“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”
Wonder Woman and Batman have been the cornerstones of Precinct1313 since this website sprang into existence over six 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 almost as popular as the titanic two. In fact, it was the ‘Guardian of the Eastern Dark’ that held the starring role in our very first ever blog post here in the hallowed halls of Precinct1313.
February 17, 2021 marks the astonishing 85th anniversary of Lee Falk’s ground-breaking character – The Phantom. Phantom was the first of what later became a barrage of Superheroes, preceding DC’s Superman by a full two years, and the character was also crucial in the development of The Batman, with the Dark Knight’s co-creator – Bill Finger, citing 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 domino mask and fought an eternal and ceaseless war on crime, injustice, and evil men with just his quick wits, martial skills and a courageous wolf companion named Devil. The Phantom truly is ‘He Who Came First’ in the mega popular world of the Superhero, the template for all the costume clad heroes who arose in his stead.
The Phantom was created by Lee Falk in 1936, and made his auspicious debut almost to this very day (I meant to get this posted yesterday, Phantom’s actual birthday, unfortunately the internet gods shouted “Nay!”) in a newspaper serial strip. Falk was an american writer and artist who had previously created the majestic mage – Mandrake the Magician, in 1934 before going on to usher into existence The Phantom a mere two years later. Lee Falk was born in Missouri in 1911, and spent the majority 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 stage magicians and illusionists, and actually based the look of Mandrake on his very own visage. The Phantom sprang from Falk’s love of myths and legends such as King Arthur, and popular fictional creations 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 treacherous pirate clan – The Singh Brotherhood. Swearing an oath on the skull of his father’s now slain 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 to be the same man, an immortal, a Ghost Who Walks, fighting injustice from his secret Skull Cave deep in the heart of the Bangalla jungle. Fighting alongside his wolf Devil, and white steed Ghost, the Man Who Cannot Die instils fear into the corrupt and hope amongst the innocent, in his never ending pursuit against the evil that men do.
The Ghost Still Walks… Happy 85th Kit Walker!
The Phantom is copyright – King Features Syndicate.
Precinct1313’s Top Ten Favourite Comic-Book Covers Of All Time: No.07 – The Phantom #1 – Dave Gibbons
“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!”
And with that astonishing axiom… The Phantom was born! Welcome back, fellow fans of fantastic fiction, to the continuing countdown of our absolute favourite comic-book covers of all time. In our last entertaining episode we shared the work of the Bat-tastic and inimitable Norm Breyfogle, and his resplendent representation of the Dark Knight on the cover of Batman #465. This time we’ll be exploring the infamous Skull Cave, deep in the heart of the jungles of Bangalla, as we celebrate Dave Gibbons’ ‘phantastic’ Phantom #1 cover which first released in May 1988.
The Phantom was created by Lee falk in 1936, which makes his dynamic debut an incredible eighty five years ago… cementing him as the world’s original Superhero, a full two years before Superman first soared across the skies! Falk was an American writer and artist who had previously created the character, Mandrake the Magician in 1934, before going on to create The Phantom a mere 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 stage magicians, and actually based the look of Mandrake on on himself. The Phantom sprang from Falk’s unfailing love of myths and legends, such as King Arthur, plus popular fictional creations including two of his favourites, Tarzan and Robin Hood. (P1313 fun facts: Bill Finger, co-creator of Batman was a huge Phantom fan and used ideas such as the Phantom’s Skull Cave and loyal retainer – Guran, as inspiration for the Batcave and faithful father figure, Alfred!)
Kit Walker is The Phantom, 21st in a lineage of costumed crimefighters 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, piracy and greed from his secret Skull Cave, in the jungles of Bangalla. Fighting alongside his pet wolf – Devil, and his trusty steed – Ghost, the Man Who Cannot Die, instils fear in the corrupt, and hope to the innocent, in his never ending pursuit of the evil that men do!
Why Not Join Us Again Next Time, Fellow Agents Of Precinct1313, For Our Continuing Celebratory Countdown Of Cool And Crazy Comic Cover Collectables!
You may have noticed… I’m a DC Comics fanatic, I grew up living and breathing their fictional worlds since the age of six when I first discovered the dark and surly one known as, The Batman. At age nine I encountered the astonishing Amazon, Wonder Woman for the first time and she quickly became my favourite comic book character of all time, even surpassing my adoration for the Caped Crusader.
Over many years I have immersed myself in the continuing stories, relationships and camaraderie of the many spandex clad heroes and villains of DC’s universe, there was one hero though, who wasn’t part of DC lore, he didn’t exist in the same universe as Wondy, Bats, Starfire and all the other characters I adore, this indigo hued interloper into my safe environment of a comic-book company I love was the hero that actually started it all, the original masked crime-fighter, The Ghost Who Walks… The Phantom!
Published by Dynamite comics under licence from King Features Syndicate, the Last Phantom is a modern retelling of the 21st Phantom, Kitridge Walker, who forsakes his centuries long heritage as a masked crime-fighter, instead choosing to help the people of his home of Bengali (aka Bengalla) through his charitable organisation Walkabout. But after his wife and son are killed by forces looking to control Benagali for their own nefarious purpose, Kit must begrudgingly take up the mantle of his forebears and show the world that wherever darkness and evil dwells, The Phantom will always be close by.
This particular retelling of the classic Phantom of old has been rather divisive amongst fans, the Kit Walker portrayed here is very much a divergent character to the noble and clean cut hero of yore, but that is the point of a modern reboot, to bring the character kicking and screaming into the present, making him more contemporary for newer audiences. This book does that, and rather wonderfully too, a story of redemption and the honouring of one’s heritage and birthright. This new Phantom may be different from his progenitors, but he still stands for the same morals and precepts of all the Phantoms who came before him.
This fresh reiteration of the Man Who Cannot Die has actually become one of my favourite versions of the character. An absorbing and enthralling tale awaits, fellow phans, delivered by super scribe Scott Beatty, with fantastic interior art by Eduardo Ferigato, not forgetting the absolutely astonishing covers by the habitually sublime Alex Ross, who pays homage to both new and old variants of Kit Walker’s classic character. Highly recommended.
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!
Excerpt Taken From – ‘In Pursuit Of Precinct1313’
The storm raged tempestuously around us as we made our way through the treacherous and foreboding woodland intent on finding our prize, a long sought after structure of otherworldly power. We had been searching for this mythical edifice since we first heard whispers of its existence years earlier. Pushing ever deeper into the dense thicket, stopping only to cut our way through the tangle of overgrown trees and foliage, which in this storm moved and weaved almost as if attempting to drive us back. Craning my head up into the driving rain and winds, I noticed my colleague, who was a few feet ahead of me, had come to a stop, his gaze transfixed on something ahead.
“Pete?” I said, placing my hand on his right shoulder, “What’s up dude?,” Pete turned his face towards me, his expression was a mix of both elation and fear, a strange combination to be sure. He motioned a nod forwards and it was then that I noticed, not more than maybe twenty or so feet ahead, a dark and ominous building that strangely felt like it was looking, right back, at me! “I, uh, think this might be it” I said in a rather flustered tone, I was rattled believe me, the storm had almost immediately stopped as we had, which in itself was extremely unsettling. Pete and I looked at each other and then uniformly moved warily forward into what was now an almost deafeningly disquieting silence.
The impressive structure loomed towards us like a brooding nightmare from a Lovecraftian novel. Pete hastened up the stone steps stopping at the entrance portentously, I arrived at his side just as he was reaching for the handle. The large oak doors slowly creaked open, and suddenly, some ‘thing’ from inside, invisible to our eyes, pushed violently through us… “Free,” it uttered, “Free, at last.” Pete, strangely unperturbed by the freakish phenomena, moved forward into the darkened halls ahead, and, with a little more trepidation, I followed…
Two years have now passed since that fate filled night, and we find ourselves still trapped here in the vast depths of Precinct1313’s comic crypts. Which overall for you, our loyal Special Agents and readers means we can continue to provide an in depth look at all things DC Comics, be it movies, merchandise or the actual comic books themselves.
This year in particular has been an exciting one for this website thanks to release of the one film that we have waited what seems like millennia for… Batman v Superman. Not only did we get to see the two most iconic Superheroes of all time clash in a spectacular battle-royale, we also were treated to the big screen debut of Wonder Woman, and Gal Gadot shone brightly in the role (damn near stealing the movie, to be honest.) Which brings us neatly onto our most viewed post this year, after the furore and misinformation about the film brought on by the “professional” critics we felt the balance had to be addressed on what is the greatest Superhero movie since Watchmen, with an article we titled – Batman v Superman: Dawn Of The Critics.
And as the Amazing Amazon continues to wow audiences on the silver screen she also reigns supreme here in the hallowed halls of Precinct1313. Our regular series – Classic Wonder Woman is approaching its fiftieth instalment and continues to be a great source of views, even more so since Gal Gadot’s sterling onscreen performance introduced the Themysciran Titan to a new fanbase. Our trek through the ancient Amazon archives has been filled with great tales of heroism, wonderment and tragedy, and the most viewed of all of these so far has been – Classic Wonder Woman: Wonder Woman (vol 3) #20.
This year marked the anniversary of the original costumed crimefighter. An astonishing eighty years in print was achieved by Lee Falk’s groundbreaking comic book creation – The Phantom. In honour of this astounding achievement, Precinct1313 became a Phantom Zone, devoting the website for an entire week of posts dedicated to just the Ghost Who Walks. ‘For Those Who Came In Late’ was the most viewed of these and was also met with an incredible 210 Facebook shares, a new record for the humble Precinct.
And so, with another year tucked under our utility belt, we continue unabated as we head full on into an even more exciting second half of 2016 for DC Comics. With the unrated cut of Batman v Superman a mere six weeks from home release and the next movie in DC’s burgeoning cinematic universe – Suicide Squad less than two months from hitting the big screen, not to mention the recent shake-up of their comic book universe with ‘Rebirth’ DC are marching forward into spandex clad dominance. And we shall be there, on the mean streets of Gotham City and the lush paradise island known as Themyscira, to bring you the news and views on the world’s most beloved heroes.
Thank you once again to everyone who has followed, liked, commented and read the posts here in the Precinct, it is ‘you’ who make this entire endeavour worthwhile.
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.
We will be counting down our fifteen favourite comic-book characters of all time, why fifteen you ask? because there are too damn many we love to only have a top ten! Remember these are ‘our’ favourite characters, I am sure you will have others you feel should have been included, so please feel free to tell us who you would prefer to have in the list and why. So let us begin with….
NUMBER 15 is: The Phantom.
The phantom- the ghost who walks, we wrote a character origin on this very site recently of the Phantom, so we will keep this brief. The Phantom was created in 1936 by Lee Falk for King Syndicates, initially as a newspaper strip. A mythical, believed to be immortal character who has protected the jungles of Bengalla for over four centuries from greed and piracy. Riding into battle on his white steed called Hero and accompanied by his faithful wolf Devil, the Phantom’s adventures are still being published (by Dynamite comics) seventy eight years after his initial appearance!