The Phantom

This article is about the comic strip "The Phantom". For other uses, see The Phantom (disambiguation) .

The Phantom is an American adventure comic strip created by Lee Falk , also creator of Mandrake the Magician . A popular feature adapted into many forms of media, including television and film, it stars a costumed crimefighter operating in the African jungle. The series began with a daily newspaper strip on February 17, 1936, followed by a color Sunday strip in May 1939; both are still running as of 2023.

Lee Falk died in 1999. As of 2021, the comic strip is produced by writer Tony DePaul and artists Mike Manley (daily strips) and Jeff Weigel (Sunday strips). Previous artists on the newspaper strip include Ray Moore , Wilson McCoy , Bill Lignante , Sy Barry , George Olesen , Keith Williams , Paul Ryan , Fred Fredericks , Terry Beatty , Graham Nolan , and Eduardo Barreto .

New Phantom stories have also been created for comic books in different parts of the world, among them by Egmont in Scandinavia, Moonstone Books in the U.S. and Frew in Australia.

While the Phantom is not the first fictional costumed crimefighter, he is the first to wear the skintight costume that has become a hallmark of comic-book superheroes, and the first to wear a mask with no visible pupils, another superhero standard.

  • 1.1 Creation
  • 1.2 Newspaper strips
  • 1.3 International names of "The Phantom"
  • 2.3 Costume
  • 3 References

Publication history

After the success of his Mandrake the Magician strip, the King Features newspaper syndicate asked Lee Falk to develop a new feature. Falk's first attempt was a strip about King Arthur, which Falk both wrote and drew. When King Features turned him down, Falk developed what would become The Phantom , about a mysterious, costumed crimefighter. He planned out the first few months of the story and drew the first two weeks of a sample strip.

Inspired by Falk's lifelong fascination with such myths and legends as that of El Cid and King Arthur, and such modern fictional characters as Zorro, Tarzan, and The Jungle Book 's Mowgli, Falk originally envisioned the Phantom's alias as rich playboy Jimmy Wells, fighting crime by night as the mysterious Phantom, but partway through his first story, "The Singh Brotherhood", he moved the Phantom to the jungle. He had tinkered with the idea of calling his hero The Gray Ghost (which later became the name of a Batman character) after thinking there were already too many Phantoms in fiction, such as The Phantom Detective and The Phantom of the Opera. But he could ultimately not come up with a name he liked better than The Phantom.

In an A&E American cable TV documentary about the Phantom, Falk said Greek busts inspired the idea of the Phantom's pupils not showing when he wore his mask. The Greek busts had no pupils, which Falk felt gave them an inhuman, interesting look. In an interview published in Comic Book Marketplace #121 in 2005, Falk also told that the Phantom's skin-tight costume was inspired by the legendary figure of Robin Hood, who often wore tights in film and stage adaptations.

Newspaper strips

The Phantom started as a daily strip on February 17 1936, with the story "The Singh Brotherhood", written by Falk and drawn first by him, for two weeks, followed by Ray Moore , who was an assistant to artist Phil Davis on Falk's Mandrake the Magician strip. A Sunday Phantom strip was added May 28 1939.

During World War II, Falk joined the Office of War Information, where he became chief of his radio foreign language division. Moore also served in the war, during which he left the strip to his assistant Wilson McCoy . On Moore's return, he worked on the strip on and off until 1949, when McCoy succeeded him. During McCoy's tenure, the strip appeared in thousands of newspapers worldwide.

McCoy died suddenly in 1961. Carmine Infantino and Bill Lignante (who would later draw Phantom stories directly for comic books) filled in before a successor was found in Sy Barry . During Barry's early years, he and Falk modernized the strip, and laid the foundation for what is considered the modern look of the Phantom. Barry would continue working on the strip for over 30 years before retiring in 1994.

Barry's longtime assistant George Olesen remained on the strip as penciller, with Keith Williams joining as inker for the daily strip. The Sunday strip was inked by Eric Doescher until Mandrake the Magician artist Fred Fredericks became the regular inker in 1995.

Falk continued to script Phantom (and Mandrake ) until his death on March 13, 1999. His last daily and Sunday strip stories, " Terror at the Opera " and " The Kidnappers ", respectively, were finished by his wife, Elizabeth Falk . After Falk's passing, King Features Syndicate began to cooperate with European comic publisher Egmont , publisher of the Swedish Fantomen magazine, which now went from only publishing Phantom stories in licenced comic books to providing the stories for the newspaper strip as well. Fantomen writers Tony De Paul and Claes Reimerthi alternated as writers of the newspaper strip after Falk died, with De Paul handling the daily strips and Reimerthi being responsible for the Sunday strips. Today De Paul is the regular writer. Some of the stories have been adapted from comic magazine stories originally published in Fantomen , but most have been new original stories.

In 2000, Olesen and Fredericks retired from the Sunday strip which was then taken over by respected comic book artist Graham Nolan . A few years later, Olesen and Williams left the daily strip after Olesen decided to retire and artist Paul Ryan , who had worked on the Fantomen comic stories, took over the daily strip in early 2005. Ryan succeeded Nolan as artist on the Sunday strip in 2007.

The Phantom is one of few adventure comic strips still published in the mid-2010s.

International names of "The Phantom"

Fictional character biography.

In the jungles of the (fictional) African country Bangalla , there is a myth about "The Ghost Who Walks", "The Man Who Cannot Die", The Phantom . Because he seems to have been around for generations, people around the world believe him to be immortal. In reality, the Phantom is descended from twenty previous generations of crime-fighters who all adopt the same persona. When a new Phantom takes up the mantle from his dying father, he has to swear the Oath of 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." Frequently the comic highlights the adventures of previous Phantoms, set in the past.

Today's Phantom is the twenty-first in the line. Unlike most costume heroes, he has no superhuman powers, relying only on his wits, physical brawn, skill with his weapons and fearsome reputation to fight crime.

Two signatures of the character are the two rings he wears. One has a pattern that he leaves on visitors to his region he approves of, called "The Good Mark" which marks the person as under his protection. The other has a skull shape and is worn on his favored punching hand, called "The Evil Mark", which leaves a skull-like scar on the enemies he punches.

His base is in the Deep Woods of Bangalla (originally Bengali, renamed Denkali in the Indian edition), a fictional country initially said to be set in Asia somewhere near India but moved to Africa in the 1960s, where it has stayed since. The Phantom lives in the fabled Skull Cave , where all previous Phantoms are buried.

The Phantom is also the unknown commander of Bangalla's world famous Jungle Patrol . Due to a betrayal leading to the death of the 14th Phantom, the identity of the commander has been kept hidden from members of the patrol ever since. The 6th Phantom originally formed the Jungle Patrol with the help of former pirate Redbeard and his men back in 1664.

Another character who aided the Phantom is the chief of the Bandar pygmy tribe, Guran . Guran is the Phantom's best friend since childhood, and he has been a valuable support in the hard battle against evil.

The Phantom has two helpers, a mountain wolf, Devil , and a horse, Hero . He also has a trained falcon named Fraka . From 1962 on, The Phantom raised an orphan named Rex King , who was later on revealed to be the prince of the kingdom of Baronkhan .

In 1978, he married his sweetheart since his days in American college, Diana Palmer , who works at the United Nations. Guran , his best friend since boyhood, was best man. The guests present at the wedding included Mandrake the Magician , and the Presidents of Bangalla and Ivory-Lana ; Luaga and Goranda .

A year later, twins were born to the Palmer-Walkers, Kit and Heloise .

The Phantom's family have always played a significant role in the series. His romance with Diana Palmer was an ongoing part of the story from the beginning, and many later stories revolved around the Phantom becoming involved in adventures as a result of his young charges, first Rex, then Kit and Heloise.

When the Phantom leaves the jungle, he dresses as a normal person, wearing a fedora, a trench coat, and sunglasses, and known as "Kit Walker". References to "Mr. Walker" are traditionally accompanied by a footnote saying "For 'The Ghost Who Walks'", although some versions of the Phantom's history suggest that Walker was actually the surname of the man who became the first Phantom. Like The Lone Ranger, the Phantom does not allow his unmasked or undisguised face to be seen except by close friends or members of his family.

Details on the Phantom's origin may vary from story to story, published by different publishers, although the core of the story is essentially always the same.

The story of the Phantom started with a young sailor named Christopher Walker (sometimes called Christopher Standish in certain versions of the story). Christopher was born in 1516 in Portsmouth. His father, also named Christopher Walker, had been a seaman since he was a young boy, and was the cabin boy on Christopher Columbus's ship Santa María when he sailed to the Americas.

Christopher Jr. became a shipboy on his father's ship in 1526, of which Christopher senior was Captain.

In 1536, when Christopher was 20 years old, he was a part of what was supposed to be his father's last voyage. On February 17, the ship was attacked by pirates of the Singh Brotherhood in a bay on the coast of Bangalla. The last thing Christopher saw before he fell unconscious and fell to the sea was his father being murdered by a pirate. Both ships exploded, making Christopher the sole survivor of the attack.

Christopher was washed ashore on a Bangalla beach, seemingly half dead. He was found by pygmies of the Bandar tribe, who nursed him and took care of him.

A time later, Christopher had a walk on the same beach that he had been washed ashore on, and found a dead body there, who he recognized as the pirate who killed his father. He allowed the vultures flying around the body to finish their work, took up the skull of the killer, raised it above his head, and swore a sacred oath: "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".

After learning the language of the Bandar tribe, Christopher found out that they were slaves of the Wasaka tribe, a tribe consisting of what the Bandars called "giants". The Bandars who had found him was only a small group of people who had managed to escape from the village of the Wasaka. Immediately, Christopher walked into the village of the Wasaka, and asked them to set the Bandars free. Instead of achieving this goal, he was taken prisoner, and laid before the Demon God of the Wasaka , who was supposed to decide his destiny. Christopher was tied up and laid on an altar made of stone, where vultures surrounded him, the Wasaka allowing them to eat him. Christopher was quickly saved by a group of Bandars before the vultures or the Wasaka could do him any real harm. They managed to escape from the village of the Wasaka unharmed.

Christopher learned about an ancient Bandar legend about a man coming from the ocean to save them from their slavery. He made a costume inspired by the look of the Demon God of the Wasaka, and went to the Wasaka village again, this time with a small army of Bandars (armed with their newly discovered, extremely poisoned arrows, capable of killing a man in a few seconds). The Wasaka, shocked at seeing what many of them thought was their Demon God come alive, were fought down, and the Bandars were finally set free, after centuries in slavery. This resulted in a dedicated friendship between Christopher and the Bandars, which would be brought on to the generations to come after them.

The Bandars showed Christopher to a cave, which resembled the look of a human skull. Christopher later carved it out to make it look even more like a skull. What was later on known as the Skull Cave became his home.

Wearing the costume based on the Demon God, Christopher became the first of what would later be known as The Phantom. When he died, his son took over for him, and when the 2nd Phantom died, his son took over. And so it would go on through the centuries, causing people to believe that the Phantom was immortal, giving him nicknames as "The Ghost Who Walks" and "The Man Who Cannot Die".

Over the course of more than seventy years' worth of stories, the backstory "legend" of the Phantom grew to become an integral part of the series. The legend of the "Ghost Who Walks" made the character stand out from the innumerable costumed heroes who have battled crime throughout the 20th Century, and has helped maintain his appeal through the present day.

Much of the underlying, continuing plots and "themes" of the series focus on the continuing legend of the Phantom. The series regularly gives quotes from " old jungle sayings " surrounding the myth of the Phantom. Perhaps the most well-known of these is the tradition that anyone who sees the Phantom's true face without his mask will certainly "die a terrible death." However, the Phantom's close friends and family have frequently seen him unmasked, without anything happening to them.

The Phantom is feared by criminals over the entire world, and he knows how to use his frightening image against them.

As part of the official uniform, the Phantom wears a black mask and a purple skintight bodysuit, and carries two .45 pistols in a special belt with a skull-buckle. While there had been masked crime fighters like the costumed Zorro or the business-suited The Clock, the Phantom was the first fictional character to wear the skintight costume that has become a trademark of superheroes.

In later years, Falk was quoted as saying that he had envisioned a grey costume and even considered naming his creation "The Gray Ghost" 1 . The Phantom's costume was referenced as grey in early stories like " The Singh Brotherhood " and " Fishers of Pearls ", but when the Phantom Sunday strip debuted in 1939, the costume was colored purple. Falk, however, continued to refer to the costume as grey in the text of the strip on several occasions afterwards (for example in " The Sea Horse ", " The Mermaids of Melo Straits ", " The Devil Road " and " The Matchmaker ), but finally in the 1956 daily story " The Heavyweight Champion " the costume was mentioned as purple. 2

In the Sunday story " The First Phantom " it was shown that the first Phantom chose the costume based on the appearance of a jungle idol, and colored the cloth with purple jungle berries.

Over the years, the Phantom's costume has for example been colored blue in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland; red in Italy, Turkey and formerly in Brazil; and brown in New Zealand.

  • 1 . " A Visit with Lee Falk " by Anthony Tollin , Comics Revue #27
  • 2 . A purple Phantom? by Bryan Shedden
  • The 21st Phantom

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SIMILAR ITEMS (based on metadata)

The Phantom

The Phantom is the title character in the American comic strip "The Phantom". He made a guest appearance first time in the story Mandrake's Wedding at Xanadu as " Kit Walker ".

  • 1.1 The Phantom appearances in the Mandrake strip
  • 1.2 Mandrake appearances in the Phantom strip
  • 1.3.1 External link
  • 1.4 Marvel stories
  • 1.5 Moonstone stories
  • 2 Futuristic Settings


The phantom appearances in the mandrake strip, mandrake appearances in the phantom strip, external link.

  • PhantomWiki: The Phantom #13

Marvel stories

Moonstone stories, futuristic settings.

In Defenders of the Earth , Mandrake is one of the defenders, and has the adoptive son Kshin.


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Comic Strip / Mandrake the Magician

Edit locked.

Lee Falk's ( The Phantom ) first comic series, Mandrake the Magician is his other contender for "first costumed superhero in the comics". It all depends on if you want to count a tuxedo, with top hat and cape no less, as a costume.

King Features Syndicate started publishing Mandrake in 1934. The first story The Cobra introduced Mandrake's bash brother , Lothar, an African prince who preferred fighting evil to his princely duties. Oh, yeah, Lothar is black. And perhaps the earliest black character portrayed seriously in comics. The second story The Hawk introduced Narda, who would become Mandrake's romantic interest. After sixty years they finally married in 1998.

Educated in the mysterious Collegium Magikos in the Himalayas, Mandrake's main ability is the power to create any illusion he can think of in a target's mind, just by "gesturing hypnotically." He also has some telepathic abilities. Naturally, his illusion-casting powers make him the world's greatest stage magician, and that is how he earns his living when he's not busy fighting the forces of evil.

Art on the series was done by Phil Davis, and later by Fred Fredericks. Following Lee Falk's death, Fredericks took over writing the series as well, until his retirement on July 6, 2013. The Comics Kingdom site is currently running reprints, starting from 1995. Mandrake also appeared in a live-action serial in 1939 where he and Lothar battled a masked mastermind calling himself the Wasp.

Mandrake and Lothar have also appeared in comic books, most recently the Shared Universe established by Dynamite Comics after the Kings Watch miniseries. Mandrake is busy dealing with the aftereffects of Ming 's attack on Earth, while Lothar has taken up the role of The Phantom and is on a quest for the true heir to the name.

Mandrake's adventures provide examples of:

  • Animated Adaptation : Mandrake has made two official animated appearances, in the 1972 special The Man Who Hated Laughter and the 1986 series Defenders of the Earth , as well as a Lawyer-Friendly Cameo in Phantom 2040 . He co-starred with other King Features characters in all these projects.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign : Lee Falk was once asked if he knew that Lothar is in fact a German name. He admitted that no, he didn't. He "just thought it sounded like a good African name".
  • Badass Normal : The version from the film serial hasn't got any magical powers of hypnosis or illusion, he just makes good use of sleight of hand and escape artistry.
  • Bash Brothers : Lothar and Mandrake are inseparable crime fighters.
  • Beta Couple : Lothar and Karma, to Mandrake and Narda's alpha.
  • Bigfoot, Sasquatch, and Yeti : Mandrake discovers the Yeti creatures in the Himalaya. He finds out they are actually technologically-advanced Human Aliens in disguise who lived for millenia hidden from humans, but secretly influenced their advancement of science , while also posing as gods to them. Mandrake wants them to interact with the Earthlings further to help them in human progress, but they have to leave to the stars, not bothering to eliminate/brainwash Mandrake because they know nobody would believe him, especially after they destroyed all remnants of their own civilisation behind. Mandrake decides not to say anything about what he learned.
  • Calling Card : The Clay Camel would always leave a small clay camel figurine at the scene of a crime, and whenever he escaped capture. His daughter, The Brass Monkey, did a similar thing.
  • Also, at the conclusion of a story arc, "Next — New Adventure!"
  • Celebrity Is Overrated : Lothar becomes a champion wrestler in one story, surrounded with riches and glory. When he realizes that this means he cannot go on adventures with Mandrake and friends any longer, he decides to abandon it all and rejoin his old friend.
  • Comic-Book Time : In all the decades of the strip's run, the characters never aged.
  • Cool Old Guy : Mandrake's dad Theron runs the College of Magic.
  • Crossover : As an African prince, Lothar is invited to The Phantom 's wedding, and Mandrake gets to tag along. The two strips have had multiple crossovers over the years, establishing that the Phantom, Lothar, Mandrake, and their respective supporting casts are all friends.
  • Depending on the Writer : Is Mandrake's trademark hypnotic gesture necessary to his illusion magic, or just a stylistic flourish? One story written by Fred Fredericks has Mandrake rendered helpless when his hands are tied, but a different story by Lee Falk has Mandrake in a similar situation switch to using Hypnotic Eyes without missing a beat.
  • Disproportionate Retribution : Qork is a giant alien who is punished with banishment to space, with only a raft and minimal supplies to subsist him. His crime? Falling asleep on his job, where he was in charge with guiding his ship, which hit a meteor.
  • Evil Twin : Derek is literally Mandrake's evil twin.
  • Fantasy Kitchen Sink : Magic, aliens, robots, parallel universes, time travel, you name it, Mandrake has encountered it at some point.
  • Genius Bruiser : Lothar is strong and intelligent
  • Gentle Giant : Qork, a giant almost as big as a moon, but who means no harm and is very nice. He is dying of thirst and would like to drink some water from the Earth's ocean, but he refuses to endanger any people and prefers to sacrifice his own life.
  • Home Base : Xanadu is Mandrake's elaborate home and H.Q.
  • Informed Attractiveness : Lee Falk sometimes went to extreme lengths to point out just how beautiful Narda is.
  • Interpol Special Agent : Mandrake frequently gets called on to help an international police organization called Inter-Intel.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia : Mandrake's memory has been "fixed" several times, usually by well-meaning, but condescending aliens and time-travellers who think it's too dangerous to let him remember all the fantastic things he has seen.
  • Live-Action Adaptation : A film serial, Mandrake the Magician, was released in 1939. A half hour TV special, Mandrake the Magician, was broadcast in 1954. A TV movie, Mandrake, was broadcast in 1979.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father : In the beginning, Mandrake didn't know Theron was his dad.
  • Magicians Are Wizards : Mandrake's public persona is a stage magician of the top-hat-and-evening-dress school, but he also possesses genuine magic.
  • And later his daughter, The Brass Monkey.
  • Master of Illusion : Mandrake gestures hypnotically.
  • Meet Cute : Mandrake first meets Princess Narda after two of her servants try to mug him.
  • Mental Picture Projector : Mandrake can make a subject's memories appear as moving images on a wall.
  • Mobile-Suit Human : One storyline features a retired circus midget who has invented a normal-sized-human costume that he can use to go out in public without being treated differently. He operates it from inside the torso, and has a collection of different heads for different occasions. He also uses it to rob banks, switching to a different head as soon as he leaves the bank so he can pass as an innocent bystander.
  • The Notable Numeral : The villainous 8 gang
  • Our Giants Are Bigger : One story had Mandrake help Qork, an alien giant who is so big he is the size of a country while Mandrake is the size of a micro-organism compared to him. He communicates with him using telepathy.
  • Power Crystal : The Crystal Cube, source of tremendous magical power, watched over by Theron at the College.
  • Proto-Superhero : Mandrake first appeared in 1934, four years before Superman 's debut, and may be regarded as part of a transitional stage between older adventure stories and modern superhero comics.
  • Pull a Rabbit out of My Hat : In one story, Mandrake did a magic show for a group of school children in which he appeared to pull an elephant out of his hat (it started out tiny, grew to normal size, and then shrank again as he put it back). When the school bully suggested that he'd merely used an elephant-shaped balloon, Mandrake stuck him into the hat, and invited the rest of the children to look into the hat and watch him being chased around by the tiny elephant.
  • Rebel Prince : Lothar is the prince of a nation in Africa, but prefers to go around the world having adventures with Mandrake.
  • The Shangri-La : Collegium Magikos, the College of Magic in the Himalayas
  • Socially Unacceptable Collection : In one story, a bored, reclusive millionaire decides to collect living people as a pastime. He first collected beautiful women, but he soon had enough of their futile, empty talk (it is a '60s story). Then he decided to collect the most gifted people in the world: the greatest violinist, pianist, tenor, ballerina, and Mandrake, the greatest magician. The millionaire has them drugged and taken to his mansion in a remote island, where they wake up with shock collars. He orders them to give him a show with their gifts combined, promising that he'll free them afterwards... brainwashed and hypnotized to forget their abilities, so nobody else will enjoy them! Despite their anger, the artists are forced to perform because of their shock collars, but when it's Mandrake's turn, he hypnotizes the millionaire to think that he put his own collar on him. To not receive a shock, the cowardly man deactivates the collars, putting himself at the mercy not only of his angry victims, but also of his servants, who were his slaves. Instead of sending him to prison, the group destroys all communications on the island and all the vehicles except the plane they use to flee, stranding the selfish millionaire, who is abandoned to live off the island resources all alone.
  • Stage Magician : Mandrake's public persona is a stage magician of the top-hat-and-evening-dress school.
  • The Syndicate : The "8" Gang, led by Octon who is finally revealed as Cobra.
  • Tunnel King : The Mole, a genius inventor with a headmounted broad-beam heat ray capable of vaporising rock. It was so effective, his regular outfit included a jetpack so he could keep up. Naturally, he used it to steal from banks.
  • Verbal Tic : Lee Falk... really seemed to like... ellipses! It can give the characters... a certain... Shatneresque quality!
  • Villain: Exit, Stage Left : The Clay Camel would almost always get away in the end by disguising himself into an inconspicuous bystander or police officer and sneak away. The heroes would then realize they've been foiled when they find a discarded disguise and one of his Calling Card camel figurines. The Brass Monkey used the same trick.
  • Wizarding School : Collegium Magikos is a school of magic in the Himalayas.
  • World's Strongest Man : Lothar has always been billed as the strongest man in the world.
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Defenders Of The Earth: a cartoon that should be a movie

Now we've had an Avengers movie, surely it's time for the original superhero team to make their way to the cinema screen?

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Some readers may be fortunate to remember the evocative 80s action cartoon Defenders Of The Earth . If so, it’s likely that you recall it fondly. The show was typical 80s cartoon fare, with robots, lasers, a tie-in toy line and irritating sidekicks. But the central principle was actually pretty unique and, if anything, it gets better in the mind of the audience as we mature in our geeky sensibilities.

The show brought together some of the major characters from the pulp era of early superheroics, namely Flash Gordon, the Phantom, Mandrake the Magician and his ally Lothar. The three series that brought these characters to life all began between 1934 and 1936. Indeed Mandrake is sometimes billed as the first modern, empowered, superhero.

Even though the Defenders Of The Earth team took half a century to form we can still think of them as the first Avengers style team. This concept couples the nerdish love of retro with the equally geekish adoration for the high action superhero ensemble – both elements that are good at parting fans from their cash. The idea of bringing the Defenders Of The Earth together was simply shimmering in cult potential.

This is why it’s almost a shame that this same potential is first channelled into an average 1980s cartoon. Without wanting to ruin any readers childhoods the series doesn’t hold up today beyond the nostalgia, the surprisingly exciting theme tune (with words by Stan Lee no less) and the novelty of the concept itself.

That’s not to say the show was bad, after all there is a reason that it has lived on in the memory so fondly, for so many. It’s a pretty good show – for the type of show it was – an 80s children’s action cartoon. Other than a couple of story arcs, and some unintentionally funny heavy handed drink and drugs episodes, the story telling doesn’t go beyond the usual light frothy rompy adventures that you’d expect.

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It has to be said that the series does not really capitalise of the concept of its central characters. This is largely the failing of the characterisation and writing, not helped by the addition of a raft of young sidekicks that only serve to dilute the adventures of the actual Defenders. The most obvious single victim of the writing is Flash Gordon who has all the charisma sucked out of him as the unfailing, conformal hero.

Of the remaining three Defenders the writers seem to have trouble differentiating two of them – Phantom and Lothar. The first is used as a fighter who is quite strong and the second is a strong man who is good at fighting. And when the former of these two can call on the ‘power of ten tigers’ power-up sequence (which, incidentally, rarely seems to show all ten tigers) he ends up overshadowing the latter. This no doubt explains why the Phantom was really the break out character for the show and that to many the ‘power of ten tigers’ is a fundamental part of his skill set despite never appearing in any other version of the hero.

So whilst being a bit of light fun the series never really delivers on the promised potential. It is a generic 80s cartoon with some interesting characters in, which makes no real effort to explore anything beyond laser blasts, punches and illusions. Although nostalgically remembered it did not do well enough, unlikely contemporaries such as Real Ghostbusters or even Thundercats , to warrant more than a single season and as such the series and the concept has languished in sentimental reminiscence.

And there the idea lay until 2013 when Dynamite comics not only resurrected it but fulfilled its long promised potential in a five part miniseries by Marc Laming and Jeff Parker called Kings Watch .

Whilst Flash, Phantom, Mandrake and Lothar had appeared together on page previously as part of the Defenders Of The Earth tie-in comic, this time a completely fresh approach has been taken. Although it uses those same four characters there is no other link to the previous iteration of the team, beyond an appropriately fan-pleasing, tongue-in-cheek reference.

Kings Watch is effectively a reboot, but one that achieves the difficult balance of being both respectful to the source material and not afraid to make some big calls in telling its own story. Characterisation is very strong here with the interplay of personalities and powers really showing potential that has been inherent in this team. Parker even finds a particularly pleasing way of getting around the issue of Lothar and Phantom’s similar skill sets. A young and impulsive Flash is shown at the very start of his heroic career, Mandrake is a man haunted by tragic events of the past leaving Lothar back in a more normal life whilst the Phantom is suitably gritty and mysterious.

The story rips along at a cracking pace over the five issues too bringing in each character and sub-plot fairly seamlessly. Even enemies and mythology from each component of the team are not only introduced smoothly but woven into the story itself. The stakes are raised progressively over the series that leads to a finale that is not only powerfully climactic but also sets up the future directions of Flash, Mandrake, Lothar and the Phantom.

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Kings Watch has clearly set up new storylines for its team members but in such compelling style that it would be no surprise if elements of this new origin story became popular. It does a great job of enticing the reader to find out what happens next as well as being a gripping and fun read itself. There can be no doubt that Kings Watch is the story that the potential of Defenders Of The Earth has always deserved.

In the past few weeks we have learnt that both Flash Gordon and the Phantom are in line for cinematic reboots. This of course has got our fandom reflexes going at the prospect of perhaps seeing them both, along with Mandrake and Lothar, feature in an ensemble sequel. In the post- Avengers Assemble world with even DC scrabbling to catch-up this seems like an obvious step to make.

However Kings Watch should be the blueprint, if not the basis, for the silver screen adventures of our heroes. Obviously the story has clear cinematic potential but there are also strong commercial and logistical opportunities. The story avoids the pitfall of hoping that three single movies are all successful before allowing for a Defenders Of The Earth film by bringing the heroes together for their first outing and simultaneously setting up individual stories for them each after that. This is effectively the reverse of Avengers Assemble but now the idea of wider cinematic universes has been established by Marvel, Defenders Of The Earth can benefit by cutting to the chase rather than attempting to expensively and hurriedly emulate it.

Of course the prospect of this seems remote for now, and likely at the mercy of character rights issues and the risk averse planning of studio executives. One can only hope that somewhere in Hollywood that someone might see and seize this opportunity. But in the meantime we can finally rest easy that Parker and Laming have fulfilled the potential of the Defenders Of The Earth in their Kings Watch series. A cinema adaptation of this would only be fitting for the characters but the comic itself should be a recommended read to any geek who once grew up on the cartoon (and who probably still can’t get the theme tune out of their head). 

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Reliving the Magic of Phantom and Mandrake in Comics

Flashback to my childhood comic days!

For almost a century, young readers around the world fell in love with The Phantom Comics and Mandrake the Magician. If I remember right, I first read these comic strips by Lee Falk, in one of the Tamil dailies that carried a translation of them at a set frequency every week.

To many the Phantom embodied the spirit of doing the right and protecting the underprivileged, and the Mandrake was about his magic and his super-strong friend Lothar. I was drawn to Phantom for how his forefathers managed to keep the legacy of the ‘man who never dies’ alive across generations by passing on the values and the skills; and to Mandrake for his hypnotic gestures and scientific-looking explanations which sounded plausible to my younger self. Reading the attached panels in a recent set of comics I bought, I was reminded of why I like these two heroes.

Anyone else grew up with these legends?

The Phantom - Regal Comics No 1, The War Mongers

The Phantom – Regal Comics No 1, The War Mongers

Mandrake the magician, Shakti Comics Issue #1, Invisible Man & The bullies

Mandrake the magician, Shakti Comics Issue #1, Invisible Man & The bullies

#comicnostalgia #phantomfan #mandrakemagic #LeeFalk

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Venkatarangan thirumalai.

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Technology advisor, professional speaker, and CEO coach. Also a Geek, Book worm, Movie lover, Traveller, Indian and தமிழன். Profile at and Microsoft Community . தி.ந.ச.வெங்கடரங்கன் மென்பொருள் வல்லுனர், ஆலோசகர்; தொழில்முறை பேச்சாளர்; தலைமை நிர்வாகிகளின் பயிற்சியாளர்.

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Yes I grew up reading Indrajal comics but focused only on those characters, “The Phantom”, “Mandrake the Magician”, “Bahadur”.

Also strips of these characters would appear in the newspapers and I would be curious to know what happened next. I even cut the strips from the newspapers and saved them to read again.

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