a police officer and his/her colleagues caught up in an investigation that defies science, there are lots of different narrative threads that can run through a “Phantom Stranger” series, as long as the core element — the Stranger — is present to bring it all together.

Casting Suggestions: Historically, the Phantom Stranger has always appeared as a dapper gentleman with a flowing cloak and matching fedora, who wears a suit and a large pendant that may or may not possess some mystical qualities. His features are usually hidden in shadows, though his eyes are almost always a bright white without any visible irises or pupils. His face rarely shows any sign of emotion, though he is prone to a rare smile or other gesture that hints at a knowledge of things far beyond our understanding.

Someone like “Sex and the City” actor Chris Noth could easily pull of the mix of stern-faced nobility and occasional condescending attitude that’s key to the Phantom Stranger, and the same goes for “Parks and Recreation” actor Nick Offerman, who’d be flexing some different muscles in the transition from comedy to dark, supernatural drama. And really, who wouldn’t want to see “Ron f’ing Swanson” intone some cryptic lines about the fate of the world and horrors beyond mere mortals’ comprehension? A network willing to break the racial mold for the character might also do well to look at actors like Dennis Haysbert (“24”) and Harry Lennix (“Dollhouse”), two fine actors capable of handling surreal events with the necessary gravitas of a role.

Would “The Phantom Stranger” make a good television series? Chime in below or on Facebook or Twitter.


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.


Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.