Much like Flash Gordon, a hero I covered last week, there isn’t much going on with The Phantom nowadays. And there doesn’t appear to be any effort towards changing that. The Phantom, or The Ghost Who Walks, does have an important legacy. He was one of the original superheroes.
The Phantom was the first hero to feature a costume and face covering. He originally starred in a comic strip of the same name that ran from 1936 to current day, which was written by the original creator, Lee Faulk, for most of that time, from 1936 to 1999 when he passed away. He was thinking up ideas for the strip on his deathbed, and he would take off the ventilator to give ideas to his wife Elisabeth. That’s what I call dedication.
But who is The Phantom? In 1536, pirates attacked a ship killing everyone on board except for one. He ended up surviving and washing up on the shores of the mythical African country Bangalla. He vows to fight piracy and evil. The legacy is born, where each of the Phantom’s son’s take up the mask. The strip, and the film adaptations, focus on the 21st iteration of the Phantom: Kit Walker. They have no superhuman abilities and use their strength and intellect to fight enemies.
The strip follows the same format as most of the strips at the time. They contain hokey stories where The Phantom, with his wolf and horse companions, fight bad guys. They’re not fantastical like Flash Gordon but the quality is similar. There have been several comics adaptations, like the Scandinavian Fantomen, which has been reprinted internationally. DC and Marvel have both done their own adaptations, with Marvel having one miniseries written by Stan Lee, and one drawn by Spider-man co-creator Steve Ditko. Since then it’s gotten a few adaptations from smaller publishers but nothing else.
There have been two film adaptations, one an obscure 1943 film that’s as low budget and cheap as you might expect (similar to the Batman film that came out that year.) The 1996 adaptation looked like a movie from the nineties, but felt like a TV show from the seventies. Whether that’s annoying or intriguing is up to you. I found it to be entertaining despite it’s tackiness but that’s just me.
There were also several TV adaptations. There’s the 2009 SYFY series that is just as bad as you might think. The Phantom 2040 introduced the 24th Phantom, and was a poorly animated French series from the nineties set in the future. There are interesting backgrounds but I’d save myself the seizure and give it a pass. That was adapted into a 2-D side-scrolling action platformer video game with a playstyle similar to other platformers at the time.
And that’s all for The Phantom as of late. All that’s left is a comic strip and the memories, which are fading. Unlike Flash Gordon, who I covered last week, I think this is unfortunate. It’d be interesting to see this character brought back, albeit upgraded. (The suit would be my first suggestion, it hasn’t been upgraded since 1936.) There’s only one mainstream superhero that hails from Africa, and having that change would be interesting. And if any Hollywood producers out there need someone to write the script, call me.
Who is The Phantom
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