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The Phantom 
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The Phantom is truly a world spanning character. From leaving the pen of his creator, Lee Falk, and seeing the light of day in 1936, it's been a continuous run of adventures up to the present day. His career started in newspapers, guided by the art of Ray Moore, and as time passed, the adventures were reprinted in comics. New, non-newspaper strip stories appeared and The Phantom was lapped up by readers in the States, Australia, N.Z., India, U.K., Scandinavia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Netherlands (well not exactly lapped up there as there seem to have only been 2 books in Dutch).
What marked him as special was the legend which Falk spun around him. In 1536 the young Christopher Walker was a sailor on a ship captained by his father, which was attacked by pirates - The Singh Brotherhood - who murdered his father, and Kit, falling overboard, was the only one to survive the attack. Washed up on a beach in Bangalla, he was found by the Bandar people, a tribe of pygmies, who nursed this, to them, giant figure back to life. Christopher makes a vow to avenge his father's death and to bring all pirates to justice. Soon, wearing a costume resembling that of a demon god, he takes the name of The Phantom and the trick is that when the Phantom dies, his son takes up the mantle. But only the Bandar know it is the son and the legend spreads that The Phantom is the Ghost who Walks, striking fear into all miscreants. And if the superstition doesn't do the trick, he has a wolf as a sidekick and 2 huge automatics to back him up.
Quite the most thrilling masked mystery man in the funny pages and much imitated.


Wed Jan 15, 2014 9:32 pm
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I do think he was the first superhero. Of course, it depends how you define 'superhero'. Others have said Mandrake or the Clock (or the Shadow, myths etc) but the look of the Phantom - the whited-out eye mask, the pants on the outside, the lycra bodysuit - was the archetype. None of the others suggested the look of the superhero that would inspire characters for decades.

For me, I came across him in the Charlton Bullseye series. The switch to painted covers and more realistic stories made an impact on me.
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Wed Jan 15, 2014 9:52 pm
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That's a great Don Newton cover - one of the best artists to draw the Phantom in comic books IMHO. My own introduction to the character was in TV Tornado, which serialized some nice storylines in the 1960s (as well as featuring some stunning covers by Mick 'Marvelman' Anglo). Incidentally, does anybody know when he made his first appearance in a British title?

- Phil Rushton


Wed Jan 15, 2014 11:33 pm
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I am unsure about when he first appeared in a British title. However, before TV Tornado, L. Miller published a Phantom comic reprinting old newspaper strips. Prior to that, Frew ( the Australian publisher) Phantom comics were available here. Oddly enough, another character with the same sort of back stoy, but created much later, The Phantom Ranger (another Australian hero) was published here by WDL, Mid '50's?
The argument as to who was the first superhero, or masked mystery man, is absolutely intriguing and there are a few British candidates. More on that later but if I don't leave now I'll miss the bus.


Thu Jan 16, 2014 10:16 am
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It's hard to believe that no British newspaper would have serialized the Phantom strip during its early years. The History of the Phantom in Britain is an article that someone definitely ought to write!

Funnily enough I picked up this Alan Class reprint at the weekend, featuring the one-and-only female Phantom (though, of course, all young women were habitually referred to as 'girls' in those days).

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- Phil Rushton


Thu Jan 16, 2014 1:14 pm
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Ah well, is she? That one on the cover is Julie Walker, I think, The Phantom's sister. But a dig through my Scandinavian comics and the Frew reprints might bring up another. Then again, I could be hallucinating.
As to the 1st superhero, you are correct thet everything about The Phantom shouts superhero (or, my preference, masked mystery man - mmm)
But if we take the all encompassing statement of the the 1st, with no qualifications, then we do have to look elsewhere and much earlier. It can't be the Clock as he appeared a few months after The Phantom. The Black Bat is out a she appeared around the same time as Batman. So, back to the pulps and our pulps and storypapers. Consideration has to be given to the Shadow, Doc Savage (although I consider him an adventurer - no secret I/d etc.) the Spider, Skull Killer(but without checking, I think he was a bit later) and some others with domino masks. Here, we had The Iron Man in a "pulp" in the early 1900's. Secret identity, mask, form fitting, light chainmailand carrying a pistol, he fought diabolical orientals and even struggled with a giant snake. Fits the bill perfectly. More on Flying Justice to follow but I'd prefer someone else to have ago at this. Any takers, Phil?


Thu Jan 16, 2014 3:07 pm
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paw broon wrote:
Any takers, Phil?


Rather than derail the ''Adventure Characters' thread unnecessarily I thought it'd be helpful to copy this discussion about bat-winged characters in British comics that appeared there:

    Quote:
    I wrote:
    As mentioned on another thread I've just acquired a run of Illustrated Chips from 1933, and was pleased to discover that they contain a text series featuring yet another British forerunner of Batman - the wonderfully named Shade the Shadower who fought crime using mechanical bat wings that enabled him to fly!


    Phoenix wrote:
    Was the story written by George E. Rochester, Phil? He seemed obsessed from the beginning of his novel writing career in 1935 by all aspects of flight, and he did produce The Black Wing in 1951, which I assume is the same story as the one in my 1957 novel Black Wing, which is about Volka and his secret flying suit.


    I wrote:
    Unfortunately Illustrated Chips wasn't in the habit of giving their writers a byline at that point Phoenix. However it is noticeable that Tracey Air 'Tec ("Crack Pilot of the Air Police" - whatever they are!) encountered a similarly-equipped criminal called the 'Human Vampire' just two weeks before Shade made his debut.

    Here's the illustration to that story, followed by the header from the first episode of Shade the Shadower:

    Image

    Image

    ...Clearly bat-winged characters were a concept that was very much 'in the air' during the 1930s - in more than one sense!


    Phoenix wrote:
    Thanks for your reply, Phil. It's a good job that there is no copyright on ideas though because both the Human Vampire and Shade the Shadower are straight rip-offs from The Wizard's popular criminal-turned-legit (well, mainly) Captain ''Q'', who debuted in August 1930. I will post an illustration soon. I can't at the moment because I'm tarting up a scan, which I'm too tired to complete tonight.

In addition to the above I've just dug up another cracking text story from the 1943 Film Fun Annual, featuring a bat-winged hero/villain called the Scarlet Bat.

Image

Image

...Interestingly the story title 'The Winged Avenger' was later re-used as the name of a fictional comic-strip character in an episode of the Avengers TV series which incorporated specially drawn artwork by the great Frank Bellamy.

On the subject of copyrighting ideas it's worth noting that in 1939 the staggeringly untalented Bob Kane seemed to manage something along those lines (with the help of his business-savvy mum) which enabled him to lead a playboy lifestyle for the rest of his days...!

- Phil Rushton


Thu Jan 16, 2014 4:31 pm
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Here is the illustration of Captain ''Q'' that I promised you last night, Phil. It comes from within the text of the instalment in The Wizard 404 (Aug. 30 1930). I removed the text and converted it to greyscale but, as you can see, I didn't bother to clean it up.


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Thu Jan 16, 2014 5:20 pm
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Well if the thread has been well and truly derailed, perhaps I ought to mention Waldo The Wonder Man from the Sexton Blake stories, he started off as a villain, but gradually converted to good throughout the 1920's. I suppose "The Wonder Man" wasn't his real name, so he sort-of had a secret identity! He was also extremely strong and couldn't feel pain.

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Fri Jan 17, 2014 9:13 am
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I think this thread has evolved to cover the Phantom and all early masked (or unmasked) mystery men and prototype superheroes, so the Wonder Man sounds wholly appropriate to me Mike (as long as that's OK with Paw). :)

That's a stunning image of Captain "Q" Phoenix. Those bat-winged characters really do seem to have been popular - in fact I seem to remember a Tom & Jerry cartoon where Tom converted an old corset into his own set of bat wings! (though, strictly speaking, I guess the idea can be traced back as far as Goya and Leonardo da Vinci)

Returning to the Phantom I suspect that one of the keys to his appeal is the fact that he simultaneously looked back to Edgar Rice Boroughs' Tarzan while looking forward to the superhero - thereby combining two of the twentieth century's most successful fictional icons (though I doubt if he would ever have caught on in the first place if it wasn't for Lee Falk's unrivaled ability to provide his back-story with so many imaginative twists). Here's another one of the memorable Phantom cover appearances that Mick Anglo drew for TV Tornado:

Image

- Phil Rushton


Fri Jan 17, 2014 12:35 pm
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I'm happy :)
Winged heroes first. There is also the book by Edward R Home-Gall, "The Human Bat". Issued by The Fantasy Library. :-
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Here's The Iron Man:-
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Back to The Phantom and The female Phantom. There are a few stories of The Phantom's sister Julie taking over from Ghost Who Walks. Depending on the company which published the adventures, she could be the daughter of the 17th. Phantom - the most likely version - , 16th. or, less likely, the 18th.
But in Frew #1359, reprint of a 1980, Scandinavian story, the 9th Phantom writes of a lady, Lord Stanbury's daughter, who, for a variety of reasons, dresses as The Phantom. Captured and sentenced to hang, she is rescued by The Phantom. The bad guys get their comeuppance and he two "Phantoms" marry. Not quite sure how this fits into the history.
There is still something niggling away at the back of my mind, but I've just rifled through hundreds of Aus. comics to no avail.

If anyone wants to track this down, 30th. Century have/had ('cos I have been buying piles of them) a lot of Frew Phantoms. The classic Lee Falk story, "Julie" is re-told in Frew 1068, which I think is a translated reprint of a Scandinavian issue.


Fri Jan 17, 2014 5:32 pm
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Great stuff Paw! :)

Of course, 'Iron Men' of one sort or another proved to be a popular concept in British comics long before their 1960s incarnations debuted in Tales of Suspense and Boys' World. Here's one version from another 1933 issue of Illustrated Chips:

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- Phil Rushton


Fri Jan 17, 2014 7:28 pm
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Returning to the Phantom, another interesting bit of trivia is the fact that he's one of the few American mystery men to be name-checked in a British pop song - albeit one with a lyric written by the Australian-born Clive James:

    Quote:
    And I left you with the sign of the Rider to the World's End
    It was not the ace of diamonds
    Or the death's-head of the Phantom on your jaw
    Just a suddenly-relaxing set of knuckles
    Never rapped against a door


    - The Rider to the World's End by Pete Atkin

...They just don't write 'em like that any more! :)

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- Phil Rushton


Sun Jan 26, 2014 10:26 pm
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Here's another masked mystery man who'd make a likely candidate for any possible 'Society of Remarkable Chaps' based on 1930s story paper characters (this one scanned from the issue of Ranger dated February 3rd 1934). I reckon these guys could give Alan Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen a run for their money any day of the week!

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- Phil Rushton


Thu Jan 30, 2014 5:23 pm
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Oh, well done, that's the famous Black Whip and I have a couple of issues with his adventures. Really good masked mystery man stories and, as you can see, exciting illustrations. He cover featured occasionally.
I'm all for suggestions for a 'Society of Remarkable Chaps' but I feel they'd have to be no later than 1940. Feel free to play havoc with that suggestion though.
So, my suggestions:-
Black Whip,
Hooded Unknown (Nipper),
Flying Justice (Nobody seems as yet to have come up with info. on this one yet, but I'll get round to him soon),
Shade the Shadower,
Night Hawk (Thurston Kyle),
The Iron Man (the early 1900's version)
and before I use up any more MMM's, how about The Flaming Avenger from the Rover?

Suggestions for other hero team-ups or groups most welcome and just because I stuck to masked men, there's no reason anyone else should - I'm simply intrigued by all these pre-Batman avenger types. :D


Thu Jan 30, 2014 9:08 pm
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