Phantom 2040 poster.
|Created by||Lee Falk|
with David J. Corbett
|Developed by||Hearst entertainment, Inc.|
|Written by||Garfield Reeves-Stevens|
|Directed by||Vincent Bassols|
Bertrand Tager Kagan
|Country of origin||France|
|No. of episodes||35|
|Running time||25 minutes|
|Original release||September 18, 1994 –|
March 3, 1996
Phantom 2040 is a French-American animated series loosely based on the comic strip hero The Phantom, created by Lee Falk. The central character of the series is said to be the 24th Phantom. It aired from September 18, 1994 to March 3, 1996 in syndication.
In the year 2040, environmental disasters and the economic Resource Wars of the early 21st century have decimated the fragile ecological balance of an Earth once teeming with life. Everywhere, the privileged and wealthy continue to thrive in expensive real estate developments that tower above the suffering masses. The victims of Earth’s misfortune have been forced to subsist on scavenged refuse from the past on the mangled streets of forlorn city-states.
In Metropia (once known as New York City), the largest and most powerful of the city-states, the powerful robotics manufacturing corporation Maximum Inc. has slowly shaped a cold, steely urban center, consisting of huge, residential towers intertwined with TubeTrain tunnels. Maximum's robotic "biots" (Biological Optical Transputer System) have replaced enormous amounts of human labour, and the corporation is illegally producing prohibited combat biots to form Maximum's private underground army. Under this guise of efficient progress, Maximum has own plans for the future, all known as the Maximum Era. Through the construction of the fortress of Cyberville, an immense survival shelter where only the wealthiest and most elite humans will retreat, and the take over of Metropia by Maximum's biot armies, their plans all ultimately involve the dark path of decline and extinction as the culminating result of man's prior errors and efforts, once Earth finally succumbs to its slowly deteriorating state.
The only hope for the survival of humanity is the Ghost Jungle — thousands of square miles of mutated vegetation that may be the planet's salvation. This secret source of life is submerged beneath Metropia, unseen by most. College student Kit Walker Jr. is chosen by fate to save the world, donning the black mask and purple suit of his people’s savior, the 24th Phantom.
The role of the Phantom has been passed on from father to son since the 16th century, leading the world to believe that the Phantom is a single immortal individual. Kit, the 24th in the line, is young, unsure, and inexperienced, but he finds within him the courage and might to battle the evil that threatens to destroy the Earth.
Cast and characters
Phantom 2040's voice cast included Scott Valentine, Margot Kidder, Ron Perlman, Leah Remini, J.D. Hall, Alan Oppenheimer, Richard Lynch and Jeff Bennett - while Mark Hamill, Debbie Harry, Rob Paulsen and Paul Williams had recurring roles.
- Kit Walker, Jr. – The 24th Phantom, Kit was not trained for the role like his ancestors were. His father died under mysterious circumstances when he was only a baby, and he grew up not knowing about his heritage. When Guran tells him about the Phantom on his eighteenth birthday, he is initially disbelieving, but takes on the role with increasing conviction. His equipment includes optical camouflage for invisibility, a wristband that contains a powerful computer ("analytical"), and another that contains a smart inductance rope. He has several vehicles, including a nimble airborne Hypercycle, a cloaking multi-passenger cruiser and an upgraded 1999 Mustang named "Hero", after the 21st Phantom's horse. After defeating Maximum Inc, he looks towards a long vacation, until the day the Phantom is needed again. Voiced by Scott Valentine.
- Guran – Kit's mentor, whose family have been aiding the Phantom for generations. Together with Jack Archer, Guran instructs the Phantom in combat, morality, and life itself, and is frequently seen reciting insightful "old jungle sayings" to Kit and others. After the 23rd Phantom's death, Guran blamed himself, and consumed in his sadness and self-hatred he became the legendary Shadow Panther, until he was freed from his mourning forever by Kit Walker Jr. Voiced by J. D. Hall.
- Jack Archer – A scientist and professor in biology at Kit's university. After Kit dons the identity of the Phantom, Archer takes only a short time to deduce that they are one and the same, and becomes one of the few who know the Phantom's true identity. Together with Guran, Archer takes on the role of Kit's mentor, particularly in scientific and contemporary parts of his education. Later on, (due to his wishes to work for the greater good like Kit), opens a small Detective agency like his family before him. Voiced by Alan Oppenheimer.
- "Sparks" (Daniel Aguilar) – A young, orphaned cyber-surfer who is rescued by Kit after Maximum mistakes Sparks as the Phantom. Sparks is unofficially adopted into the Phantom's lair, and assists in the technological parts of their endeavours. When he was three, his parents, Esteban and María, were kidnapped by Maximum and cruelly used as the mental tissue for the biomechanical "living building" Project Gauntlet, Cyberville's security system. Voiced by Pamela Adlon.
- Sagan Cruz – A Metropian policewoman or "Enforcer", who is attracted to Kit but was initially unaware of his dual identity, and was skeptical about the Phantom's motives. She later figures out his secret and eventually becomes Kit's love interest and partner. She has a genetically engineered police dog named D.V.L. (a reference to the 21st Phantom's wolf, Devil) and in combat dons a well-armoured Enforcer suit. Voiced by Leah Remini.
- Heloise Walker – Kit's only living relative, Heloise is the daughter of the 21st Phantom, the sister of the 22nd Phantom, the aunt of the 23rd Phantom, and the great-aunt of Kit Walker, Jr. – The 24th Phantom, She kept the truth from Kit, hoping he could lead a normal life, but accepts Kit's choice to become the 24th Phantom and assists him in his plans to stop Maximum Inc. Voiced by Carrie Snodgress.
- Rebecca Madison – The series villain, chairperson of Maximum Inc. and widow of Maxwell Madison Sr., the 23rd Phantom's killer. Rebecca plans to construct Cyberville, a technological and impenetrable fortress where the select wealthy and elite may seek refuge when the Earth begins to deteriorate (something Rebecca's underground biot army will ensure takes place relatively soon), but her plans of domination are frequently being foiled by the Phantom. Though despite her evil ways, she does have some redeeming qualities, such as wishing to know that her son is safe before evacuating from an attack, as well as Kit suggesting she is a very lonely woman. Other than Graft and her son, Maxwell Madison Jr., no other humans are employed by Maximum, which has its own biots perform all labour. In the end with all of her crimes revealed to the world, she is quickly arrested and sent to prison. Voiced by Margot Kidder.
- Maxwell Madison Jr. – Rebecca's sociopathic son, whose intelligence is belied by his laziness and disinterest in almost everything. When he does have an opinion on something, he presents it as coming from his cat, Baudelaire. He is psychologically disturbed with the disorders being rooted in the loss of his father at such an early age. His cat, perhaps the last remaining symbol of his father's love for him, is his only and most trusted friend. In the end after Rebecca is arrested, he, along with his cat, is sent to a mental asylum, or as Cruz put it, a "padded prison". Voiced by Jeff Bennett.
- Hubert Graft – Rebecca Madison's Chief of Security and main enforcer, a cyborg who blames the Phantom for his condition. He was formerly an environmentalist who fought against Maximum to protect the Amazonian rainforest, before losing his whole body below the shoulders in combat. Maximum rebuilt Graft's body using biot parts, giving Rebecca Madison complete control over Graft's life. Graft's biot torso can be disconnected at the hip and integrated into other robotic systems over which Graft has complete control, most commonly the Urban Combat Biot Walker, a ten-foot steel exoskeleton armed with lasers and claws. Despite this, he still has his desire to protect nature, and will work with the Phantom if a bigger threat hits it. In the end the Phantom would ask if he would want to escape Maximum's clutches, but he always turns this offer down. He also is completely against harming children, even if that child trespassed and destroyed invaluable company technology. In the end, after Maximum Inc is defeated, he is mentioned to have been sent to a half-way house. Voiced by Ron Perlman in the first season, and Richard Lynch in the second.
- Doctor Jak – A cynical sensationalist TV yellow journalist who reports the Phantom's activities with a negative spin. His arrogance and vanity bring him to believe that rather than being merely a reporter of news, he "is the news", and therefore anything he doesn't see (such as purposely covering his eye when it is revealed the Phantom was being framed) is not the news. In "Matter Over Mind", it is discovered that after Jak's wife perished in the Grand Central Station crash, he attempted an illegal operation to integrate an analytical computer into his mind, but the operation was interrupted and the analytical program thought lost. Dr. Jak was left part-biot, with sensory implants on his head and a multi-purpose eyepiece which he uses to film his news program, The Dr. Jak Show. His character and the way in which he criminalises the Phantom are comparable to J. Jonah Jameson of Spider-Man. Voiced by Mark Hamill.
- Mr. Cairo – A mysterious information broker who only appears in holographic transmissions and who deals with both the Phantom and Maximum Inc. Early on, he discovers the Phantom's true identity, but chooses to withhold the information from Rebecca Madison despite the enormous reward being offered. He is later revealed to actually be the sentient analytical program separated from Dr. Jak's consciousness, but he decides not to rejoin Dr. Jak's mind and instead stays on to loyally assist the Phantom, though meets his end with Max Jr. shuts down the power with him still in it, deleting him. Voiced by Paul Williams.
- Sean One – The first human born in outer space and founder and leader of the Free Orbital Movement, Sean One seeks independence for his Orbital colonies. An arrogant and abnormally tall man, he resorts to espionage and terrorist attacks in order to achieve his ends and is unable to walk by himself while in the presence of gravity. He is revered among the Orbitals' inhabitants in an almost god-like way, and is extremely apathetic towards whom he calls the "gravity-slaves" of Earth. He is defeated when he publicly announced his plan to rig the votes to make the Orbital Colonies independent, as well as attempting to kill Vaingloria. Voiced by Rob Paulsen.
- Gorda – A morbidly obese crime lord and smuggler from Australia who is unable to move by herself and has an army of strong, red-tinted biots under her command. She refers to herself in third-person and has a well-armed robotic kangaroo as her sole companion. In the end she is arrested and transported back to Australia to await trial. Voiced by Paddi Edwards.
- Heisenberg – A shape-shifting fractal biot built by Max Madison Jr. using nanites grown in space by Sean One, named by Maxwell after the German physicist Werner Heisenberg. Heisenberg is the first stable fractal biot created by Maximum, and is controlled by Maxwell using a separate remote brain which must be carried around in a case. Heisenberg is forced to impersonate the Phantom and succeeds in criminalising him with the help of Dr. Jak, but after a confrontation with the Phantom, Maxwell loses the remote brain and hence control of Heisenberg. Afterwards, the fractal biot gains independence and a form of sentience, dons a cloak and seeks answers for his past, remembering nothing of his creation other than his name. He meets a wise street saxophonist named Betty, and after deciding to take his own path, becomes a "teacher" to biots everywhere, helping them to be free from their human owners and become self-aware. Heisenberg eventually joins the Phantom and becomes a close companion to Pavlova, Dr. Jak's assistant. Voiced by Rob Paulsen.
- Pavlova - Dr. Jak's personal biot assistant, distinguishable by red symbols on her face. Pavlova sometimes questions the honesty and morality of Jak's news uploads, but always has her memory wiped by Jak afterwards (a task he does somewhat reluctantly). Nicknamed "Pav" by Jak, the reporter treats her as his friend and sometimes even in a joking, romantic way, because Pavlova was named after Jak's late wife. Pavlova also befriends Heisenberg, who takes an interest in her. She ultimately tells Jak "I will program myself from now on." At which later Jak laments, "You just had to be your own person, just like her." Referring to Pav' name sake. Voiced by Liz Georges.
- Vaingloria – A popular starlet singer trained by Maximum Inc. to brainwash the public. It is known that Rebecca Madison found her as a street urchin and offered her food, shelter and fame in exchange for her services for Maximum. Rebecca had her fitted with retractable mirrors which can focus light to such a strength that looking at the mirrors can overload the mind's senses, tricking the public's minds into adoring her and on Maximum's orders using them to completely brainwash certain people (it can be assumed that the mirrors are difficult to control with precision, as Vaingloria once accidentally sent a victim into a coma). Vaingloria reluctantly takes part in several of Maximum's plots and becomes particularly close to Graft, who treats her in a (albeit cold) fatherly way. He ultimately hardwires her mirrors she can use them on her own. Voiced by Deborah Harry.
- Betty – A wise street saxophonist who becomes Heisenberg's best friend and companion. She is seen to be aware of everything around her and frequently relating life to the blues. She carries a saxophone that was property of an "unnamed" former U.S. president. Voiced by Iona Morris.
- Maxwell Madison Sr. – Rebecca's deceased husband, who was killed along with the 23rd Phantom in a toxic train wreck. Rebecca captures his brainwaves and stores them in an enormous computer, and is constantly seeking a stable way to transfer them into a biot or preferably a living body to effectively resurrect Maxwell Madison Sr. He was regarded as a very dangerous and power-hungry man when he was alive and in control of Maximum, Inc, but it is discovered that his plans for the world were very ecologically beneficial and that his ambitious wife Rebecca sabotaged his plans in favour of greedy, selfish world domination. Voiced by Jeff Bennett.
The show was developed for television by executive producer David J. Corbett and executive story editors Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens. In addition to story-editing both seasons, the Reeves-Stevens devised the show's writers' bible, and scripted numerous episodes, including the two-part pilot (Generation Unto Generation). Other key writers on the show included Brynne Stephens and Michael Reaves; despite the similarity of names, Reaves and Stephens are in no way related to the Reeves-Stevenses.
The show debuted in 1994 to rave reviews, though it survived only 35 episodes before it was relegated to weekend repeats in 1996. Along with action sequences, stories focused on intelligent plotting and character development, winning the series praise for its subtle teaching of such values as individuality, freedom and the volatility of humanity.
Along with Andrea Romano's equally pioneering work on Batman: The Animated Series, Stuart M. Rosen's voice direction on Phantom 2040 had a lasting impact on animated adventure television. Romano and Rosen cast accomplished dramatic actors and introduced a new level of maturity and complexity to their show's vocal performances that set the standard for all TV animation that followed.
In other media
A Phantom 2040 video game was produced for Sega Genesis, Game Gear and Super NES, and like the animated series, it received very positive reviews despite its obscurity. It is possible to play as both the Phantom and, in the Game Gear version, his alter-ego, Kit Walker. The game has over 20 different endings, depending on the choices the player makes while progressing through the story, and revolves around Rebecca Madison's attempts to create a biot army, revive her dead husband and seize control of both Metropia and the world.
Phantom 2040 was adapted into a comic book series by Marvel Comics in 1995 (cover dated May–August 1995). Only four issues were published, released as a mini-series. The stories were only loosely based on the TV series, and had a different tone than the dark, complicated animated show. The comic book was written by Peter Quinones, pencilled by Spider-Man co-creator Steve Ditko and inked by Bill Reinhold. Each issue featured a free poster drawn by such artists as John Romita Sr.
Family Home Entertainment VHS Releases 1994/1995 (USA)
A straight-to-video compilation titled Phantom 2040: The Ghost Who Walks was released in the USA on VHS by Family Home Entertainment in 1994 (and re-released on May 21, 1996). It is made up of the first five episodes of season 1 edited into a single movie.
Family Home Entertainment subsequently released eight first-season episodes across four commercially available VHS tapes (in the USA) on August 22, 1995:
1) Generation Unto Generation Parts 1 and 2
2) Fire and I.C.E. / The Sum of the Parts
3) Dark Orbit Parts 1 and 2
4) The Ghost in the Machine / The Biot in Red
Lions Gate DVD Release 2004 (USA)
Phantom 2040: The Ghost Who Walks was re-released on DVD by Lions Gate on September 21, 2004 and remains available for purchase in most counties as a US import.
Via Vision Entertainment DVD Release 2013 (Australia)
In Australia (where the popularity of Lee Falk's original Phantom comic strip has never waned), Season One was released as a four-disc DVD collection (containing the first twenty episodes of the show) by Via Vision Entertainment on 6 November 2013 
- "Phantom 2040 (TV series)". Show credits. 2012-11-11.
- "Phantom 2040 synopsis". Hearst Animation. Retrieved 2009-06-08.
- Johnson, Allan (1995-02-14). "SCOTT VALENTINE IS A SWEETHEART HE PUT UP WITH TEACHER'S LAME IDEA; NOW HE LIKES HIS NAME". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2010-11-13.
- "Reeves-Stephens.com". Reeves-Stephens Phantom 2040 writing credits. 2014-03-16.