Phantom, The

Tagged: Film | TV | Comics | Character

African jungle-dwelling Comics Superhero partially inspired by Tarzan and created by Lee Falk (1911-1999) – also the creator of Mandrake the Magician – as the star of a daily newspaper strip whose first appearance was on 17 February 1936 and which continues to be widely syndicated today. At the outset the strip was briefly drawn by Falk and then by Ray Moore (1905-1984), succeeded by many further illustrators. Like Batman, whose debut followed in May 1939, The Phantom possesses no actual Superpowers – merely great strength and intelligence – but has a terrifying reputation. Known as "The Ghost Who Walks", he is believed by fearful criminals to be Immortal; in fact he is the twenty-first in a dynasty of crime-fighters which has passed the role from father to son since the initial Phantom, who adopted the name in 1536. The character was the first "superhero" to wear the now-traditional skintight costume: purple, covering him from head to foot, with only his eye-masked face visible. Again like Batman, he frequently deals with Villains employing science-fictional Inventions and Technology.

The Phantom's comic-book publishers have included Ace Comics, Harvey Comics, Gold Key Comics, King Comics, Charlton Comics and DC Comics. Many novel Ties have appeared from 1944 onward, the first being The Son of the Phantom (1944) by Dale Robertson (1923-2013), based on the comics storyline "The Childhood of the Phantom" and illustrated by the newspaper strip's later artist Wilson McCoy. Ron Goulart (whom see) wrote several 1970s Phantom ties as by Frank S Shawn, the first being The Story of the Phantom: The Veiled Lady (1973). Cinema incarnations began with the fifteen-part cliffhanger Serial Film The Phantom (1943), directed by B Reeves Eason for Columbia Pictures; a Television series pilot made in 1961 went unaired but was eventually shown at Conventions; the live-action film The Phantom (1996) was directed by Simon Wincer for Paramount Pictures and novelized as The Phantom (1996) by Rob MacGregor and Jeffrey Boam. The Phantom is granted the uncanonical superpower of temporary super-strength as a member of the titular superhero team in the animated Television series Defenders of the Earth (1986-1987), his first small-screen incarnation to be broadcast. Others have followed. The animated series Phantom 2040 (1994-1996) is of particular sf interest, depicting the adventures of the twenty-fourth Phantom (whose gadgets include a talking AI wristband) in the Dystopian future of 2040 America. [DRL]

see also: David Bishop.

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