What’s Going On In The Phantom (Weekdays)? February – May 2017


And now I’m in The Phantom zone. This week I’ll do my best to explain the weekday continuity in Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s comic strip. Next week I’ll catch things up on the Sunday continuity. If you’re reading this much later than May 2017, you should be able to find a more recent review on this linked page. It’ll have both the Sunday and the weekday continuities in it; I’m sorry, I don’t know a good way to sort those out. Thanks for bearing with me.

The Phantom (Weekdays), 6 February – 6 May 2017.

Since the last we left The Phantom, the Ghost Who Walks punched his way into large beard entrepreneur Orson Burley’s home. The Phantom call on the aid of a pack of Bandar locals in a scene that doesn’t look at all like some racist British newspaper cartoon advocating the takeover of Bangalla to safeguard white people. And they easily kidnap the wealthy man of wealthiness. After a night spent tied to Horror Trees Burley’s dumped in the midst of The Phantom’s Cave and given his orders: no stamps! Because The Phantom is really, really horrified by the prospect that his legend might be graded in philatelist journals. We’ve all been there. Burley agrees and he swears off forever his plan to … have the nation of Bangalla depict a centuries-old legendary guardian of the people and supernatural defender of justice on its postage. That’s a win for the good guys.

Have to admit this is one of those stories where I just could not get into our protagonist’s mindset. I would get The Phantom wanting to protect his image, and using his iconography on something trivial can serve to trivialize him. But I’m just not seeing how someone who’s cultivated several dozen and often very specific Old Jungle Sayings about what The Phantom does or what you do when you meet The Phantom is doing saying this is the step too far. The case could have been made, but I didn’t see it.

Burley, dazed, sleep-deprived, and possibly drugged: 'Phantom I --- I just wanted to promote YOUR BRAND!' The Phantom ponders, my what? And declares, surrounded by melty screaming skulls, 'I forbid you to promote my band.'
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 3rd of March, 2017. Also everything we write back to LinkedIn.

That wrapped up the 11th of March. From the 13th of March started a new story, The Curse Of Old Man Mozz, which Phantom Wiki says is the 247th Phantom Daily story. Lee Falk promises that in it, faithful mystic and old-guy Old Man Mozz will foretell the death of the 21st Phantom, our current purple-clad superhero.

The action opens with The Phantom raiding a Thug Factory, punching and taking names. Then he punches the names and throws them down a well. He spends a couple weeks at this, since the Thug Factory is churning out product like crazy. He grabs guy after guy eager to beg for a deal and who learn their deal is they’re being left for the police. Or, well, the Jungle Patrol, who’re totally legitimate and respectable forces for law and due process rather than a self-sustaining militia.

Snitch Guy: 'Hold on! You picked me [ to deliver a message ] because I look like a SNITCH to you?' The Phantom: 'You look like anything but. THAT'S why I picked you. The story loses something when a weakling tells it.'
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 24th of March, 2017. Also a masterpiece of personnel management considering that after smacking down Snitch Guy for at least the second time in his life The Phantom is sending him off with a credible-sounding claim that the guy is actually a strong and important person. He’s giving Snitch Guy reason to feel good about himself even despite his getting smashed up some.

Along the way Devil, the Phantom’s pet wolf, took a pretty nasty tumble along with one of the Thug Factory’s newest products. Ghost Who Punches finds medicine guy Guran is strangely uninterested in his medical guy work. Phantom figures to work out what his deal is, although it’s his wife, Diana Palmer-Walker, who successfully follows him. Guran’s destination: The hut of Old Man Mozz, where he’s sprawled out on the floor surrounded by mysterious vaporous mists and muscle loss. Mozz is not ill, Guran promises Palmer-Walker. He’s just having visions.

Diana Palmer-Walker finds Old Man Mozz, sprawled out on the floor, emaciated and quite possibly naked, surrounded by mysterious fumes.
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 4th of May, 2017. It’s terribly dangerous for people to go through their adolescent I’ll-just-sleep-on-my-mattress-on-the-floor phase. Also but you just know he insists on calling the band The Pink Floyd.

We haven’t heard officially what he’s envisioning, but Lee Falk may have dropped a clue when he said Old Man Mozz would foretell the death of the 21st Phantom. Misdirection? Possibly, although The Phantom has noticed how end-of-life-y things feel lately. What we’ve been given doesn’t promise the current Kit Walker’s going to die before it’s over. But I’m curious how it’s going to affect the continuity of the series. The Phantom 2040 cartoon, back in the 90s, tells stories of the 24th Phantom, after all, and while it accounts for the short career of the 23rd Phantom, there is the 22nd, who last year was sent to get himself shot in Tibet, ready to become part of the comic. Just observing.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose nine points today in response to a Reuters report that frozen orange juice concentrate was selling at 150.80 on the commodities market, which seems like a good deal for orange juice concentrate? Also it’s something there’s a thriving international commodities market in? All right, we never see that in grand strategy games where you do trades of goods with other countries but what the heck. Frozen orange juice concentrate. Business is weird.

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What’s Going On In The Phantom?


[ Edited the 6th of May, 2017 to add: ] Hi, Readers. Thanks for being interested in the goings-on of The Phantom, the comic strip. This post may be outdated by the time you find it. My recap of the most recent Phantom stories should be somewhere in this link, though there might be a recap of the Sunday continuity in the way. Weekday and Sunday strips have independent stories and I cover them separately. Good luck.


Today’s, and next week’s if all goes well, What’s Going On segments are about the same strip. That’s because it solves the problem of Sunday and weekday readerships being different in decisive form. The weekday and the Sunday strips carry on different stories. Neither sequence has to wait for the other. Surely these can be fit into some order so as to preserve the all-important continuity of The Phantom‘s universe. I admit I’ve never tried.

The Phantom (Weekdays).

I snarked about the importance of continuity to The Phantom. It’s reflexive. The comic strip, started in February of 1936 by Lee Falk, has a continuity. An important one, even.

The Phantom, The Ghost Who Walks, is the 21st of that line, descendant of a chain of superheroes defending the African nation of Bangalla from, in the 16th century, pirates. In the 21st century, it’s … pirates and terrorists. Sometimes stranger stuff. The comic strip shared a universe with Mandrake the Magician and some of Mandrake’s weirdness would leak over. Some of the Mandrake characters have made appearances in The Phantom since that comic ended.

The rough premise of The Phantom may seem overly familiar. Costumed superhero who lives in a secret cave watches for menaces to his homeland. When he finds them he’ll punch them hard enough to leave a mark for decades. (A specially-constructed ring helps with this.) He hasn’t got any superpowers per se. But he deploys intelligence and great physical shape and training plus stunning private wealth to get as close as practical. If it sounds like every costumed superhero comic ever, then remember it got started a couple years before Batman did. I figure to talk about The Phantom‘s universe more next week.

The comic strip, weekday and Sunday threads, are written by Tony DePaul and have been since 1999. The weekday comics have been drawn by Mike Manley since May of 2016. Manley also draws Judge Parker. The Sunday strips have been drawn by Terry Beatty, the artist and now writer for Rex Morgan, M.D..

Lee Falk, strolling through town. 'THREE PATHS intersect here in the minutes ahead. None of the parties know they've entered the realm of The Ghost Who Walks!'
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 7th of November, 2016. The start of the story. The third path for all this is the Jungle Patrol, the Phantom’s self-raised auxiliary army, although it isn’t clear at this point what’s supposed to be life-changing about their story just now.

So here’s the current Phantom weekday storyline. Its essentials were laid out in a week of strips starting the 7th of November and hosted by “Lee Falk”. That’s one of the charming conventions of the comic: a representation of the strip’s originator gives the dramatis personae and necessary backstory for the adventure ahead. If the story’s run long he might pop in again to recap for new or simply lost readers. Or to advance the story to a new point. It’s common enough for cartoonists to be characters in their own strips, but it’s almost always humor strips. Story strips usually leave narration as done by some anonymous source. “Lee Falk” doesn’t really say anything that couldn’t be done by unattached narrative box. But it adds a neat personal touch to the starts of stories that he does.

So the first element is Orson Burley, big, bearded tycoon in the enormous-wealth industry. He’s heard this legend of The Phantom and figures it’d be a good subject for a postage stamp. I have to say I’m on Burley’s side on this. It seems odd that the Republic of Bangalla wouldn’t have already used a semi-mythic protector-legend as subject for a stamp. Local mythical figures on stamps seems like elementary nation-building. Issuing cultural stamps are the first thing you do after gaining independence from the British. Well, the first thing after renaming the street Government House is on to the native word for “Freedom”. But President Lamanda Luaga is cold to the idea, and warns The Phantom of Burley’s investigation. I understand a secretive superhero trying to keep his secrets. But the legend’s been going for four centuries now; this can’t be the first serious scholarly investigation of the thing. Well, so it goes.

Burley’s insisted on learning as much as possible about The Phantom and going ahead with his postage stamp. This despite the warnings of the President and of his limo driver. And Burley’s startled that anyone could see The Phantom as a legend dangerous to investigate. I confess I’d be, too.

President of Bangalla: 'Orson Burley hired the best! Top people at the University! Experts! I was certain he would [ drop his investigation of The Phantom ], out of respect for the highest office in the land! He turned me down flat!' The Phantom: 'I could always have a word with him.'
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 2nd of December, 2016. I know what you’re all wondering: how did The Phantom get broadband Internet into the depths of his Skull Cave secret lair? I don’t know either. The fellow lurking behind The Phantom’s chair is Guran, his childhood friend and faithful assistant. Don’t worry about him. He regards the clothing outfits of everyone in that first panel to be normal.

Second piece is Akini Ogutu, “CEO of a multinational giant headquartered in Mawitaan”. While Bangalla’s a basically functional democracy it still has problems, even in its capital city. She got targeted and kidnapped, for ransom, by one of those gangs you hear about that hold executives for ransom. The Phantom’s not-at-all-worrisome private army, the Jungle Patrol, finds the hideout. The Phantom goes in alone and rescues her in a daring, exciting raid that full of the sort of superheroics you’d expect. Also that make you wonder, well, why does he have his Jungle Patrol if they aren’t at least doing support on this sort of thing?

(OK, it’s because The Phantom tries to keep his Phantom life and his Jungle Patrol life separate. The Jungle Patrol doesn’t even actually know their leader is The Phantom. They know him only as The Unknown Commander, who issues orders over the phone, and that’s not a potential danger pit at all, is it? But that does shift the question to why not have his army move against the criminal gang, which would seem safer all around?)

Anyway, it must all have been brilliant because he rescued Ogutu. Burley can’t believe Ogutu’s claim that she was rescued by The Phantom, and figures to go on with his research and stamp production. And this week The Phantom has gone to Burley, presumably to explain why not being on a stamp is such a freaking big deal for him. Maybe the 16th Phantom was betrayed by someone selling a fake Penny Red or something.

The Phantom hustling Akini Oguto away from her kidnappers. 'I'll be back for you. Keep your head down.' 'Please don't leave me! I - I'm Frightened!' 'So are they,' says the Phantom, shooting one without looking.
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 6th of January, 2017. Oh, yeah, The Phantom doesn’t have that old-fashioned superhero thing about not using guns. I admit I’m still surprised to see it happen, though. He does punching pretty well, though.

I mean, the best I can figure is The Phantom figures he’s most effective if he’s surrounded in clouds of mystery and legend. And getting a commemorative postage stamp is the start of a process that leaves him as exotic and remote as Santa Claus. But part of The Phantom’s schtick is that he’s surrounded by a lot of legends and I don’t get how a postage stamp depiction is going to make that greater or lesser. And it isn’t like he hasn’t got, and encouraged, a lot of “old jungle sayings” about his legacy. Is he worried they’ll paint him from an unflattering angle? It seems like a misplaced reaction and I hope something in the coming weeks clarifies matters.

Next week I’ll try to explain the Sunday storyline.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index fell nine points today, inspiring people to point out where we were at this time a week ago. This time a week ago we were at 124. Hoo boy but it’s been a long week.

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First-Class Mailings


A couple years ago I picked up a National Parks Passport Book, which is much like my coin collection in that it’s another thing in which I can put other things, until such time as I either lose the Book, or until I die and the executor of my estate finally throws it out. Unlike the coins, this one collects stamps, some of them the kind you lick, others the kind you just rub on an ink pad at a National Park gift shop and then smash into paper. This hobby has many benefits, beyond giving me a reason to nervously approach a cashier at a National Park gift shop and ask if they have the Passport Book stamp, and then repeat myself because I didn’t quite make myself clear, and then ask up to three other people while I wither and die of embarrassment before they find the stamp. For example, if I ever want to know on what day I visited Ford’s Theater and the Petersen House Where Lincoln Died I can flip to the appropriate section of my Passport Book, where I won’t find it, because I stamped those in my Letterboxing log book, which is a totally different ink-stamp-based hobby.

Anyway, I had a great chance to lose my Passport Book recently, when I visited my parents, who last year moved to South Carolina, catching South Carolina completely off-guard. We visited some of the National Parks in the area, as well as some lighthouses, since my love has a Lighthouse Passport Book good for another set of ink stamps, although the specific lighthouse we found had no stamp, which invokes an honestly complicated series of rules because it turns out lighthouse-visiting is a complicated hobby. The important thing is I left my Passport Book behind, and my parents eventually found it.

My father mailed it to me, and he packaged it himself. I should explain, the book is a little slimmer than a small paperback novel, the kind you might mail by buying one of the small-size bubble-wrap mailers and stuffing in and wondering if the self-sealing flap was going to come loose in actual mailing. That’s because you don’t share that side of my family’s heritage of over-wrapping.

I don’t want to brag but we’re really very good at it, if by “good” you mean “can routinely include so much packing tape that the package outweighs the delivery vehicle” and if by “delivery vehicle” you mean the “cargo-carrying Boeing 777 Freighter, piloted by elephants, who came to the airport right from the Mongolian buffet, which had just got a delivery in of ginger-spiced gravity”. That bubble-wrap mailer with the self-sealing flap you might worry about? Well, we’d put a layer of tape over that. And another one to cover the edge between the tape and the mailer. And maybe staple the envelope end closed just to be sure. And weld the staple in place. And glue a patch over the weld. When we put it in the mail, it’s never getting out again, and that’s not even considering what we do to make sure the address doesn’t get smeared in transit.

I don’t want it to sound like this package-wrapping thing is a chore or even unpleasant. It’s got an outright merry side. Every Christmas, for example, we bring out a present that my great-uncle Al gave to my father in 1949, and we all take turns trying to unwrap it a little more. We believe we’re nearly one-sixth of the way through it, and you can imagine how thrilled we are since various hints in family lore suggest it might be a model train with Jersey Central “Blue Comet” line livery. And someday some distant descendant might finally inherit these generations of family moments, and actually get it open, and then tuck the present aware somewhere, wrapping it up for safety.

My father didn’t take wrapping my Passport Book up to the greatest possible extremes, but it still arrived safe and sound and within hours of when the package tracking service said it would. It came as a neat little bundle, wrapped in the paper bag he got from the grocery, and wrapped again in more grocery-bag paper just in case, and I was able to get it open using just my fingers, the kitchen scissors, our pet rabbit’s incisors, the table saw, several cries to the heavens about the injustice of it all, and the smaller scissors I use to trim my moustache. Everything came through in great shape and I’m fairly confident that I haven’t lost the book yet.