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Showing posts with label Lee Falk. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Lee Falk. Show all posts

Aug 9, 2009

Muthu Comics #312 – Mandrake | Aug ‘09

First of all, I should thank each and every one you who have visited and recorded your wishes on the Second year anniversary of our blog. Needless to say every message of it goes a long way in strengthening my commitment towards our unique hobby. Once again Thanks a Ton and let the Show roll on.

Muthu Comics #312 – Mandrake
Muthu 312 - Mandrake - Mirror People  
2 Stories | 92 Pgs | INR 10 | B6
B/W | Laminated/Paperback

What we have for our current blog post, is the Second issue of Muthu Comics for the year 2009, which has finally been published this month, closely following the Lion #206, released last month. Editor S Vijayan of Prakash Publishers, continues to amaze with his continuous release of classic titles, which I believe he would have long made ready, just waiting to see the daylight.

As advertised in Muthu #311, it features legendary American comics creator Lee Falk’s creation Mandrake the Magician, in a classic story from the 1940’s, where Mandrake goes toe-to-toe with one his fearsome foes, Ekardnam, from the world of Mirror People.

The cover-art once again is a stunning piece of work, which is following the footsteps laid by the recent Lion Comics edition, by utilising the same layout and colour choices. Good to see that the well adorned format, is being retained, adding all the more oomph for the classic stories being featured offlate.

Read on to have a preview of the original cover which inspired our Muthu edition, which will highlight the artistic talent of our locals.

Muthu 312 ComicsTime Editor in his Comics Time, highlights the fact that this Mandrake Story was in their plans right from 1990. There was a widespread fan reaction, which was pretty mixed about the Mandrake stories, with some liking it and others despising its fantasy filled storylines. So, Editor’s apprehension about the future of the Mandrake in Muthu Comics, is understandable. Nevertheless, the story has finally been published after 19 long years, from the date it was originally advertised.

Mandrake the MagicianMandrake the Magician is another creation by the legendary Lee Falk, who is more famous for his tryst with The Phantom. Know more about Lee Falk in our Phantom series, here. 

Mandrake was portrayed as a hypnotist, who used his powers to fight the criminals and enemies of his country, to mend the Wrongs to Rights. Mandrake is often touted as the first costumed superhero, even before Falk invented Phantom a couple of years later. The only reason why he wasn’t given that due credit, is because he wore a Magicians suite in his adventures, unlike other Superheroes who had a costume of their own.

Lee FalkLee Falk (1911-1999) had a childhood fascination towards Stage Magicians, and it wasn’t a surprise that he chose his first Comic character to be based out on one of them, in the form of Mandrake. It is said that Falk conceived the idea of Mandrake in his early age of 19; But only in 1934, he managed to appear for an audition with New York’s King Feature Syndicates, which eventually was his first trip out of his hometown, St.Louis.

His theatrical passion, and good looks (doesn’t he look like the Classic American movie hero of that time?) was instrumental in getting him an audition with the Editors, even though he went there without a prior-appointment, and he successfully brokered a deal to syndicate his first comic strip by the name of Mandrake the Magician, at the the tender age of 21. But at that age he had 2 more years to complete his college education, so he offloaded the artistic work to Phil Davis, an established artist who also lived in St.Louis.

Thus Mandrake the Magician arrived in 1934, the same year which also saw the debut of classic comic strip heroes, in the form of Flash Gordon and Secret Agent X-9 (aka Phil Corrigan). It took 2 more years before The Phantom joined them on the top list.

Phil DavisPhilip ‘Phil’ Davis (1906-1964), had a fascination towards drawing right since he was 6 year old, and it went a long way in him joining Washington University Art School. Along with his studies, he also worked as part-time artist for a telephone company, where he had his first tryst with commercialising his work. By 1928, he had a full-time artist job, while he also started illustrating covers for some magazines.

He eventually met Lee Falk in 1933, and their friendship was instrumental in Falk handing over the art work of Mandrake in 1934 to him, when he was looking out for a replacement for himself. It should be noted that one of Davis’s assistant was Ray Moore, who later became the official artist for Falk’s another creation, The Phantom.

Together, Davis and Falk then started to build a whole new fantasy world filled with incredible characters for Mandrake.

Mandrake the Magician - Daily Strip (1944)Mandrake the Magician - Colored Sunday Srip (1939)Mandrake the Magician - Comic Book Book (1937)

Lothar aids Mandrake with his Power CapabilitiesMandrake and his Hypnotisim Mandrake was pictured as a Magician who learned his art from the College of Magic. He got a hi-fi home by the name of Xanadu, which was sophisticated with all the hi-tec gadgets and securities you can find in the world, with fortified gates, and video cameras all along.

He got a trusted ally, in the form of powerful Lothar, who was an African Prince who befriended Mandrake and decided to follow him in his crime fighting adventures. Lothar is often touted as the Strongest man in the world, with the only exception being Lothar of the Seven LandsMandrake’s Chef and Secret head of International Crime fighting organization, Hojo, who is a renowned Martial fighter of his own.

It is said that Falk initially envisioned Lothar as the slave (or a little over slave) of Mandrake, but later changed that into friendship, due to the increased awareness being Narda Mandrakegenerated worldwide on Black welfare. Lothar can be safely considered as the first Afro-American to have got featured in a lengthy comic series so consistently.

Mandrake got a girlfriend, and later wife in the form of Narda, who is a Princess of her own for an European nation. Lothar’s girlfriend, Karma was also an African Princess, thus making Mandrake’s extended family a Royal one :).

Leon Mandrake (1939)Resemblance with Real-life Celebrity: It is often touted that Falk initially envisioned Mandrake’s appearance, keeping him as a role model, which Falk himself did admit in few interviews. But, it should be noted that he had lot in resemblance to then then famous Stage Magician, Leon Mandrake, who was often referred in full as Leon Mandrake the Magician.

Mandrake's Show on Oympia Theatre (1949)He also was known for his top hat, scarlet lined cape, and boasted a pencil line moustache, which you can prominently find in the comics form Mandrake too. The real Mandrake was performing over 10 years before Falk envisioned his comic character. So, it is all likely that he would have taken some inspiration from him for his creation.

Though Falk never admitted this resemblance, the comic strip lead to a strong friendship between Phil Davis and Leon Mandrake, when they eventually met during one of Mandrake’s Magic show tours. They remained good friends throughout their entire life, ever since.

Mandrake in King ComicsMandrake in Marvel ComicsDavis and Falk continued to pen and draw the Mandrake stories, which were Mandrake -Lothar Art Panel signed by Falk and Fredericks (from a Fan's collection)syndicated across the globe in newspaper dailies, Sunday colour comic strips, and Comic book formats.

The partnership was broken in 1964, when Davis died of a heart attack.

Falk then recruited Fred Fredericks, to don the artistic role, who continues even today, for the longest tenure spanning more than 45 years. When Lee Falk passed away in 1999, he also took over the writing for the Mandrake script.

Fredericks brought the modernization to Mandrake script, to base him more on the Science Fiction fantasy stories. It was during Fredericks tenure that Narda & Mandrake finally got married in 1997, during one the stories. Frederick also modernized the look of Lothar, into the modern day dress code, which even though retained the Panther texture, this time on a close fit shirt. Lothar was also shown to have got well-versed with the American lifestyle and command over English language.

Mandrake campaigns for Earth Day If you want to follow the daily strip which Fredericks works on, follow this link to King Feature Syndicates, which is updated on a weekly basis with an archive from last month.

Here is a Preview of it, where Mandrake campaigns for Save Earth.

Fellow comic enthusiast, and one of Mandrake’s greatest fan, Sagnik, provided this TimesUnion website, where you could enjoy a month load of Mandrake archives, until today. Enjoy, and thanks to the Mandrake Dude. 

Indrajal Comics - MandrakeRani Comics - MandrakeOverall, while Falk-Davis Mandrake stories were classic art of work, Falk-Fredericks duo made the series contemporary in style, making Mandrake fans to accept both forms of work as the true tribute to Falk’s legendary creations.

In India, Mandrake was published in multiple languages by erstwhile Indrajal Comics. In South India, it was published regularly by erstwhile Tamil Comics magazine Rani Comics in their line-up, and has been occasionally featured in the long running Tamil Comics magazine, Muthu Comics, one of which is the current month release.

Muthu 312 Mandrake Story - Narda sees her NightmareMuthu #312 - Nizhal Ethu? Nijam Ethu?
(நிழல் எது? நிஜம் எது?): Reality of Shadow

Have you ever wondered, what if everything we known all along as the Rights and Wrongs, were all false, and it is the other way around? No one would like to imagine that weird situation. But, Lee Falk dared to dream of a world mixed with different set down, in this Mandrake adventure.

Muthu 312 Narda confronts Adran The story starts with Narda having a strange incidence of seeing her mirror image behaving differently and talking to her in a strangely scripted language. The mirror image of her, named Adran (reverse of Narda) claims that they are the real people, and gets into a confrontation with her. The mirror image strangely seem to have powers to enter our world, and along with Erkandam (reverse of Mandrake), and Rathol (Lothar), they abduct Narda into their Mirror world.

Narda detours the Wierd world of Mirror People What Narda witnesses there is a whole new world, where policemen do day-time robbery, dacoits help people, Army generals serve as Security Guard, and Lift Operators, and the military is run by Privates at the Office. Narda comes to know of a threatening plot in which the Mirror world is staging a plan to capture the real word across the mirror, with the help of a new discovery made by Erkandam.

How does Narda get saved in the end, and manage to save her world makes up the rest of the story, where more than Mandrake, Narda plays a huge roll. There are some interesting pieces where Erkandam and Adran always tries to run down the people they see on the road, and Narda intervening in their hideous stuff to save the passerby's.

We would have hoped to see a real showdown between Mandrake vs Erkandam, who is touted to have the same powers of Mandrake, only differing from the cause they use it for. But, the confrontation is cut short, in this episode prematurely, leading the readers to expect more on the Mirror People saga.

Editor S.Vijayan has tried his hands on a new model of utilising reverse texting, exactly as it appears in a mirror image, which is pretty different method from what was adopted in the original, which simple change the order of text. There was some difficulty in the method, where the names didn’t have a meaningful reverse order, where Editor chose to rename it to suit the language in which it has been translated to. For eg., Narda’s (நார்தா) mirror image is called Daarna (தார்நா) and Mandrake’s (மாண்ட்ரேக்) mirror image called as Greatnaam (க்ரேட்ணாம்). A great work, indeed.

Mandrake's D033 in Magic Comics (Full color) Original of Mirror Mystery: The weird world of Mirror People was originally published first in the 33rd episode of Mandrake strip, which ran from Oct 1944 to Dec 1944 for 10 weeks, under the partnership of Davis and Falk. It was later reprinted in full colour by Magic Comics (which is an imprint of King Features Syndicates, collecting their famous comic strips like Secret Agent X-9, Blondie, along with Mandrake), in a sequence of their titles. A soft copy of which you could obtain from a Mandrake fan’s comics blog, here.

D126-2nd Mirror mystery It took another 2 decades, before the second episode of Mirror People appeared in the 126th episode of Mandrake Dailies, titled ‘The Return of Mirror People’, from Aug 1964 to Jan 1965, spreading over a lengthy 19 weeks. There was no further episodes of Mirror People then in the Davis-Falk partnership.

Our Muthu Comics (#312) edition of this current month, features this second story of Mirror People.

When Fredericks took over the mantle of Mandrake strip, he along with Falk brought back the Mirror People one final time, as the 210th Mandrake Daily strip, titled The Mirror Mystery, which ran for 22 long weeks between Nov 1991 to Apr 1992. Mandrake fans consider this as the best story of Mirror People so far, where Fredericks brought in a lot of change and innovation into the storyline envisioned by the former duo. Sadly, further episodes featuring Mirror People was never published.

Mirror Mystery (D033) on Magic Comics Mirror Mystery (D210) on Diamond Comics (Hindi version)Indrajal Comics, the most loyal publisher of Mandrake stories never managed to print any of Mirror People episodes. By the time the 3rd album was released in 1991, IJC had went out of business. (Thanks to Sagnik for the IJC info)

Diamond Comics of India, who had published most of the 1960-1992 Mandrake Daily strips in full colour, then published the 2nd and 3rd episodes of Mirror People during their run-up.

So, at present, Muthu Comics is the only publisher in India (and probably in the world) to have published a full fledged Mandrake story. Good to see the legend of Lee Falk’s living on.

Muthu 312 - Robot Archie Filler Muthu #312: Extra Features: This edition of Muthu Comics was not only a treat for Mandrake fans, but it also features a short story one of Lion Comics' evergreen superhero, Robot Archie.

It’s one of those short stories where Archie plays his typical saviour role, this time in the cause of Pearl divers, by diffusing the mystery of a strange sea animal, which is causing a havoc among the sailing community. It was originally featured in one of the Annual Specials of erstwhile UK based Lion Comics, from the Fleetway Company.

As per the tradition, the Issue also contains an advertisement about the next two forthcoming Muthu Comics editions, which features:  

  • Yet another American classic comics hero from the stable of King Feature Syndicates, Johnny Hazard (who is christened in Tamil Comics as “Wing Commandar George”) in an issue titled ‘Vinnil Oru Kullanari’ (விண்ணில் ஒரு குள்ளநரி), meaning “A Fox in the Sky”; and
  • Franco-Belgian comic star Ric Hochet (who is christened in Tamil Comics as “Super Reporter Johnny”), in a issue titled ‘Maranathin Nisaptham’ (மரணத்தின் நிசப்தம்), meaning “Silence of Death”

So, it’s going to be two more classic issues from the stable of Muthu Comics, which brings back the fan-favourites Hazard & Hochet from two different genres of comics world. I am eagerly looking forward for them.

Muthu 312 Johnny Hazard Issue Preview Muthu 312 Ric Hochet Issue PreviewMuthu 312 XIII Collector Edition Preview

The other advertisement is about the XIII Collector Special, which has become a prominent one to be featured in recent times. If you would have noticed these XIII advertisements in the past and present, you would see that Editor hasn’t used any of the images from the previous 10 albums of XIII, which were printed by them. Doesn’t it make for an interesting wait?

Martin More than the other advertisements, I am more interested about the announcement of a Martin Mystery 2 part story which has been hinted in the Comics Time of Editor. When Muthu Comics #310 carrying Martin Mystery story was published, we had discussed the situation where Editor Vijayan had utilised all of the Martin stories which were released in English so far. So, we had even wondered whether he would now touch the Italian version of the same.

Even, during the Comics Time of Muthu Comics #311, Editor had hinted of the improbability of Martin appearing again in his future plans. But finally, he has decided to continue the much famous Italian comic hero, which is only good for all fans of Martin Mystery, including myself :)

King Comics - Mandrake Issue Cover Muthu 312 - Next Comics Classics Preview (Steel Claw)The back cover of the Muthu Comics issue talks about the next Comics Classics edition, which once again features a golden oldie of Steel Claw, in his Superhero avatar. If you want to experience a dose of it, have a read on our last Comics Classics edition which featured him in his superhero form.

And as promised at the start of the post, here is the original cover upon which our present edition Muthu Comics cover was made-out. It was one of the covers from the 10 issue Mandrake series published by King Comics in United States.

Look at how the colour choices have been improved, even to the last minute detail of removing the sweat on the face of Mandrake from the original, which couldn’t go well with the Rose power makeup style of our Comics artists :). Also note the transformation of Lothar from a worried sober looking man, to a Bollywood sidekick, which comes with an added bonus of eye-brow makeover Winking. Creativity on show. :) 

For buying this comic, contact Lion/Muthu Comics Office @ +91 (04562) 272649. or mail them on

Mandrake in other Media: It will be good that we end this Mandrake post, by looking at the other Media appearances of Mandrake.

Mandrake Movie Serial (1939)Movie Serial: Flash Gordon and Secret Agent X-9 Comics strips, who debuted along with Mandrake in 1934, rose to immediate fame, and they had the Movie Serials made on them in 1936 and 1937 respectively. So Mandrake didn’t lag much, as he joined that elite  list, when Columbia Pictures made a 12 Mandrake TV Episode (1954)chapter movie serial in 1939, which was aired in consecutive weeks, made famous in first half of 20th century.

TV Series: In 1954, NBC made a TV series Mandrake, without further episodes. It was followed then by another TV movie in 1979.

Defenders of the Earth (1986-87) Animated Series Mandrake then had a major role in the newly formed Defenders of the Earth team, which was portrayed in animated series, which saw King Features prominent comic strip heroes, forming a group to defend earth from the mischief makers. The series was aired from 1986-87, and is still very popular on DVDs, among comics fans.

Original MandrakeSoft Logo MandrakeSoft: In 1998, when I had started my career in the Information Technology, there was a huge euphoria around Linux based Operating Systems. Many a companies were formed, among which one company attracted my attention, due to its name.

It was a French company called MandrakeSoft, who had named their Linux version as Mandrake Linux. I used to wonder, whether they had sought necessary permission to use the comic character name, because their logo was clearly resembling the comic version. But I never bothered to check further details.

While working on this post, I came to know that in 2003, there was a legal suit launched by King Feature Syndicates on MandrakeSoft, alleging copyright infringement, which the later ultimately lost. The company then changed their name as as Mandriva, after the court ruling. Seems publishers aren’t budging even a bit on aspects, which may demean their command over the world famous comic brand names.

Feature Film: In 2007, it was announced that Omega Entertainment, had acquired the rights to make a new move on Mandrake the Magician, and it was touted to be a 2009 release. Jonathan Meyers was drafted in as the lead actor, while Chuck Russell has been given the directorial duties. The movie is currently on hold, and the reasons for them are unknown, but it might be linked to Meyers history of addiction to alcohol and his legal run-downs. Hopefully, the movie would come out as planned, and honour the legendary creation of Lee Falk, which has long been pending for a reasonable movie credits. Does anyone remember that pathetic Phantom movie?


Old Mandrake and Lothar (Donalid Soffriti)And that brings us to the close of our lengthy Mandrake post. And before we close, I hope there are many of us who would have thought what would happen to our dear old comic characters, when they reach the old age (even though it would never happen as far as the fantasy world is considered)?

Well, here is a humorous take on our very own Mandrake & Lothar, by the cartoonist Donald Soffiritti. He has quite a few of those funnies on other comic characters on his weblog. Have a look, and laugh your guts out Tongue out. Adios Amigos !

References: Mandrake’s Wikipedia Article | Lee Falk’s Wikipedia Article | Phil Davis Lambiek Profile | Leon Mandrake’s Angelfire Article | Deepwood’s Mandrake Daily Strip List

Apr 17, 2009

Lee Falk’s Phantom-1: Origins of Ghost Who Walks

Superheroes Lineup One of my foremost thought while starting Comicology, was to base it as a definite place to cover all the comic characters who have appeared in every genres all through the evolution of Comics. It was a highly ambitious thought, but it was a dream too.

So, if you have been following the posts, I tried to base them on different genres and variety of publishers, to fulfil that dream. And I was thinking that I was doing a fair job so far on that account. But, the reality was about to strike.

Phantom Ring Recently, one of the new visitors to Comicology, asked me a Simple Question - ‘Why no articles about Phantom?’. It struck me, and made me ask myself, “why didn’t I think of mentioning about this legendary character so far at Comicology?”. The question made me travel back in time to my first Computer Class, back in school days.

We were all eager to experience our first encounter with a real Computer, but our Teacher had other ideas. “How many of you know Typewriting?”, He asked. After seeing the mum faces, he added “How do you expect to learn something which was invented a decade back, when you haven’t learnt the one invented centuries ago?”. There is no much difference between the question then and now.


In both cases, the fact which comes to fore is that we can’t talk or try to learn about something without exploring its roots. Just like when we talk about costumed superheroes and their impact on Comics on a whole, we can’t skip past the first-ever in their lineage, long before The Shadow, Superman, and the likes, the legendary Phantom.

The No-Show of Phantom on Comicology, could be attributed to many reasons, top of which is that there are no publications which are actively publishing Phantom in India, at present. But, does that really make you forget the legacy of Phantom. Oh No!. I for one, who was mesmerised by this comic character, right from my childhood, can’t think so at the least. So, let me try to make some amends with a series of exclusive posts on the Phantom, as a Tribute to the legendary creator, Lee Falk. I agree it’s ambitious project in its own rights, but let me make an attempt to do it with all its merits.

Lee FalkLee Falk & Pre-Television Era: Lee Falk was the pen name of Leon Harrison Gross, who was born on 28 Apr 1911, in St. Louis, Missouri, USA. His Birth year is still a debated concept, with some claiming it as 1905. But, historians through the years have accepted 1911 as the official birth year, by looking into past records, and the one also confirmed by Lee’s eldest daughter Valerie Falk Falbo. Lee was his nickname right from his childhood, but the reason as to why he chose Falk has his surname, is also not known much, even though his brother also, took the surname later.

Right from his school days Falk is known to have a likening towards writing, as he used contribute stories, articles and poems for his school and college newspapers. His extreme command over English, even let him dream to become an English Professor, something which he never pursued later. After completing the education, he started his career as a copywriter for a local advertising agency in early 1930’s.

The 1920s and 1930s, which is often referred as the pre-television era, saw an enormous amount of newspapers released worldwide. In New York city alone, there were two dozen thriving newspapers – The New York Times, Herald-Tribune, Post, Typical Comics Section (1961)News, Sun, The American, The Journal, and so on. So, it meant that these newspapers were increasingly looking to fill their content, and comic strips had become a norm for the same.

It was such a craze that they even dedicated 36 pages to it on Sundays, which was famously termed as Comics Section. This enormous need meant that these were also lucrative times for syndication companies, who were involved with providing comic strips, cartoons, and special features. These syndicates paved way for many great comic creators to come on the horizon in 1930s, which included legends like - Alex Raymond (Flash Gordon), Al Capp (Li’l Abner), Chester Gold (Dick Tracy), and Chick Young (Blondie).

MandrakeMagician So, it was only matter of time for Lee Falk, also to jump on the horizon, considering that he had the writing talent right from his school days. Along with Phil Davis, whom he met in his Advertising agency job, he went on to create his first comic strip, in form of ‘Mandrake the Magician’ in 1934, in an early age of 24. (We will look into Falk’s first comics character Mandrake, soon on an exclusive post at Comicology)

In the same year, Falk successfully negotiated a deal with King Features Syndicate, and the comic strip featuring an unlikely hero in the form of a magician, went on to become a huge hit, prompting the syndicate to ask Falk into creating another comic series for their line-up. In reply, Falk first proposed a concept featuring King Arthur and his famous knights, but King Features was reluctant to feature a medieval age series that time.

Phantom Closeup So, Falk then decided to alter his concept and changed it into mysterious, costumed crime-fighter, whom Falk decided to name as The Phantom, despite the fact that this name was already being used in pulp fiction stories, like Phantom Detective. The reason Falk termed for the same, was that he couldn’t find any other better name for the character he envisioned.

Phantom & His Early Secret Identity: The Original Idea of Falk, was to portray the character of The Phantom, as an secret identity to a Rich playboy by the name of Jimmy Wells. This is how the character eventually made its debut in “The Singh Brotherhood”, the first-ever Phantom Daily Strip on Feb 17, 1936.

First Phantom Daily Strip open withs DianaPhantom is Introduced to Readers in a few days

Phantom Saves Diana

Jimmy Wells  is introducedThe initial episodes, which were written and drawn by Falk himself, introduces Jimmy Wells and Diana Palmer as childhood friends.

He leaves enough clues for the readers to diffuse the link between the mysterious Phantom and neat-cloth Wells. But Falk took utmost care as to not reveal this openly in any of the strips.

Falk continued to draw Phantom for a couple of weeks from his debut, but then recruited artist Raymond Moore, who was then an assistant to Phil Davis in Mandrake strips, to don the Phantom artist role. But you could still see the style of Falk, as he continued to do the layout for the strip for several weeks, before handing over the complete artistic duties to Moore, deciding to concentrate his fledgling writing career, which had touched further medium like Theatres, and Novels.

Mid-way through the first Phantom comic strip adventure, The Singh Brotherhood, Falk decided that he would like to position Phantom away from a city background. Little did he know that at the time of this thinking, his original concept of running the daily strips for a couple of years, was about to be turned into a legendary character in the comics business.

The fact that he didn’t reveal Jim Wells, as the man behind Phantom’s mask, helped him to concentrate on rewriting the origin, which saw Phantom being moved the African jungles. The character of Jimmy Wells was about to be forgotten for ever.

Phantom's Origin being rewrittenPhantom’s Origin Reboots: Falk introduced a scene in the Sing Brotherhood mid-way, to support the Origin reboot, where the evil maniac Prince Achmed, who during a previous meeting with Phantom showed no fear, now is shown fearing the moment Phantom mouths the words “Oath of the Skull” and “Ghost who Walks”.

Phantom's 1st Letter Phantom's 2nd Letter Next, he went down justifying the presence of Phantom in the city, by calling it as a temporary stay, through the scenes, where the Chief of Police showcases the letters he claims to have been sent by Phantom, with a couple of years gap in between.

Now that he had rebooted the origin, he then explained in the following day’s strips, where Dr. James Dodd, explains his childhood stories having encountered Phantom 70 years back, only to be later ascertained him to have a legacy as old as 400 years. The seeds for a fascinating story was laid in fruition with these scenes of the first Phantom adventure.

Phantom and Devil Skull Cave By the time the Singh Brotherhood came to close, readers were left to witness the appearance of

> Devil - the Mountain wolf, which often accompanies Phantom in many of his missions as a trusted ally,

> The mysterious Skull Cave inside the deep jungle, the Home of Phantom, and

Guran and Pygmies> the unknown tribe of Bandar Pygmies, armed with Poisonous arrows, and among them, Phantom’s closest confidant Guran.

As the Singh Pirates story reaches its Climax, the readers get a glimpse of Phantom’s legacy, as 21st Phantom is shown explaining his origin, for the first time, to Diana Palmer, his lady-love.

First ever Phantom Sunday StripPhantom & his Legacy: The legacy dates back to 1525, in London. It was just 27 years since Vasco Da Gama had discovered the Water route to the India, and there were still many uncharted sea territories, tempting explorers and adventures.

A young noble, Sir Christopher Standish (which was later changed to Christopher Walker, the name which has remained ever-after, and said to have been born in 1516), charters on a ship down the Old Thames, in search of far more lands.  He is accompanied by his old father, Christopher Sr.. In later stories, the origin was rewritten, which said that the Christopher Jr. was the ship-boy (to make him look younger), and Christopher Standish/Walker. was the Captain of the ship.

After many months of hard-ship and adventures their ships gets attacked by Oriental Chinese pirates (which was later changed to Singh Brotherhood) somewhere in the Bay of Bengal. Christopher sees his old father slain before his eyes, but their misery is put to rest, as a typhoon strikes and destroys both the ships. Christopher the sole survivor of the ships, then manages to sail with a make-shift raft travelling weeks and weeks to reach a remote shore. Which is what later known to readers, as Bengala.

He is then saved by the Bandars, a secret tribe of Pygmies, who had never seen a white man before. Christopher later discovers the body of a pirate being washed ashore, wearing his fathers attire. He then takes an Oath on the Skull of the pirate that he and his descendants will fight the Singh in particular, and Crime in general. Pygmies had an Prophecy, which stated that a White from the seas will free them of slavery, and believed that it was Christopher himself. The one which Christopher did accomplish, in the process teaching Pygmies the art of Poisonous Arrows, and the entire tribe and the men from the jungle, began referring him as ‘The Phantom’.

21st Phantom Takes OverPhantom replaces Phantom The present Phantom is the 21st of that lineage, which was being passed on from generation to generation, to the eldest male of the family. Most of these change-over’s always happens when the current Phantom is mortally wounded, and he is shown breathing his last inside the Skull Cave, with the next Phantom at his side.

As this change-over happens in secrecy, the world outside sees and fears Phantom, as the single person who has wandered the world for all 400+ years, thus bringing him the famous nick-name “The Ghost Who Walks”. This centuries of fantasized living, earns Phantom a lot of Old saying or prophecies, one of which terms that anyone who sees the face of Phantom without mask, will suffer a terrible death. Something, which helps the Phantom to maintain his secrecy in in numerous battles.

One of the first Comic Books of Phantom featuring Complete Singh Brotherhood Daily Strips (1938)Phantom further reveals that they are bound by oath to not share the secrets of the Phantom, in order to make the people believe and uphold Phantom’s myth. The rule is exempted only to two people who will ever be close to Phantom: is supposed to be wife, and the son who is to carry the tradition. By this he indirectly proposes to Diana for a marriage, which Diana quickly accepts. No wonder that Phantom reveals that none of the Phantom were ever rejected. Doesn’t it sound great, only if this was true with all of us in reality :).

The Singh Brotherhood, the first-ever Phantom comic strip, ran until November 07, 1936, a total of 38 weeks, thus easily making it one of the longest comic strip adventures of Phantom, ever. By the end of the first adventure Falk had taken the legacy of Phantom to a great level among comic fans.

Lee Falk and His trusty Typewriter in 1940s The Making of Phantom: So, what caused Falk to change his original concept of New York playboy playing double life in secret as the Phantom? Falk remained evasive about the real reasons for the story changes, but it must surely have been inner instincts and his love of mythology, the epic (like Shakesphere’s), poetry and real life adventure’s.

He also confesses that he bought in some of the ideas of the Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Tarzan, which talks about a white-man of English origin living among the African natives, and learning their customs and mastery, by being one among them. But Falk had denied that he used the later Tarzan comic strips, to base his character, as he termed them as not the best adaptation to the legendary Tarzan novels. A fact I acknowledge to till date, after having witnessed many comics series, not being impressed of it so far.

Scandinavian Artist depiction of Lee Falk being inspired by Shakesphere and other Artists The Phantom had to has its roots placed somewhere else, which is more exotic and mysterious then the straight look cosmopolitan New York.  It took Falk more than 3 months into his daily strip to base his real origin change of Phantom. The result was what we described in Phantom’s Origins Reboots, earlier.

But that was not all, Falk was still not convinced with the origin stories, even after a couple of years into the Phantom Daily strip, as he went about changing them one by one slowly. As per his early stories, The first Phantom was English, as was the 21st Phantom, obviously. He also says that he was educated in Oxford, further claiming his English origins. There were references to Bay of Bengal in many places, meaning that the remote land he referred to was most likely India.

Phantom in Jungle He changed his English Origin to American, possibly to make him look close the American readers, which could have been a demand from King Syndicates. The Home base of the Phantom was also changed to Africa. Which is understood, as he earlier referred the place as Bengal (which was later changed further as Bengali), and was politically Incorrect. The reason, Bengal was actually state in India, and certainly does not have any African tribes living in there :).

Phantom with Sharks and Dolphins But then again Africa, was also not having all the animal species Falk had described on his Phantom comic strips, which was quickly pointed out by many fans. Falk decided to introduce a story in his daily strip, where he shown a ship carrying wide assortment of animals bound for an overseas zoo, being wrecked on the Bengali coast. Falk’s mastery in writing on show, in there, heavily adopting from the Noah’s Ark legend.

Phantom Pistols (1911) Even though, Falk envisioned 21st Phantom, and his predecessors as armed with guns and weapons, he never wanted to show them as a means to shoot for a kill, even the enemies.  Phantom generally uses his weapons, to disarm his enemies, or shock them during duals. Thus, a legend was born, unlike any of the costumed superheroes who were created during his time or later.

The legend also meant that unlike other caped crusaders of his time, Phantom was not linked to one generation, thus giving the writers the freedom to base their stories with either the current 21st Phantom in the modern era, or choose to feature stories on the earlier Phantoms, who are often shown walking or being part of the historical events in the past.

The earliest success to the series also owes much to the art of Ray Moore, who had a classic touch of drawing the Phantom strips, which to date remains the best example for defining the Phantom to all the later artists, till date. Phantom comic strip, grew from strength to strength, even managing to appear in few collected comic book formats, albeit a few. But, the series success eventually managed to land it on the first colored strip on Sunday newspapers starting from May 1939.

Batman Detective27But there was also another comic character which made its debut the same month and year, in the form of Detective Comic’s Batman.

What relations did Batman have with Phantom? What was the impact of Phantom Sunday Strips over the legacy of Phantom? Did Ray Moore continue to handle the artistic work for Phantom all the years single-handed?

Answers to them will be continued in our next review post of Phantom soon on Comicology:  Lee Falk’s Phantom–2: The Colored Years, and the Competition.


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