Meet the Ghost who walks

PHANTOM PRESENCE

Meet the Ghost who walks

Unlike other superheroes, The Phantom does not have super powers. Indeed, he is very much human, does bleed, and has taken several nasty blows and wounds right through his tumultuous career, and survives everything thanks only to his supreme physical prowess, admirable strength, agility, and the shroud of myth and mystery that ensures he never dies.

‘Bam!’ With a swift but powerful right hook the seal of the death-head is imprinted into the felon’s jaw for eternity. And just as swiftly, the Ghost Who Walks has vanished into thin air.

He is at once revered, feared and respected both among his friends and his enemies. Quicker than a jungle cat, faster than lightning, he is the ‘man who cannot die’ most popularly known as ‘The Phantom’.

When the comic strip began in 1936, The Phantom is already a legend in the fictional land of Bengalla in Africa. He is the twenty-first Phantom in an unbroken line in a centuries-old legacy. The first Phantom was the sole survivor of a brutal pirate attack which left his father, a ship’s captain, dead.

His name was Kit (Christopher) Walker and he swore an oath over the skull of the dead pirate who took his father’s life, to devote his life to ‘the destruction of all forms of piracy, greed and cruelty’. As each of the eldest sons carried on the legacy seamlessly, it was thought that The Phantom never died, and hence he became known as the ‘man who cannot die’, and so the legend endured.

Most kids today have probably never heard of The Phantom. In fact some may be surprised to learn that before there was Batman, Superman, or Spiderman, there was The Phantom. Unlike other superheroes,

The Phantom does not have super powers. Indeed, he is very much human, does bleed, and take several nasty blows and wounds right through his tumultuous career, and survives everything thanks only to his supreme physical prowess, admirable strength, agility, and the shroud of myth and mystery that ensures he never dies.

Lee Falk, the man who created The Phantom, drew his inspiration from ancient legends that surrounded King Arthur and his Knights, Greek mythology, Tarzan and The Jungle Book. In fact, in discussing The Phantom, Falk has been known to describe him as “Tarzan with a college degree”!

The Phantom, unlike Tarzan, however, wears a purple costume that covers him from head to toe, making him the first to wear skintight attire, a sure sign of a superhero. Completing his look is a black eye-mask, revolvers on a designer belt, boots, and the skull ring worn on his right hand. He also wears a ring on his left hand that few know about.

This ring has on it two crossed sabres; those who receive the mark of this ring are protected by The Phantom. ‘Call the Phantom anywhere, and he will hear’ is the ‘old jungle saying’. Accompanied on adventures by his faithful dog, Devil and his trustworthy steed, Hero, The Phantom is at home in cities and the jungles.

He frequently trades in his purple weeds for the anonymous trench-coat look, blending into the urban landscape in hot pursuit of a worthy enemy. In the beginning of the series, his first encounter is with the ‘Singh Brotherhood’, the same group responsible for the death of the father of the first Phantom. The Singh Brotherhood makes frequent appearances in subsequent adventures of The Phantom, providing the sinister, evil element that must be vanquished.

Despite the creation and arrival of several superheroes since The Phantom, this comic strip has endured, just like the legend, for decades. Written, syndicated and read worldwide, The Phantom is available in 20 languages in India alone.

Lee Falk, who, incidentally, would have been a hundred this year, would have been proud of his creation today. After all, it was he who said that “the Ghost who walks will never die”.

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