Comic creator and Phantom phan Matt Kyme is back reviewing a classic Phantom story after the popularity of his review of the "Singh Brotherhood" in X-Band: The Phantom Podcast episode #162.
This time he reviews the second ever Phantom story "The Sky Band" which sees him battle an all girl band of pirates in the sky which sees the Phantom participate in a romping adventure as he is caught between three women who are all vying for his attention and love.
"The Sky Band" was created by the dynamic duo of Lee Falk and Ray Moore and started in newspapers around the world between 9 November 1936 and ended on 10 Aprirl 1937.
Hope you enjoy the adventure and review by Matt. Again, this is best watched on YouTube. If you like these reviews, let us know along with any other stories you would like Matt to review next.
The Sky Band first appeared in American daily newspapers on the 9th Nov 1936 and is set immediately after the events of The Singh Brotherhood.
Diana believes the Phantom to be dead, Sala has saved the Phantom from the Cruel Kabai Singh and has also revealed that she is a wing of the Sky Band. She is currently being held captive in an army hospital by Captain Melville Horton who intends to find out more about the Sky Band. While he is at it he should ask her how she transformed from some sort of Asian concubine to an American aviatrix in the matter of a few frames.
Before Horton has the chance to ask her anything she breaks a jug over a randy soldier's noggin and makes her escape. This leads to a misunderstanding and before you know it The Phantom is accused of helping her escape. He himself has to escape from the Army and track down Sala.
We see the Sky Band in action and they are a very well organised band of sky pirates. Colonel Devon is introduced and he and Horton are certain The Phantom is in kahoots with the Sky Band. The hunt for the phantom intensifies. At this point the Phantom turns up to tell Horton he is not one of the Sky Band. He doesn't really have any compelling proof, in fact his decision to sneak into the Army base to tell Horton he is innocent is entertaining but kind of pointless.
Horton directs his men to capture the Phantom but they are completely useless. The Phantom gives a stack of them a skull mark on the jaw which seems like a pretty rotten thing to do since these blokes are just doing their jobs. Why not turn the rings around… or better yet, jump the fence without whomping these poor lads?
Devil gets caught in a trap and the Phantom is captured by the Army, taking us roughly back to where we started. We are 6 pages in and nothing much has happened yet.
Devil manages to escape and hoofs it into the jungle. The Phantom tells Devon and Horton he is not in the Sky Band again and ends up in a cell.
Devil fetches Guran and the Bandar who come and knock out a bunch of soldiers with Thunderhead arrows. This is a nice touch, but I'm really feeling sorrry for these soldiers.
The Phantom is freed and returns to the Skull Cave where he vows to catch Sala and the Skyband. He gets a message out to the jungle folk to be on the look-out for planes. This message is sent via the signal drums. This is the first time the Tom Tom drums have been used in the Phantom.
A tip off from the Gligou people has the Phantom head to the Ise of the Herons. There he jumps in a canoe with the Gligou and starts investigating.
The Skyband see the canoe and decide it must be sunk. The phantom and the Gligou survive and the Phantom decides to head to the Ise of Herons with Devil.
Before two long he ends up in quicksand. This was one of my biggest fears as a kid. Luckily Devil helps him out.
The Phantom is eventually captured by a tree. No, scrap that, a group of trees. If I was in the Sky Band and saw I was on the tree roster I'd be spewing. What a lousy job.
Sala is back in the picture and she is all over the place. She loves the Phantom, she hates the Phantom… this girl needs to visit the brain doctor. Naturally she takes the time to explain the whole operation to the Phantom before bothering to take him to the leader of the Skyband - the Baroness.
The Phantom discovers that the Sky Band are all women. Falk obviously loves this concept because he returned to it again and again in his career. The Baroness almost immediately falls in love with the Phantom. This is one of Falk's most repeated tropes, and I really like it.
At this point The Baroness and Sala are both madly in love with the Ghost Who walks, and he pretty much spends a large percentage of this story in captivity. This is another Falk trope, he lets the Phantom rest up in a cell while the other characters bicker and plot against each other.
When you think about it, the Phantom hasn't done much in this story other than get captured. And where the heck is Devil? I haven't seen him in ages.
Suddenly, out of absolutely nowhere, and for no apparent reason, Diana has arrived in Calcutta and is met by Horton. They hop on a Clipper and Horton tells her all about how the Phantom is in the Skyband. She doesn't believe it.
Meanwhile, for no apparent reason the Sky Band decide to take the Phantom on one of their pirate raids. For the lols I guess. And guess which plane they target? If you said the Clipper which Horton and Diana are on you get 10 points.
To protect Diana, the Phantom pretends not to know her and allows the Baroness to kiss him. Poor Diana is heartbroken. Horton is stoked, he has been wanting to cut the Phantom's lunch since he was introduced in the last story.
The Phantom is whisked back to his cell in the isle of Herons. Did I mention he spends this whole story as a prisoner?
The Baroness and Sala start to resent each other. The Baroness sets Sala up, sending her on a mission she knows will be a failure. This seems like a costly way to get rid of a third wheel, but okay.
Devil… where are you?
Sala is captured by Horton and realises she was set up. Her revenge? Lead the army straight to the Sky Band… and the Phantom who is doing what? Oh that’s right. He is in a cell.
The Army bomb the hell out of the isle of Heron, just as they did two times earlier to the Singh bases in the Singh Brotherhood but this time, The Baroness has a plan and the Sky Band had already moved on to a new base. Pretty clever Mr Falk.
Many flying hours away from the Isle of Herons, the Phantom and Devil are reunited. The Skyband have a brand new base. The Phantom brings up the very valid point that Sala could bring Horton's forces here for another mass bombing but The Baroness doesn't seem to care and this idea is not brought up again
The Baroness is much more interested in talking about her new plan, kidnapping wealthy passengers who are travelling on the Olympia, the world's largest blimp. It's worth noting that this scene was written before the Hinderberg disaster and travelling on blimps was all the rage in the 30s. The Hinderberg was destroyed a month after this story finished in newspapers.
The story doesn't explicitly say how long the Phantom is trapped in his cell but it's implied that at least a number of days pass. How does he escape? He trains a mouse and uses it to scare the Sky Band women.
He gets to the radio room and sends a warning to the Olympia before being captured yet again after the Baroness uses Devil as bait. Horton sets a trap for the skyband who come out seeking the Olympia. The greatest air battle of the orient occurs - unheralded and unwitnessed.
For some reason the Baroness has brought the Phantom and Devil along. For some baffling reason she orders her crew to unbind him and put a parachute on him before killing him. She shoots him in the chest twice at point blank range but he shrugs it off. Luckily the Phantom is tough right?
The Baroness bites down on her poison pill and her plane goes down as the Phantom uses his parachute. After making a few sexist quips, the Phantom and Devil find a doctor. The Phantom forces him at gun point to dig those pesky bullets out. Luckily no vital spots were touched and the Doctor praises the Phantoms 'Amazing Vitality' and to think, all these years I thought being shot twice in the chest was more than an a slight inconvenience.
Meanwhile Horton is explaining to Diana that the Phantom was a hero afterall but he died in the aerial gunfight. Without giving her any time to process this he tells her that he loves her and wants to be with her. Go take a cold shower, Horton.. I mean.. Dude, be cool.
Diana splits the scene and in true Lee Falk fashion the Phantom turns up just after her ship has left the dock. He is just about to fly out to intercept it when he and Horton hear the jungle drums. Looks like Diana will have to wait because without their white messiah to keep them under his thumb those darn savages have decided to have a war. Lucky the Phantom's family has been lying to them about being gods for the last 400 years. White supremacy to the rescue!
How many times has the Phantom captured crooks who have been using his very own brand of trickery against the natives?! The Haunted Castle, The Scarlet Sorceress, The Mermaids of Melo Straits, Diana - Aviatrix lost, The Ape Idol of the Durugu, The Jungle Tourney, Vampires of the Koqania, The Dragon God, The Fire Goddess, The Golden Princess, Lago the Lake God and many other stories feature the Phantom stopping people from pulling off the same scam his family has been using for centuries. Is the Phantom actually a villain. Hmmm should have stayed in NY.
So what do I think of the Sky Band? I love it.
In many ways it’s a far better story than The Singh Brotherhood but it’s a shame the Phantom has a relatively passive role in the story. Diana seems underutilised but her few scenes are crucial to the story and Falk has set the scene for the many future stories where circumstances and misunderstandings jeopardize her relationship with the Phantom. Devon and Horton are terrific characters and Sala is the stand out. It's a shame The Baroness didn't survive the story but she went out on her own terms and I think it was well handled.
Moore's work hasn't quite hit it’s peak but it is getting very close. He was a masterful artist and his synergy with Falk is outstanding.
I'm still hung up on the idea that the Phantom should return to NY as Jimmy Wells, but that's just wishful thinking at this point. Falk's decision to make him a jungle based character was the best decision he could have made at the time at it served the series very well for a few more decades before becoming a real liability to the character's popularity.
So even though the Phantom could have slept through 80% of this story without effecting the plot in any way whatsoever, it was a great romp and I love it so much.