What’s Going On In The Phantom (Sundays)? How many ritual responsibilities does The Phantom have? October 2021 – January 2022

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.)

Kadia: 'Heloise! So what if they belong to the Mori tribe?' Heloise: 'The Mori don't come to the city, Kadia. It's unheard-of in their culture. To a girl born on the Mori Coast, Mawitaan might as well be Mars!' They approach Nayo and Abeo. Kadia thinks, 'My Mori isn't very good, but ... here goes.' Aloud: '[ In the Mori tongue ] You girls didn't walk here from the Mori Coast, did you?' Kadia: 'Heloise, you speak their language?' Heloise: 'Not really. I must sound like a two-year-old to them.' [ In Mori ] 'Are you girls lost?' Abeo: 'What is she saying? We misplaced something?' Nayo: 'Abeo, look! Phantom!' (She points to the Phantom Good Mark necklace.) Heloise, thinking: 'I know *that* word in any language!' Kadia, thinking: 'Why are these Mori girls wearing the same design from that favorite necklace Heloise wears? I thought it was something only the Walkers wear ... '
Tony DePaul and Jeff Weige’s The Phantom for the 19th of December, 2021. A small running thread in Kadia’s appearances have been her knowing the Walkers have something secret going on but not getting much information about what. Also, I’m not sure that Heloise and Kadia’s spotting of Nayo and Abeo was relayed to The Phantom. Or would help him much if it were, since they could be anywhere in town by the time he got in to check up on them.

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.)

[ Morning in Mawitaan ... ] Abeo: 'Nayo! I just saw it again! Someone gave paper money for mangoes.' Nayo: 'That's nothing. I saw a woman give paper money for beans. *Beans!*' Abeo: 'Us? We can have anything we want for no paper money at all. Why is that?' Nayo: 'They try to *make* us take it. After we can't eat another bite!' Woman sitting on the park bench, talking to a shadowed figure behind: 'Ah, *that pair*! I haven't seen them this morning ... they don't always camp in this park. They move about the city as free as you please.' (We see that she's talking to The Phantom, out of costume.) 'Me? I say they're Mawitaan girls *pretending* to be Mori! And we think, oh! The poor lost waifs! They're having us on! It's a study of some kind ... that's it! They're psychology students at the university! Or performance artists!'
Tony DePaul and Jeff Weige’s The Phantom for the 16th of January, 2022. When I first read this I jumped to the conclusion that The Phantom was using his bankroll to make good on anything the girls took. (We had just seen him tossing a lot of money at a farm family to use their car. Also he doesn’t have a car he can drive in to town, when the need arises?) I can’t say that isn’t happening. But this reads to me like they’ve hit that sweet spot of being people so clearly out of context that folks want them around and figure they can take the loss on mangoes for it. Or folks figure there’s something going on and they don’t know what, but want to be part of it in case it’s something good.

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.

Next Week!

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.

Author: Joseph Nebus

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

5 thoughts on “What’s Going On In The Phantom (Sundays)? How many ritual responsibilities does The Phantom have? October 2021 – January 2022”

  1. That’s the Phantom’s vehicle stored in the farm family’s barn. It would be cool to have Walker tooling around Mawitaan in a Lamborghini, but hitting the streets of the town like a Lamborghini man would run afoul of the old jungle saying. In ordinary-man mode the GWW’s all about utility. That’s why the woman says “vehicle” and not “car.” Obvious clue ahead: I scribbled the Sunday in question while squatting on the side of a gravel trail for five days. https://www.tonydepaul.net/so-that-was-vermont/


    1. Thank you for the clarification and I’m embarrassed I wasn’t reading attentively enough to see it said this was The Phantom’s vehicle stored, rather than borrowing the family car. And, yes, would expect that when walking the city like an ordinary man he’d use as unmemorable a vehicle as he could.

      Vermont looks quite nice there, though. Never did camping there, when I lived nearby, just a few day trips going to ham radio sites or walking mountain trails that sure seemed shorter on the map. It looks home-like and familiar, though.


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