The twins are growing up!

IT’S BEEN EIGHT YEARS since the daily pages took note of how fast the twins are growing up. Time flies faster for us than it does in the Phantom universe. Even so, Kit and Heloise are overdue for a starring role in the dailies.

We’ve talked it over here at Phantom Central—editor Brendan Burford and I—and we think it’s time for the Walker family to start thinking seriously about launching the twins into young adulthood. Look for stories on the big decisions they face by the summer of next year.

For a preview of the themes we’ll be developing, take a look at “The Jungle Trek” story published in 2006. There, the Phantom surprised the twins by taking them on an impromptu adventure into the wilds of Bangalla. He tested their courage and ability to think clearly in the face of the unexpected, and to improvise solutions. (The operative dates in the Comics Kingdom archives are January 16, 2006 through May 13, 2006.)

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The twins have a climbing adventure on a 200-meter rock wall. They lose their nerve when they can’t see their father up ahead anymore. Their safety lines go slack and he stops answering when they call up to him.

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Next up, a solo adventures for Kit…

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… then one for Heloise

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The Phantom ended “The Jungle Trek” feeling good about how the twins will fare as they face the tests that lie ahead for them.

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Life is about to take a very big turn for Kit and Heloise as they prepare for young adulthood. Stay tuned!

Tony DePaul, February 17, 2014, Rhode Island, USA

 


Lara Bell’s grand tour

It’s not often that outsiders get to see the treasures of antiquity guarded by the Ghost Who Walks. In 1941, with Ray Moore at the drawing board, a gang of thugs and layabouts took advantage of the Phantom’s absence, did battle with the Bandar and looted Skull Cave. The Phantom knew he was on the right trail when he saw a Chinese emperor’s 2,000-year-old necklace hanging around the pretty neck of Rita, known in those days as a swell dame, a real doll. It all ended badly for the gang, as you may imagine.

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Flash forward to 1962, and Sy Barry’s first Sunday story.

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Notice how even-tempered the Phantom is, despite the snooping. No Voice of the angry Phantom chills the blood (Old Jungle Saying). He even gives the interloper a tour of the Major Treasure Room before dealing with him and his cohorts.

Some of the things Lara Bell will see in the next several weeks were disclosed in that 1962 story. But be on the lookout for a few treasures that the great Lee Falk chose not to reveal at that time!

Tony DePaul, January 22, 2014, Rhode Island, USA


Tough road ahead!

HERE’S A STRANGE COINCIDENCE I’ve been meaning to write about for a few days now: In October 2011, I received an email from overseas, from a long-time Phantom reader, a retired superintendent of police who started reading the Ghost Who Walks almost 60 years ago. He had a grievance to air: that the Phantom, in recent years, has been taking a lot of punishment when he runs up against the criminal element. The reader (I’ll keep his name confidential, because I haven’t asked his permission to use it) wasn’t talking about the daily and Sunday newspaper strips managed out of New York; his issue was with stories published around the world by King Features licensees.

Here’s part of what I wrote back:

“No one likes to see their hero powerless to prevail against the evil he needs to confront. Over the years I’ve seen many Phantom stories where he’s constantly getting whacked over the head and tied up and essentially outwitted by halfwits. We’re not doing anything like that in the daily and Sunday strips, but, in the readers’ eyes, stories generated elsewhere tend to get conflated with ours.”

I went on to describe the next three stories in the queue, and how he’d see the Phantom of old in action in all three, doing things ordinary men can’t do, always in command of the situation before him. And I closed with this: “I guarantee that you won’t see the Ghost Who Walks reduced to helplessness!”

That was the right answer, I was certain. But almost immediately I wondered if I had thought it all the way through and given the complete answer!

And then I knew I hadn’t.

More than two years pass. December 28, 2013—Saturday last—the same reader writes again! Just to say hello this time. “Today I have read your letter again and thought of contacting you,” he wrote. “Hope you are fine.”

Talk about a bolt out of the blue! He had no idea that his email would arrive just hours before publication of a story that did tell the complete answer to the issue he had raised in our first correspondence.

For your consideration, here’s my reply to him:

“Hello again, M—–,

What an incredible coincidence it is to hear from you today, of all days! I do remember your letter from 2011 and the issue you raised: how it seems wrong to see the Phantom getting the worst of a fight with evil. We agree entirely, and I still hold to what I wrote to you then. But I must say that I eventually came to see that the argument I made fails in one set of circumstances: when a Phantom is near the end.

It’s a conundrum presented by the immortality myth at the very core of the universe Lee Falk created: Sooner or later, every Phantom is destined to die, so, by definition, he’s going to run up against his limits one day and be bested by evil.

The more I thought about it, the more I knew that, eventually, I’d have to write a story like that. And the questions then would be: What would it take to bring the Phantom down? How would he behave when he realizes his chances of survival are slim to none? He’d remain the Phantom, wouldn’t he? He’d meet his doom with a mental and physical toughness that no ordinary man could muster.

Well, I did write that story. And since we don’t want our 21st Phantom enduring circumstances that may end his life, I chose the 5th Phantom to undergo the ordeal.

Here’s why it’s such a coincidence to hear from you today, my friend: that storyline begins in earnest tomorrow, when the Sunday tale goes back in time to the days of the 5th Phantom and his American wife, Juliet Adams Walker.

I’ll be eager to hear what you think of ‘Death Stalks the 5th Phantom’ when the story concludes on May 18.”

Tony DePaul, January 2, 2014, Rhode Island, USA