With Dynamite Entertainment’s The Last Phantom series just around the corner, Paul Jonassen and Joe Douglas decided to put some questions towards the series writer Scott Beatty.
ChronicleChamber: For those who may not be aware of your work could you talk a little about titles you’ve worked on in the past?
Scott Beatty: If you Google me or search my name on Amazon.com, you’ll find that I’ve spent a good portion of my career writing for DC Comics in the company of Bat-Characters mainly. I also wrote RUSE for CrossGen Comics and I just concluded a 12-issue run on BUCK ROGERS for THE LAST PHANTOM publisher Dynamite Entertainment, a company that has graciously allowed me to play with some very cool “action figures.”
CC: Having written several books about the DC Comics universe, it’s obvious you are a knowledgeable and passionate fan of comic books. But how big has your previous exposure to the Phantom been? Have you read Lee Falk’s stories, US or overseas Phantom comic books, etc.?
SB: I’m a HUGE Phantom fan and I hope that comes through in the writing. And as any reader of my Ultimate Guides for DC knows, I’m pretty “immersive” when it comes to research on any given character. I’m familiar with Lee’s stories and I count the Jim Aparo and Don Newton tenures on Charlton’s PHANTOM run as some of my favourite stories.
CC: The Phantom is arguably the most influential costumed hero of all, given that Lee Falk basically created what would later be known as the ”superhero”, complete with a costume, origin and style that has been copied by a thousand other characters. The character is an icon in Europe, Australia, and parts of Asia, but at the time of writing this he seems to be largely forgotten in his ”home country”, the US. Why do you think that is?
SB: Inarguably, The Phantom is an archetypal superhero and the model for just about every costumed hero who followed him beginning with comics’ Golden Age. Perhaps it’s the setting. Superman and Batman are inherently American. The Phantom is the guardian of Bengali, yet doesn’t shy away from globetrotting to battle evil. I think that latter trait makes him so easily embraced by other parts of the world. His primary loyalty, after Bengali of course, is to JUSTICE. So therefore he’s not just the defender of a major Metropolitan city, but a hero to THE WORLD. He belongs to EVERYONE.
CC: Given the lack of exposure and general knowledge about the character in the US as well as the very non-traditional take on the character would it be safe to assume that DE’s series isn’t really aimed at long-time Phantom phans and more at a newer audience who is yet to become familiar with the hero?
SB: I don’t think you can have one without the other. Obviously, we want to appeal to both Column A and Column B. Alex, Ed, and I want to please the hardcore fans while introducing Kit Walker to readers who’ve never read a Phantom story before. But we’re not slowing down for either camp. A good “jumping-on point” for any comics story is simply a GOOD STORY, and that’s what we’re striving for in THE LAST PHANTOM
CC: The Phantom is many things to many people from many different cultures. What is the very core of the character for you?
SB: The core of the character is the enduring nature of Kit Walker. Generation after generation there’s always a Kit Walker, and by extension—always a Ghost Who Walks—because evil is often hard to kill. The Phantom isn’t simply a hero who dons a costume in order to exact retribution on the villains who wronged him. He’s part of a DYNASTY. If you’re the son of Kit Walker, this is the family business, no questions asked. Except Alex and I envisioned a Kit who didn’t exactly figure on carrying on the Walker legacy. That’s a CONFLICT that’s every bit as important as the schemes and stratagems of the bad guys.
CC: One of the many unique aspects of the Phantom character is the whole ”lineage” aspect, where a writer automatically has the ability to write stories that can span around 500 years. Are you interested in exploring the Phantoms of the past in your stories?
SB: Yup, and we will.
CC: What kind of a Phantom story can we expect from this series, and is it an on-going or a mini with the possibility of an on-going if it does well?
SB: As far as were concerned, and this may seem contradictory given the title, THE LAST PHANTOM is an ongoing series until the wheels fall off.
CC: According to the announcement, the title of the book will be The Last Phantom. Could this change later on to the standard ”The Phantom” if a second series or on-going happens?
SB: We’ll see. As far as Kit Walker is concerned, the 21 Phantom is THE LAST PHANTOM.
CC: We know that the Singh Brotherhood features in this story, but if the series goes past this initial arc will we see the return of any other classic Phantom villains or will you be concentrating on new enemies?
SB: Oh yeah? Where did you hear that? I think the best Rogues Galleries are like that old wedding tradition where brides-to-be carry with them four specific items: Something OLD, Something NEW, Something BORROWED, and Something… RED. I’ve said too much!
CC: Let’s talk about the depiction of the Phantom in this series. We heard early on that the character was going to have a costume re-design, that it would be bringing the costume into the “modern era.” However, what we’ve seen in the preview images is very basic (for lack of a better term) costume; it’s basically body paint and a loin cloth. To say this rendition of the costume has shocked some phans would be putting it mildly. Not only is the mask gone – it’s something of an unwritten law that the Phantom’s eyes should never be shown – but the character is also covered in what looks like blood. It seems quite a departure from the traditional costume and the biggest departure from any of the other adaptations of the character we’ve seen. Can you comment on why this design was chosen?
SB: Alex has sworn me to secrecy! It’s a blood oath and I bear the mark of the Good Ring to prove my fealty here. Change is inevitable. Superman didn’t even wear boots in his first appearance. His costume resembled a toddler’s footy pajamas! And Batman carried a gun! Phantom fans need to read the story. Every detail means something. Trust us: WE HAVE A PLAN.
CC: So, where you and/or DE aware that showing the Phantom’s eyes is something of a no-no? If so, why did you decide to do so?
SB: I’m going to go on record and say that Kit WANTS his enemies to see his eyes. As for the reason, you have to read the opening story arc, “Ghost Walk.”
CC: Obviously it’s unfair to judge a book before it’s released but from what we’ve seen thus far the series looks to be very different from anything we’ve seen before. Are you at all worried about alienating current phans of the character?
SB: We’re quite respectful of The Phantom’s huge phan following. And I’m not about to spoil the story by explaining what we have planned. Give us six issues and you’ll be HOOKED.
CC: It’s interesting that the story involves the 21st Phantom giving up the role of the Ghost Who Walks. Why did you decide on this rather than, say, have a descendant who was ignorant to his heritage only to discover it?
SB: THE LAST PHANTOM is set in the here and now. The current Kit Walker believes that after 20 generations, there might be a better way. He actually thinks that he has a CHOICE.
CC: Can you give us any insight into the thoughts behind the Phantom giving up his mantel? Some phans have said that such an action does not ring true for the character. Would you care to comment on those thoughts?
SB: It “rings” true for the latest Kit Walker.
CC: We know Alex Ross was instrumental in bringing the Phantom to DE and that he redesigned the costume and will be doing covers for the series. Will he have any other input into thePhantom books?
SB: Definitely. Alex is part of the creative team from the get-go.
CC: In Dynamite’s initial announcement of their Phantom project a couple of years ago, they proclaimed their plans to relocate the Phantom to New York. Is this still part of your approach?
SB: There are many jungles in this world, including the so-called concrete jungles. CC: Moonstone put out a few stories where the Phantom teamed up with Mandrake the Magician, Captain Action and the Domino Lady. Is there a possibility to see stories where the purple guy teams up with characters licence by Dynamite, like the Green Hornet, Zorro, etc.?
SB: That’s up to Dynamite Head Honcho Nick Barrucci, as well as the characters’ individual owners and licensors. You’ve undoubtedly read by now that Dynamite acquired the rights to publish stories with Mandrake and Flash Gordon. Want DEFENDERS OF THE EARTH? Write to Nick and make your voices heard!
CC: Since I remember reading one of Dynamite’s ”secondary goals” is to make the film industry interested in classic characters again, I just have to ask: Have you seen any of the previous Phantom film or TV-adaptations? If so, what did you think about them? What do you think a new film has to do to correct mistakes done in the past?
SB: I’ve only seen the Billy Zane film, which I think is simply a hoot. Much fun. In my mind, any comic book film worth its salt simply MUST take the subject matter seriously. I’m talking about staying true to the character(s) core motivations and not dumbing it down for an audience. And for God’s sake, make it about THE HERO. Not his love life. Not umpteen villains vying for screen time with hammy actors chewing scenery. Show us why he wears a purple leotard and zebra shorts. Trust us. If it’s good, we’ll stay until the final credits roll.
CC: And finally, the dumbest question you will ever have to answer in your entire career: Is it true that Alex Ross has a dog called Phantom?!
SB: Didn’t I already tell you Alex and I have a pact! What happens in the Skull Cave STAYS in the Skull Cave!
A HUGE thanks goes to Scott for taking the time to answer our question and to Paul for helping me with this interview!