The Masked Crusader from the African Jungles:the Phantom
A Rival of Batman
Batman is a well-known character. Another superhero who has caught the imagination of the American public is Superman. There are many more characters but one character has been created that rivals the best of the superheroes. He is called the Phantom and sometimes people refer to him as the 'ghost who walks'. The Phantom is one of the original superheroes and a product of American culture that has captivated people all over the globe. The Phantom is not a ghost but a real human being who passes his mantle to his son right from the first Phantom which is supposed to have been created in 1536. For many people, the Phantom is bigger than Superman, Spiderman and Batman combined. He is the “ghost who walks’ and is the greatest crime-fighter of them all.
The Phantom is Different
The phantom is different from the other heroes as he has no superpowers, relying more on his abilities and brain. He also resides in the African jungle where he looks after the tribes who see in him the image of an immortal.
The Phantom is not immortal, but human. His lineage is continued through generations through his sons and thus he creates the aura of immortality. For the people in the jungle, he is the 'Ghost who walks". Crooks and hoodlums fear him and some are convinced he is supernatural. The Phantom resides in a vast skull cave covered by a waterfall and he has a horse and a dog as pets, who accompany him everywhere. He also, like Batman and Superman has a dual personality as Kit Walker.
Creator of the Phantom, Lee Falk
Lee Falk created the character of the Phantom in 1936. Falk was born in 1911 and expired in 1999 in New York. He left behind one of the great characters in the world of fiction. Falk created the Phantom and another character Mandrake the magician, though the Phantom is more popular. At its prime, the Phantom had over 100 million readers of his comic strip every day. That will take some beating.
Lee Falk died of congestive heart failure on the morning of 13 March 1999. He was nearing 88. He spent the last years of his life in Upper Manhattan, New York, and had a summer house on Cape Cod, called Xanadu after the poem "Kubla Kahn" by Coleridge (one of his favorite poets). He was a good tennis player and attended plays, opera, and ballet. One of his hobbies was astronomy. He is survived by his third wife, Elizabeth (nee Moxley), his three children, Valerie, Diane and Conley, and several grandchildren. His 3 children have names from characters in Phantom stories!
Lee was a prolific creator and continued writing scripts for both his characters right to his last days. He was the last, active comic strip creator whose work survived from the 1930s into the 1990s. Lee's accomplishments equal those of the classic characters he created. He will be fondly remembered for the wonderful legacy of adventure stories he has left behind.
The Legend of the Phantom
The present Phantom is the XXI in the line of hereditary phantoms. The story of the Phantom is fascinating. The story traces to 1536 when a ship is attacked by pirates and the lone survivor is a boy. He vows to take revenge on all crime fighters by taking an oath on the skull of his father. The legend of the Phantom is thus born. He selects a tight-fitting dress with a mask. Later this dress was copied by other creators.
The boy Christopher Walker starts the Phantom legend which passes from father to son and in the modern age the 21st phantom is alive. The Phantom resides in an imaginary country called Bengali in a cave concealed by a waterfall with a skull. The skull is the trademark of the Phantom and adds to his aura of the ghost. Locals refer to him as the “ghost who walks’. He has a second identity as Mr. Walker and travels frequently to the USA. There he meets his lady love Diana Palmer who takes the momentous decision to reside with the Phantom in the Jungles of Bengali.
The Rings of the Phantom
The Phantom wears 2 rings that epitomize the good and bad. They carry the mark of the skull and 4 sabers. One represents evil and the latter good. The Phantom also has a dog named Devil and a horse. He has an isle of Eden where all the animals live in peace and harmony. The Phantom is also head of the Jungle patrol, but the patrol has never seen their commander. It’s all very romantic and adventures. Unlike the other superheroes with superpowers, the Phantom is human and that I find it more endearing. Other than his pistols and fists, he has no other weaponry.
At a time when America is beset by mindless violence, maybe a more human character like the Phantom is required to dispense justice. Many people love the Phantom. The Phantom is a popular character all over the world. Many newspapers even in third world countries run the comic strip of the Phantom daily.
Hollywood has however not been as enamored of the Phantom as they are with other superheroes. Very few films have been made on the Phantom. The last Phantom film was made in 1996. The movie casts Billy Zane as The Phantom, Kristy Swanson is Diana Palmer, and Catherine Zeta-Jones as Sala, the leader of an all-female gang of air pirates.
I wonder whether this lacuna will be filled with some more movies about Phantom. To many people he is, a more fascinating character than the other superheroes.