Lee Falk's creations , the King Features Syndicate characters The Phantom and Mandrake The Magician , are still published as syndicated strips , but I don't know , for instance , how many people here follow those versions , even .

  There have been many publications of the characters over the years - However , frankly , for one , since they have generally stayed away from the DC-Marvel world , many US comics fans would be fairly foggy about those characters , though I think ( especially Mandrake ) they have a certian " You've heard of the names " recognition - if not much to follow that !!!!!!!!!!!

  Actually , the comics-shop era has seen an awful lot of Phantom comic books especially from a variety of different publishers - Which , however , arguably have tended to try to make the Phantom more like the perceived mainstream for a US comic book character .

  At present , Dynamite?? is publishing the Alex Ross-connected " The Last Phantom " miniseries , which I have only seen (6 bought) one issue of , which GREATLY retcons - and " grim and gritties " (!) - the Phantom concept .

  Comics Revue magazine , which I wish I could get more regularly , offers pre-60s reprints of the strips of both characters regularly .

  When I first got on the Web , I found out especially how popular the Phantom is in some non-USA markets - where he has MANY stories published , in comic-book form , which are never published in the US - including , at times , ones by name US pros !!!!!

  Let's discuss these famous characters...

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Apparently Jim Keefe Flash Gordon reruns are still running somewhere, but new strips ceased appearing in 2003.



Luke Blanchard said:

Early on Mandrake possessed apparently magical powers. He could e.g. transform a panther into a woman, make a car rise over a woman who had fallen in front of it, make a pile of rocks appear, or temporarily levitate in the air. In the sequences I've seen he performs such feats without explanation as to how he could do them, so one might regard his abilities in the period as mysterious rather than magical. I've not see all that much 30s Mandrake stuff, so I don't know if the captions ever described his powers as magical.

 

In the latter 30s Falk switched to the idea that his powers were mostly hypnotism. The later Mandrake had some powers other than hypnotism. However, these were psychic abilities rather than magical abilities. For example, he could put someone into a trance and project an image from that person's eye of someone they'd seen. The stories overwhelmingly emphasised his powers of hypnotic illusion. I have a reprint of a sequence from the 70s in which he manifests a mild telekinetic ability, which he calls using metal jabs.

 

By the 40s Mandrake stories very often involved him encountering some apparently supernatural menace which would turn out to be a hoax. They never involved actual supernatural forces. So the thrust of the series was rationalistic. (I've seen one or two Phantom Stranger stories from the 50s with this kind of theme. Perhaps the Mandrake series influenced them.) Some stories had SF content. Sometimes the more fantastic stories turned out to be dreams, or else a character would be left wondering at the end of the adventure whether it had been a dream or real.

 

In the later 40s it was revealed that Mandrake had learned his "magic" at the College of Magic in Tibet. Its head was a guy called Theron. Eventually he was revealed to be Mandrake's father, but not, I think, before the 80s or 90s. In at least three stories from the 40s/50s Mandrake's opponents were other graduates of the College of Magic, beginning with his crooked twin brother Derek. The 40s version of Derek reformed and gave up his powers, but in the 70s Falk did a new version of the story according to which the young Mandrake, before he met Lothar or Narda, was forced to defeat him and take away his powers, and Derek never reformed.

 

 

...In my limited reading of 21st Century Mandrake , I , too , have seen references to Theron as Mandrake's father and the College...It's suggested/indicated that Theron , further along the magical path , has stronger/more " real " magic than Mandrake .

  If I haven't said this already (No time to re-check) :

  A recent Comics Revue had a 50s Sunday story w/ an apparently " real "-magic-posessing M. crossing over to a parlell universe . 30s dalies had no-(stuff) real real magic .

  King Features keeps its strips wall-protected now , and I haven't found a source for monern Mandrake .

  Before I lost touch , the strip appeared to be doing lots of remakes/sequels to old stories , in which , for many weeks , we'd have a re-telling of an old story , with Mandrake appearing in the present time in Monday's strip ( The strip is daily-only now . ) to continue the re-telling , then , after some weeks , a continuation/sequel to the old story .

 

...In the 90s ( I wasn't aware of it at the time . ) , Marvel Select published a three-part Mandrake mini - of which they didn't even publish the third issue of !!!!!!!!! Ay yi yi .

  Mandrake is married to Narda now , as is Phantom to Diana...Before I lost track of Mandrake , a 21st Cent. sequence in one of the strips had a puzzled Mandrake/Narda call Phantom/Diana in Africa for help , this wasn't even a formal " teamup " (which has also happened )...

In the 70s Mandrake attended the Phantom's wedding as a guest of Lothar's. Whether the Phantom reciprocated when Mandrake married, I don't know.

 

The Seattle Post Intelligencer runs Mandrake online, here.

Luke Blanchard said:

In the 70s Mandrake attended the Phantom's wedding as a guest of Lothar's. Whether the Phantom reciprocated when Mandrake married, I don't know.

 


The Ghost Who Walks did indeed repay the courtesy, Luke . . . .

 




Thanks, Commander.

Though it shows what a romantic the Phantom is, instead of bringing his wife to the wedding, he brings his dog wolf! The people at his table must have been thrilled!
Philip Portelli said:
Though it shows what a romantic the Phantom is, instead of bringing his wife to the wedding, he brings his dog wolf! The people at his table must have been thrilled!

 

It kind of strikes me that if you're a close enough friend of a fellow who has Brilliantined hair and constantly wears white tie, complete with opera cape and silk topper, who goes around all day "gesturing hypnotically", and pals around with a six-foot-seven African prince wearing a leopard-pelt t-shirt, to be invited to his wedding, then sitting at the same table with a man and his "not a dog---it's a wolf" wouldn't faze you too much.

 

You're right about the Phantom's sense of the romantic, though.

Commander Benson said:

When occasions called for the Phantom to mix in civilisation, he inevitably donned a trenchcoat, a fedora, and sunglasses, and used the name "Mister Walker" (from his sobriquet "the Ghost Who Walks").  And he was usually accompanied by his wolf, Devil.

 

"Hey, you can't bring that dog on this plane!"

 

"He's not a dog---he's a wolf!"

 

And for some reason, that always ended the discussion.


I never thought about that, but -- yeah, that always did end the discussion! But why? Because wolves are cooler than dogs? Because nobody wants to argue with somebody audacious enough to walk around with a pet wolf? Inquiring minds want to know!

My brother introduced me to Gold Key's The Phantom in the Silver Age, and I collected it until it transformed into a King Features title. It had wonderful painted covers, but my collection abruptly stops when Gold Key stops publishing The Phantom -- I don't know if it was because the King covers were so lame (not just in comparison, stupefyingly bad in general), or because my neighborhood pharmacy didn't carry it. But I've known about The Phantom as long as I've known about any other character. So, yes, I like him.

 

And I liked the movie, too. It got panned, but seriously, Billy Zane's Phantom was the anti-Batman -- a character who just had THE BEST DAMN TIME beating the crap out of evil. It looked like he was having the time of his life! That enthusiasm and joie de vivre was infectious, at least for me. (Of course, I liked The Shadow movie, too, so I'm definitely in the minority here.) But remember: The Phantom is where we were introduced to Catherine Zeta-Jones, who played a whip-wielding bisexual aviatrix in black leather, who flirted with both Phantom and Diana Palmer (who was tied to a chair). Tell me again you don't like this movie.

 

I admit I loathed the Ron Ely Doc Savage film. However, I do still quote one line from it to this day: "We are all doomed to die a horrible death!" It was delivered with such hokey solemnity that I burst out laughing in the theater, and never forgot it. Comes in handy in all sorts of situations, especially if done in a "Hidalgo" accent.

 

I did a newspaper feature on The Phantom some 25 years ago (probably the 50th anniversary) in which I dug up many fun facts, but my memory is a bit rusty. Still, I seem to remember that the Phantom's outfit was originally meant to be GRAY, but a printer was given the first strips in B&W without a color guide and just guessed that THIS shade of gray was green, THAT shade of gray was blue, and THIS shade of gray (which happened to be on the hero) was purple. Thus an inconic suit was born. On a related note, the same thing happened overseas, so the all-encompassing term "printer's error" explains why The Phantom dresses in blue in Scandinavian countries, and red in Mediterranean countries. Printers were just guessing what varying shades of gray were supposed to represent and charged ahead.

 

Also, for those who detect oddities like Phantom having "the strength of 10 tigers" and such when he's based in Africa, keep in mind that originally Bengalla was on the Indian subcontinent. I don't know why, but Phantom stories were moved to Africa in the 1960s and have remained there ever since. Maybe it was the success of the Tarzan movies, or maybe it got hard to believe that there was anywhere in India you could still have a "Deep Woods."

 

And, yes, he is quite popular in Scandinavia. In Sweden, where he's called Fantomen, he has his own theme park!

 

Also, Phantom was not only the first hero to wear a skin-tight circus-y suit (he preceded Superman by two years), but he's also the first one to have blunked-out eyes on his mask! Take that, Batman-come-lately!

Early on there were many indications that the Phantom's home territory was in Asia. My recollection is at least one early story refers to Bengal. However, from an early stage the peoples of his home territory had an African look. By a story from 1942-43 I checked the Phantom's home territory had become the fictional Bengali. The plot, involving a Japanese invasion of Bengali, arguably implies an Asian setting, but the Bengallans look like black Africans. So the eventual pinning of its location down as in Africa will not have been jarring. I think that was probably earlier than you suppose, Captain.

Undoubtedly, Luke. As I said, my memories of researching The Phantom a quarter of a century ago are a bit fuzzy. But I do know he started out in the Indian subcontinent (either in India or adjacent), especially given the word 'Bengalli,' so close to 'Bengal' and 'Bengal Tiger.' And later he somehow vaguely shifted to Africa, but I don't know when, or if there was ever an in-story explanation. So maybe, as you suggest, it was very quickly -- in the '40s or thereabouts. Maybe the IDW newspaper strip reprints will shed some light. *Paging Jeff of Earth-J!*

Luke Blanchard said:

Early on there were many indications that the Phantom's home territory was in Asia. My recollection is at least one early story refers to Bengal. However, from an early stage the peoples of his home territory had an African look. By a story from 1942-43 I checked the Phantom's home territory had become the fictional Bengali. The plot, involving a Japanese invasion of Bengali, arguably implies an Asian setting, but the Bengallans look like black Africans. So the eventual pinning of its location down as in Africa will not have been jarring. I think that was probably earlier than you suppose, Captain.

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