The first Sunday strip (May 28, 1939). Art by Ray Moore.
|Current status / schedule||Ongoing|
|Launch date||February 17, 1936|
|Syndicate(s)||King Features Syndicate|
The Phantom is a long-running American adventure comic strip, first published by Lee Falk, the creator of Mandrake the Magician, in February 1936. The principal character, the Phantom, is a fictional costumed crimefighter who operates from the fictional African country of Bangalla. The character has been adapted into many media, including television, film, and video games.
The series began with a daily newspaper strip on February 17, 1936, followed by a color Sunday strip on May 28, 1939; both are still running as of 2015. At the peak of its popularity, the strip was read by over 100 million people each day.
Lee Falk continued working on The Phantom until his death in 1999. Today, the comic strip is produced by writer Tony DePaul and artists Paul Ryan (Monday-Saturday) and Terry Beatty (Sunday). Previous artists on the newspaper strip include Ray Moore, Wilson McCoy, Bill Lignante, Sy Barry, George Olesen, Keith Williams, Fred Fredericks, Graham Nolan and Eduardo Barreto.
New Phantom stories are published in comic books in different parts of the world, among them Dynamite Entertainment and Hermes Press in the United States, Egmont in Sweden, Norway and Finland (not anymore), and Frew Publications in Australia.
The Phantom is the 21st in a line of crimefighters that originated in 1536, when the father of British sailor Christopher Walker was killed during a pirate attack. Swearing an oath on the skull of his father's murderer to fight evil, Christopher started the legacy of the Phantom that would be passed from father to son, leaving people to give the mysterious figure nicknames such as "The Ghost Who Walks", "Guardian of the Eastern Dark" and "The Man Who Cannot Die", believing him to be immortal.
Unlike many fictional costumed heroes, the Phantom does not have any superpowers but relies mainly on his strength, intelligence, and fearsome reputation of being an immortal ghost to defeat his foes. The 21st Phantom is married to Diana Palmer, whom he met while studying in the United States; they have two children, Kit and Heloise. He has a trained wolf, Devil, and a horse named Hero. Like all previous Phantoms, he lives in the ancient Skull Cave.
The Phantom was the first fictional hero to wear the skintight costume that has became a hallmark of comic-book superheroes, and was also the first shown wearing a mask with no visible pupils, another superhero standard.
After the success of his Mandrake the Magician, the King Features newspaper syndicate asked Falk to develop a new feature. His first attempt was a strip about King Arthur and his knights, which Falk both wrote and drew. However, King Features turned this down, and Falk developed the idea of The Phantom, a mysterious, costumed crimefighter. He planned the first few months of the story and drew the first two weeks as a sample.
Inspired by his lifelong fascination with myths and legends, such as those of King Arthur and El Cid, as well as modern fictional characters as Zorro, Tarzan, and The Jungle Book's Mowgli, Falk envisioned the Phantom's alter ego as rich playboy Jimmy Wells, fighting crime by night as the mysterious Phantom. Partway through his first story, The Singh Brotherhood, before revealing Wells was the Phantom, Falk changed the setting to jungle and made the Phantom a seemingly immortal mythic figure. Deciding there were already too many characters called the Phantom (including The Phantom Detective and The Phantom of the Opera), Falk had thought of calling his hero "The Gray Ghost" (which later became the name of a Batman character, a fact alluded to in the first episode of Phantom 2040). However, Falk could not find a name he liked better and finally settled on the Phantom.
In the A&E American cable TV documentary The Phantom: Comic Strip Crusader, Falk explained Greek busts inspired the idea of the not showing the Phantom's pupils when he was wearing his mask. He (incorrectly) believed that Ancient Greek busts displayed no pupils (they would have been painted on originally, which over time faded) which he felt gave them an inhuman, awe-inspiring appearance. In an interview published in Comic Book Marketplace in 2005, Falk said the Phantom's skin-tight costume was inspired by Robin Hood, who was shown wearing tights in films and on stage.
The Phantom started as a daily strip on February 17, 1936, with the story "The Singh Brotherhood", written by Falk and drawn first by him, for two weeks, followed by Ray Moore, who was an assistant to artist Phil Davis on Falk's Mandrake the Magician strip. In the same year, the Phantom began to be serialised in the Australian Woman's Mirror. A Sunday Phantom strip was added May 28, 1939.
During World War II, Falk joined the Office of War Information, where he became chief of his radio foreign language division. Moore also served in the war, during which he left the strip to his assistant Wilson McCoy. On Moore's return, he worked on the strip on and off until 1949, when McCoy succeeded him. During McCoy's tenure, the strip appeared in thousands of newspapers worldwide, and The Phantom strip was smuggled by boats into the Nazi-occupied Norway during World War II. The word "Phantom" was also used as a password for the Norwegian Resistance, leading the character to receive iconic status in the country.
McCoy died suddenly in 1961. Carmine Infantino and Bill Lignante (who would later draw several Phantom stories directly for comic books) filled in before a successor was found in Sy Barry. During Barry's early years, he and Falk modernized the strip, and laid the foundation for what is considered the modern look of the Phantom. Barry's tenure would see Bengalla turned into a democracy, with the character of President Lamanda Luaga being introduced. Barry would continue working on the strip for over 30 years before retiring in 1994, having drawn around 11,000 Phantom strips in total.
Barry's longtime assistant, George Olesen, remained on the strip as penciller, with Keith Williams joining as inker for the daily strip. The Sunday strip was inked by Eric Doescher until Fred Fredericks became the regular inker in 1995.
Falk continued to script Phantom (and Mandrake) until his death on March 13, 1999. His last daily and Sunday strip stories, "Terror at the Opera" and "The Kidnappers", respectively, were finished by his wife, Elizabeth Falk, after the hospitalized Falk had literally torn off his oxygen mask to dictate the adventures. After Falk's passing, King Features Syndicate began to cooperate with European comic publisher Egmont, publisher of the Swedish Fantomen magazine, which went from only publishing Phantom stories in licenced comic books to providing the stories for the newspaper strip as well, by adapting their own Phantom comic book stories into the comic strip format. Fantomen writers Tony De Paul and Claes Reimerthi alternated as writers of the newspaper strip after Falk died, with De Paul handling the daily strips and Reimerthi being responsible for the Sunday strips. De Paul would later assume duties as the sole writer of the strip. Some stories have been adapted from comic magazine stories originally published in Fantomen.
In 2000, Olesen and Fredericks retired from the Sunday strip which was then taken over by respected comic book artist Graham Nolan, who had previously drawn three covers for issues of Fantomen. A few years later, Olesen and Williams left the daily strip after Olesen decided to retire and artist Paul Ryan, who had worked on the Fantomen comic stories and had been a fan of the character since childhood, took over the daily strip in early 2005. Ryan succeeded Nolan as artist on the Sunday strip in 2007. On Sunday July 31, 2011, Eduardo Barreto became the Phantom Sunday page artist. Barreto died after only a few months of working on the strip however, and Ryan temporarily took over the Sunday page duties again starting with the January 15, 2012 edition, which carried a memoriam for Barreto. The following week's strip was also handled by Ryan, before Terry Beatty became Barreto's permanent replacement.
In the United States the Phantom has been published by a variety of publishers over the years. Through the 1940s, strips were reprinted in Ace Comics published by David McKay Publications. In the 1950s, Harvey Comics published the Phantom. In 1962, Gold Key Comics took over, followed by King Comics in 1966 and Charlton Comics in 1969. This lasted until 1977, with a total number of 73 issues being published. Some of the main Phantom artists during these years were Bill Lignante, Don Newton, Jim Aparo and Pat Boyette.
DC Comics published a Phantom comic book from 1988 to 1990. The initial mini-series (dated May–August 1988) was written by Peter David and drawn by Joe Orlando and Dennis Janke. The subsequent series, written by Mark Verheiden and drawn by Luke McDonnell, lasted 13 issues (March 1989 – March 1990). It depicted the Phantom fighting such issues as racism, toxic dumping, hunger, and modern-day piracy. According to Verheiden, the series ended because of licencing issues as much as dropping sales. The final panels of issue 13 saw the Phantom marrying Diana.
In 1987, Marvel Comics published a four-issue miniseries based on the Defenders of the Earth TV series, written by Stan Lee. Another three-issue Marvel miniseries, The Phantom: The Ghost Who Walks (Feb.-April 1995) followed, written and drawn by David de Vries and Glenn Lumsden, it featured the 22nd Phantom, with an updated, high-tech costume. Marvel later released a four-part miniseries (May–August 1995), pencilled by Spider-Man co-creator Steve Ditko, based on the Phantom 2040 TV series. One issue featured a pin-up by the original two Spider-Man signature artists, Ditko and John Romita, Sr.
Moonstone Books published Phantom graphic novels beginning in 2002. Five books, written by Tom DeFalco, Ben Raab, and Ron Goulart, were published. In 2003, Moonstone debuted a Phantom comic-book series written by Raab, Rafael Nieves, and Chuck Dixon, and drawn by artists including Pat Quinn, Jerry DeCaire, Nick Derington, Rich Burchett, and EricJ. After 11 issues, Mike Bullock took over scripting, with Gabriel Rearte and Carlos Magno creating the artwork before Silvestre Szilagyi became the regular artist in 2007. Bullock's stories often feature topical issues based on real-life African conflicts. In a 2007 three-part story arc called "Invisible Children", the Phantom fought a fictional warlord called "Him", loosely based on Joseph Kony.
In 2006, Moonstone published a retcon of the Phantom's origin, called Legacy, by Raab and Quinn. That same year, the company published a hybrid comic book and prose book it called "wide-vision", premiering the format with the Phantom story "Law of the Jungle". Moonstone also released the first American Phantom annual. A second annual teamed the Phantom up with Mandrake the Magician.
In 2009, Moonstone re-launched the series as The Phantom: Ghost Who Walks, starting with issue 0, a retelling of the origin of the first Phantom. The goal of this launch was to make the comic darker, grittier and more realistic, like the stories of Lee Falk and Ray Moore from the 1930s. It also updated the character of the Phantom by giving him more modern day accessories, and introduced many supporting characters and villains. The Phantom frequently fights reality based enemies in the series, such as modern day terrorists, organ-smugglers and Somalian pirates.
2009 would see Moonstone Books launch the 21 issue maxi-series Phantom Generations, with each of the twenty one Phantoms spotlighted in their own story, crafted by different creative teams including writers such as Ben Raab, Tom DeFalco, Tony Bedard, Will Murray and Mike Bullock. Artists on the project include Pat Quinn, Alex Saviuk, Don Hudson, Scott Brooks and Zeu.
Moonstone also published "Phantom Action", a story written by Mike Bullock that saw the Phantom meeting Captain Action, a five-issue miniseries in black and white called "The Phantom Double Shot: KGB Noir", and a two-part miniseries called "The Phantom: Unmasked".
Dynamite Entertainment debuted the monthly comic book series The Last Phantom in August 2010, to strong sales. The book is written by Scott Beatty and drawn by Eduardo Ferigato, with covers painted by Alex Ross. Featuring a modern reboot of the 21st Phantom, the series tells the story about how Kit Walker, now a philanthropist and head of the Walkabout Foundation, has forsaken his family's legacy, and shows his journey to become the Phantom again, set in motion when his family is murdered.
In 2013, the Phantom also appeared in Dynamite's five-issue miniseries Kings Watch. The story, written by Jeff Parker and drawn by Marc Laming, saw the Phantom teaming up with Flash Gordon and Mandrake the Magician to fight Ming the Merciless and prevent his attempt to take over the planet.
In 2014, Hermes Press announced it will publish a Phantom comic-book miniseries with new content, written by Peter David and illustrated by Sal Velluto. It is set to debut in November 2014. It debuted October 31, 2014. For Free Comic Book Day 2015, Hermes published a Phantom comic book with art by Bill Lignante and samples of the new miniseries
Egmont Publications has published original Phantom stories in a fortnightly Phantom comic book published in Sweden as Fantomen, in Norway as Fantomet, and in Finland as Mustanaamio ("[the] Black-Mask").
The first issue of Fantomen was cover-dated October 1950. Over 1600 issues have been published. The first story created originally for the Swedish Fantomen magazine was published as early as 1963, and today the total number of Fantomen stories is over 900. The average length of a Fantomen story is 30+ pages (compared to 20-24 pages for most American comics). Among the most prolific artists and writers that have created stories for Fantomen are: Dick Giordano, Donne Avenell, Heiner Bade, David Bishop, Georges Bess, Jaime Vallvé, Joan Boix, Tony DePaul, Ulf Granberg, Ben Raab, Rolf Gohs, Scott Goodall, Eirik Ildahl, Kari Leppänen, Hans Lindahl, Janne Lundström, Cesar Spadari, Bob McLeod, Jean-Yves Mitton, Lennart Moberg, Claes Reimerthi, Paul Ryan, Alex Saviuk, Graham Nolan, Romano Felmang, and Norman Worker. The artists and writers working on these stories have been nicknamed Team Fantomen. In later years, the team have started to experiment more with the character and his surroundings, by having Singh Brotherhood member Sandal Singh taking over as President of Bengalla, giving the Phantom and Diana marriage problems, and exploring the Phantom-canon more.
Another country where the Phantom is popular is Australia. The Australian Woman's Mirror began publication of the strip in 1936 and Frew Publications has published a fortnightly comic book, The Phantom, since 1948, celebrating 60 years of uninterrupted publication in September 2008. Frew's book mostly contains reprints, from the newspaper strips and from Fantomen (in English translation) and other The Phantom comic books, but has on a few occasions also included original stories, drawn by Australian artists, such as Keith Chatto. The editor-in-chief was (until recently) the late Jim Shepherd. Frew's The Phantom is the longest running comic book series with the character in the world, and is Australia's best selling comic book. The Frew comics are also imported and sold in New Zealand. The comic books appear in numerous Sydney Royal Easter Show, Melbourne Show, and Perth Royal Show showbags.
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (February 2011)|
The Phantom also has a long publishing history in India. The Phantom first appeared in India in the 1940s via a magazine called The Illustrated Weekly of India, which carried Phantom on Sundays. Indrajal Comics took up publication of Phantom comics in English, Hindi under the name Vetaal and other Indian languages in 1964. They ceased publication in 1990. This same year, Diamond Comics started publishing Phantom comics in digest format, again in many languages including English. This continued until 2000, when Diamond Comics stopped publishing Phantom comics; Egmont Imagination India (formerly Indian Express Egmont Publications) took up publication the same year. They published monthly comics (in English only) until 2002. Since then they have only brought out reprints of their earlier stories with new covers and formats. Rani Comics published Phantom from 1990 till 2005. However, Rani comics were available only in the Tamil language.
Ananda Publishers, an Indian publishing house based in Kolkata, used to publish "The Phantom" in Bengali, under the name Aranyadeb (the lord of the forests) in their magazine "Desh", their newspaper, "Anandabazar Patrika", and later in their children's magazine Anandamela. Though the comic was discontinued in "Desh", it still appears in the newspaper as well as the children's magazine.
Italian publisher Fratelli Spada in Italy also produced a large number of original Phantom stories for their L'Uomo Mascherato (The Masked Man) series of comic books in the 1960s and 1970s. Among the artists that worked for Fratelli Spada were Raul Buzzelli, Mario Caria, Umberto Sammarini (Usam), Germano Ferri, Senio Pratesi, Angelo R. Todaro, Mario Caria and Felmang. Ferri, Usam, Felmang and Caria have all later worked for the Swedish Fantomen magazine.
The entire run of the Phantom newspaper strip has been reprinted in Australia by Frew Publications. Edited versions of most stories have also been published in the Scandinavian Phantom comics. In the United States, the following Phantom stories have been reprinted, by Nostalgia Press (NP), Pacific Comics Club (PCC), or Comics Revue (CR), all written by Lee Falk.
- "The Sky Band", Ray Moore, 9 November 1936, CR
- "The Diamond Hunters", Ray Moore, 12 April 1937, PCC
- "Little Tommy", Ray Moore, 20 September 1937, PCC
- "The Prisoner of the Himalayas", Ray Moore, 7 February 1938, NP
- "Adventure in Algiers", Ray Moore, 20 June 1938, CR
- "The Shark's Nest", Ray Moore, 25 July 1938, PCC
- "Fishers of Pearls", Ray Moore, 7 November 1938, CR
- "The Slave Traders", Ray Moore, 30 January 1939, CR
- "The Mysterious Girl", Ray Moore, 8 May 1939, CR
- "The Golden Circle", Ray Moore, 4 September 1939, PCC
- "The Seahorse", Ray Moore, 22 January 1940, PCC
- "The Game of Alvar", Ray Moore, 29 July 1940, PCC
- "Diana Aviatrix", Ray Moore, 16 December 1940, PCC
- "The Phantom's Treasure", Ray Moore, 14 July 1941, PCC
- "The Phantom Goes to War", Ray Moore and Wilson McCoy, 2 February 1942, PCC
- "The Slave Markets of Mucar", Sy Barry, 21 August 1961, CR
In the October 2009 issue, Comics Revue began reprinting the Sunday story "The Return of the Sky Band" for the first time in color.
As of May 2015, Hermes Press has reprinted eight volumes of Phantom dailies and three volumes of Phantom Sundays, with more to be published. In 2011 Hermes began reprinting the Gold Key comics of the Phantom, and also reprinted the King years alongside them. The following year, it began reprinting the Charlton Comics comic books.
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