Everyone loves a bad guy!
Paul Jonassen takes a look at ten of the best thieves, murderers and evil types that have come up against The Ghost Who Walks over the years.
“Villain” might be a rather ambiguous term in a Phantom story. After all, nothing seems to scare the man in purple more than his own mother-in-law, Lily Palmer, but we should obviously use the word solely on the many misguided souls giving the Phantom REAL trouble.
So, here is the top 10 most memorable proper baddies in the Phantom’s 71-year-old history counting down from 10 to 1. Feel free to argue.
10. The Marshall Sisters
No, Lee Falk's Marshall sisters are not really bad at all, but regardless of this they managed to make the Phantom more nervous, confused and bothered than the Singh pirates did in 400 years, by doing nothing else than desperately trying to marry him. Our hero always had an almost supernatural appeal to the opposite sex, but the Marshalls were particularly taken by his charms.
The sisters desperately need a proper resurrection. Do you hear me, Mike Bullock or Claes Reimerthi?
9. Goldhand Not necessarily the villain with the most memorable or fleshed-out personality, but for a gimmicky physical appearance that rivals famed-assassin Jaws, Goldhand had to make this list. As his nickname says, his right hand-prosthesis is made entirely of gold, and seems to be a surprisingly effective weapon (the Phantom managed to beat him by pure coincidence in both their physical fights). Created by the great Janne Lundstöm, he returned in a story called, well, Goldhand Returns, written by Tony De Paul, in 1998. Died (?) in an unfortunate encounter with some sharks.
8. Sala Sala, created by Lee Falk, might not really be considered a villain, as she fell in love with and helped the Phantom out in some rather problematic situations, but she was an important member of the criminal Sky Band, after all. Other than Kabai Singh and the Fire Princess, she is also the only villain from the strip to appear in a Phantom film adaptation, perfectly played by Catherine Zeta-Jones.
It’s a great shame she’s only appeared in three stories, excluding her tiny look-in in Moonstone’s The Aviatrix. The character is obviously popular among fans, as I seem to recall members of a Phantom forum having a serious discussion about how much cooler it would have been had the Phantom ditched Diana and married the air pirate. At least she would not have gotten herself kidnapped all the time, I guess.
7. Rama Singh Rama might not have the most memorable personality of the series many crooks, but he killed the 20th Phantom. That’s got to count for something, right?
Treacherous to both our Phantom’s father as well as his companions in the Singh Brotherhood, the guy helped the Phantom blowing up the fleet of the pirates, only to stab him in the back immediately after, stealing his gun belt in the process. He then hid at the island of Gullique for quite some time; before the 21st Phantom finally tracked him down to avenge (if one can use that word) his father and reclaim the belt. Last seen blowing up both himself and his island, in one of Falk’s most memorable stories, The Belt. Rama also appeared in early drafts of the screenplay to the 1996 Billy Zane movie, but was ultimately ditched and morphed into a character called Quill instead, played by James Remar.
6. Bail A.k.a. Liba, Abil, and Ib-al, Bail originally worked as the supervisor of King Salomo, and appeared to menace different Phantoms in Norman Worker's The Mystery of the Golden Rune saga. The seemingly immortal man tried to open the gates of hell (in Bengalla!), and almost managed to kill the Phantom by controlling Guran into shooting him with a poisoned arrow (which was not that poisonous after all! Thank heaven!). You have to be bad to the bone to use Guran, of all people, as your hitman.
5. Baron Grover
Anybody else notice how much more colorful the baddies were in Lee Falk’s earliest works? Grover is a good example of this, as the charming, elegant fellow constantly snaps memorable dialogue while committing memorable crimes. A former war-pilot, peace bored him so much that he had to buy a yacht to become a modern day pirate (with a cool hideout at a desert island). A great deal of old school Falk villains could have appeared on this list, such as Count Bart from The Prisoner of the Himalayas, and numerous others. They just seem to have a lot more personality than anyone that came after them.
4. Ralph Mars
The one villain on this list even the most faithful fans might not be aware of, Mars only appearance was in the 1995 Marvel Comics miniseries written by Mike Bullock, The Ghost Who Walks, which also offered an excellent update of General Bababu. Based on Australian sportsman Merv Hughes, the borderline psychopathic bodyguard faced the 22nd Phantom, in what might be best described as an alternative future.
It’s a shame, really, that he could never face the 21st Phantom.
3. Dogai Singh Kabai Singh might have been the leader of the Singh Brotherhood in Falk’s brilliant first story, but the old bastard was killed off before he could manage to do any serious harm to the Phantom (despite throwing him into his own, private shark tank, off course). Dogai Singh, on the other hand, has given our hero some serious struggles, either it be tricking Mr. Walker into believing the first Phantom was actually a member of the Singh Brotherhood, or actually using the Ghost Who Walks as a helping hand in his search for a weapon of doom (the mythical Crystal Skulls). In one of his earliest appearances, Dogai was even a physical match for the Phantom, defeating him in hand-to-hand combat. However, after that encounter, the writers focused more on his intellect rather than fighting skills, although he was never smart enough to actually plant a bullet in the Phantom’s head rather than placing him in some not-so-carefully thought out death trap.
2. General Bababu The most frequently used antagonist in Lee Falk’s stories (in fact, one of very few to show up on more than one occasion at all), the cowardly, self- obsessed and constantly power-seeking Babo Bababu has been trying to take over Bengalla more times than even the most hardcore fan would bother to remember. Needless to say, due to his seemingly limited intelligence, at times ridiculously bad planning, sheer clumsiness, and the constant interruption of one Kit Walker, he has failed spectacularly every single time. His greatest loss, however, might be that his only daughter, Lila, actually ended up marrying Lon Luaga, son of his arch-enemy Lamanda Luaga.
1. Kigali Lubanga
Without a moment of doubt the Phantom’s most dangerous enemy, the Semic-created Lubanga got the upper hand on the Ghost Who Walks when he won the Bengalla Presidential Election, beating Lamanda Luaga. Had his identity been known, the Phantom would no doubt have been made an enemy of the state, as he continuously tried to stop the dictator from making bad things worse. Even worse, he is also one of too few villains to create major problems in the Phantom’s personal life, resulting in hostility between Kit and Lamanda, as well as forcing Diana and the kids to temporarily live in the US.
Killed due to unhealthy intercourse with an electric iron bar, he has since returned to terrorize the Phantom many times as something of an unusually healthy zombie. No, really.