What’s Going On In The Phantom (weekdays)? Why should we read this imaginary story? September – December 2021


To paraphrase Alan Moore, you know they’re all imaginary, right?

Still, the past three months in Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom has been what would happen if The Phantom made a disastrous choice. (This is the weekday continuity. The Sunday stories have been less ominous material.) As discussed on X-Band: The Phantom Podcast, author Tony DePaul wanted to get his vision of the 21st Phantom’s death published. (That link is a 17-minute piece. It’s excised from this two-and-a-quarter-hour discussion with Tony DePaul, Mike Manley, and Jeff Weigel about the comic strip.)

The story also means to explore how this death would roil the world of The Phantom. Imaginary stories are great for exploring character. They’re also great for understanding how a setting works by showing it broken. I understand people who lose patience with a story that “doesn’t matter”. I was that way with every third episode of Star Trek: Voyager.

But this story has got “real” consequences. The Phantom changing his plans about rescuing Captain Savarna Devi from Gravelines prison, for one. However it is he does arrange the rescue. Or, it could be, fail; I’d hate for her to die, but it is a plausible happening.

So this should catch you up on weekday storyline for mid-December 2021. If you’re intersted in the separate Sunday continuity, or if you’re reading this after about March 2022, or news breaks about the strip, a more useful essay is likely here. And, if you would like to read me seriously explaining subtraction, you might try my mathematics blog. Thanks for being here.

The Phantom (weekdays).

20 September – 11 December 2021.

The Phantom had broken Captain Savarna Devi out of death row in Gravelines Prison. Not without cost, though. He was shot several times, messy wounds in his torso. Savarna pulls the dying Phantom to the first medical care available: a veterinarian she holds at gunpoint. After a long, long night Dr Fajah Kimathi gives her the good news. He’ll pull through, somehow. Might be his strength of ten tigers. The doctor’s husband gives her breakfast, and a shower, and words assuring that killing fascists is setting “right what’s gone wrong”.

Dr Fajah Kimathi (veterinarian), to her husband, with Savarna Devi overhearing: 'I don't know how he stayed alive through the surgery ... what a man!' We see The Phantom, his eyes covered by bandages (with his mask resting on his sleeping belly); the narrator reminds us 'Phantom has the strength of ten tigers -- Old Jungle Saying'.
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 9th of December, 2021. I realize his life invites this sort of thing, but The Phantom’s got to have a real disaster of a medical history. Like, how does he even explain if he might have traces of Guran’s incredible bullet-wound-healing powder in his blood stream? How might that interact with whatever the veterinarian is giving for the pain?

Or so it goes in the prophet Mozz’s tale. It doesn’t seem to have got to The Phantom’s death, though, or how that death ruins the Walkers. We get that tale in two parts. One is Mozz telling his story to The Phantom, out in the field, as seen in my last plot recap. The other is a chronicle that The Phantom talked Mozz into writing, after aborting the wrack-and-ruin at Gravelines.

In-between were several weeks of not-imaginary action. I’m not sure the purpose of all this. Warning readers that this is a forecast of a possible future, for one. The transition was made, yes, but even alert readers — me, for one, and one of the X-Band podcast hosts — missed it at the time. Reinforcing information like that’s important. The intermediate action included several points that might clarify Savarna’s fate too.

Phantom, at the campfire: 'Mozz, you're killing me ... so to speak ... now you're *changing* your prophecy? I *don't* die in Rhodia?' Mozz, holding up his illustration: 'I never said the grave that awaits you is in Rhodia, Phantom ... I said freeing Savarna *brings* you to this place [ the illustration of the unmarked grave ]. And destroys your son. And ends the journey of the Walker family in this land. And so it does!'
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 7th of October, 2021. The illustration is one Mozz did of a landscape The Phantom saw in a hallucinogen-induced nightmare. To speak of other weird things in his medical history. Phantom is never going to be eligible to donate blood in case he ever hasn’t recently lost a lot of blood.

The transition starts with Mozz metaphorically rapping The Phantom’s hands for making easy assumptions rather than listening to what he actually says. It does feel a little like a reminder to pay attention to what’s on-screen. Mozz complains that even after hearing the tale, The Phantom will ride heedless into Rhodia on this mission anyway. The Phantom talks him into writing his story out, instead, in his own chronicle. So from the 25th of October we start the 259th weekday-continuity story, The Chronicle of Old Man Mozz. But that is another part of the story To Wrack and Ruin at Gravelines.

Guran, stunned to see: 'MOZZ!? Writing in the CHRONICLES!? What madness is this!?' Mozz, with quill and book, writing: 'A MADNESS I've pledged to reveal to one man, Guran ... that man is not the chief of the Bandar!'
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 15th of November, 2021. Do you suppose Mozz is writing with an actual feather quill pen, or is it something that looks like it for the style? For that matter does The Phantom use an actual quill? I ask because that’s an easier way to write than dripping ink off the head of a pin, but that’s about all the good you can say about it. I get that his style (and traditions) are part of what makes the legend but he has got a lot to record and it’s not like anybody would see him using a ballpoint pen.

Mozz promises, if he could save The Phantom legacy by keeping him busy until Savarna were executed he would. I suppose The Phantom appreciates the honesty. Mozz appearing to write in The Phantom Chronicles proves quite attention-getting. This gets me wondering where The Phantom gets his blank Chronicles from. I can’t get the same kind of notepad from Staples two times in a row. So far 21 Walkers over the course of five centuries have managed consistent book designs. How many blank books has he got in store for this sort of need?

The Phantom needs to distract Diana and Guran from Mozz’s detailed description of his death and their family’s legacy’s ruin. His answer: pictures of their son! Kit Junior, the presumptive 22nd Phantom, as seen in pictures sent out of the Himalayas. Chief Constable Jampa is sending regular reports for pay. Kit’s been maturing in the monastery, where he’s presented himself as reincarnation of past Phantoms. And the 21st Phantom agrees, he’s sure Kit Junior will come home soon.

Phantom, thinking, while watching Diana and Mozz: 'Chief Constable Jampa's photos of Kit did Diana a world of good. I won't ruin it by telling her what's become of Savarna. And that one day soon ... I mean to ride for Gravelines Prison.'
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 27th of November, 2021. Be a heck of a thing if Mozz tipped off Diana and Helena Walker to Savarna being on death row and they’re breaking into Gravelines tonight, wouldn’t it?

It’s a most successful distraction from Mozz’s writing. Also from The Phantom’s intentions of riding into Gravelines. Also, it could be, setting up ways out of this fix. Savarna could be rescued by, or with, Kit Junior. Or with Kyabje Dorje, Kit Junior’s tutor, whom he’s pegged as one of them. And there are other Phantom-grade superheroes in the world and that we’ve seen in recent years. Captain Ernesto Salinas, most recently. The Locust, less recently. Jungle Patrol is there, although Savarna is in prison for killing high-ranking members of Rhodia’s navy. (Military organizations tend to punish killing flag officers even on the other side, because flag officers got to make that rule.) Even Mandrake the Magician, if need be. I have no reason to think The Phantom’s getting a team together. But it wouldn’t be absurd either.

Next Week!

Prince Valiant comes to the aid and support of … Morgan Le Fey? How did we get here? I’ll check in with Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant next week, all going well.

Author: Joseph Nebus

I was born 198 years to the day after Johnny Appleseed. The differences between us do not end there. He/him.

4 thoughts on “What’s Going On In The Phantom (weekdays)? Why should we read this imaginary story? September – December 2021”

  1. You see a lot. You’re on to something even if you don’t yet know why you are. The tells are there.

    It’s worth pondering why the opening day of the story wasn’t a 2-panel day. That extra beat means something.

    Hell, half our readers wouldn’t notice if Walker woke up from surgery in a pair of Groucho glasses. I’m sure they think the 12/10 strip is there for the sake of a b.o. joke, or an excuse to see Savarna in the shower on 12/11.

    Like

    1. Oh, tch; I feel silly now. And this after a similar moment of palming the card earlier in the story. Well, I have revised hypotheses about where the story is going, but I’m happy to trust in the narrative and discover what happens as it goes. Thank you for the nudge, though, I do appreciate it!

      Like

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