I’m not deeply versed in all 85 years of The Phantom‘s lore. I’m just a more-than-casual reader. By my estimate he’s got about 412 days a year that he needs to attend some part of some ritual event. One of these rituals started off the current Sunday strip storyline. In the 1950s daily strips Comics Kingdom runs as a vintage repeat, he’s just wrapping up an annual wrestling tournament to rule the jungle. In the 1960s Sunday strip vintage run, he’s been working out why someone sneaks a rattle into the Skull Cave on the same day every year. Man’s got a schedule.
So this should catch you up on Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom Sunday continuity to late January 2022. If you’re interested in the weekday continuity, or you’re reading this after about April 2022, a more up-do-date essay should be at this link.
The Phantom (Sundays).
31 October 2021 – 23 January 2022.
“The Ingenues” began the 17th of October, just before my last plot recap. The Phantom visited the Mori village to go along with a crew of Mori youth testing their boating skills, a rite of passage.
Nayo and Abeo, two young women, appeal to the Ghost Who Walks for help. They want to go on the sea voyage also. At least to have some rite of passage into womanhood. The Phantom tries to avoid committing himself on the question of changing the rites of passage. We do see him talking with the young King who’s up for letting girls into the seafaring challenge. But the King doesn’t feel he can pick this fight with the Elders yet. (Saying that the Mori have to decide what it means to be Mori shows The Phantom walking back from the colonialism baked into the strip’s premise. It’s an imperfect declaration. Laconic neutrality about a question of social change is a vote for the status quo. But one of the appealing things about The Phantom is he does mis-step sometimes.)
Feeling, reasonably, rejected, Nayo and Abeo take to their backup plan for adventure. That’s a journey from the Mori village to the Bangallan capital of Mawitaan. They set out with some family good-luck charms, these pendants showing four crossed swords. They’re the Good Mark Necklaces, tokens The Phantom gives to mark people who did exceptional favors.
In Mawitaan, Heloise Walker notices them, as Mori villagers don’t go to the city. She tries to ask them if they’re lost or in trouble, but only knows Mori well enough to confuse everyone. They notice she wears the same medallion, though. (Kadia also notices this, but she doesn’t yet know the significance of those medallions.)
When The Phantom gets back from sea he checks up on the runaways. For the most part, the town isn’t sure what to make of them. They’re weird in that way cities attract beloved weird folks. So that could be going very nicely … except, we saw this past week, a trafficker figuring two young women “fresh off the Mori coast” would be quite desirable. And this is where we stand, near the end of January in the Sunday strips.
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. addresses the thing most pressing on the minds of everyone enduring the third year of a public health crisis that’s shown the collapse of western governance: might these cartoon dogs be unoriginal intellectual property? All this and more in a week, if things go well.