For Your Consideration: The Phantom: The Complete Dailies Volume 1

Purchase The Phantom: The Complete Dailies Volume 1 – 1936-1938

The Phantom: The Complete Dailies Volume 1

The Phantom: The Complete Dailies Volume 1

by Robert Greenberger

By the mid-1930s, comic strips had become one of the highlights of the morning and (yes) afternoon newspapers. Competition was fierce to carry the most popular strips and by then, the adventure strip was a firmly established category thanks to the impact of Tarzan, Dick Tracy, Buck Rogers and others. Among them was Mandrake the Magician by playwright turned scripter Lee Falk. His success led him to conceive of something new and for comic strips, something unheard of. After King Features rejected his self-drawn strip about King Arthur, borrowing from the pulps and going one step further, he created The Phantom in 1936, the first masked and costumed adventure hero.

In many ways, the Phantom bridged the pulps to the super-heroes that followed in a mere two years. And now, Hermes Press jumps on the comic strip bandwagon with The Phantom: The Complete Dailies – Volume One 1936-1938. It’ll be interesting to reread these earliest adventures since in the beginning, the Phantom was little different than The Shadow. Readers were first introduced to the hero who was wealthy playboy Jimmy Wells who apparently used his vast resources to fight crime as the Phantom. Their exact connection was never made and as the strip’s first serial progressed, the action left Manhattan for darkest Africa, at the time still seen as dark and mysterious. Falk toyed with naming his new hero the Gray Ghost after thinking there were too many others using variations on the Phantom name. He couldn’t love anything better so the Phantom stuck (and the Gray Ghost was finally used on Batman: The Animated Series, as a tip of the hat, voiced by Adam West).

Although Falk drew two weeks of samples to sell the strip, he was nowhere near accomplished enough to pull off the feature on a regular basis so he brought on Ray Moore, who had been assisting Mandrake’s Phil Davis. It was on February 17, 1936 that the daily strip appeared in papers from coast to coast and from the outset, his greatest foe, The Singh Brotherhood, was introduced.

However, many other elements we know today came much later and that’s the most fun of checking out these early collections from the classics. No doubt historian (and pal) Ron Goulart’s introduction will cover some of these such as his meeting Diana Palmer, who he romanced for decades before marrying her. During those early years, as seen in the first volume, she fended off proposals from five men, starting with Jimmy Wells and three times during the Prisoner of the Himalayas serial. There’s also the appearance of the Great Skull, a mystic object that appeared from the jungle floor and was seen in the strip just once more, 19 years later. The book’s second story, The Sky Band introduced the all-female gang of pilots and thieves.

As Falk found his way around the feature, we see that he had yet to settle on the Jungle mythology fans know so well today. You’ll watch as his base of operations starts on the island of Luntok somewhere in the Indonesian archipelago but is later seen off the coast of Java and then again we were told the famed Skull Cave was near Frasertown, Morristown, Mowiton and, finally, Mawitaan. He’s not bound to Africa as we’ll see when he hit London in the Little Tommy story.

And of course, there’s the signature skull ring that left a permanent mark on those he hit. Within weeks of its debut, the ring is first used, on March 5, but as you will see, the hero was wearing a gauntlet over his hand at the time so that must have been some punch!

Purchase The Phantom: The Complete Dailies Volume 1 – 1936-1938


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