The celebration of the Phantom’s 80th continues to be celebrated throughout the comics community with two new articles appearing from Comics Alliance and Precinct 1313.
The Comics Alliance article, like many others, goes into the history of the character. While Precinct 1313 do the same in their own article, the site goes one better by dedicating their whole being to celebrating The Phantom for the whole week of the anniversary, promising many more articles! We’ll let you know when they are made available.
Before wrapping this up, I feel I must comment on the Comics Alliance article. While it’s great that more and more comic sites are celebrating the 80th anniversary of Lee Falk’s hero, unfortunately the Comics Alliance article, by Matt D. Wilson, feels like it was written by someone who only did a quick Google search on the Phantom. The article starts off by calling Lee Falk a “cartoonist” which, as we all know, is incorrect. While it is true that Falk drew the first two weeks of the Phantom’s debut strip, The Singh Brotherhood, and assisted with layouts early on in The Phantom‘s run, he never considered himself an artist and never again drew any works that were to be published. It seems that the writer of the article simply gave Lee Falk’s biography on DeepWoods.org a quick read and jumped to conclusions.
Perhaps the most eyebrow raising part of the article, however, is when the Wilson claims that The Phantom can not be considered a superhero. His arguments for this are that the Phantom debuted in newspaper strips rather than comic books; that the Phantom’s base of operations is in a jungle, not a city; and that he uses guns. These are rather ridiculous claims to make and, at best, very weak arguments.
Comic strips were the precursor to comic books. The very first comic book was simply a collection of previously printed “furry animal” strips. Thus if we apply Wilson’s reasoning to other mediums H.G.Well’s classic story War of the Worlds can not be considered a novel as it first appeared in serialized format in Pearson’s Magazine in 1897. The argument of superheroes not using guns can be refuted with many examples from Batman’s early appearances through to The Punisher and more recent anti-heroes such as Deadpool. The simple fact that the Phantom carries gun does not make him unworthy of being considered a superhero.
The idea that one must operate in a city to be considered a superhero is also rather ridiculous, especially when that hero is as globe-trotting as the Phantom is. In The Singh Brotherhood alone the Phantom visits New York, his native Bengalla (at the time Luntok), the Indian Ocean, Sumatra and more. Surely where you are based matters little when you are that well traveled.
However, the biggest argument for the Phantom being a superhero is one Wilson himself concedes; that Lee Falk introduced many ideas that would become superhero tropes first with The Phantom. Surely if one character introduced so much that all other characters of a specific sub-genre were to follow that character could only be considered as the original, and the best, of them.