Real Name: Christopher Walker
Identity/Class: Normal human
Enemies: Chessman, the Sky Band, the Golden Circle, Mermaids of Melo Straits, Lady Luck Pirates
Known Relatives: Diana Walker (wife); Kit (son, the 22nd Phantom); Heloise (daughter), Rex King (adopted son), Maude (mother, deceased), Dave Palmer (wife’s uncle), Lily Palmer (mother-in-law), Christopher Standish (ancestor, first Phantom, deceased)
Aliases: The Ghost Who Walks, Kit, Kip, the Man Who Cannot Die, Guardian of the Eastern Dark, the Gray Ghost
Phantom is a mysterious, costumed crime fighter created by Lee Falk, who also created Mandrake the Magician. Phantom is one of the most popular superheroes like Zorro, Tarzan, or Mowgli of The Jungle Book fame. The series began with a daily newspaper strip on February 17, 1936, followed by a colour Sunday strip on May 28, 1939; both are still running as of 2023.
People all over the world believe that he is immortal or “The Man Who Cannot Die”. In reality, the story behind Phantom is based on 20 generations who all had the same name and physical appearance. Whenever a new Phantom takes over the mantle from his dying father, he has to take an Oath before the Skull: “I swear to devote my life to the destruction of piracy, greed, cruelty, and injustice, in all their forms, and my sons and their sons shall follow me.” The current Phantom is the twenty-first in the line. Unlike most costume heroes, he has no superhuman powers and relies only on his wit, physical strength, marksmanship, and impressive reputation as an unbeatable crime fighter.
Phantom’s best friend is Guran the chief of the Bandar pygmy tribe. They have both been each other’s closest friends since childhood and have helped each other in the battle against evil.
Phantom’s other companions include Devil a wolf, a horse called Hero, an elephant (Joomba) and a falcon (Fraka). The Phantom found an orphan whom he looked after and gave him the name Rex. Subsequently, Rex turned out to be the lost prince of the Baronkhan kingdom.
The Phantom lives in the fabled Skull Cave, where all previous Phantoms are buried. It is a closely guarded secret that “Phantom – the Ghost Who Walks”, instead of being a single, undying soul, comes from a dynasty of crime fighters who have sworn to protect the innocent and punish the guilty, and if necessary, to lay down their lives in the service of justice. Phantom operates from Bangalla (near coastal Africa), but the mere mention of his name makes evildoers shiver from fear all over the globe. He cannot be killed or stopped in his pursuit of justice for the poor or weak.
Phantom is also one of the most popular characters in India, where he is known as ‘Vetaal’, which means Phantom in Hindi. Some minor changes have been made in the names of his dog/wolf- Shera and horse- Toofan in Hindi.
The Phantom became a worldwide phenomenon, known by different names like Le Fantôme in France and French Canada, Fantoom in the Netherlands, El Hombre Enmascarado (The Masked Man) in Spain, L’Uomo Mascherato (The Masked Man) in Italy, Fantomet in Norway, Fantomen in Sweden, Fantom in Yugoslavia, Mustanaamio (Black Mask) in Finland, Kizilmaske (Red Mask) in Turkey, Phantomas in Israel, Fantasma in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Portugal, Venezuela and Bera-Na-Liva in Fiji
In India, he was also known as Bethala (Ghost in the Kannada) or Aranyadeb – the God of the Jungle in Bengali.
Phantom was the first comic book crime fighter like Superman to wear a skintight costume and the first to wear a mask with no visible pupils.
He appeared in many comic books in different parts of the world. In India, he was featured in the Times of India in the mid-’60s and was later published by Indrajaal comics till the mid-’80s. Aaj a Hindi daily from Banaras started publishing it in daily comic strip form and coined the word Vanbhairav. But, the public did not like it.
Phantom popularly known as –the Ghost who walks was originally conceived of as Jimmy Wells, a rich playboy who used to fight crime by night as the mysterious Phantom. But in due course of time, Lee Falk moved Phantom to the jungle and was inclined to even change the legendary crime-fighters name but could not come up with a better name than Phantom.
Phantom is an expert horseman, and ace marksman who is trained in many forms of combat. He is also extremely agile and athletic and usually carries a dagger and twin .45 pistols.
Phantom is also known to wear two distinctive rings which can leave permanent marks on people’s bodies. The “Good Mark” on the left hand with overlapping swords and the letter P indicated that the bearer is a friend and always under the Phantom’s protection.
However, the “Skull Mark” on the right hand, normally delivered with a jaw-breaking punch on the face, shows the victim is a ruffian or bad guy.
As per legend, whenever Phantom has to go out of the jungle for whatever reason, he dresses up like a normal person, wearing a hat, trench coat, and sunglasses. He doesn’t drink alcohol and just orders milk when in a bar much to the surprise of everyone present. He introduces himself as “Kit Walker” using the surname of a young sailor called Christopher Walker (also known as Christopher Standish) who later became the first Phantom.
Christopher Standish’s father, also named Christopher Walker, was the cabin boy on Christopher Columbus’s ship Santa María when he sailed to the Americas. Christopher Jr. became a ship-boy on the ship on which Christopher senior was Captain.
In 1536, in what turned out to be his father’s last voyage when 20 years old Christopher was ship-wrecked when his father’s ship was attacked by pirates near the coast of Bangalla. The pirates murdered Christopher’s father but lost their own lives when both ships exploded. Christopher was the sole survivor and was half dead when he was washed ashore. The pygmies of the Bandar tribe found him and nursed him back to life. Sometime later, while walking on the beach, Christopher found the dead body of one of the pirates who killed his father. After the vultures flying around the body had finished eating the flesh, Christopher picked up the skull of the killer and swore: “I swear to devote my life to the destruction of piracy, greed, cruelty, and injustice, in all their forms! My sons and their sons, shall follow me”.
While staying with the Bandar tribe, Christopher learnt that they were slaves of the Wasaka tribe a tribe of “giants”. Christopher accompanied them to the Wasaka village and asked them to free the Bandars in their captivity. But instead of listening to him, the Wasaka tied him up and laid him on an altar made of stone and offered him for sacrifice before Wazuzu the demon God of Wasaka. But before the Wasaka could do him any real harm Christopher was rescued by a group of Bandars who had managed to escape unharmed from the Wasaka village.
Inspired by the stories he heard from the Bandar tribals Christopher made a costume that resembled the Demon God of the Wasaka and went back to the Wasaka village with a small army of Bandars (armed with poisonous arrows, capable of killing a man in a few seconds). The Wasaka were so shocked to see their God come alive that they set free all the Bandars in their custody. This led to a lifelong bond of friendship between Christopher and the Bandars.
The Bandars showed Christopher a natural cave which looked like a human skull. Christopher carved it to make it look even more like a skull. This in due course came to be known as the Skull Cave – his home.
This is how wearing the costume which made him look like the Demon God, Christopher became the first Phantom. In due course when he died, his son took over. Later the 2nd, 3rd and subsequent Phantoms kept on carrying the tradition going through centuries, making people truly believe that the Phantom was immortal, giving him nicknames as “The Ghost Who Walks” and “The Man Who Cannot Die”.
Phantom does not reveal his true identity – i.e. his unmasked face except to his family and close friends. There is a saying that except for his close family or friends, anyone who tries to see Phantom’s real face without the mask will “die a terrible death.” This is why the mysterious Phantom is feared by criminals all over the world. Although he had no superpowers, Falk firmly believed that Phantom shouldn’t use his guns even to harm his enemies, hence he only uses them to disarm or distract his enemies.
Phantom married his sweetheart Diana Palmer who works at the United Nations in 1978. Guran as expected was the best man. Other names on the illustrious guest list for the wedding included Mandrake the Magician, as well as the Presidents of Bangalla and Ivory-Lana; Luaga and Goranda. A year later, Diana gives birth to twins- Kit and Heloise.
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Interestingly Phantom started appearing as a daily strip in black and white until the Sunday supplement began on 28th May 1939 when he turned purple. It is not known how or why he was dyed in this colour, which stuck with the character thereafter – though some foreign editions experimentally used a number of other colours. Apparently, Falk too was surprised by this choice of colour because he had originally envisioned Phantom to be wearing grey and used the term “The Gray Ghost”. It wasn’t till 1956 that Falk finally gave in and stated within a story that the Phantom’s costume was purple. In many parts of the world, the Phantom’s costume has been coloured blue in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland; red in Italy, Turkey and formerly in Brazil; and brown in New Zealand.
Phantom’s skin-tight costume was inspired by the legendary figure of Robin Hood, who often wore tights in film and stage adaptations.
The Phantom started as a daily strip on February 17 1936 called “The Singh Brotherhood” – written and drawn by Falk who joined the Office of War Information during World War II. During his absence, his assistant Wilson McCoy scripted and drew the strip which by then appeared in thousands of newspapers worldwide.
After World War II came to an end Lee Falk, continued to script and design the strip until he died in 1999. Before his death Falk who had also created Mandrake the Magician sometimes come up with situations where both the heroes appeared in each other’s strip for instance they attended one another’s weddings. They were also depicted as allies in the Defenders of the Earth cartoon. After Lee Falk’s death, his wife Elizabeth completed his last two stories (daily strip #195 and Sunday strip #150) from his notes.
You made me nostalgic. I was and still am a great fan of Phantom and I believe, a repository of even trivia on Phantom. Have read practically ALL Phantoms published by Indrajal Comics since the VERY first one in the 1960s. I must tell you something about artwork. Thugh several artists sketched him, in my opinion, the most good looking Phantom was sketched by Seymour Sy Barry. It was great inspirational work.
The pistols he uses are Colt .45 ACPs. Low magazine capacity but because of his American connection, he preferred Colt.
His ancestors ofen used swords with full cup type basket hilts–once again, because of the connection of the first Phantom with sailing. They were actually cutlasses used by sailors and not infantry or cavalry sabres. The father of the fist Phantom had sailed with Columbus. It was he who was killed by pirates off the coast of Denkali/Bangala. His son was washed ashore and took up the Phantom’s Oath on his father’s murderer’s skull.
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