"Vigil at Phantom Head" is the 190th Phantom Sunday story. The story is written by Tony DePaul and drawn by Jeff Weigel. This story features a policeman who is a descendant of Emperor Joonkar and during the adventure the 21st Phantom along with the policeman talk about The 7th Phantom and Emperor Joonkar and their adventures together.
Jeff Weigel has been on fire and has referenced several panels originally from past Sy Barry stories. Tony DePaul is also having fun recounting the stories but also using this as an opportunity to clean up some past inconsistencies. Inconsistencies within Lee Falk's stories is nothing new with many creators trying to make sense of them in new stories. Along with fixing the inconsistencies it also helps tie the pre and post Falk newspaper timelines together as well.
The most obvious inconsistency in the Joonkar tale is the telling of how the Phantom first met and saves Joonkar. Lee Falk over the years mentions both a tiger and a lion plus killing and not killing the tiger.
Naturally we asked Tony DePaul about this. This is what he had to say:
The fact that he told the Joonkar story several different ways over the years. As you know, he could be lax on continuity sometimes… It’s a tiger, it’s a lion, Phantom kills the tiger, Phantom kicks the tiger…
I thought it would be fun to incorporate the various versions into a separate story. Of course, that becomes a hall-of-mirrors thing, wheels within wheels… was it Falk telling that “wrong” version way back when, or was it the lore standing off and regarding itself? Some kind of metanarrative?
Let us now look at some research on this origin story of Joonkar. Let us start with the two modern day Sundays drawn by Jeff Weigel. The first appears on the 8 and 15 of November 2020.
Here are the story mentions from the past, telling the various storylines.
Sunday 69 "The Golden Sands of Keela-Wee" By Lee Falk & Sy Barry. Originally ran in newspapers between 15 May 1966 and 11 December 1966. The original telling of the story shows killing a tiger.
Sunday 99 "Joonkar and the Slavers" by Lee Falk and Sy Barry. Originally ran in newspapers between 18 April 1976 and 29 August 1976. This shows killing the lion but also hunting a tiger later on.
Sunday 125 "Phantom Head Peak" By Lee Falk and Sy Barry. Originally ran in newspapers between 12 January 1986 and 27 April 1986. First and only time sparing the animal, in this case a tiger.
Daily 191 "Joomkar's Crown" by Lee Falk, George Olesen and Keith Williams. Originally ran in newspapers between 17 November 1997 and 18 April 1998. This shows killing a lion.
As you can see, the four times it shows this origin tale of how the 7th Phantom and Joonkar meet in the newspapers it has the animals two times being a lion and two times a tiger. Interesting only once has it been shown he spared the animal - the rest the animal was killed.
If we are to take this one step further, we will look at all the other non newspaper stories with the origin tale also being told. The following stories retell the origin story:
Avon Publications "The Story of the Phantom #1" (1972) has the Phantom rescuing Joonkar from a lion.
Team Fantomen "The Last Emperor", Fantomen 17/1990 & Frew #1568 (2010) shows The Phantom rescuing Joonkar from a lion.
Moonstone "The Phantom: Ghost Who Walks #0" (2009) shows The Phantom rescuing Joonkar from a tiger.
After doing this and not including Tony DePauls correction of the tale, there are more retelling of the lion version than the emperor being rescued from a tiger.
We are unsure if Tony went through nearly 20 stories of stories being published from three continents over nearly a 60 year period like we did or whether he just made the judgement call that Tigers usually are not found in Africa.
Lee Falk himself tried to correct his own mistake with the 138 Sunday story "Tiger, Tiger" drawn by Sy Barry published between 24 May 1992 and 6 December 1992 explaining how tigers came to be in the jungles of Bengalla.
Do you like current creators exploring, fixing and adding to Lee Falk's mythos?