Friday, September 5, 2014

The Phantom: Lead-in

In the 16th century, a sailing ship was attacked by pirates, and the only survivor washed up on the shores of Bengali, a large African country. The man was found and nursed back to health by the Bandar tribe, and swore to fight evil wherever it sprung, creating the Phantom lineage. He and each successive ancestor would wear the Phantom outfit and pretend to be the same man, so people would think the Phantom to be an immortal spirit. Now in the 21st century, the superstition shows no signs of stopping, as Kit Walker, the 21st Phantom, fights criminals and pirates all over the globe...

Created by Lee Falk in 1936, The Phantom is not only one of the first, if not THE first, superheroes, but one of the most famous pulp comic heroes, having been around ever since his creation., whether it be in actual issues, or in the daily strips in newspapers (which hell of a way to read a comic). He has many good and interesting qualities, such as the fact that we have never seen his face (same with Judge Dredd), the intriguing backstory of the Phantom lineage, and the ingenious concept, allowing for adventures in both the modern day, and in various other eras, from the Civil War, to pirate times, to revolutionary France, 1930's Hollywood, etc.

Australia is one of the biggest customers of The Phantom, with sorta-weekly releases, starting all the way back in 1948, and running uninterrupted to this day, resulting in one of the longest continually running comic series' in history! Jesus! And to think there are some comics out there that can't make twenty issues! All in all, quite an achievement for a superhero who looks like a coloured dildo.

Yeah, I'm going there. Am I used to The Phantom being bright purple. Of course. Do I enjoy it? Absolutely. Do I understand it?! Hell no! But hey, I'm sure he's a superhero favourite for the gay pride community, and the Suffragettes.

Another funny thing of note is that despite not actually being immortal, the regular Phantom (the 21st) totally is, as the status quo of the series has stayed the same despite the passage of time since the series' inception. He must be following the beauty tips of Elizabeth Bathory...

The possible first superhero ever has also, surprisingly enough, never had a continuity reboot! While there are obvious difficulties reconciling stories from 1950 with ones from 2014, it's all the same canon...Even that time The Phantom fought aliens!...Though not the time he teamed up with Flash Gordon to battle space dinosaurs and the end of the world. Granted, while there are sometimes recurring arcs and characters, most of the time Phantom comics are just self-contained action-crime stories, with no character growth or development at all. It's just a simple formula that makes for fun stories, and nothing more. This is simultaneously good, and bad, as it allows for so many thousands of issues, but it's like watching the same episode of a TV show again and again, slightly different each time-Nothing ever changes.

Other companies have made their own separate Phantom series' like Dynamite's The Last Phantom. From previews I've read, it seems there are multiple aspects that absolutely insult and betray the lore, and it seems to be a pretty depressing read, but I bought the last issue out of curiosity during a Dynamite sale on Comixology, and I rather enjoyed it! Granted, the non-ending is ridiculous, but maybe the full 12-issue series is worth reading.

Oh, and yes, I've seen the Billy Zane movie, but many years ago. From what I remember it's ok, and Zane is an awesome Phantom, which should be obvious, as he's Billy Zane. I haven't seen the 2009 miniseries, but I do know of its many, many betrayals to the source material, such as insulting and getting rid of the iconic costume and replacing it with a cheap Robocop knockoff.

Frew, the company that publishes The Phantom in Australia, has done plenty of advertising recently for their new website, where they have a growing amount of back issues for sale, with plans to have everything up sometime, I suppose. When I first heard this, I was ecstatic, but then I realized that these ads are misinformative, as these back issues are only physical, because unfortunately the idiots who run these things at Frew haven't grasped the concept of digital comics. At thousands of copies of hundreds of issues, that's a lot of paper, so little wonder the prices are so damn steep (at about $7 bucks per comic!). Again, digital comics, dudes! You'd turn in a much better profit, and it's cheaper to do than logging three rainforests for a single series! And cheaper is the best alternative anyway, as there are 1700 back issues! Selling them for, say, simply 20 cents each would only insure that your customers would be able to buy a fuckton of Phantom comics, and to get to 1700 would be a LOT of fucktons!

So, I think that's enough lead-in. I'll start reviewing Frew Phantom comics soon (because God knows no-one else is), but it'll take a little while, as I'll be reviewing about twenty issues per post (given that I own about two/three hundred issues). Enough about the Ghost Who Walks for now...

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