2016, oh how we lament thee… ’tis been a rollercoaster of a year it has to be said, the world outside of the Precinct’s impenetrably darkened walls has seen many moments of both grief and utterly incredulous disbelief (as an example of this, being a Brit, I am still astonished that the larger populace of my home actually voted for Brexit!?) Some well loved and talented individuals passed away, and the political climate across the globe has shifted in a rather uncomfortable direction. Now more than ever we really need our alternate realities to hide in, be that comic books, movies or video-games and for this at least, 2016 was a great year.
2016, for me, was the year that I had been waiting for since I was six years old… as my beloved DC Superheroes finally burst forth from their comic book shackles, and onto the silver screen. Sure we’ve had plenty of movies throughout the decades that have brought us DC’s big two… Batman and Superman, and quite a few of them have been amazing, but the scale that DC have thrown their much loved characters onto the big screen this year has been literally stratospheric.
These Were Our Favourite Moments From 2016:
Bats and Supes Had A Disagreement…
The Year began with a disagreement between The Dark Knight and The Man Of Steel. In March the world’s two biggest Superheroes clashed head on in Warner Bros and Zack Snyder’s epic ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’ and it was awe inspiring. Forget what the critics said, the film is a deep and psychological look at how the world would react to Super-humans amongst them, but for all it’s depth, it was also an outstandingly awesome action movie with stand-out turns from Ben Affleck as Batman, and the unforgettable big screen debut of the Themysciran Titan – Wonder Woman, a role actress Gal Gadot seemed born to play.
Suicide Squad Broke Their Bonds…
In August Task Force X escaped from their well deserved incarceration in Belle Reve penitentiary to inflict all kinds of mayhem and mirth at the cinemas in David Ayer’s spectacularly fun take on DC’s ‘Suicide Squad’. John Ostrander’s classic comic book series about a group of Supervillains and disgraced Superheroes who are recruited by the Government for fully deniable black ops tasks in return for clemency was masterfully translated to the big screen by Ayer. With an eclectic cast of characters, an overtly powerful and enigmatic antagonist, and great performances from Jared Leto, Margot Robbie and Will Smith, this is an exemplary exercise in bringing a comic book series to vivid life (and Batman’s in it… and you can never have too much Batman!)
The Phantom Turned 80…
2016 marked the astonishing 80th anniversary of Lee Falk’s genre defining Superhero ‘The Phantom’, it was The Ghost Who Walks who first donned a mask and colourful costume to fight an eternal and ceaseless battle against corruption and injustice with only his quick wits, martial skills and faithful companions; Devil his pet wolf and Ghost his trusty white steed. The Phenomenal Phantom was the progenitor of what later became a deluge of Superheroes and preceded peers Batman and Superman by a full two years.
Wondy Celebrated Her Anniversary…
It’s been an awesome 75 years since Diana of Themyscira first burst onto the scene, wielding her golden lasso of truth and inspiring female empowerment and emancipation, Wonder Woman has proven to be the most important fictional female ever wrought. 2016 not only marked her 75th anniversary but also her big screen debut in Batman v Superman, and she was a huge highlight of that exceptional movie, and with her own solo movie set to appear at cinemas in mid 2017, there appears to be nothing stopping our immortal idol from ruling the roost for another seventy five…
The DC Universe Was Reborn…
May 2016 marked a humongous relaunch of DC Comics’ entire line of monthly comic books aptly named ‘Rebirth’. It was primarily intended to return the DC Universe to a time prior to ‘Flashpoint’, a time paradox storyline that altered DC’s timeline and led into the 2011 ‘New 52’ reboot. The reboot itself was divisive amongst fans and some creators alike, and though initial sales were strong, the titles began to lapse in sales as fans yearned for their favourite heroes previous incarnations pre-52.
Rather than a reboot though, Rebirth was more of a soft relaunch retaining much of the history and happenings of the New 52 continuity, but returning characters back to their more popular personas prior to the paradox. And it’s been a hit! Rebirth has proven so popular that DC Comics for the first time in many a year has been soundly thrashing it’s closest rival Marvel in sales month in and out. Detective Comics, Wonder Woman, and Red Hood and the Outlaws have been stand out the best of these for this particular DC fanboy, but all titles have been fantastically written and engrossing, with both superstar veteran creators and upcoming stars scrabbling to join the DC Rebirth fold.
Happy New Year To All Our Followers, Special Agents, Readers And Everyone Else, 2017 Is Set To Be Even Bigger For DC With The Highly Anticipated Wonder Woman And Justice League Movies, Not To Mention Yet More Marvellous Comics From The Rebirth Line, Kicking Off With Batwoman Rebirth In March, Until Then… Make Mine DC!
Welcome my comic collecting cohorts to a very special episode of – Comic Cover Of The Week, where we endeavour to pursue ‘The Man Who Cannot Die’ in our continuing celebration of the 80th anniversary of The Phantom.
The Phantom #1 was the first of a 4 issue mini-series produced by DC Comics between 1988 and 1989, which later went on to become a rather short lived (13 issues) ongoing series in 1989 through 1990. Written by: Peter David. Art by: Dennis Janke and Joe Orlando.
This post actually combines two things I adore from the wonderful world of comics – The Phantom and DC Comics. I actually chose this particular cover not because it was released by my personal favourite comic book company, but for the reason that I distinctly remember picking it up from a local newsagents in the late 1980’s.
Back then in the UK, speciality comic-book shops were very much a rarity and most collectors of comics would avidly peruse the shelves of their local newsagent. Without the benefit of that magical digital conveyance we now know as the internet (yes indeed, there was such a time!) you really had to have your wits about you if you didn’t want to miss the next issue of your favourite heroic tome, for there was no Amazon (except for the Themysciran kind, of course) or E-Bay for you to fill that precious, elusive gap in your collection.
As mentioned in our initial 80th Anniversary Post, I didn’t really start following the ongoing adventures of the The Ghost Who Walks until I saw (and loved) the 1996 movie adaptation, but my first real interaction with The Phantom was when I discovered the above comic in my local ‘newsie’ (as we called them.) I do also remember watching the ‘Defenders of the Earth’ cartoon on Saturday morning television, but that wasn’t aired in the UK until the early 90’s, so it was DC who first introduced me to Lee Falk’s classic character.
Now, there’s a problem for Phantom Phans in the UK, even now with all the superb speciality comic shops (we have at least 3 very near to where I live) it is really difficult to purchase almost anything related to The Phantom, including comics. If you were to head into 60% of the comic book emporiums in the UK and ask for a Phantom comic, many of the staff would look at you like you were speaking in alien tongues, or even (and this has happened at least twice for me) produce an issue of The Phantom Stranger!
Luckily the internet now fulfils my every need when it comes to the continuing adventures of Kit Walker, but it is rather sad to me that a character as important to the world of Superheroes (in fact, THE most important!) isn’t anyway near as popular as he should be. And so my fellow Phans, I am so happy that we are able to do our small bit to get the word out to the masses at large and hopefully introduce more and more people to the ‘Guardian of the Eastern Dark’ The Phantom is the original Superhero and deserves all the praise and reverence that can be heaped upon him. I must go now, as I can hear the faint sound of tribal drums guiding me back to my own personal Skull Cave so I can indulge once more in the phantastic 1996 movie… Long Live The Phantom!
‘When wealthy criminal genius Xander Drax endeavours to obtain the legendary Skulls of Touganda to exploit their mystical powers for personal gain and domination, mythical Bengallan Superhero – The Phantom travels to New York in an attempt to thwart his megalomaniacal plans.’
Cast: Billy Zane, Kristy Swanson, Treat Williams, Catherine Zeta-Jones, James Remar, Patrick Mcgoohan, Cary Hiroyuki-Tagawa. Director: Simon Wincer. Writer: Jeffrey Boam.
In 1996 Lee Falk’s ground-breaking, archetypal 1930’s Superhero – The Phantom made his movie debut, the ‘Ghost Who Walks’ had not been seen on the big screen since the 1943 Tom Tyler led serial series by Columbia Pictures, though there have been numerous animated incarnations over the years and a 2009 series that never made it past the second episode.
The Phantom was created by Lee Falk in 1936 for King Feature Syndicate, Falk cited some of the biggest influences for the character were King Arthur, Robin Hood and Tarzan. The Phantom is the original costume clad Superhero, pre-dating DC’s Superman by two years. To the uninitiated the Phantom is immortal and is believed to have been fighting crime for over four centuries, in reality the current Phantom is the 21st in line, with the son of each Phantom taking over the role when their father is either killed or too old to continue their heroic lifestyle, thus propelling the image of an immortal crime-fighter… a Ghost Who Walks.
The ’96 film adaptation of the classic 30’s Superhero starred Billy Zane, a devoted fan of the original character, whom he first discovered whilst filming the movie Dead Calm in Australia. The Phantom is extremely popular in Australia and New Zealand, eclipsing characters like Batman, with a huge variety of comics and related merchandise exclusively available in these countries alone.
The filming took place over three separate locations, Brisbane in Australia, Greystone park in California and Krabi in Thailand, and it shows, the scenery from Thailand is especially stunning with some fantastic shots of jungles and mountains, the director of cinematography David Burr hit the ball out of the park on this one, the movie is beautifully filmed, with some absolutely breathtaking shots of Thailand during the closing credits.
Directed by Australian Simon Wincer, who previously directed Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, with the screenplay written by Jeffrey Boam who also coincidentally wrote the screenplay for Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and this Indy heritage really shines through in the film itself with the opening scene of henchman Quill (James Remar) leading a group of treasure hunters into the Bengallan jungle in search of an ancient and mystical skull of Touganda, which is extremely reminiscent of the opening prologue of Raiders of the Lost Ark.
The film itself is set in the 1930’s and intentionally feels very much like a serial movie strip from that era, the thirties atmosphere is palpable and feels perfectly constructed for this particular Superhero, evoking a swashbuckling feel and the movie is ultimately an energetic and enjoyable romp, and faithful to its source material.
Billy Zane is perfectly cast as the titular hero of the piece, very much evoking the original character from the comics, which is helped in no small part by the amazing costume a fantastic and accurate recreation of the Phantom’s comic book form. Treat Williams is on top form as his antagonist, one Xander Drax, who you can tell is enjoying the hell out of the role throughout and almost steals the show with his stand-out and crazy performance.
With a fantastic supporting cast that includes: Catherine Zeta-Jones, Kristy Swanson, James Remar, Cary Hiroyuki-Tagawa and the late Patrick McGoohan (the Prisoner himself), the film is a must watch to not just fans of the Phantom and comic book genre movies but also anyone who loves high adventure and movies that are just plain fun.
The plot itself revolves around the villainous Xander Drax, who has been searching for the three sacred skulls of Touganda, these mystical treasures have been lost over time and it is prophesied that if all three are brought together, the person wielding them will have infinite power and ultimately the world will fall unto darkness. As previously mentioned very Indiana Jones, except the script is actually a retelling of three classic Phantom tales – The Phantom’s Origin, The Sky Band and The Skulls of Touganda, written by Lee Falk in the thirties and forties.
An enjoyable and lively Superhero romp, beautifully shot, engaging and faithfully reverential to Lee Falk’s quintessential character. Zane is wonderful as the title character and Williams is craziness personified as the villain. The Phantom will make ‘Phans’ of you all… guaranteed.
Precinct1313 Rating: 4.5 skulls of Touganda out of 5.
“I swear to devote my life to the destruction of all forms of piracy, greed, cruelty and injustice, and my sons and their sons shall follow me.”
Batman and Wonder Woman have been cornerstones of Precinct1313 since this website sprang into existence almost two years ago. They are as vital to this blog as oxygen is to a drowning man… though there is another masked man who didn’t originate from the same wellspring as Bruce and Diana, and yet is as popular in the Precinct’s comic crypts as the big two. In fact, it was the ‘Guardian of the Eastern Dark’ that was the first costumed crime-fighter we ever wrote a post about here in the hallowed halls of Precinct1313.
Today marks the astonishing 80th anniversary of Lee Falk’s ground-breaking character, The Phantom. The Phantom was the first of what later became a barrage of Superheroes, preceding DC’s Man of Steel by a full two years, and was also crucial in the development of The Batman (Batman co-creator Bill Finger cited The Phantom as a major influence on the Caped Crusader’s creation.)
It was the ‘Ghost Who Walks’ who originally donned a colourful costume and mask, and fought an eternal and ceaseless quest against crime, injustice and evil-doers with just his quick wits, martial skills and a courageous Wolf companion named Devil. The Phantom really is ‘He Who Came First’ in the popular world of the Superhero, the template for all costume clad heroes that arose in his image thereafter.
The Phantom was created by Lee Falk in 1936, and made his first ever appearance this very day eighty years ago in a newspaper serial strip. Falk was an American writer and artist who had previously created the character Mandrake the Magician in 1934 before going on to develop The Phantom just two years later. Lee Falk was born in St Louis, Missouri in 1911 and spent much of his youth there, he was a gifted writer and pitched his idea for Mandrake to King Features Syndicate, Falk was a huge fan of of stage magicians and actually based the look of Mandrake upon himself. The Phantom sprang from Falk’s love of myths and legends such as King Arthur, plus popular fictional creations like Tarzan and Robin Hood.
Kit Walker is The Phantom, 21st in a lineage of costumed crime-fighters that first began in 1536, when the father of British sailor Christopher Walker was killed by the Singh Brotherhood. Swearing an oath on the skull of his father’s murderer he became the first Phantom, beginning a legacy that would pass on from father to son for generations. The outside world though believed it was the same man, an immortal, a Ghost Who Walks, fighting injustice and piracy from his secret Skull Cave deep in the heart of the Bangalla Jungle. Fighting alongside his pet wolf Devil and white steed Ghost, the ‘Man Who Cannot Die’ instils fear in the corrupt and hope amongst the innocent, in his never ending pursuit against the evil that men do.
To commemorate this astounding comic book feat, Precinct1313 will become a ‘Phantom Zone’ in honour of his 80 years of crime busting we will be giving over the entire site to nothing but posts about the ‘Ghost Who Walks’ for the next 7 days, from classic Bangallan “Old Jungle Sayings” to a new review of the fantastic 1996 Phantom movie. So stay with us ‘Phantom Phans’… because no-one refuses the Phantom (old jungle saying!)
The Phantom Copyright: King Features Syndicate.