What’s Going On In The Phantom (Sundays)? Did *anything* happen in The Phantom? June – September 2022


The last couple months of the Sunday continuity of The Phantom have not been dense in plot. You’ll see that in how short this recap is. But a story is not its plot; plot is only the easiest part of a story to summarize. There is mood and character and art and how they come together.

This essay should catch you up to mid-September 2022 in Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom, Sunday continuity. If you’re interested in the separate, weekday continuity — where Kit Walker Junior is looking at where his father died — or if you’re reading this after about December 2022, there’s likely a more useful essay here.

The Phantom (Sundays).

26 June – 11 September 2022.

The Phantom had taken Diana to Eden, the curious paradisical island where even large carnivores like tigers and lions live in harmony. Diana was not distracted, though, and followed his journey to the nearby Temple of the Gods. The temple was built by an exiled Ancient Egyptian cult that had developed a race of super-men. Within its catacombs are carvings of Egyptian deities, yes. But also inhuman mummies. The Third Phantom had visited the cave, in 1624, and left a warning against going there. The current, 21st, Phantom, visited in a story published in 2005. He found creatures with the heads of animals and bodies of men. The Phantom did he could, then, to hide their existence.

The Phantom: 'Mina Braun ... quite a brilliant mind. You'd like her. Scientist, historian, Egyptologist. She led a team of divers to the waters off Eden. Her grandfather and the Kriegsmarine crew he commanded died there on a mission to find the Temple of the Gods. Mina organized a search of the wreck. A search for the ancient scroll that had led the Nazis here.' Diana: 'On the verge of losing a world war, why would the Nazis ... Oh no!' Phantom: 'That's right. If the cult that had worshipped here knew how to breed a race of supermen, Berlin wanted that biotechnology. Mina Braun learned of the scroll's existence in a diary kept by her great-uncle, her grandfather's brother.' Diana: 'Darling, the professor on the video ... so horribly slaughtered by that awful creature! He ... !' Phantom: 'German ... yes. Until now, I thought the scroll and the diary were the only historical accounts of this place. Now I wonder if Mina's grandfather had confided the purpose of his secret mission to someone else besides his brother.'
Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom for the 7th of August, 2022. You know there’s like a 40% chance the Nazis really did send an expedition to somewhere in eastern Africa trying to find a secret Ancient Egyptian cult in the belief they could breed super-human beast-man soldiers, though.

He explains much of this to Diana, in-between encouraging her to turn back and get somewhere safe. Because these creatures might maybe recognize The Phantom and might respect that. They can’t know anything about Diana. And this story started with a German man exploring the cave being torn apart, on camera, apparently by one of them.

And the German bit. The 2005 story was driven by Mina Braun, an explorer following her great-uncle’s diary. The diary tells of a desperate Nazi plot to turn the tide of war by securing this secret of creating super-soldiers. The Phantom believed he had gotten all documents that might lead someone here. Now he needs to learn what he’s missed.

Next Week!

Andrzej Beobrowski and Aunt Tildy: which one wrecked their car driving to the hospital to have their heart attack looked at in secret? And how does this tie in to Buck Wise? Or Truck Tyler? I’ll try to summarize Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. next week, all going well.

What’s Going On In The Phantom (Weekdays)? Did Captain Savarna have kids with The Phantom? May – July 2022


That is the surface implication of the 24th of June’s strip. We see The Phantom, about to go to North India to search for his estranged son again, kissing goodbye to a quite pregnant Savarna Devi. This is normal dramatic shorthand for someone bidding farewell to their spouse. Mozz tells us that this is the last time The Phantom will see the Deep Woods. However, Mozz has warned The Phantom that he would lie about his prophecy to keep The Phantom from bringing wrack and ruin to his line. And he’s thought, to himself where only we can see it, that he has to, now. Of course he may have thought that to deceive us but I don’t expect the comic strip to operate on quite that level of narrative experimentation.

Yet a theme of the Imaginary Story going on in Tony DePaul and Mike Manley and Bret Blevins and Scott Cohn’s The Phantom weekday continuity has been paying attention to what is said versus what is implied. So let’s all slowly come to understand Mozz, and DePaul, in not going beyond what the evidence is.

This should get you up to speed on The Phantom weekday continuity for early August, 2022. If you’re interested in the separate Sunday continuity, or you’re reading this after about October 2022, a more useful essay may be at this link. I hope this is a useful essay anyway.

Also, let me sort out the art credits. Mike Manley was, and is again, the regular artist for the strip. During Manley’s recent health problems Bret Blevins and Scott Cohn took over art duties. Scott Cohn has been good enough to share his art on his DeviantArt gallery, for those who’d like to see the striking uncolorized originals. (Daily comic strips are, for obscure reasons, colorized by people generally not working with the original artists.)

The Phantom (Weekdays).

16 May – 30 July 2022.

The current story, the midpoint of DePaul’s massive project, has Mozz telling the story of Phantom’s End. This is his grim prophecy of what happens should Kit Walker, as he plans, go to Gravelines prison to save Captain Savarna Devi from death row. Complicating any recap of this is that we cannot trust Mozz.

Previously in the prophecy, The Phantom rescues Savarna from Gravelines, he’s wounded. While delirious he reveals that Kit Junior is in the Mountain City, somewhere in Arunachal Pradesh, India. And that the local constable is the man who’d enslaved the young Savarna and killed her family. She journeys to the Mountain City and kills him. Understandable but a terrible mistake. The unnamed Northern Invaders see the murder of the constable, their man in town, as provocation. When they can’t assassinate monastery leader Kaybje Dorje or his understudy Kit Junior they bomb the city into ruin. In the disaster Kit Junior takes the phone from a person he couldn’t save and calls his parents.

The Phantom, over the phone: 'Son, your only obligation now is here --- to your family! The legend! We'll talk when I get there.' Kit Junior, talking from the destroyed Mountain City: 'Dad, I didn't know this until tonight, but ... when Captain Savarna pulled the trigger on Jampa, my whole mision in life changed. You're the Phantom, Dad ... Bangalla needs you. I'm needed here! I'm not asking your permission ... I'm telling you how it is.'
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 27th of May, 2022. Kit Junior makes a fair case, that between this and the experiences of the 11th and the 16th Phantoms — who had also trained at the same monastery, and whose reincarnation Kit Jr presented himself as being — he was aimed at this. It also seems it would be remarkable if he were the first in over twenty generations of Walkers to want to go away from the direct main line of the family business. But there’s a lot of room for side stories we haven’t seen yet.

He explains he can’t be the 22nd Phantom. His life, he knows now, has lead him to be here and to protect these people. And hangs up, going to his new life alongside Manju, daughter of the tea shop keeper. The Phantom goes to India to seek him out, but that whole legend of how you don’t find The Phantom, he finds you works against him. All he can find is the tea shop keeper, who won’t help someone she fairly suspects of being sent by Jampa’s friends. She begs out of this drama, but asks that if he finds Kit Junior that he send Manju home. It’s like that all over, and The Phantom’s first search for his son fails.

With this failure, Kit Senior’s home life falls apart. Diana leaves the Deep Woods; Heloise leaves for the United States, too, eventually never to tell her children of The Phantom. Sometime later, Savarna finds a broken, brooding Phantom. That there is this clear legend that no one finds The Phantom, he finds you, suggests this is where Mozz starts falsifying his prophecy. If “falsifying a prophecy” is a meaningful concept. But Savarna is an exceptional person, and acknowledges in text that she might be the only one who’s ever looked long enough.

Mozz, foretelling: 'Your *oath*, Phantom! Your *legend* of a ghost who walks ... man who cannot die ... it passes to the *heroes* of an age to come! *Champions* yet to be! The *Devi* line of Phantoms ... has begun!' And we see Savarna reading, apparently recounting the legend of The Phantom, to two kids outside the Skull Cave. It's a scene very reminiscent of many images of Kit and Diana Walker raising Kit Junior and Heloise.
Tony DePaul, Bret Blevins, and Scott Cohn’s The Phantom for the 28th of June, 2022. I mean, she is literally the lone survivor of a pirate attack that killed her family and shipmates who devoted her life to saving others from similar fates. The only piece her life is missing from the story of Christopher Walker, the First Phantom, is swearing the Oath of the Skull. In Mozz’s prophecy, Savarna swears off vengeance and — perhaps — she lives up to it after killing Jampa. The 1st Phantom’s oath swore vengeance against the pirates who’d killed his shipmates, and that vengeance was dropped after he did kill those pirates.

Years later, The Phantom leaves for another trip to India, hoping to reunite Kit Junior with his mother and sister. He bids farewell to Savarna, never see the Deep Woods again, says Mozz. But we learn he’s not the last Phantom; merely the last of the Walkers to be The Phantom. Savarna’s descendants take up that role. It’s a twist I hadn’t thought of, but that’s obvious in hindsight, to split the Walker line from the Phantom line. It’s another of many steps the strip has taken to diffuse the colonialist white-savior stuff baked into the premise, too. It’s also got an interesting metatext. In the comic, Bangalla had started out as a vaguely located South/Southeast Asian land before becoming a vaguely located East African land. This adds to how Savarna’s life echoes without imitating The Phantom Origin Story. I imagine that’s the sort of happy coincidence you can arrange when you have ninety years of backstory that fans have got pretty well indexed for you. It’s still a neat bit of business to line up.

The Phantom’s second trip to India gets much closer to Kit Junior, and (as promised by Mozz), “in a manner of speaking … he finds you”. If we can trust Mozz on this point. But now Kit Junior is a respected, loved, skilled guerilla leader. His fighters suspect, with reason, that The Phantom is another would-be assassin. The Phantom enters the landscape where he encountered the flaming skeleton of his dead father in 2020’s story The Llongo Forest. Before he can nope out of there he comes under fire, from gunmen in at least three positions. This isn’t too much for The Phantom, but it’s a close-run thing. He hopes to stall until nightfall when he can escape.

A soldier returns from meeting with Kit Jr, with a message. The soldiers trying to shoot The Phantom ask: 'What took you so long?' 'What did our commander say?' Messanger: 'He said he'd like us to stop getting shot. He sent Manju back with me!'
Tony DePaul and Scott Cohn’s The Phantom for the 21st of July, 2022. THe second panel was the funniest comic the day of publication. Possibly that whole week. Also a reminder of what a wonderful vein of gallows humor American pop culture lost when the Service Comedy stopped really being a thing.

Kit Junior’s soldiers ask him for help with this extraordinary man, who can’t be shot but who can hit everything he tries to. He doesn’t recognize his father’s signature. He hasn’t got the time to divert from planning an operation for the next day. But he can spare Manju, now a very effective sniper. Her fire can pin him down. With a half-hour until sunset, someone hits Kit Walker Senior, fracturing his leg. Things look rather dire for The Ghost Who Walks, must say.

Next Week!

I’m sad to say we have no more Morgan Le Fay, and Comics Kingdom still has not fixed their web site so Sunday pages are visible without going to extra effort. But I’ll recap almost three months of Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant, if things go as I hope. See you then.

What’s Going On In Rex Morgan, M.D.? Why did Street Sweeper splash that guy with something? April – July 2022


The Street Sweeper, Glenwood’s own little superhero, took a brick to his shoulder when a drunk didn’t like having his keys dropped down the sewer. This was his second shoulder injury. A torn rotator cuff first brought him to Rex Morgan’s, and Rex Morgan M.D.’s, attention. So he needed to do something to carry on his patrols of the mean-ish-esque streets of downtown Glenwood while impaired. His solution: some mixture of soap solution that would slick up the sidewalk. Enough that someone chasing him is unsure on his feet, at least. It’s only good for a few seconds, but in a fight, a few seconds counts for a lot. He used this against Snake and Manfred, a would-be car-robber and his partner. Also against the undercover cops come to knock off this superhero vigilante nonsense.

I don’t know what this is made of, or how slippery you could make a sidewalk with a quick splash of something. But, eh, guy is a janitor, probably knows his soaps and waxes and all. And it only needs to be a surprise and distracting for a couple seconds. Or confusing, which it was, yeah.

So this should catch you up to the start of July 2022 in Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D.. If you’re reading this after about September 2022, or news about the comic breaks, I should have an essay here. Otherwise, let’s enjoy a bit of crimefighting from our favorite fandom-themed story strip.

Rex Morgan, M.D..

17 April – 2 July 2022.

There was a new superhero in town, when I last checked in. Firstname Clayton, by day a janitor, patrols downtown Glenwood at night as … The Street Sweeper. He gets a lot of that giggling, yes. But he backs it up, whacking Snake, a would-be car robber, with a push broom. Or dropping a drunk guy’s car keys down the sewer, lest the guy drive home impaired. It’s the sort of stunt that’s kind of cool when you are the hero of the story. If you, like the would-be drunk driver, figure you’re the hero of your own story, you maybe throw a brick at The Street Sweeper’s shoulder. Or if you’re a pair of undercover cops, you get the assignment to bring this guy in before he does something both stupid and dangerous.

Manfred, talking with Snake, while unseen to them The Street Sweeper watches from a darkened alley: 'A superhero fightin' crime with a *broom* seems weird. I'd use a shovel. That's *hurt* more when you hit somebody.' Snake: 'I'm glad it wasn't you, then, 'cause I don't wanna get hit with no shovel.' Manfred: '*Nobody* would. That's my whole point.' Snake: 'Remind me again why we're friends?'
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 28th of April, 2022. I understand people annoyed by the, you know, Kevin-Smith-movieness of this. It does feel to me like a realistic sort of dumb conversation people have, especially when one person is way more into the task they’re on than the other is.

So that’s the wind-up. The Street Sweeper is carrying on his business, using a bottle of some pretty slippery liquid to compensate for his shoulder injuries. Snake, with his pal Manfred, are out looking to smack Sweeper silly. And a pair of cops, rolling their eyes and talking 1960s sitcoms, are looking for Sweeper. Snake figures that the Ghost Who Sweeps will find him, just as soon as he smashes this car window. Despite the car alarm, The Street Sweeper comes by to check things out. The cops mosey on over to the scene too. They reason The Street Sweeper is the sort of person who doesn’t understand that a car alarm is only there to annoy your neighbors while your battery dies because a tree branch is brushing your hood.

The cops are happy to take Snake into custody. The Sweeper is not happy to give him up, though, and drags him off to his apartment, turning a merry bit of nonsense into a hostage drama. It’s a bit grim, but I like this twist. It’s got that moment where a character runs past the limits of their competence yet the situation is still going on. It’s too much to expect a Dog Day Afternoon from the comics. Beatty doesn’t write a comic that emotionally messy. But I love that blend of the situation being serious and absurd. (It also makes me think of that moment where Freakazoid yells at the villain for going and being like that when we were having a good time here.)

[ The Street Sweeper attempts to leave with his prisoner. ] Sweeper, holding Snake with a baseball bat and Snake's gun: 'Don't try to follow me!' Cops: 'halt!' [ And the officers fail to notice the slick soap the Sweeper poured on the sidewalk. ] They slip and fall on their rear ends.
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 28th of May, 2022. So I understand that it’s dark, and the cops are looking at the person taking a hostage rather than the puddle at their feet, and that the illustration — and coloring — are making sure the reader can’t miss the puddle and how it relates to the cops’ falling over. Still, it’s hard not to feel like the strip was maybe adding a smirk to the mention of “two of Glenwood’s finest”.
The Street Sweeper agrees to talk to someone, and chooses the honorable doctor who treated his torn rotator cuff. The cops get Rex Morgan on the phone, who’s baffled by why he’s been pulled into the comic strip all of a sudden. But, what the heck, he doesn’t have to go downtown or anything, just talk over the phone. The Sweeper has one question for Rex: can he surgically remove the part of the brain that makes people criminals? Rex Morgan has any idea what Sweeper’s talking about. One of the nearly 400 billion points of super-hyper-ultra inventive competence that pulp superhero Doc Savage managed was anti-crime brain surgery. Or, as Rex confusingly puts it, those books about “The Crime College”. I don’t know why he doesn’t say Doc Savage. Sorry.

Rex Morgan, on the phone: 'Why would you choose to speak with me?' The Street Sweeper: 'I can *tell* who's good or not. You're on the *good* side. And only a *doctor* can answer my question.' Morgan: 'What question would that be?' Sweeper: 'There's an old Pulp Hero who operated on his villains to remove their criminal tendencies. Is that a *real* thing?'
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 8th of June, 2022. Of course in the situation you want to let the guy down easy. But I’d like to see the Socratic dialogue where Rex Morgan found out whether Sweeper believes there could be a physically alterable thing in the brain which might cause someone to wish to open an establishment that sells spirits only 490 feet away from the main entrance of a school?

Heartbroken to learn he doesn’t live in the fictional world he thought he did, The Street Sweeper agrees to give up to the cops. Snake, not happy about the thought of surprise brain surgery, conks Sweeper’s shoulder, retrieves his gun, and runs out back into the cops’ hands. So, the status quo gets restored and Doc Morgan is just … glad he could help, he guesses? Anyway I hope we’ll see more of The Street Sweeper, even if it seems unlikely he’d do more vigilante stuff. I like his goofy self-important vibe.


With the 26th of June the new and current story begins. It’s about June’s vaguely-related Aunt Tildy, reconciled with her husband Andrzej “Count Crushinski” Bobrowski. The former wrestling star sneaks off to the hospital so he can have his heart attack looked at. It turns out to be heartburn. He feels foolish about that, but, you know, you don’t want to ignore heart attack symptoms, not when having them looked at will only induce $140,000 in medical debt. And that’s where we are to start off July.

Next Week!

A blind pitcher, a guy who’s totally not in the Witness Protection Program so stop asking nosey questions, and a sports-trivia-obsessed teen! How do they fit together? They’re important to the last three months of Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp, which I’ll recap next week. The trivia teen doesn’t really matter much. I’ll explain next week if all goes well.

What’s Going On In The Phantom (Sundays)? Why does The Phantom have an Eden? April – June 2022


“Eden” is, in The Phantom universe, an island at the end of a river in Bangalla. It’s another of The Phantom’s many side projects. All the animals on it live in harmony, including the predatory creatures like the lions and the tigers. The Phantom Wiki explains that they eat fish, to keep their hunting instincts from awakening. I don’t know when Eden was introduced to the strip. No later than 1961, at least. Inhabitants of the island include lions and tigers and tigon cubs, a fawn, a giraffe, some cave monsters, a unicorn, and a tribe of six-inch-high people. The six-inch-high people turn out to be from outer space and they deliver a rattle to the Phantom every year in accord with an 18th-century treaty. If your continuity has been going ninety years and it doesn’t have some odd stuff in it what are you even doing?

So this should catch you up to late June 2022 in the Sunday continuity of Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom. If you’re reading this after about September 2022, or are looking for the weekday continuity recapped, there’s likely a more useful essay at this link.

The Phantom (Sundays).

10 April – 26 June 2022.

Nayo and Abeo, young women from the Mori tribe, have enjoyed their sojourn the big city of Mawitaan. The locals were friendly and supportive. And they had no idea how close to danger they came, as they don’t read my story comic plot recaps and don’t know The Phantom saved them from sex traffickers.

The Phantom, thiking over his adventure: 'When Abeo and Nayo ran away to Mawitaan, they obliged their king to make a choice. Would he rather have grumbling old people on his hands or rebellious young people? Many tribal elders pressured their new king to insist on the old ways as the only way. No Mori female would ever be permitted to test her courage and endurance at sea. Then Abeo and Nayo came home from Mawitaan with an adventure story of *their own* to tell ... they became *heroes* to every girl in the tribe. How long would it be before others were inspired to run away to Mawitaan as a rite of passage? Now the King hopes his Mori girls are willing to declare victory and call the matter settled ... to be content having won the thing they had asked him for in the first place. As the father of a bold daughter, I'd say they have him on the ropes and they likely know it!' As he thinks, we see that he's at sea, on a sailboat, operated by a crew of young Mori women taking their journey to sea.
Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom for the 8th of May, 2022. Weigel, the Sunday artist, has no health issues affecting the comic strip (so far as I know). Also, Comics Kingdom continues to tell me they can’t reproduce the error where their comics are hard or impossible to read. This even though I have told them how to reproduce it (you need to look at the web page they serve up, or read the e-mail they send out), and how to fix it (use the correct format for the original comics instead of these). Anyway if someone’s looking to hire a guy to do web site stuff who’s learned sophisticated next-level development procedures like “actually look at the site and see if it can be read” drop me a note, I could use the income.

But they decide they’ve had enough of an adventure, and return home. The Phantom wraps things up for us. And for me, if we’re honest; that one Sunday covers things well enough. But their stay in Mawitaan inflamed the imagination of other Mori girls. This forced the King to agree to their request from the start of the story: that the women be allowed to join the men’s liminal ceremony, of a journey at sea. It’s a reminder of how social change happens because of the combination of appeals to reason and conscience with the credible threat of open rebellion. All seems well enough now.


That, the 8th of May, ends “The Ingenues”. The current story began the 15th of May. It’s titled “Return to the Temple of the Gods”. The Phantom Wiki has not been updated to describe this story any, so I have to make some suppositions. The first is that it’s connected to the daily-continuity story “The Temple of the Gods”. That story (in two segments) ran from January through September 2005. And also ran in Team Fantomen non-comic-strip stories in 2006 (“The Secret Sect”, written by Tony DePaul and “Servant of Evil”, written by David Bishop and Hans Lindahl) and 2007 (“Thirst”, written by David Bishop and Hans Lindahl and “The Beasts Stir”, again written by Bishop and Lindahl.) The parts run in the comic strip involve a mysterious temple on Eden, one with what seem to be Egyptian hieroglyphs. And a number of inhuman mummies, strange beings with the heads of animals and bodies of humans. The Third Phantom had been there, too, and left his mark.

“Return to the Temple of the Gods” opens with Dr Manfred Markus Meier recording outside a cave in Bangalla. He promises to explore the strange, uncharted mystery within. The mystery emerges enough to maul him. The Phantom sees the footage and notices what seems to be a person hidden in the cave. The Ghost Who Walks wants to figure out whether this is a visible-crew-person in a publicity stunt or something more mysterious. Diana Walker insists on going with him to explore this mystery. Unable to shake her, The Phantom figures a way to shake her: go to the Island of Eden and slip away while she’s delighting over the stegosaurus. So, we get to see Eden some and meet the lion named Fluffy. The Phantom leaves a note for his wife to discover when she wakes. That’s all that’s happened so far.

Next Week!

So how’d that thing where this janitor guy sets himself up as superhero cleaning up the mean-esque-ish streets of Glenwood? I’m sure that he’s been a responsible, level-headed, thoughtful person and that everything’s turned out well. So I’m going to take a long, slow sip of hot tea and read eleven weeks’ worth of Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. to summarize for you next week. Wish me luck!

What’s Going On In The Phantom (Weekdays)? Is anything real happening in The Phantom? February – May 2022


For most of the last year Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom weekday continuity has been an imaginary story. A story of how the current, 21st, Phantom could die. It’s Tony DePaul’s chance to tell a story that probably couldn’t be done in-continuity. Not with how much The Phantom Publishing Empire sprawls, even if King Features Syndicate were brave enough to let the star of its … fourth-oldest(?) … comic strip die. (Barney Google, Popeye, and Blondie are older; any others? Not counting Katzenjammer Kids as it’s no longer in production.)

So almost all these events have been Mozz’s vision of how, if The Phantom rescues Savarna Devi from death row, incredible disaster follows. The death of the 21st Phantom, but also of the whole line of The Phantom. But “actual” things have happened. The Phantom’s told Diana that Captain Savarna is in Gravelines Prison, and that he means to get her out before she’s executed. Diana agrees this is the only thing to do. (Savarna was key to breaking Diana Walker out of Gravelines, in a story that ran eighteen months, from 2009 to 2011.)

Mozz walks through Skull Cave, thinking: 'My CHRONICLE has the power to alter the destiny of the 21st Phantom! Holding him here was the key ... and now DECEPTION must be the banner I fight under! As I battle on to save him from himself ... '
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 26th of April, 2022. Mozz’s certainty that he hasn’t done enough yet has yet to be explained. Savarna learning where Jampa was, but not why he must not be killed, relied on several contingencies. I’m sure DePaul has some reason in mind that Mozz’s scenario — which started with events that have already been avoided — is still a menace.

Mozz insists on another day or two to finish his chronicle, one to be kept with the Phantom Chronicles. He snipes at The Phantom for telling Diana where Savarna is, spotting it as a way to get himself pushed to free Savarna whether or not that’s wise. And he admits to himself (and the reader) that holding The Phantom back is essential to saving him, and that “Deception must be the banner I fight under”. How that turns out, I don’t know yet. Tony DePaul wrote back in February that he had the current chapter — 23 weeks, stretching from the 18th of April through the 24th of September — scripted. This story, Phantom’s End, sees the Ghost Who Walks die, in prophecy. And that there are three more chapters to follow that.

So this should get you up to speed on The Phantom, weekday continuity, for mid-May of 2022. For the Sunday continuity, or if you’re reading this after about August 2022, a more relevant plot recap may be here. That link is also good in case I get any news about the strip.

The Phantom (Weekdays).

28 February – 14 May 2022.

Last time, in my recaps, Mozz had shown Captain Savarna Devi killing Chief Constable Jampa. This in revenge for Jampa, decades earlier, killing her family and stealing her family’s ship and enslaving her. Though Jampa’s not much loved, he is a “keystone” figure, as Kyabje Dorje — head of the Nyamjang Chu monastery where Kit Junior studies — describes. Invaders from the unnamed North, whom Kyabje had been holding off, take the killing of Jampa as provocation. Kyabje and Kit Junior beat back their assassins easily. They’re helpless to fend off the aerial bombardment a week later, one that kills Kyabje, and many people in the mountain city.

A person groans, from the injuries he's taken in air bombing. He took out a phone and started a call. Kit Junior picked it up, saying, 'Hello?' ... I'm sorry, I --- I don't know your language ... I can't ... ' Kit Jr stands amidst the destruction, muttering, ' ... can't help you ... '
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 12th of May, 2022. The color adds to this, but even without, this is an amazing daily strip, with incredible power in that last panel. It sells this as the moment Kit Junior became a different person.

Also killed, Mozz explains, is the part of Kit Junior that would make a Phantom: his youth, his generosity, his goodness. He becomes a legend, commander of guerrilla forces “on a disputed frontier”, killing many to avenge the murdered city.

Heloise, Mozz explains, refuses to become the 22nd Phantom. Something not yet revealed causes Kadia to kill herself. Between the pain of that, and of Kit Junior’s turn away from the Deep Woods, she rejects The Phantom legacy. She leaves for the United States, never telling her children of the Deep Woods or the Phantom or any of this. Diana Walker leaves, takin a permanent post in New York City, refusing to be part of The Phantom’s life anymore.

And in what apparently is to be Phantom’s End — begun as promised the 18th of April — The Phantom journeys into Asia to confront his son-gone-wrong. And it somehow connects to the strange hallucinatory landscape where The Phantom faced a demon-image of his own father. This in the 2020 story of The Llongo Forest.

The Phantom: 'Mozz, does anything at all go my way in this vision of yours? Now, I suppose, you're going to tell me I don't find Kit?' Mozz: 'In a manner of speaking, Phantom ... he finds you.' Mozz holds up his Chronicle, which shows a sketch of the strange surreal tableau from The Phantom's hallucinatory encounter with his ancestors.
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 9th of April, 2022. Wait, this is another strip where the second panel is shorter then the first and third, but overlaps it left to right … is this a flash forward or … you know, I’m writing this after midnight, I need to let go and allow the story to happen. Sorry.

A hallmark of this story has been how it’s told out of order. Not just that it’s The Phantom hearing Mozz’s prophecy. But we get pieces of the prophecy and then come back to fill them in. Hearing the fact of Kadia’s suicide, for example. Mozz writing out how The 21st Phantom’s body is buried. The mountain city being bombed, seen first from Kit Walker’s perspective months ago (our time) and now from Diana Walker’s this week. The Phantom’s campaign for governor falling apart when he’s found in a love nest with a “singer”. I’ve tried to untangle that, as my mission is the draining of all storytelling to leave a list of events behind. But if you find the story confusing between now and my next plot recap, I recommend re-reading in blocks of a week or a month at a time. And looking to see where DePaul has said what happened, and whether the story is fleshing that out. If a major event seems to have been written off in a single panel, there’s reason to think the strip will come back to that.

Next Week!

Will Prince Valiant overcome his greatest menace yet: the Comics Kingdom redesign that makes the Sunday strips illegible if you have an actual computer and read the strips on your Favorites page? Oh, also Morgan Le Fey? We’ll find out as I recap Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant. Unless Comics Kingdom cancels my subscription because I will not stop complaining about their lousy redesign and even worse customer support.

What’s Going On In Rex Morgan? Why is there a superhero in Rex Morgan? January – April 2022


Terry Beatty, besides writing and drawing Rex Morgan, M.D., also illustrates used to, up to 2017, illustrate The Phantom weekday continuity. So I surmise he feels comfortable with action scenes and likely that he gets a fair chance to draw them. The just-started storyline has a masked vigilante prowling the mean-ish-esque(?) streets of Glenwood, though.

It appears Beatty is exploring “real-life superheroes”, a minor phenomenon that does exist. Most “real-life superheroes” are people who cosplay for publicity or educational purposes. A handful try, as in the comic, actually confronting “evildoers”. That’s more rare, I imagine from a mix of people realizing they don’t have actual plot immunity, and how even if you’re assaulting a mugger you’re still the one committing assault. But it’s hard to make a good story where nobody makes bad life choices. So this plot recap focuses heavily on Rene Belluso, who enjoys a Wile E Coyote-like talent for bad life choices. At least, he has the talent, and we enjoy watching people fly in from across the world to sucker-punch him. This should catch you up to mid-April 2022 in his antics and in the new superhero in town.

If you’re reading this after about July 2022, or if news about the strip breaks, a more up-to-date recap should be at this link. And on my mathematics blog I did another short essay about mathematics topics in comic strips. You might enjoy that too.

Rex Morgan, M.D..

31 January – 16 April 2022.

Sarah Morgan’s joy at being the coauthor of a Kitty Cop book was spoiled when Rene Belluso claimed she copied the Doggo Twins characters from him. Belluso had been her art instructor, back before Terry Beatty took over writing the strip. Sarah doesn’t think she stole the characters from him, but she doesn’t know. A car accident gave her a soap-opera amnesia that wiped a year of her memory. (It also brought her art skills down to good-for-her-age, not remarkable-prodigy.) So the gang was getting together to figure what they know about this.

Belluso sure seems likely to be running a scam. In his spare time from art instructing he also ran a mystic-healing cult, and got busted for phony Covid-19 cures. But they can’t find evidence that Sarah drew anything resembling the Doggo Twins before she was taking classes from Rene. Kyle Vidpa — formerly blocked writer of Kitty Cop — believes in Sarah’s innocence but that’s not something they can act on. Their lawyer advises at least listening to what Belluso would want to settle out of court.

Belluso: 'This man is lying! I created the Doggo Twins years before the Kitty Cop book was published!' Thorson: 'I ain't no liar, Mr B'luso. You know that. All what I said here is a hunnert percent truthful.' Lawyer: 'Mr Belluso, according to Mr Thorson, you planned to use Sarah's amnesia to support the false claim that she stole the Doggo Twins idea from you.' Belluso: 'HE MADE ALL THAT UP!' Lawyer; 'Including the detail that you planned to use vintage paper to make your drawings appear old? A common tactic in art forgery, something with which you have much experience.' Belluso: 'True, I once used my art skills for less than legitimate purposes, but that was a logn time ago.' Lawyer: 'We have records of Internet sales of forged cartoon art traceable to you, from within the last two years. Between Sonny's word and your record, it's clear your claims are false, and we'll not be settling with you for *any* amount. in fact, we'll be filing suit against *you* for the damages that your false claims have caused the Kitty Cop brand.'
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 27th of February, 2022. Not to detract from the repeated sucker punches delivered to Rene Belluso here, but is his planning to use vintage paper the sort of insider knowledge only an expert would have? All I really know about forgeries is that I’m an American who’s heard of Hugh Trevor-Roper, but I’d still think “have paper that’s at least as old as the drawings on it are supposed to be” was the first necessary step.

Sonny Thorson enters the picture. He comes to the Morgan clinic, spilling what he knows about his former cellmate Rene Belluso. He says that Belluso, hearing the news that Sarah Morgan was the mysterious coauthor of the new Kitty Cop books, saw an opportunity. He could make money, and get back at Rex Morgan, by forging some older Doggo Twins art and claiming to be their author. (Rex Morgan had foiled Belluso’s Celestial Healing scam.) Thorson doesn’t care one way or another about Rex, but he didn’t want a kid scammed like that. Thus, his report, one that he repeats to Belluso and his lawyer.

With this, and with evidence Belluso’s sold forged cartoon art in the last two years? Vidpa’s lawyer announces they won’t be settling but will be suing for damaging the Kitty Cop brand. Belluso storms out, declaring they haven’t heard the last of him. We might have; when we next see him, mob-type people are demanding to know how he’s going to get them their money. Terry Beatty even inserts a panel saying we the readers can imagine his fate, as he doesn’t know whether we’ll ever see Belluso again.

If that’s not enough stomping on Belluso’s head, there, his lawyer admits he’s not really a lawyer. He’s an actor Belluso hired and possibly even paid under the guise of “some sort of performance art”. This would explain why Belluso gave press conferences about suing but didn’t file any actual documents in an actual court. The acting lawyer gives Rex Morgan and all tickets to see him in Hairspray.

And if that’s still not enough stomping on Belluso’s head? Sarah, busy thinking up names for Kyle and Lauren’s newborn child, finds a sketchbook from before she was taking art lessons. It’s got a date, a sketch of the family from before Michael and Johnny were there, and a dog drawing recognizably a forerunner to the Doggo Twins. So they’ve got plenty to force Belluso to make a public statement of how he’s big dumb dummy who’s soooooo big and dumb and stupid. He flees before he can be forced to make it, but into the hands of those mob types mentioned above. And with the 2nd of April that brings this story to an end.


The current story starts on the 3rd of April, with a Sunday strip re-introducing the strip and main characters. Rex Morgan has a new patient, Clayton. (I don’t know his first name.) He’s there for a rotator cuff injury, which calls for rest, ice, physical therapy, and time. There’s also a bunch of other bruises that Clayton explains as boxing and mixed martial arts lessons. Morgan advises taking a break from them, too, until he heals. Clayton promises he will, but is lying. He has a mission.

Would-be car thief: 'The *Street Sweeper*? What are you going to do --- hit me with that broom?' Clayton, presenting himself as The Street Sweeper: 'If you insist.' He thwacks the thief with his push broom. Thief: 'Ow!!! Hey --- knock it off!'
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 14th of April, 2022. Absolutely magnificent strip here. The only thing that could possibly improve it is if Clayton/The Street Sweeper were hitting Les Moore instead.

So we see him that evening, on his mission, “to protect the streets of Glenwood”. I mean, he took an oath and everything, what choice does he have? He confronts a guy who’s checking for unlocked cars. The would-be car thief asks what his deal is. Clayton explains: he’s keeping the streets safe and clean. He is … The Street Sweeper. While the would-be car thief laughs at this superhero name, Clayton whacks him with a push broom. While the readers laugh at this, the comic takes the lead for Funniest Story Strip of 2022. Clayton prides himself on a job well-done. Meanwhile an onlooker takes his photo, launching the “superhero” as a local human-interest-piece.

And that’s our standings for mid-April 2022.

Next Week!

Betting! Betting and eyesight accommodations! It’s Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp in a week, is my plan.

What’s Going On In The Phantom (Sundays)? Why is the Sunday Phantom illegible now? January – April 2022


So back in February Comics Kingdom pushed a big change in their server code. This caused it all to break for a couple days. Most of this has been fixed. But among the things still broken are that some strips, including The Phantom, appear on Sundays in the wrong aspect ratio. That is, they’re shown in the format used for newspapers squeezing them to one-quarter of a page, four rows by two columns. I imagine this is a badly-implemented idea to make it easier to read on a phone, and is garbage for people who read this on a real computer. When I read my regular Favorites page, the strip appears about two inches wide, and while I can still read the action, it’s harder than it should be.

It could be worse. They print The Lockhorns in the format intended for newspapers running it as one tiny column, and so appears on-screen about one-half an inch wide. Utterly illegible. Comics Kingdom would be aware of this if anyone read their Technical Support or their Report A Bug complaints, as I have informed them of this every week since the problem crept in. They finally promised to have someone look at this when I sent in the billing question of why I was paying for a subscription for illegible comics.

Anyway. The saving grace is that Comics Kingdom does use source images that are huge; for Sunday pages, the average image is about 112 gigabytes of data. So I can reprint the comics — a fair use as it is part of review and critique of the original — big enough to be easily legible on whatever you use to read.

This all is meant to catch you up to mid-April 2022 for the Sunday continuity of Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom. If you are looking for the weekday-continuity story of The Phantom’s death and destruction, or if you’re reading this after about July 2022 and want the Sunday story, you may find a more useful essay here. They will never fix the image problem.

And on my other blog I’ve been reading comics for their mathematics content again. You might enjoy that.

The Phantom (Sundays).

23 January – 10 April 2022.

Nayo and Abeo, two young women of the Mori tribe, created their own custom for their passage into adulthood. They went as few Mori ever do into the big city of Mawitaan. This was going great for them. The city folk found them such curious novelties as to not mind their taking food from markets or rough sleeping in the parks and such.

'There are times when The Phantom leaves the jungle and walks the streets of the town as an ordinary man. - Old Jungle Saying.' The Phantom, wearing a hard hat, emerges from a van. We see him in a selection of scenes: checking an electrical meter, delivering a package to a doorstep, working at a construction site, birdwatching in the park. In each scene we see the Mori women, doing their city stuff: walking about, looking at the sites, having ice cream. The narration explains: 'Mori girls, far from home ... awed by the great city ... innocent of its dangers. The Phantom ... hidden in plain sight. He is this ordinary man (the delivery guy) ... this man (someone looking over blueprints) ... he is every man ... any man ... The Phantom walks among the good with one purpose ... among the evil with quite another.'
Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom for the 20th of February, 2022. So we can read this literally; The Phantom is, after all, watching Nayo and Abeo. But I’m interested in something in his outfit-switching, particularly his delivering a package in the third row, first panel, there. I get that he wants to not be noticed by the Mori women, and changing outfits like that reduces the number of visual hooks he offers for them to recognize him, if they don’t notice he’s always wearing eye-concealing dark sunglasses. But if he’s, like, pretending to be a delivery guy for the day, he has to have all these packages to drop off places. Even supposing that the deliveries are fake, this is an outfit that doesn’t let him follow when they wander through Central Park and take a rental boat.
A steady thing this story has been the acceptance of the Mori women by the neighborhood, and how everyone has decided to go along with their wandering around town like they knew what they were doing. Are these different guises, then, The Phantom pretending to be ordinary men, or, are these ordinary men, by watching for and trying to protect the innocent outsiders, taking on their share of The Phantom’s duties? I suspect the entirety of the story won’t support that interpretation. But if it is only my idiosyncratic reading that this strip offers the message that every person is a hero when they are kind? I’m comfortable reading this strip that way.

Still, cities are dangerous when you don’t have permanent shelter or money or such. Especially if, as they have, you’ve attracted the eye of a sex slaver. But they’ve also, at the request of their tribe, got a protector, The Phantom. The Ghost Who Walks lurks around town, and when he spots the sex trafficker he slaps him silly and throws him into the trash.

That’s not enough hint for him, though. (To be too fair to the guy, we don’t see on-screen that The Phantom warned him off the Mori women, or abducting women at all. It would be consistent with the text that he had no idea what this assault was for.) A few days later when the women go into a nightclub, he follows. And gets drugged drinks from the bartender. The Phantom follows, of course. He punches out the bartender, which makes him quite popular. (It’s also the first Phantom Ring-marking in a while, so far as I remember.) And grabs the trafficker, slamming him into the window of the limousine of the trafficker’s buyer. That guy speeds off, but The Phantom takes the trafficker’s personal information to turn over to the Jungle Patrol. And clobbers him with the Phantom Ring, a second permanent marking this story.

Next Week!

Is Terry Beatty — weekday artist for The Phantom — not drawing enough vigilante-superhero stuff? We may have an answer as I recap Rex Morgan, M.D. next week, if things go to plan. And if some shadowy figure of concealed identity doesn’t punch me first.

March Pairwise Brackety Contest Thing: Walls vs Spider-Man


Walls

The Case For: Are the best vertical surface available to 1990s college students to hang their posters of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Blues Brothers, or a Mandelbrot set.

The Case Against: Somehow increase the noise of the people in the hotel room next to you by 12 to 18 decibels.

Spider-Man

The Case For: Has the superhuman power to take good action pictures on a timer.

The Case Against: In one of his adventures on The Electric Company, Spider-Man was beaten by a Wall at Shea Stadium.

What’s Going On In The Phantom (Weekdays)? Why is Savarna trying to destroy The Phantom? December 2021 – February 2022


She’s not. It would never occur to her to try. But once you start the avalanche you can’t tell — you know, I mentioned how of course Terry Beatty, of Rex Morgan M.D., was not trying to upstage me. This in providing a good succinct plot recap right as my plot recap was ready to post. While Beatty might be aware of my existence, there is a story comics creator who I know does know I’m around. Tony DePaul himself posted a good, clear recap of the current daily storyline for The Phantom.

It’s worth the read, first for understanding the writer’s intentions. Also for learning bits about the specific mechanics of writing these stories. Like, what does the script look like? How far ahead are stories written? (As DePaul and his collaborators do things, at least; I imagine every writing team develops their own workflow.) How does a story like this, meant to stretch into a third calendar year, get made?

So that and this should catch you up on Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom, weekday continuity, through the end of February 2022. If you’re interested in the Sunday continuity, or are reading this after about May 2022, a more useful recap is likely at this link. And, if you’re interested in my explanations of mathematics terms, my glossary project’s resumed over on my other blog. Should have a fresh post up tomorrow, too. Now, let’s talk comics.

The Phantom (Weekdays).

13 December 2021 – 26 February 2022.

I’m not sure what I can add to Tony DePaul’s own summary. My perspective and misunderstandings, I suppose. Still, here goes. In the prophecy of Old Man Mozz, The Phantom successfully breaks Savarna Devi out of death row in Gravelines Prison. But he’s badly wounded, and while the veterinarian they find is able to stitch him together, it’s not over. The Phantom gets a fever, one lasting for days, and in his delusional state he says something catastrophic, that sends Savarna away.

This may all seem like it’s taking a while to get done. Fair enough. But we are seeing what’s meant to be a plausible way that The Phantom — a legacy of five centuries — crashes apart. It’s something that’s survived twenty generations of changing world. Of Phantoms (mostly) dying in action. It’s grown supportive structures, like the Jungle Patrol, that would carry on of their own inertia as long as possible. I quipped in my previous recap of the Sunday strips that The Phantom has to spend about 412 days a year keeping up with ceremonial tasks. He spends a lot of time gluing these structures together. But in exchange, those structures glue The Phantom, the institution, together. It will need a lot to wreck all that. So it has to be something that’s big and complicated and messy.

Phantom, explaining to Mozz: 'Savarna suffered horribly as a child ... her ordeal was just beginning on the night the India Voyager fell to evil men. It made her into someone she was never meant to be. But I won't believe she's deranged, Mozz! She won't harm Kit no matter what she hears me say in Rhodia.'
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 13th of January, 2022. I suppose this shows that The Phantom did not know about Jampa’s past with the India Voyager. If he had, he would likely have realized that, in his fever, he said something that let Savarna know where Jampa was.

Savarna’s headed for the Himalayas, and the monastery where Kit Junior, the presumptive 22nd Phantom, is studying. He’s very much not ready yet; he’s not even trying to conceal his face from people. And he’s been thinking how happy he is nobody like Guran, from his pre-monastery life, has appeared, as they would have the news his father died. Then Savarna, from his pre-monastery life, appears, and he’s happy to see her. (I saw some snarking about this inconsistency. Granted it may be inconsistent, but it’s inconsistent in a way normal people are.)

She arrives the week of the 17th of January. That’s when we begin the story/chapter titled Death in the Himalayas. They meet over tea. She explains she’s there for something that needs doing, and something she thought she was finished with. Before The Phantom broke her out of Gravelines he had her swear to be done with revenge. While The Phantom healed, she thought how she was done with killing. And now …

Chief Constable Jampa enters the teahouse. She confronts him. That’s too soft a phrasing. She shoots him. She knows him. Nineteen years ago pirates killed her father, master of the original India Voyager. And her brother. It set her on her campaign of vigilante anti-piracy and anti-fascism. Leading the pirates? That same Jampa. As a girl she was able to scald him, and escape, almost drowning as she does. It makes her life story — and her relentlessness in this point — much clearer.

A panel of Savarna holding her smoking gun. We see, in flashback to 19 years ago, Jampa writing in pain after the young girl Savarna was throw a red-hot pot into his chest. Back in the present, Jampa staggers under the gunshot.
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 19th of February, 2022. This is part of the ten-day sequence done entirely silent. That’s a massive technical challenge. And, as you can see, visually striking: as this unfolds even the panel borders fall apart, turning rough and sketchy in the flashbacks, and falling into diagonals for the non-flashback moments. They finally righted themselves this week, as Savarna declares her father and brother avenged.

You may ask how it is Jampa ended up a chief constable in a remote Himalayan village. Well, how is it Kit Junior ended up in the same place? And, if you’ll let me build a castle on some sky, it might not be coincidence. Years ago we got a line that Kit Junior perceived his tutor Kyabje Dorje to be a Phantom-like superhero. Why might Chief Constable Jampa not be that superhero’s nemesis? It might even say why Kit Senior sent his son there rather than, say, to understudy with The Locust or somebody. (Probably not. Kit Senior was sending Chief Constable Jampa money for reports about his son. Diana Walker called Jampa a good man, a blow to her ability to judge character on slender evidence. On the other hand, I thought that mention of Jampa was just Kit Senior distracting Diana and Guran from Mozz’s prophecy. Now, I see DePaul introducing Jampa to this story before his big death scene.)

But this is where we’ve gotten. Savarna, in an understandable fury, has found Kit Junior and shot the chief constable of this Indian village. The Phantom, unaware of this, is returning home. … Or so foresees Old Man Mozz.

Where does The Phantom, who’s learning all this as we are, go from here? Not my place to say. DePaul was good enough to share that this chapter, Death In The Himalayas, is to end the 16th of April. The next chapter, Phantom’s End, is to run 23 weeks. I calculate that to be the 18th of April through to the 24th of September. And then … three more chapters, he estimates, before this is all done. Quite the project.

Next Week!

Saxon invaders besiege Londinium, and all Prince Valiant has to defend himself is whatever he and Morgan Le Fay can whip up! Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant gets a couple hundred words of explanation, again, if things go to plan. We’ll see.

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.

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.

What’s Going On In The Phantom (Sundays)? What exactly is The Visitor? August – October 2021


We don’t know! The past three months in the Sunday continuity saw The Phantom share what’s known about The Visitor. It seems to be material; it leaves footprints and can punch out and skull-mark minions. It doesn’t seem to be material; it disappears from exitless rooms and caves. It seems to know language; it told the 16th Ghost Who Walks of the Origin Story. It doesn’t answer inquiries. The current Phantom, and his listeners, speculate that it’s some force that’s been present since the beginning. Always watching. Sometimes intervening. And that’s all they can know.

There is a Doylist explanation, one that appeals but is unconfirmable from text. And I forget which commenter I saw put this forth, but: could The Visitor be a representation of the audience? The audience sees everything The Phantom does. The audience — the fans, at least — know everything The Phantom could know. And the audience does affect The Phantom’s life, although in indirect ways, incomprehensible to the character.

But that’s not something the characters in-story can understand. And The Visitor has left, chased off by Devil, the Phantom’s wolf. So what it is may be impossible to ever determine from within the text.

This all should catch you up on Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom, Sunday continuity. If you’d like to know about the weekday continuity? If you’re reading this after about February 2022 and want to know the Sundays? You may find a more useful essay here.

If you’re interested in reading other things, may I offer Little 2021 Mathematics A-to-Z, in which I explore mathematics terms. Embedding was my most recent essay. And I am looking for suggestions for topics starting with the letters I, C, and S.

The Phantom (Sundays).

8 August – 31 October 2021.

The Phantom was telling Bandar youth of past encounters with The Visitor. The Visitor is a strange, not-quite-ghostly doppelganger to The Ghost Who Walks, encountered in the times of four past Phantoms. The 16th Phantom told how The Visitor recounted the Origin Story of the Walker line.

The story excites the Bandar people who hear it. A being from before The Phantom’s own time? That witnesses it all? That supports, even spreads, the legend? (You see how this goes with the “it’s the audience” hypothesis.) But there’s no conclusions one can draw. As the Bandar youths leave The Phantom asks them to unchain Devil. And why was Devil chained, Diana Walker asks? So as not to disturb their guest. In a wonderful, creepy moment, The Phantom reveals that The Visitor has been there, listening, all night.

The Phantom waves the Bandar people goodnight, saying to one kid, 'I chained Devil in the village. Will you release him for me?' Kid: 'I will, Phantom!' Diana: 'I've seen you chain Devil when you're leaving the Deep Woods and don't want him following you .... why chain him tonight?' Phantom: 'I didn't want him clawing at the door while I was reading from the Chronicles for our guests.' Diana: 'Darling, I don't get what you mean. We'd open the door and let Devil in!' Phantom: 'Some other night, yes, we would. ... The Visitor's here, Diana ... It's been with us in the Hall of Costumes all evening.' Diana gasps, as we see The Visitor's shadow towering over the two.
Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom for the 12th of September, 2021. I gasped!

Diana tries to get it to speak, to respond. It doesn’t. She speculates that it doesn’t understand. It can mimic what it sees and hears in the Skull Cave, but that’s all. Also unprovable, as Devil races in, and leaps for The Visitor … who vanishes, reduced to mist. And we’re left not knowing most anything about The Visitor, including whether it’s gone. My supposition is The Visitor has donned a bunch of pizza boxes to go and mildly annoy Funky Winkerbean.


What is gone is the story “The Visitor”, ended the 10th of October. With the 17th begins the new story, “The Ingenues”. It’s the 192nd Sunday-continuity story. It’s about another of The Phantom’s many responsibilities, this one taking a crew of Mori youth to sea to test their boating abilities. It references a story from 2007 where this expedition ran into trouble. And all we know so far is that some young women among the Mori want to be among the crew. By February we should have a better idea what the story is.

Next Week!

Somebody’s getting married in Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D.! Also possibly shot, which would be a change of tone for Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D.! I hope to have a plot summary for you here next week. Thanks for reading.

What’s Going On In The Phantom (weekdays)? Are we about to see the death of the 21st Phantom? June – September 2021


I know I answered this last time, but: no, The Phantom is the Man Who Cannot Die. It’s right there in the premise. Ghost Who Walks and all that.

That said, we are seeing what sure looks like a death of the current, 21st, Phantom, at the hands of Gravelines Prison guards. And Old Man Mozz, wilderness prophet, warned that going to Gravelines Prison would kill him, and also keep Kit Junior from being the 22nd Phantom. And even end the journey of the Walkers in Bangalla. So: is that what we’re seeing here?

Odd as this is for a plot recap essay, I’m going to give a spoiler warning. Stuff regarding the next year of The Phantom will come up. I come by this knowledge through a special edition of X-Band: The Phantom Podcast. Its about 17 minutes long, and in it Tony DePaul, Mike Manley, and Jeff Weigel discuss the current story and how the 21st Phantom dies.

So this should catch you up on Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom, weekday continuity, through late September 2021. If you’re interested in the Sunday continuity, or you’re reading this after about December 2021, you may find a more useful recap at this link.

The Phantom (Weekdays).

28 June – 18 September 2021.

The Phantom was ready to go to Gravelines Prison, in fascist Rhodia, to free Captain Savarna Devi. Savarna’s an oceangoing vigilante who could host her own action-adventure comic strip if action-adventure comic strips were sustainable yet. She’s helped The Phantom often. Most notably, she helped him free Diana from Gravelines in 2009-11’s 18-month-long Death Of Diana Palmer Walker. Old Man Mozz warns of a dire vision, that if he frees Savarna, The Phantom will ruin everything he holds dear. The Phantom pauses to hear what will happen.

Old Man Mozz, sitting, as The Phantom sprawls out and listens: 'The tale begins here, O Ghost ... on the path you take when you refuse to hear me. When you *don't* turn around ... no matter what I say.' In a panel with jagged corners we witness The Phantom riding Hero away, ignoring Mozz's warning: 'If you free Savarna, Kit will never return to the Deep Woods ... Never be the 22nd Phantom!'
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 30th of June, 2021. The second panel is a redrawing, from a different perspective, of what we saw on the 26th of June. Which is part of how I missed the significance: story strips often repeat important beats, to help readers who missed a day or did not catch it first time around.

And this strip — the 30th of June — is critical. Notice the broken panel borders. The story from this point continues to The Phantom busting into Gravelines Prison and breaking Captain Savarna out. But it is the story Mozz is telling, explaining to The Phantom what happens if he goes in as he plans. Yes, I missed the significance of this when it happened. In my defense the 30th of June was a busy day for me. Also, at least one of the X-Band Podcast hosts missed it too, and they’re hardcore Phantom fans. They’re people, with, like, collections of souvenirs and ranked lists of opinions and everything.

In Mozz’s vision, The Phantom disregards his warning that if he frees Savarna Kit Junior will never return to the Deep Woods. The Phantom regrets that he has to do this right after breaking out Captain Ernesto Salinas. Security will be more, if not more competent, right after that jailbreak. But many of the usual tricks still work. He stops a truck by putting signal flares in the road, and sneaking in the back doors. He sneaks through the prison by catching one guard at a time, knocking them out and tying them up.

Phantom, lurking around the corner, watching a lone guard come back from his smoke break, thinking: ( Timing's on my side. The other two are likely to be looking the other way when I ... ) He grabs the guard, who cries 'Gurkk!', but is unheard as the other guards light their cigarettes.
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 14th of July, 2021. So in response to this incident, Gravelines Prison has required guards to switch to vaping.

I did see one commenter say this reads like a first-person shooter video game. I grant the resemblance. Whether you find this plausible, I suppose, depends on whether you think Gravelines Maximum Security Prison guards should be bad at their jobs. The comic does try to anticipate snarkers. The Phantom reflects how yes, they’ve increased the number of guards, but by dragging people who didn’t want to be prison guards into this job. (Seen the 17th of August, and reinforced the 28th of August.) That they’ll be people who will find good reasons in the rulebook about why they didn’t rush toward the gunfire.

And that I accept. First, the Phantom isn’t going to sit and listen to a story where he can’t even break open Gravelines. Second, what authoritarians rely on us forgetting is that authoritarians are incompetent. Making a competent organization requires getting subordinates to say what things are wrong, and what’s needed to fix them, and how it’s taking longer to fix than they expected. Authoritarianism demands reports that everything is swell. It can only create illusions of capability, which shatter in crisis. Third, the guards are people who grew up in a world where The Phantom is real and sometimes strikes Gravelines Prison. They have good reason to want to avoid him. So I buy most of the guards working to rule when The Phantom beelines for Captain Savarna’s cell.

Phantom, at Savarna's jail cell: 'I didn't come all this way to leave you here, Savarna, but I will.' He thinks: (I won't. But she doesn't know that.) Savarna: 'Revenge!? Is *that* what you're asking? I'm *done* with it, Phantom! Yes! You have my word! *Enough* revenge!'
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 11th of August, 2021. Revenge here coming into play as she murdered Rhodian flag officers after they sank her ship, which she was using to harass pirate ships in and around Rhodia’s waters.

The Phantom pauses for an oddly indirect question before freeing Savarna. When she pledges she’s had enough revenge he lets her out, and they begin the escape. They swipe a jeep and pretty near drive right out, helped by the number of guards who don’t want to be shot at over this. But there are the hardcore guards, the true believers in their mission, and they’re the ones who block the road. They shoot a lot at The Phantom and at Captain Savarna, who manage to drive through. The Phantom pulls off the road where he left his horse, Hero, tied up. He tells Savarna how to let Hero carry her back to Bangalla. As for The Phantom himself …

Well, this takes us out of the proper date range for this recap. But Savarna got a good look at The Phantom and gasped “Oh my god!!” And he’s bleeding. This is explained in the characters’ dialogue and action, but unfortunately is muddled in the coloring. Rather than use Guran’s wound-healing super-powder, he asks Savarna to let him rest a while.

The Phantom's pulled their jeep up to Hero, his horse. Savarna: 'Why on earth would I be riding your horse out of here, Phantom?' Phantom, getting up: 'Because Mozz was right ... ' He reveals ... it's not perfectly clear. Bullet marks across his side? Savarna: 'OH MY GOD!!'
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 20th of September, 2021. Mozz had warned that if The Phantom succeeded, then his body would “for all coming time” lie in the landscape he hallucinated during The Llongo Forest.

Again, we are not seeing the death of the 21st Phantom. We’re seeing a death, something to happen if The Phantom disregarded Mozz’s advice. And, my understanding is, we’re to see more of what happens after this death, and what ruin it brings to the Walkers’ project. Tony DePaul said he thought the story might be the longest yet, at least comparable to the 18-month Death Of Diana Palmer Walker story. I trust it won’t all be warnings of how The Phantom’s marching towards death. I also expect there’ll be some clever way to rescue Captain Savarna from death row. But that’s the thing about expectations; so much of storytelling is subverting them.

Next Week!

Fairies and sea monsters! Some of my favorite material. It’s Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant, if all goes well. Not to spoil things, though, but I haven’t had a thing go well since the 11th of August. Please send words of comfort and also large checks made out to Cash.

What’s Going On In The Amazing Spider-Man? Will Spider-Man ever come back to the comics? June – September 2021.


It’s not impossible that Marvel and King Features will decide on a new creative team to draw Amazing Spider-Man comic strips. But I don’t see any reason to think they will. They’ve had several years and there haven’t even been rumors.

But the world is vast and defies predictions. If any news breaks out about the Spider-Man comic strip I’ll post it here. It’ll fit along with all my other essays about Roy Thomas and Larry Leiber’s The Amazing Spider-Man. For now, though, let me give what I expect is my final plot recap for this superhero comic.

The Amazing Spider-Man.

13 June – 12 September 2021.

Peter Parker and Mary Jane, driving Route 66, had teamed up with Rocket Raccoon last time I checked in. Rocket was there on the trail of Ronan The Accuser, a Kree alien with a space hammer. Ronan The Accuser was there on the trail of an ancient Kree Sentry buried at Petroglyph National Monument. The Sentry was there in case someone needed a killbot to destroy Albuquerque someday. Well, Ronan figures he needs a killbot to destroy the Guardians of the Galaxy, but he can test it out on Albuquerque.

Spider-Man: 'The Kree Sentry was imprisoned in that dormant volcano! It must be 20 feet tall!' Rocket: 'The Kree built 'em in all sizes.' Ronan, to the Sentry: 'You are programmed to OBEY me. And I order you - to DESTROY!' The Sentry robot is large, and blue, and has a face that somehow looks like Moe from the Three Stooges.
Roy Thomas and Larry Leiber’s Amazing Spider-Man for the 24th of June, 2021. The Sentry has many modes of attack, but the worst must be when he tells you to pick two of his fingers and you do, and he pokes them into your eyes.

While the Sentry goes off to Albuquerque, Ronan fights Rocket and Spider-Man some. It’s a tough battle, since Spidey and Rocket can’t get through one day’s strip without saying how much they’re doomed. But, with a bit of help from Mary Jane, Rocket remembers that Ronan needs his space helmet to breathe Earth air. So the two go for a new approach, Rocket being jumpy and annoying while Spider-Man sneaks up from behind. It’s a great plan except for how Ronan falls over backward and maybe kills Spider-Man.

It’s a trick, of course. Newspaper Spider-Man is used to much worse head trauma than that. What he wanted was a solid perch on Ronan’s shoulders, so he could peel at the helmet until Ronan was really annoyed. As Ronan tries to use his magic space hammer to knock Spider-Man, Spidey’s able to tug his arm and make Ronan hit himself, knocking his helmet off. The Accuser falls unconscious.

Ronan, wrestling Spider-Man: 'My weapon will REPEL you from my helmet!' Spider-Man: 'It probably WOULD! If I hadn't stopped tugging at your headgear - and pulled your arm at the last second - so that your MALLET blasted the helmet loose!' Ronan: 'NO! Without it --- I can't breathe --- !'
Roy Thomas and Larry Leiber’s Amazing Spider-Man for the 16th of July, 2021. With bits of slapstick like this you see why it’s hard to get past the “Sentry looks like Moe the Three Stooge” thing this story, right? Anyway yes, this dialogue is a challenge to read so it sounds natural. But how else could one communicate what was going on within the constraints of a daily comic strip? I’m not being snarky; this is probably the least awkward way to carry out this fight.

And we get a moment that defines Spider-Man, at least his newspaper incarnation, very well. With the Accuser defeated, Spider-Man grimaces and acknowledges he has to put the helmet back on. He can’t let a beaten enemy die like that. Mary Jane points out this is crazy: once revived, Ronan will try to destroy the planet. Rocket points out this is unnecessary: Ronan doesn’t need his helmet to live, only to breathe. He’ll be fine in Earth’s atmosphere without his helmet, unconscious. It’s a line that Spider-Man buys, and even turns out to be true.

Spider-Man: 'You said Ronan needs this helmet to breathe. Then without it, he's a deader, right?!' Rocket: 'Maybe that's how it works for *your* species ... all lack of 'air' does to a Kree is send him into suspended animation.' Spider-Man: 'Then - that means - ' Mary Jane: 'That *you* two can go try to save Albuquerque from the Sentry!'
Roy Thomas and Larry Leiber’s Amazing Spider-Man for the 23rd of July, 2021. So, you know, as long as we all agree we pretend we believe this, all right. Hurry on to Albuquerque, where the Sentry is blowing up one car or street light or billboard at a time. I mean, I wouldn’t want this to come to my town, but it’s a low-key rampage. Mostly it seems like it’s Rocket and Spider-Man agreeing they’re slowing the Sentry down.

Meanwhile, oh yeah, Albuquerque. Rocket and Spider-Man head out to save the city from the Sentry. Mary Jane stays behind, to watch Ronan and call the superheroes if he shows signs of life. The Sentry turns out to be hard to fight. And Ronan shows signs of life, which Mary Jane doesn’t call about. But Ronan stirs enough to say how the Sentry is programmed to never hurt a Kree like him, and passes out. She sees in this a world-saving tool, if she can get Ronan to Albuquerque.

Truck Driver: 'You crazy, girl? You coulda been killed!' Mary Jane, fishing for her purse: 'I need your day laborers to load an alien spaceman onto your truck and rush it to the city!' Driver: 'Huh? What kinda nut do you think I --- ' Mary Jane, holding some cash out: 'What if I buy your truck - and your time?' Final panel, Ronan's on the truck bed, surrounded by day laborers, riding down the highway.
Roy Thomas and Larry Leiber’s Amazing Spider-Man for the 3rd of August, 2021. Putting aside the whole buying-a-truck thing: did the driver not hear on the radio about how a giant alien robot was blowing up Albuquerque? Where was he planning to go?

So she stops a truck, offering to buy it so it and the day laborers on it can rush Ronan to the city. Also Mary Jane carries around enough cash to buy a truck? Or can plausibly present herself as writing a valid check for this? In a story about a space raccoon and a radioactive spider-bite victim saving Albuquerque from a 20-foot-tall, 80,000-year-old killbot, we’ve hit a point I don’t buy. They even repeat it, Mary Jane explaining to Spider-Man how she got the truck there. I think I’d buy it more if the laborers were all fans of Movie Star Mary Jane Parker and did her a favor.

But if we don’t buy this, we can’t get to the end of the story, so there we go. Mary Jane brings the unconscious Ronan to Albuquerque and explains the rules. So Spider-Man grabs Ronan’s body, using him as what is technically not a human shield because Krees aren’t humans. This befuddles the Sentry while Rocket climbs inside to rip out wiring. It’s a close-run thing, Rocket trying to decide what things to yank out before the Sentry decides what limbs of Spider-Man’s to yank out. But he pushes a button, and it turns out to be the “turn off forever” button and it’s a happy resolution.

Mary Jane: 'Who *are* these Guardians of the Galaxy you keep talking about?' Rocket, surrounded by thought balloons of the other Guardians: 'Well, there's Gamora, she's green. And Drax, big dude, they call him the Destroyer. And Groot ... he's sort of a tree ... oh, and then there's Starlord. Actually, he's fro your world!' Mary Jane and Spider-Man: '?'
Roy Thomas and Larry Leiber’s Amazing Spider-Man for the 2nd of September, 2021. “Starlord”? You can’t fool me, that’s a guest appearance by Bruce “Incredible Hulk” Banner that last panel there. I assume these are all approximations of the way the characters looked in the comic books. At least before the comic books got all airbrushed and loaded up with special effects. You know, when they looked like the newspaper comic strip. Anyway, appreciate these great heroes who aren’t in this story and who we don’t learn anything about, here, to make us appreciate them! The guy who writes Funky Winkerbean approves!

So they haul the Sentry off somewhere, stuff Ronan into Rocket’s spaceship, and say their goodbyes. Rocket finally gets around to saying who the other Guardians of the Galaxy are, but not why none of them came along on this mission. And says hey, you never know, we all might team up again. With that, the 4th of September, he flies off into the skies.


And there we conclude Spider-Man’s encounter with Rocket Raccoon and Ronan The Avenger. From the 5th of September we started an adventure with the Mole Man hoping to rekindle his relationship with Aunt May. He figures he has a chance now that he’s been deposed as the subterranean king by Tyrannus the Conquerer. Also, Tyrannus the Conquerer is hoping to conquer the surface world, starting from Los Angeles. That’s a story that first ran in spring and summer of 2017, and I have it adequately recapped in essays starting here.

And from there … well, if the newspaper Spider-Man strip keeps repeating comics in this order? There’s not much sense my writing these plot summaries. I suppose it’d be an easy week of work, which is something. But for the foreseeable future, I intend this to be my sign-off to the Marvel Comic Strip Universe. Thanks for reading, everyone who enjoys action, adventure, and energy beams surrounded by black bubbles. It’s been fun and I’m sorry it isn’t continuing.

Next Week!

Old Man Mozz warned The Phantom that if he freed Captain Savarna from Gravelines Prison, he’d be ruined and Kit Walker would never be the 22nd Phantom. And now The Phantom’s gone and broken Captain Savarna from Gravelines Prison! Has this ended five centuries of the Walkers’ project to rid the world of piracy? I’ll check in on Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom, weekday continuity, next week, if all goes as foretold. And if I don’t, well, send someone into Gravelines Prison to free me, they’re used to it.

What’s Going On In The Phantom (Sundays)? What is this Visitor the Phantoms keep getting? May – August 2021


The Sunday continuity has been The Current, 21st, Phantom, telling of encounters four previous Phantoms had. These all involved The Visitor, who looks like The Phantom, and seems to have knowledge and abilities only The Phantom should have. We’ve now seen stories from all the four previous Phantoms to encounter The Visitor. This implies we’re near the end of the backstory. But we haven’t got any hint what The Visitor “really” is, yet.

What we know seems hard to square with a rationalist, scientific explanation. But The Phantom universe is one that has non-rational, magical elements. Me, I would be satisfied if The Visitor remains a mystery, but I am fond of fictional universes with weird craggly unexplained bits. And I understand readers who dislike having a mystery presented and then unresolved.

This should catch you up on Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s Sunday-continuity The Phantom for mid-August 2021. If you’re interested in the weekday storyline, with The Phantom maybe breaking Captain Savarna out of Gravelines Prison? Or if you’re interested in the Sunday stories and reading this after about November 2021? Then you’re likely to find a more useful post at this link.

The Phantom (Sundays).

16 May – 8 August 2021.

Since I took to reading this comic to do plot summaries I’ve gotten to see The Ghost Who Walks in many moods. The current Sunday story has had him in a giddy mood. It’s a fun change. He’s bubbling over with excitement at sharing a mystery with Bandar kids. Also at showing off his newly-renovated Hall of Costumes. But mostly it’s about the story.

In the time of the 3rd Phantom a strange figure — The Visitor — appeared to Bandar villagers. The Visitor looked indistinguishable from the Phantom. But he ignored them. He left footprints. The footprints vanished. That’s all anyone knows of it.

The 6th Phantom, looking at the Chronicles: 'Extraordinary! T-these immortal words have been written in my own hand!' Current Phantom, explaining the past's encounter with The Visitor: 'An ancient Roman poem the 6th Phantom knew well. He'd been made to learn it as a headstrong boy too brave for his own good! One more thing before we move on ... the 6th Phantom's doppelganger appeared in the Deep Woods just before my ancestor set out on a particularly dangerous mission. He'd smash an infamous gang of cutthroats ... reform those most capable of it ... and recruit them as the founding corps of the famed Jungle Patrol.' Julie Walker: 'That's how he met his future wife! Natala of Navarre! Oh, I *know* this story! Darling, that's why The Visitor appeared! To remind the Phantom of the poem! So he'd *live* long enough to marry Natala and have the son they had!'
Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom for the 4th of July, 2021. Oh yes, so part of the mystery, besides disappearing out of rooms with no unwatched exits, is being able to forge The Phantom’s handwriting. Especially as the Actual Phantom was nowhere near the Deep Woods, which would seem to rule out sleepwalking or hypnosis or other obvious explanations. (The Phantom was not in the area for the first few appearances of The Visitor either.)

The Visitor next appeared in the time of the 6th Phantom. A girl of the Bandar tribe saw The Visitor enter Skull Cave and write in the Phantom Chronicles. And disappeared once cornered in the Chronicle Chamber, which I need hardly tell you has only the one exit. The Visitor’s message? A transcription from the Odes of Horace. The 6th Phantom had memorized the piece about the difference between courage and recklessness. It was an issue he always struggled with. It would prove a timely reminder to him before another big adventure.

The 12th Phantom was the first to see The Visitor. Briefly, in Skull Cave. Later, in some city, working his way through 2d6+6 henchmen, the 12th Phantom found … the place cleared. All the minor villains knocked out, and with the skull mark of the Phantom’s ring on their foreheads.

On to the 16th Phantom, who saw and talked with the Visitor. Who was as fast on the draw as the Phantom was. Who told the origin story of the Phantom legend, turned, and disappeared.

And those are the facts as we have them handed down to us.

Next Week!

Fanfiction! Fanfiction and Crunchyroll! No, I’m not trying out for Zippy the Pinhead: The Next Generation. I’m thinking of what’s happening in Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. so I can recap it next week, if all goes to plan. I know one of the Facebonk groups my love is on would like to have Rex Morgan, M.D. explained, except that they’ll have forgotten they cared about the strip by next Tuesday. Too bad.

In which I wonder how exactly poison works in the Superman universe


So I was reading this collection of 1950s issues of the Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen comic books, apparently. For the most part these are stories about Jimmy Olsen being up to some nonsense for extremely complicated yet ridiculous reasons Superman dare not explain until the last page. Or that Jimmy Olsen can’t explain to Superman, again until the last page. It’s a lot of strange behavior from what are presented as people.

Here we get to a story that’s about this Ruritanian country that figures Jimmy Olsen is the Crown Prince. And he figures, fine, he’ll be king for a couple days while the wicked prime minister tries to kill him. Wouldn’t you? That develops about like you’d figure.

Black-and-white reprints of a couple comic book panels. In the first the evil minister dominates the panel, thinking, 'He doesn't know my henchmen have taken care of that drink', while in the background Jimmy Olsen, dressed as king, readies to drink a large fountain soda. In the second panel Clark Kent peers, using his X-ray vision, at Jimmy and the drink. Clark thinks: 'That soda ... X-Ray Vision shows it's poisoned!' The next panel is barely visible on the edge of the image.
Panels from “King For A Day”, a story running in Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen #4, March-April 1955. Story by Otto Binder, art by Curt Swan and Ray Burnley. I do like the position of that insert circle, and the way Clark Kent’s X-Ray Vision can be pointing right at the soda in the other panel. It’s the sort of small touch that makes for a good reading experience. Anyway when Superman drinks the poison without suffering any, the evil minister figures his underlings have screwed up the poison. So that’ll be a mark against them on the next employee review, which is a bit of a mean thing for Superman to do to them. On the other hand, they were poisoning the king, so they have to have expected someone would mark something on their records.

And … so … what was it in the soda that looked like poison? Little axe blades? A miniature version of that woman who’s sometimes in Spy Vs Spy and kills Spy and Vs Spy? A tiny magnet to pull a bunch of lead dust together into a bullet once it’s swallowed? What did Superman’s X-Ray vision X-see?

Anyway you’ll be glad to know Clark Kent is able to stop Jimmy from drinking the poisoned soda without revealing his secret identity of Batman. He thinks to ask “Hey, can I have that exact soda you’re drinking right now before you have it?” and Jimmy figures, yeah, why not? In the end, Jimmy Olsen stops being the fake king of this Ruritanian country.

60s Popeye: The Mark of Zero, and the mystery of the Mark of Zero


We continue in the wilderness of shorts for which King Features’s YouTube collection includes no credits. The style of the title card gives away that it’s a Paramount Cartoon Studios production, from 1961. Seymour Kneitel is the producer and, per the Internet Movie Database, director as well. Irving Dressler has a story credit. He seems to have gone without mention here before. Here, now, learn the mystery of The Mark of Zero.

Zero, here, is the hero of a bedtime story Popeye tells. He’s a dashing, sword-wielding force standing against Brutus and his gang. There’s a good bit to like in Zero’s story. For one, he’s got a lighthearted tone. Zero quipping about how he’s kind of a cut-up is the sort of joke Jack Mercer would mumble if this short were made in the 30s. And that includes some nice cleverness, such as by disarming Brutus’s band of thugs by using a magnet.

Also, Brutus’s band of thugs is well-populated, especially for this era, and by more than one character model and voice. And his battle of wits with Zero develops. It’s got a proper introduction, build, and climax. Brutus declares “dames is Zero’s weakness,” on grounds not evidenced on-screen, and puts on a dress to catch Zero by surprise. The framing device excuses Brutus giving Zero the precious bit of spinach. This is the rare bit of suspense where you know how things are going to go the hero’s way.

It’s all done in the lumbering, steady pace of a Paramount cartoon, of course. Look at when Zero’s caught in a barrel with Brutus sitting on top. We get a good solid reminder that Zero has a sword, before he swipes Brutus’s rear end. The joke setup is sound. Set up the action and pay it off. What it’s not is fast. With better pacing the cartoon could be twice as good.

Brutus, wearing a dress, whips off the wig and mask he wore to conceal his identity and holds his sword out on Popeye-as-Zero's chest. As Zero, Popeye's wearing a loosely Robin Hood-like outfit, with a nice purple cape.
By the way that’s a look that works for Popeye. I’m not being snarky here. He fills it out well.

So the mystery. It’s not why frame this as a bedtime tale. It’s why tell the tale to Deezil Oyl? Why not Swee’Pea? Deezil was a character created for the 60s cartoons, I think to have a kid who could be more rambunctious and chaotic than Swee’Pea could be. (Also to be a companion in case the plot needed two kids.) The closing scene, with Deezil having zero-swiped her whole bedroom, would be unusual for Swee’Pea, but I don’t feel it’s out of character. There’s no need to set up telling Swee’Pea a bedtime story either.

She never got to be a regular in the cartoons, and as far as I know never appeared in the comic strip proper or another Popeye series. So I don’t want to cheat her of her few appearances. I’d like to know why she got this, though. Maybe they were looking for things to do with Deezil? But you get a lasting character when they do something someone else in your cast can’t, and “hear a bedtime story” is well-covered already.

What’s Going On In The Phantom (weekdays)? Is The Phantom about to die? April – June 2021


Don’t be silly; The Phantom is immortal. That’s, like, the second thing you learn about the comic, after how he’s called The Ghost Who Walks. But yeah, there has been a lot of foreshadowing the end of the current Phantom’s life. It’s been like this for several years now, but the current story is hitting it hard.

This should catch you up on Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom to the end of June 2021 in the weekday continuity. If you’re looking for the Sunday continuity, or if you’re reading this after about September 2021, or any news breaks out you may find a more useful essay here.

Over on my mathematics blog I have not yet resumed reading comics regularly. But I am about to start this year’s A-to-Z, in which I explain mathematics terms. If you’d like to suggest topics, please, let me know. I love seeing what people suggest.

The Phantom (Weekdays).

5 April – 26 June 2021.

I last checked in near the end of an encounter with “Towns Ellerbee”. The Phantom used that false name. Under it he helped The Trusted Man sneak through Gravelines Prison and free his boss and friend Ernesto Salinas. Salinas tries pondering the mystery of who Towns Ellerbee could be, and finally turns to anagarms. The name translates to “Be Well Ernesto”, a thing I totally would have gotten if I’d thought to pick out proper names.

Salinas's wife, pulling him toward bed: 'Ernesto, it's so late ... ' Ernesto Salinas: 'Yes, my love ... come ... ' We see on the table his anagram solution: 'TOWNS ELLERBEE' rewritten as 'BE WELL ERNESTO'. Underneath, a narrative dedication box: 'In memory of the Trusted Man, Tarquino Felix Flores, 1978 - 2019'.
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 24th of April, 2021. Not to brag of my own anagram prowess but I’m able to work out most Jumble panels if the target word is not ‘OBJECT’. For whatever reason scrambled versions of ‘OBJECT’ throw me. I think it’s my natural assumption that if there’s a ‘J’ it probably starts the word that throws me.

That story, Then Came Towns Ellerbee, ended the 24th of April, with a dedication: “In Memory of the Trusted Man, Tarquino Felix Flores, 1978 – 2019”. Tony DePaul’s blog gives some insight into this “friend and long-time Phantom fan from Mexico”. DePaul’s blog includes photographs of Flores both out and in his costume as lucha libre wrestler El Dentista.


The 26th of April began the 257th Phantom daily story, Hello the Himalayas. Once again after a fairly long (26 week) and action-filled story we got a short (4 week) reflective one. Heloise Walker comes to the Deep Woods, into the Phantom’s Cave, and into even the Chronicle Chamber. And there she writes a letter that she knows she’s “not supposed to be writing” to her brother Kit Junior. She writes of being afraid to sleep, traumatized by nightmares of the night she captured Eric “The Nomad” Sahara. And that she has been trying to reason where exactly Kit Junior is.

Heloise, writing to Kit Jr: 'It wasn't easy to track you down, Kit. I did it to learn whether it was even possible to do so.' (She envisions a body under a burial shroud in the Phantom catacombs.) 'On some terrible day to come, I didn't want us all puzzling over a few vague lines left by dead Phantoms!'
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 17th of May, 2021. I do agree with Heloise Walker’s reasoning here. A major crisis is not the time to be fiddling over weird, elliptic clues. Especially from someone like the 21st Phantom, who’s always got about eighteen layers of deceit and secret identities going on.

The Phantom had placed him in secrecy in the Himalayas somewhere, ahead of his anticipated and foiled death in The Curse Of Old Man Mozz. Heloise, thinking it’s daft that nobody knows how to find Kit Junior in case something happens to The Phantom, tried to work out where her brother is. She’s confident she’s figured out what Himalayan monastery he’s at. And she closes up the letter, and seals it, and conceals it within the Chronicle Chamber. With the 22nd of May, this story ends.


The next and current story began the 24th of May. It’s titled To Wrack And Ruin at Gravelines. And it sees the return of Captain Savarna. She’s the oceangoing vigilante whose private gunboat shelled Gravelines Prison to help free Diana Walker from it. We haven’t seen her for several years, I believe since before the contract dispute that threatened to see Tony DePaul leave the comic strip.

The story opens with Colonel Worubu meeting the Unknown Commander of the Jungle Patrol. Part of the raid that got Salinas out of Gravelines Prison was a database of who was being held there. Many are dissidents, opponents of Rhodia’s fascist government. But, Worubu concedes, there are some people there on legitimate grounds. His example is this Indian-national woman who killed nine flag-rank naval officers and four aviators. Even granting that fascists are better off being dead, you can’t fault a government executing someone for that.

The Phantom knows about this. Savarna had killed the Rhodian naval officers who’d sunk her India Voyager II. They were retaliating for her shelling the prison to free Diana Palmer. The Phantom sets his plans to go back to Gravelines and free her, and regrets how this would have been easier if it weren’t right after Salinas’s escape.

Phantom, riding his horse, thinking to himself: 'My son's 7,000 kilometers from home because I was certain I was out of time ... I didn't want Kit called upon in a way he wasn't ready for. Why do I not feel that way about Gravelines now? I should, I think ... Objectively speaking, going back there right now is a fool move.'
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 17th of June, 2021. I’m inclined to agree that it’s a foolish move to go back to Gravelines, like, days after breaking out Salinas. On the other hand, they’re probably still working out their assessment of what security failures happened and why, so their procedures might be all a mess right now. Hey, when doing security assessments around Bangalla, how much time is spent arguing whether a threat is The Phantom versus whether it’s something mortals can affect? The Ghost Who Walks has got to be a great excuse for mediocre people to explain why their security isn’t.

Old Man Mozz stops him. Mozz shares a sketch from one of his visions. It’s the hallucination-setting of the story The Llongo Forest. In that vision a spirit presenting as The Phantom’s father warned the Ghost was Walking into oblivion. This as penalty for having not died in The Curse Of Old Man Mozz. The warning said he was now without “the right to lie in the crypt of the Phantoms”.

Now Mozz offers similar warnings: if he interferes with Savarna’s fate, The Phantom’s body will lie in that Llongo Forest doom. And Kit Junior will never return from the Himalayas. And will never be the 22nd Phantom. He even promises that “the journey of the Walkers in this land … will end”.

That doesn’t sound good, no. But even granting that this is happening in a world where prophetic visions happen? I notice Old Man Mozz hasn’t warned that The Phantom will die from this. Nor has he quite said there won’t be a 22nd Phantom. Still, between Old Man Mozz, The Phantom himself, and Heloise Walker, there’s a lot of people with grim visions of what’s to come.

Next Week!

Did Gawain make it past that jousting cheater? Did Valiant escape Lord Hallam’s henchmen? Did we get a successful reorganization of extremely-early-feudal England? I’ll say when I check in with Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant, next week, if plans work out.

What’s Going On In The Amazing Spider-Man? Are the other Guardians of the Galaxy in this story? March – June 2021


The current-rerun storyline, the last one I intend to cover here, features Rocket Raccoon. Rocket does mention the rest of the Guardians of the Galaxy. Also the team name. They don’t appear in this story. I don’t remember (from when this ran in 2016-17) if there was any excuse given for their non-appearance then. Could be nobody was picking up Rocket Raccoon’s calls. Also, yes, this story first ran two and a half years after the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie. It did wrap up close to the release of the second movie, at least, so that’s the level of cross-promoting tie-in you got from the newspaper strip.

So this catches you (back) up to mid-June 2021 in Roy Thomas and Larry Leiber’s The Amazing Spider-Man. This and my other plot recaps, plus any news about the newspaper comic strip if it ever has news again, are at this link. But unless something changes the next plot recap, around September 2021, will be the last of these.

The Amazing Spider-Man.

21 March – 13 June 2021.

My antepenultimate check-in on The Amazing Spider-Man was near the end of the Ant-Man story. Our heroes take the subway home, because they forgot they rented a car to get to the climax. They have coffee together, agree to hang out again sometime, and never do.

The current repeat story started the 26th of March. Mary Jane’s Broadway play, already shut down, has shut down even more. Theater repairs. But that movie she did? Marvella 2: The Rise of Doctor Bong? The producers would like her to do publicity. So they rent a car, like Peter Parker had such trouble doing last story, and aim for Route 66. Somewhere in New Mexico, they see a meteor strike suspiciously close to them and investigate.

Cop, doing the cool-down talk in the diner: 'Okay, 'Thor' --- put down that sledgehammer.' Ronan: 'I do not know any Thor. I am RONAN, the ACCUSER! And I accuse this planet --- of INSUBORDINATION!' He slugs, sending the groaning cop flying backward.
Roy Thomas and Larry Lieber’s The Amazing Spider-Man for the 9th of April, 2021. So Ronan came to Earth and is just going to punch people until they guess what he’s looking for. I get his assertion that he’s not here to answer questions. But when he demands “WHERE IS IT?” and people ask what “it” is, I mean. You’re not lessening your majesty to let them know whether it’s an object, an event, a location, a feeling, something like that.

The suspicious meteor is actually a suspicious flying saucer. Inside is Ronan The Accuser, who’s come tens of thousands of light years to mess with patrons at a Route 66 Diner. “WHERE IS IT?” he demands, refusing to answer what “it” he means. “Do you want our 600-pound man-killing Mystery Spot?” they ask, assuming supposing he’s here for the tourist trap stuff. “The world’s largest pair of size-32 men’s slacks? (The pant legs have a 612 inseam.) The world’s Most Electrified Mirror Maze? Are you here for the Dueling 40-foot-tall Tic-Tac-Toe Chickens? The Northernmost South Pole Below the 37th Parallel? North America’s Highest Ball of String?” He refuses to say, instead punching out Peter Parker. (Mary Jane, aware she has no powers and is facing a possible supervillain, stayed in the car.) Ronan slurps a bunch of diner food up into his magic hammer, deflating his menace a bit, and storms off seeking The Sentry.

[ An entity called Ronan the Accuser has invaded a New Mexico roadside diner ... ] Mary Jane, thinking: 'It's been too long since Peter went inside to stop that robbery --- or whatever it was. I've got to see if there's anything I can ... ' Peter Parker comes crashing out the plate glass window. Mary Jane: 'Peter --- are you all right?' Peter: 'D - do I look ... all ... ' (He passes out) Mary Jane: 'PETER!' Ronan: 'Defeating my LAST victim depleted some of my energy. These FOODSTUFFS will help me replenish it!' (A bunch of diner food, including the coffee carafe, swoops up toward his hammer.) Ronan: 'Now I must find THAT WHICH I SEEK --- before it is TOO LATE!'
Roy Thomas and Larry Lieber’s The Amazing Spider-Man for the 18th of April, 2021. Ronan is making way too big a scene out of swiping an ice cream cookie sandwich and some fried broccoli.

Peter and Mary Jane don’t know where Ronan’s off to. They also don’t try calling the Fantastic Four, who’ve dealt with Ronan before. Other superheroes never pick up Peter Parker’s calls. That’s not even my joke; he’s gotten Reed Richards’s answering machine in past stories. Anyway, there’s another suspicious meteor strike nearby. (Mary Jane, aware she has no powers and is facing a possible supervillain, insists on going with.) And inside is Rocket Raccoon.

Spider-Man, to a web-bound Rocket Raccoon: 'Now that you're all webbed up, we can have a little talk.' Rocket: 'Yeah, you *do* that, seein' as how I'm so HELPLESS and all.' He jumps right at Spider-Man's belly, knocking him over. Spider-Man grabs the bound Rocket: 'Are you a raccoon --- or a wolverine?' Rocket: 'You're just makin' up all these nutty names, right?'
Roy Thomas and Larry Lieber’s The Amazing Spider-Man for the 12th of may, 2021. Spidey had just joked that it had been three opponents since his webs caught anyone. Anyway, Ronan’s lingua-trans told the Accuser just what a spider was, and enough context to know spiders are easily squashed by humanoids. So why isn’t Rocket’s Lingua-Trans conveying the gist of what raccoons and wolverines mean to humans?

They do the ritual superhero meeting-fight, with Spidey oddly confident he should be doing better against a space raccoon. And then they remember there’s not a blasted thing for them to fight over. Anyway, Rocket Raccoon is on Earth to find the Intergalactic Sentry that Ronan’s after. The Intergalactic Sentry’s this Kree Empire superweapon that blah blah galaxy conquest etc. Also Rocket hopes to deploy a lot of hilarious 60s-70s comic book techno-wordistrifications. He’s got a Lingua-Trans, for example, which is why everyone understands him. A trackoscan that might find Ronan. A ptero-salad sandwich for lunch. He reads the news-a-gram. Talks of putting Ronan into electro-manacles. It’s my level of goofy.

Rocket’s ready to go searching on his own. Spider-Man points out he lives in the galaxy so he’s got an interest in it not being conquered. Mary Jane, aware she has no powers and is facing a possible supervillain, insists on going with.

Motel Manager: 'Hey, kid --- your folks know you're out here eatin' garbage from a trash can?' Rocket: 'Garbage? So that's your name for it? When I ate one on Sirius-12, it was called a Radium Prospector's Delight!' Manager, grabbing Rocket: 'C'mon! can't have you runnin' around at night in that dumb costume!' Rocket: 'LEMME GO!'
Roy Thomas and Larry Lieber’s The Amazing Spider-Man for the 1st of June, 2021. I am amused that the more insistently Rocket goes on about his space stuff, the more he sounds like a difficult kid who just WILL NOT STOP with his space stuff. Also, since he could grab and carry Rocket without trouble, the motel manager has super-strength beyond Spider-Man’s, right?

They check into a motel, excusing Rocket’s appearance as their kid wearing a Halloween costume. The motel owner is skeptical. “If that’s a Halloween costume, why isn’t it a cheap plastic mask with a broken rubber band, plus a flimsy T-shirt showing a picture of a raccoon?” But also he doesn’t care. At least not until a naked Rocket sneaks out, looking for food, and gets into a fight with a coyote over the trash bins.

Mary Jane: 'Rocket, if you keep attracting people's attention --- ' Peter Parker: 'The Men In Black'll show up and toss you into an alien holding cell!' Rocket: 'Hey, a guy's gotta eat! Now, if you'll give me some space ... I'll finish adjusting my Trackoscan to Ronan's Aura!' Mary Jane, Peter: '?'
Roy Thomas and Larry Lieber’s The Amazing Spider-Man for the 3rd of June, 2021. Rocket raiding a trash can is not my favorite development. But it starts from a good spot, with Rocket waking and surprised they need more than one hour a night’s sleep. It’s a plausible reason he’d have time to kick around and get very hungry. And it’s the sort of mistake nobody has to be dumb to make.

Rocket’s track-o-scan finds Ronan. The Accuser is at Petroglyph National Monument, a National Park with thousands of figures carved by Pueblo peoples. The “star person” carving Rocket Raccoon identifies as the marker for the ancient Kree starship used to transport sentries. The revelation, about a real-world petroglyph, is not even the littlest bit near the racist “Ancient Astronaut” myth so don’t worry about that. Rocket and Spider-Man head off for Ronan. Mary Jane, aware she has no powers and is facing a possible supervillain, stays in the car.

This story has about thirteen weeks left to it. So my plan is to run the next Spider-Man plot recap a week late, and give the web-slinger an honorable retirement. I haven’t decided what if anything will take its place in my rotation. I’m up for thoughts, if anyone has them.

Next Week!

Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop took a little break from time travel to do some dimension-hopping instead. That worked out great for all the dimensions involved, right? If all goes to plan, we’ll check in next week and see. Thanks for reading.

What’s Going On In Rex Morgan, M.D.? What does Buck Wise do? February – May 2021


Buck Wise, who’s been the conduit for a lot of the stories in Rex Morgan, M.D., since I started recapping, is … uh … He does merchandising somehow, and that’s got him in touch with a bunch of comic artists. Some, like “Horrible” Hank Harwood, were famous in the old days. Some, like Kyle Vidpa, are rising stars of today.

This should catch you up on the strip to late May 2021. If you’re reading this after about August 2021 and need a recap? Or if news about Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. breaks out? An essay at this link might be more useful to you. Now let’s get into details.

Rex Morgan, M.D..

28 February – 23 May 2021.

My last checkup with Rex Morgan, M.D., saw Buck Wise acclimating to living with diabetes. Some diet changes, some exercise changes, and all that. It wrapped up about a week later.

And since then? … It’s been a gentle plot even for a story strip that was already full of gentle plotting. This started with Sarah Morgan feeling neglected by her parents and having a string of fantasies. So she imagined what if her father wasn’t a doctor? What if he was, say, a Western cowboy? So this started a series of fantasy sequences which let Terry Beatty show off different ways he could draw the strip if it had a different theme. The first sequence, Tex Morgan, ran from the 9th through the 17th of March. It was about Tex Morgan saving Sarah from kidnapping desperado Butch Belluso.

[ Sarah imagines Rex is a cowboy in the old west. ] Villager: 'Who's that *other* feller ridin' into town?' Tex Morgan: 'That's my sidekick, Buck. The ol' Buckaroo.' Second Villager: 'Why, sure. Every hero has to have a sidekick, don't he?' Villager: 'How come, though? All they ever do is get captured and such.' Third Villager: 'Well, that drives the *story*, see? Creates a conflict and all that here.'
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 13th of March, 2021. One can admire young Sarah’s understanding of the needs of drama without wondering why she doesn’t depict her teachers or babysitter or anyone besides her dad’s friend’s friends.

As happens, Sarah got tired of the setting, so she changed genre, and Beatty changed art style. And we got a couple weeks of Rod Morgan, a Dick Tracy-esque figure. This carried on her rescue from Shinytop, who’s another representation of Rene Belluso. So that ran from the 18th through the 26th of March. From the 27th, it shifted once more into a Batman ’66 pastiche, Doctor Rex and Princess. Here, again, foiling The Forger, another Rene Belluso figure, who’s been forging all sorts of classic bits of comic art. And that went on through the 8th of April, when Rex had some time away from not seeing patients to talk with Sarah. He promised to spend some more time with her, alone. And she promises to write out these stories she’s making up.


We get a short visit with Jordan Harris and Michelle Carter, from the 25th of April through the 2nd of May. They now plan to get married over Zoom, we get into the next and current story. It’s again through Sarah Morgan. Her new favorite books ever are the Kitty Cop series of books, by Kyle Vidpa. Who’s a client of Buck Wise’s, it happens. She can’t wait for the next book in the series. She starts writing a fan letter, encouraged by Buck Wise’s promise that he can get him to actually read it himself. Before you know it, Sarah’s on page 782 of her letter.

Which may work out for Kyle Vidpa. He’s been suffering writer’s block. After having Kitty Cop fight a giant robot, a giant robot dinosaur, a giant robot monkey, and a giant robot squirrel, what’s next? (My suggestion: two regular-size robot bunnies.) His wife offers limited sympathy since she figures children’s books are silly and thus easy. It’s an attitude I imagine gets her talked about when they go to professional conferences. But she does offer the advice that they’ve been stuck in one house for a year-plus now. Any kind of visit, even to see family, may help him.

Lauren Vidpa: 'Maybe you should just focus on the business stuff today. Look over those toy designs and get back to Buck. Don't worry about the new book.' Kyle Vidpa: 'Easy for you to say. You don't have FIVE MILLION nine-year-olds desperately waiting for YOU to deliver a new volume.' Lauren: 'You can't think about that. Just take a day to do the business stuff, and relax --- a new story will come to you --- it always does.'
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 15th of May, 2021. Sure, Lauren here doesn’t have five million nine-year-olds waiting for the new Kitty Cop volume. But she does have several hundred parents of those nine-year-olds who are blaming her, specifically, for the Kitty Cop books not coming out faster. And they’ve found her Facebonk page, so she’s having a great time, really.

And that’s where things stand. We have a children’s book writer with no ideas for his next work. We have a child about to unleash an 86,398-page fan latter on him. The child’s been shown to have an energy for creating at least fragments of stories in traditional comic-strip or pulpy modes. Will those come together? I don’t know. My experience with writers block is sometimes someone else’s ideas, without my using them, will shake my own thinking loose.

Couple curious things in Sarah’s imaginary versions of her father. One is that these stories are self-aware, with the characters talking about how they know they’re sidekicks or villains or whatnot. Sometimes complaining about their parts in the story. I’m fine with that, though. Self-aware stories are some of the most liberating and wonderful things a child can discover and it’s natural to imitate that.

[ Sarah Morgan's imaginary adventures of DOCTOR REX and Princess - It's not over yet, folks! ] Belluso, The Forger, to the camera: 'I'm the villain of this thing, and I'm STILL on the loose! So MANY clown portraits left to paint!' He's in front of an erzatz Emmet Kelly clown portrait. [ SARAH's imaginary adventure continues. Having escaped the Forger's death trap in the art museum, DOCTOR REX and THE PRINCESS track the nasty and notorious FORGER to his secret lair! ] Rex and Sarah crash through the skylight. Rex: 'Time to take your MEDICINE, you dime-store doodler!' The Forger: 'ARRGGHH! You escaped my trap! Impossible!' Buck: 'Well, it's clearly *possible*, Boss. I mean, look, they're right there!' Forger: 'You are the WORST henchman ever. You know what? You're fired. Just FIRED. I am SO done with you.' Buck: 'Do I still get my severance package?' Forger: 'WHAT? NO! Now get out so I can defeat these caped crimefighters!' Buck: 'NEITHER of them wears a cape. LOOK --- no CAPES. Y'know, for an ARTIST you're really not very OBSERVANT.' [ To be concluded --- SOOON, we hope! ]
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 4th of April, 2021. All right, he doesn’t pay attention to capes, but he can just nail a bicycle, from memory. Anyway, you see how much fun Terry Beatty was having with this. I’m not sure how much of this reflects how fun it can be to do a bunch of story beats without worrying about needing a resolution.

More curious is that in all of them Rene Belluso is a villain, and particularly an art forger. The real Belluso is both. Last we saw him he’d been arrested for running scams on Covid-19 victims, and before that he was running a Celestial Healing health scam. Before that, he was forging art, too, yes. But when Sarah did know him (mostly before Terry Beatty took over the writing) it was him as an art instructor. Does she actually know any other side of him? I do not remember. But we can suppose Sarah’s parents said something about why she was suddenly no longer seeing this adult. I can’t answer what Sarah knows about Rene Belluso is all.

Next Week!

High school sports! Which gets us hip-deep into Public Library Politics. How? I’ll explain as I recap Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp in one week, unless circumstances interfere.

What’s Going On In The Phantom (Sundays)? Who’s this Ghost Phantom haunting the Phantom? February – May 2021


We don’t yet know! The current story has a mysterious Visitor who looks and acts like The Phantom apart from walking past everyone, ignoring them. Our Ghost Who Walks is sharing what he knows, from the Chronicles, about That Ghost Who Walks Too. But we haven’t got much specific information yet. It’ll be a good gag if it turns out there’s a parallel line of fathers passing down to sons a sacred obligation to sometimes mess with The Phantom.

This should catch you up to mid-May 2021 in Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom, Sunday continuity. For the weekday continuity, or for a Sundays plot recap after about August 2021, you may find a more useful post here.

The Phantom (Sundays).

21 February – 16 May 2021.

The story of The Phantom’s rescue of The Detective was all but wrapped up when I checked in in February. Over the next month it completely wrapped up. Detective Yusuf Ali Malango reported in about busting up that crime syndicate. And about how The Phantom made it possible. His supervisor keeps this out of the record as they’re not dealing in legends here. Malango hikes out to that carved mountain where his grandmother’s been waiting for news, and all’s happy. This, the 14th of March, wraps up “Vigil at Phantom Head”.

In the deep woods. The Detective: 'Bibi, what are you doing way out here? I go on a little vacation ... and you? You move into the jungle with your crazy little dog?' Dog: 'Arf!' Bibi, hugging her grandson: 'Oh, Yusuf! You're HERE! You're really here!' The Detective: 'I'm here, Bibi ... let's get your camp picked up.' [ Bound For Home ] The Detective, finishing packing: 'That looks like everything ... it's a long trek home, Bibi. Ready?' She's looking into the distance. 'Bibi?' The Detective follows her line of sight: '!! I should have known he'd be here ... ' In the far distance is The Phantom, riding his horse, away from the mountain carved with The Phantom's face.
Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom for the 14th of March, 2021. The Phantom is lucky the 7th Phantom didn’t happen to get all the pudgy-face genes, so the Emperor Joonkar’s Phantom Head Peak matches well enough.


The 191st and current Sunday continuity story, “The Visitor”, began the 21st of March.

It begins with Babudan, master tracker of the Bandar people, seeing The Phantom walk right past, ignoring him. Which is strange on several grounds, not least that The Phantom is away from the Deep Woods. Dozens of people, including Diana, see The Ghost Who Ghosts Them, including inside Skull Cave.

The Phantom knows what this is, though. And he’s excited, almost giddy. It’s fun to see. He invites the Bandars’ “best listeners” into Skull Cave, so he can show off his newly-renovated Hall of Costumes. The renovations better show off the outfits past Phantoms wore. He’s been waiting for an excuse to show this off.

The Phantom, holding up several Chronicles and smiling to Guran and Babudan: 'Today I'd like the tribe to her what the 3rd, 6th, 12th, and 16th Phantoms had to say!' [ Who should hear the tale? ] 'The young! After all, the lore will be in their care when none of us are here to tell it.' Guran: 'Agreed!' The Phantom: 'Send your best listeners to Skull Cave --- we'll rely on them to tell the tale to the tribe.' Babudan: 'Why not speak before the village yourself, Phantom?' Phantom: 'We'd need Mandrake to pull off that trick, Babudan! The etire village can't squeeze into the Hall of Costumes!' Babudan, exiting the cave: 'Hall of Costumes?' Guran: 'His home improvement project ... he's bursting with pride to show it off! Don't say I told you ... ' The Phantom, unlocking a door with Skull and Good Mark ring patterns on it: 'Wait'll the kids see this!'
Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom for the 18th of April, 2021. The Skull disc on the left represents the Skull Ring. The Phantom punches the true evildoers with it so hard they keep a skull impression on them for life. So what happens if they reform? How do they get their good name back? I guess that’s the use for the other pattern, the thing that looks like four P’s laced together. That pattern’s on the Good Mark ring. For those who’ve done significant good The Phantom … uh … it seems out of character that he would punch them so hard they get left with that on their foreheads. Apparently they’re more likely to get a medallion. I don’t know how they prevent counterfeits. Helen Walker used one so she and Kadia Sahara could escape into the Bangallan Embassy.

So what’s the deal with Other Phantom? The 3rd, 6th, 12th, and 16th Phantoms encountered it too. He’s started telling about the Third Phantom’s encounter. This is the encounter that gave The Ghost Who Haunts The Ghost Who Walks And Who Also Walks the less cumbersome name of “The Visitor”. The Visitor, too, appeared in the contemporary Phantom’s garb and walked past Bandar villagers, shunning them. The Visitor left footprints, so is not a ghost. The footprints vanish, the way a ghost’s might. And that’s about all we know so far.

Next Week!

Why was Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. a Western comic for a while, and why did it stop? And then go be a superhero comic a bit? We’ll explore next week, if all goes well.

MiSTed: Dreams of a Lost Past/Loss, Part 2 of 4


Last week I began sharing a Mystery Science Theater 3000 fanfic from the late 90s. This was based on two pieces of Legion of Superheroes fan fiction, the incomplete “Dreams of a Lost Past” and the complete “Loss”. “Dreams … ” was run in full last week. Now, let me begin “Loss”.

The Legion of Superheroes written about here were a 30th Century team of teenagers using their superpowers to play a never-ending bonkers game of “The Floor Is Lava”, each round of which had a 15% chance of blowing up the Universe. Anyway, a longrunning piece of the setup was how Brainiac-5, descendant of the city-shrinking-and-stealing computer-brain supervillain Brainiac, had a doomed crush on Supergirl. Not because Supergirl lived in the 20th century — they were up to their hips in time-travel — but because she died for real and good and this time we mean it in a pivotal issue of the Crisis On Infinite Earths series. And Brainac-5, most intelligent being in the galaxy, with a whole twelfth-level computer brain, with access to a time machine and the ability to make robot duplicates of whatever the heck he pleased, couldn’t figure a way to keep her in the 30th century while she’s seen to have died in the 20th. If you’re going to keep looking at me like that we aren’t going to have any superhero comic books to read at all. Anyway, “Loss” is about Brainiac-5 dealing with how Supergirl just died in 1985. Let’s read.


>
>
> LOSS

CROW: The inside story of the New Jersey Nets.

>
> An untold tale of the Legion of Super-Heroes

TOM: All the tales too ticklish to untell.

>
> by Doug Atkinson

TOM: Or At Dougkinson. Whichever.

>
> The Man of Steel soared into space,

JOEL: Hey, look, there he is.

> carrying his grim
> red-wrapped burden.

CROW: So that’s Krypto’s Super-Pooper-Scooper.

> He came to a stop somewhere outside the
> orbit of Jupiter,

TOM: He’ll have to swerve to avoid hitting the monolith.

> and released it with a gentle push. As it
> slowly tumbled towards the giant planet,

CROW: Bet Irwin Allen’s behind this story too.

> he bowed his head
> and whispered, "Good-bye, Kara…Linda Lee…Supergirl.

JOEL: And all the ships at sea.

> I
> will miss you forever."

TOM: At least if you keep ducking.

> He remained there for a moment, then
> turned back towards Earth. There was a Crisis that demanded
> his attention.

JOEL: Wendy and Marvin need help on their homework.

> The corpse of Supergirl, wrapped in her cape of
> stretchable Kryptonian cloth,

CROW: [ Singing ] It’s magically delicious!

> drifted until it impacted the
> surface of the moon Callisto. With a faint spray of methane
> snow, it settled into the ice.

CROW: Give me a Supergirl, straight up, on the rocks.

> A short time later, a large sphere of metal and glass
> appeared from nowhere. Its front opened, and a purple-clad,
> green-skinned man stepped forth.

JOEL: The Incredible Hulk?

TOM: The Mask?

CROW: Rattfink?

> Although seemingly
> undefended from the vacuum and near-absolute zero
> temperature, his molecule-thin transuit served as more than
> adequate protection.

TOM: So don’t think he was a dummy.

> Gathering the corpse into his arms, he whispered, "At
> last I have a chance to correct one of the greatest
> injustices in history."

JOEL: Excuse me, it’s called Social Studies now.

> He cradled the corpse for a second
> before stepping back into the time sphere and activating the
> return control.

TOM: No, Mr. Beckett, I’m not going to give you a ride home.

> The sphere entered the time stream, vast
> bands of hallucinogenic color shooting past with neon
> numbers.

CROW: Or neon colors with hallucinogenic numbers. Whichever.

> 11111000001….11111001011…11111010101…until he
> at last 101110101001 flashed past, and the sphere came to a
> stop.

JOEL: [ Singing, roughly, "21" ] So it seems like 101110101001 is gonna be a good year…

> Its pilot stepped into an enormous laboratory and
> carried his prize to a strange device, which looked archaic
> and out-of-place amongst the high-tech wonders surrounding
> it.

TOM: It’s hard to explain the love a person has for his first Mattell Aquarius.

> He gently placed the body on a bench that had been
> specially cleared for this purpose, and turned to work.

JOEL: You know, sawing a woman in half doesn’t have the same suspense when she’s dead.

>
> * * * * *
>
> A brown-haired man in an exotic red-and-green costume
> stood before the thick door and hammered futilely.

CROW: So he’s visiting a Christmas ornament?

> "C’mon,
> Brainy. Open up already. You don’t want me using my ultra-
> strength to tear this door open, do you?" There was no
> response.

TOM: [ Whining, nerdily ] Aw, c’mon, let me in… I’ll cry!

> His hands and feet were braced to rip open the blast-
> shielded door when a foot-wide sphere of metal and energy
> floated to him.

JOEL: Ooh, Carl Sagan’s spaceship is visiting.

> "*breep* Legionnaire Jo Nah will refrain from
> damaging Legion headquarters. *breep*"

TOM: [ Sinister voice ] Oh, yes, you will *indeed* refrain from damaging Legion headquarters. Mwuh-ha-ha-ha-HA!

> Jo turned from the door to face the floating major-domo.
> "Computo, I have to talk to Brainy. Open the door."
> "*breep* My master has set the privacy warning

JOEL: Bet he’s looking for dirty pictures of Catwoman on the Internet.

> and has
> indicated his desire not to be disturbed. No one is allowed
> past this door. *breep*"

TOM: You know, I think Computo is being typecast as the *breep*ing boy.

> _I hate this obstinate bundle of
> circuits_, Jo thought.
> "This is on Element Lad’s orders,

CROW: Element Lad.

JOEL: A lad, a plan, a canal, lanthanum.

> Computo, on his
> authority as leader. Priority override the door…now."

TOM: You cross me, boy, and I’ll get the whole series of actinides on your case.

> "*breep* Complying…" The doors slid open.

JOEL: Such airtight security. You really see why computer locks have replaced latch and key ones that can’t be overridden.

> Jo didn’t
> bother to thank the computer; he just walked in, the doors,
> shutting behind him.
> Brainiac 5

CROW: Detroit 4, in ten innings.

> looked at Jo with undisguised hostility. "I’m
> working on a private project, Ultra Boy. Leave me alone."
> "Yeah, I know what your ‘private project’ is.

TOM: Gerbil farming for fun and profit.

> He
> squinted. "My penetra-vision shows me Supergirl’s body on
> that bench, so don’t try to pretend.

CROW: You’re planning to go to the Genesis planet!

> I figured this was what
> you were up to."
> "How did you know?

JOEL: I don’t…actually I’m kind of winging this whole deal.

> I hid my traces when I stole the
> time sphere."
> "Rond and Dr. Chaseer knew something was wrong when you

CROW: Put on that Afro wig and demanded we address you as "Courageous Cat."

> got that look in your eyes and took of from the bar like a
> Korbalian lightning beast was on your tail.

TOM: The lightning beast’s not Korbal?

> You may have
> designed the time travel monitor at the Time Institute,

JOEL: I mean, sure you may have. I don’t know. Heck, I don’t even know who you are.

> but
> you can’t sabotage humanoid intuition. And when we saw the
> Exchanger was gone from the security room, it didn’t take a
> twelfth-level computer brain to figure out what you were up
> to."

CROW: So… what are you up to?

> "Well, now that you’ve satisfied your curiosity, you can
> leave." He turned back to the Exchanger and began making
> small adjustments to its circuitry.

JOEL: Stupid picture-in-picture button never works…

> "Not so fast, pal. Dreamy thinks you’re going to try
> something desperate, and I think she’s right. You’ve never
> been good at handling emotions.

TOM: But you make up for it with your telephone skills.

> You need someone to talk to
> before you do something crazy."

CROW: Now step away from the corpse, return the magic machine to the library, and leave the frozen moons of Jupiter in peace.

> "Crazy?" Brainy’s voice raised for the first time as he
> spun on Jo. "Crazy?

JOEL: [ Cheery ] And proud of it.

> That’s what I am, isn’t it?

CROW: [ As above ] Well, yeah!

> The crazy
> Legionnaire!

TOM: Man, it’s like you’re reading our minds.

JOEL: Let’s blow this popsicle stand.

CROW: Sure.

[ ALL file out. ]

[ COMMERCIAL BREAK ]

[ To be continued … ]

What’s Going On In The Phantom (weekdays)? Who is this John X? January – April 2021


John X is another alias for The Phantom. Unlike “Towns Ellerbee”, it’s not an alias he picked. In the 2014 story John X The Phantom contracted amnesia from a snake bite. Jungle Patrol took in the mysterious figure, dubbing him John X. He would in Patrolman X join the Jungle Patrol. When his memory returned he wrote orders as the Unknown Commander, detaching “John X” for special duty.

This essay should catch you up to early April in Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom, weekday continuity. If you’re interested in the separate Sunday continuity, or are reading this after about July 2021, a post here may be more useful. And, on my other blog, I’ve been talking about comic strips again. Not as much as I used to, but in ways you might enjoy. Thanks for considering it.

The Phantom (Weekdays).

11 January – 3 April 2021.

The Phantom, under the name “Towns Ellerbee”, was helping The Trusted Man break police chief Ernesto Salinas from the infamous Gravelines Prison. We met Salinas a decade ago, in a lucha wrestling storyline. The Trusted Man, Salinas’s not-yet-named assistant from Cuidad Jardin, came to Rhodia to free his boss. He met up with “Towns Ellerbee”. They punched Salinas’s kidnapper, and crime-and-wrestling nemesis, Victor Batalla out of the story. The Phantom, as the Unknown Commander of the Jungle Patrol, orders the pickup of Batalla and henchmen. The Phantom brings The Trusted Man to the outskirts of Gravelines Prison, but refuses to go in. “Ellerbee” leaves their stolen car and wishes him luck.

The Trusted Man, sneaking up on a prison guard, thinks: 'Attacking this man would surely reveal me to the unseen other! On the inside! This I know from Mister Towns Ellerbee! Already my friend saves me from a needless mistake!'
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 22nd of January, 2021. I appreciate how generous The Phantom is with his vigilante-superhero tips. The Trusted Man is lucky, though, that he’s working in a superhero universe where low-level minions won’t notice you until you’re in punching range, though.

It won’t only be luck. The Phantom watches over Trusted Man, of course. Trusted Man uses some of the tricks he’s already learned from Ellerbee, although I regret “smash a rhino through the door” is not among them. Once confident that The Trusted Man has a handle on things, The Phantom sneaks into the computer room. His goal: getting a roster of the people “disappeared” into Gravelines Prison, which he’ll turn over to the Jungle Patrol.

Phantom, looking at a Gravelines computer, thinking 'The ruling generals are likely holding prisoners of conscience ... Rhodian citizens fighting for democracy ... foreign nationals held for ransom on false charges ... [ as he puts a USB drive in ] Colonel Worubu will get this roster of prisoners into the right hands ... '
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 19th of February, 2021. [ Four days later ] Colonel Worubu is alarmed to discover the Rhodians were holding Little Bobby Tables and now there’s nobody else in Jungle Patrol’s database of the wrongfully imprisoned.

The Trusted Man punches all the way to Salinas’s cell, and breaks him out. He tells the story of Towns Ellerbee’s work, and what he presumes to know about Ellerbee, as they exit. They’re alarmed by a speeding car, the first sign they’ve been detected. But it’s Towns Ellerbee driving it. So they’re able to make a grand escape.

The Phantom, as Towns Ellerbee, in the getaway car: 'My guess? ... Warden's vehicle ... fully armored ... run-flat tires ... equipped to crash the main gate and keep going. Or ... if you feel like stopping, we could do that.' Salinas, rubbing his fist into his hand: 'So I may say a PROPER goodby to Gravelines!? Oh, yes! We will STOP, Mister Towns!'
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 10th of March, 2021. “Oh — oh, you wanted to punch the guards on the way out? … All right, I just meant, like, did you want to get a Shorti at the Wawa? I think they have one that’s just four cheeses piled together.”

The Ghost Who Taxi Drives takes them to somewhere in Bangalla. And vanishes into the fog, leaving behind the money The Trusted Man had paid him for his service. The two try to understand all his actions. The Trusted Man mentions Towns Ellerbee’s dark glasses and Colonel Worubu works it out. He’s incorrect, but not wrong. “Towns Ellerbee” must be John X, working on special detail for the Unknown Commander. The unresolved mystery to them: why should the Unknown Commander care about a kidnapped police chief from Ciudad Jardin?

And this is where the story’s reached. It feels like it must be near the end. All the Jungle Patrol’s attempts to understand their Unknown Commander fail, after all. The copied database of Gravelines prisoners seems likely to be more interesting to Jungle Patrol, too. Also possibly to generate future stories.

Next Week!

Valiant and Sir Gawain only wanted to get a couple peasants out of an unpleasant neighboring lord’s demesne. What could go wrong? We’ll see how it went wrong in Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant next week, all going well.

What’s Going On In Spider-Man? When will you stop covering Spider-Man? December 2020 – March 2021


I figure to stop covering Roy Thomas and Larry Leiber’s The Amazing Spider-Man the end of August. The current, Ant-Man, story, has ended. Peter Parker and Scott Lang (Ant-Man) take the subway home from Egghead’s mansion because they forgot they rented a car to drive there. Then we learn Mary Jane’s Broadway play is closed for a few more weeks. The theater’s getting more repairs. But there’s publicity for her film Marvella 2: The Quest For Peace to do. They go driving off to Los Angeles and along the way meet Rocket Raccoon and Ronan T Avenger. In its original run this story ran from the 20th of November, 2016, through the 30th of April, 2017. I make that out as 24 weeks, which is one week out of phase with my 12-week comic-strip cycle.

The end of that story is when I first started covering story strips regularly here. So that’s when I’ll bow out. That unless they rerun stories I haven’t covered, or they put the strip into new production. I don’t expect either case to happen, but this is a strange world we’re in. Still, any news about the Spider-Man strip should be posted here. And I have six months to figure out what to do with my content hole here. I’ll take suggestions.

The Amazing Spider-Man.

27 December 2020 – 21 March 2021.

The Daily Bugle has a new publisher since the death of J Jonah Jameson’s cousin Ruth. It’s Ruth’s widower, Elihas Starr, who’s known to Ant-Man as the villain Egghead. Starr demands Peter Parker get photos of Ant-Man. Why? Peter Parker doesn’t know. He guesses Ant-Man might know what Egghead’s up to. He doesn’t know the current Ant-Man, though. He only knows Dr Henry Pym, the original Ant-Man. So he takes the subway way out to the end of the world to the scientist’s lab.

The lab is deserted, and trashed. Spider-Man breaks in, and gets punched over and over by an invisible and intangible opponent. It turns out to be Scott Lang, the current Ant-Man. He’s staying small and unshrinking long enough to sucker-punch Peter Parker. Not even out of suspicion for anything. Newspaper Spider-Man has such big punchable-sucker energy nobody can resist.

Spider-Man: 'I didn't turn Hank Pym's lab into a war zone. I just got here.' Ant-Man: 'Me too. When I saw somebody crawling in the window, I figured I'd check him out.' Spider-Man: 'So you didn't turn invisible in between slugging me?' Ant-Man: 'No. I just shrank real small. It's what I do. [ Shrinking out of frame ] Like so!' Spider-Man: 'Stop *doing* that! It freaks me out.'
Roy Thomas and Larry Lieber’s Amazing Spider-Man rerun for the 5th of January, 2021. Spider-Man’s a couple days out of having to deal with Dr Strange’s nonsense and the Nightmare dimension, and this guy clowning around is freaking him out? I guess when you reach your limit, you crash hard against it.
The punching satisfies the Ritual of Super-Heroes Fighting When They Meet. Ant-Man doesn’t know what Egghead’s deal is either. Given the state of the lab, they guess someone kidnapped Dr Pym. Egghead’s the obvious suspect. So they go to J Jonah Jameson’s penthouse, guessing that he’d know where his cousin Ruth lived, and that’d be the place to hide Pym. Not sure I agree with the logic there — have they considered the Abandoned Warehouse District? — but they have to use what leads they have. Spider-Man stays outside, figuring Ant-Man is the one who could avoid raising Jameson’s ire. It goes well.

[ Spider-Man waits impatiently, on the balcony ] Spider-Man; 'How long can it take Scott Lang to explain the situation to Jameson? All he has to do is find out --- ' Ant-Man, inside: '--- where Elihas Starr lived when he was married to your cousin Ruth!' Jameson: 'Why do you need to know?' Ant-Man; 'Hank Pym --- my predecessor as Ant-Man --- has vanished, and we think Starr's behind it.' Jameson: 'We think? Who's 'we'?' Ant-Man, shrinking: 'Uh --- I don't --- I meant --- my ants and me!' [ Getting on a winged ant to fly away ] 'Mr Jameson, I'd like you to meet Huey, Dewey, and Louie!' Jameson, grabbing his shotgun: 'ANTS - in my bedroom? GET OUT OF HERE --- and take those SIX-LEGGED PESTS with you!'
Roy Thomas and Larry Lieber’s Amazing Spider-Man rerun for the 24th of January, 2021. There’s a recurring bit this story where characters bring guns against insects, or insect-size humans. This seems like the worst way to try killing a bug to me but maybe there’s aspects of ant-killing I don’t understand.
Still, they get an address, and plant the idea that Jameson might come into the story later and save our heroes from an impossible fix. You know, in case that comes about. They rent a car, drive out to the estate, break in, and set off an alarm that sprays them with shrink gas. It’s not one that Ant-Man can reverse, either. The modified shrink gas also shrinks Ant-Man’s strength from that of a Man to that of an Ant. Egghead vacuums them up, which is the kind of thing that keeps miniaturizing superheroes from achieving dignity. The shrunken heroes pass out in the vacuum because it’s a modified vacuum cleaner, okay? And wake to find themselves encased in plastic blocks. And Dr Pym tied up and bound to a chair right next to them.

Tiny Spider-Man, encased in a box: 'Okay, so you were after Hank Pym's Ant-Man formula. But why'd you scheme to get control of the Daily Bugle?' Egghead: 'I'll need to launder all the money I'll be paid for that formula ... and who would suspect that a newspaper was being utilized for that purpose? .... Too bad Jonah Jameson's COUSIN RUTH had to get in the way!' Tiny Spider-Man and Tiny Ant-Man, similarly encased, exclaim shock and surprise.
Roy Thomas and Larry Lieber’s Amazing Spider-Man rerun for the 16th of February, 2021. Egghead’s plan could only be detected if there were something weird about newspapers earning large sums of money. … In hindsight maybe he should have tried hiding the money by getting one of those suspicious used-car lots that are never open and where all the cars are labelled NOT FOR SALE but they change over every three weeks anyway.

So now it’s time for Egghead to explain his deal. he figured to steal and sell Pym’s shrinking formula. He wanted the newspaper as a way of laundering the sale money from this. He’d have been fine just romancing Ruth Jameson if he could have controlled the paper through her. But she wasn’t having any of that, so he married and killed her instead. And since Egghead was going to be busy with this, he assigned Peter Parker to photograph Ant-Man and so keep Ant-Man preoccupied.

Spidey breaks loose, and Egghead tries to shoot the shrunken heroes. This doesn’t work. Egghead instead sprays Pym with the new shrink gas, reducing him even beyond the Ant-Man norm; Our Heroes leap into the gas cloud to join them. They have to fend off a spider, which they do by using a Spider-Man and also a convenient wasp.

Miniature Spider-Man lunging at a relatively giant-sized (normal) spider: 'I'm the only one of us three who can handle that arachnid --- because I've got the proportionate strength of a spider' Miniature Hank Pym: 'Yes, but so does it! And it's way bigger than you, so it's got a lot more OF it!' Spider-Man, already captured: 'Yeah --- guess I should've figured that out --- for myself!'
Roy Thomas and Larry Lieber’s Amazing Spider-Man rerun for the 2nd of March, 2021. Spider-Man isn’t very good at being tiny.

They also have to fend off Egghead’s modified bug-bomb. Thing is Pym never goes anywhere without enlarging gas. Even when he’s kidnapped by supervillains and tied up and sedated. Lucky, huh? And then J Jonah Jameson arrives and whacks Egghead in the egg with a lamp. Egghead recovers enough to repeat his boast that he killed Ruth Jameson. So now there’s four witnesses to Egghead boasting that he killed his wife. And there’s the camera Spider-Man planted in the corner when none of the readers were there. Its photos may well show Egghead trying to shoot, spray, and set on the shrunken Pym, Ant-Man, and Spider-Man. That should be good for prison, right?

The camera, by the way, we saw Spider-man planting outside the estate. Ant-Man commented on this as how Peter Parker got such great action shots of Spider-Man. On the 21st of March Spidey explained to Ant-Man that he brought the camera inside while Egghead was unconscious. This in the hopes of getting incriminating pictures. Also, Jameson would like to know why Spider-Man’s taking pictures of Spider-Man. There’ll be some quick rationalizations and that trip back home.

Next Week!

There’s a murder mystery with a room full of scientists, and a weird effect keeping technology from working right! Yes, it’s time travel, shenanigans, and time-travel shenanigans. Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop comes back to my attention. See you then, then.

What’s Going On In The Phantom (Sundays)? Why is The Phantom talking about Emperor Joonkar so much? November 2020 – February 2021


The Phantom is using this story as a chance to reinforce the legend of his immortality. He’s using what he learned from The Phantom Chronicles to talk as though he were friends with an historical ruler of Bangalla.

This should catch you up on the Sunday continuity for Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom for late February 2021. If you’re reading this after May 2021, or are interested in the weekday continuity, you may find an essay here more relevant. Not to be too much of a tease, but I may just have something to mention shortly. Also, over on my mathematics blog I write about things that aren’t comic strips. Most of the time. I do the occasional comic strip there, too.

The Phantom (Sundays).

29 November 2020 – 21 February 2021.

The Ghost Who Walks had rescued The Detective, a Bangallan police officer thought dead at the hands of a criminal syndicate. The Phantom sees this as a chance to bust up some gunrunners, sure. But also a chance to build his reputation. So he leans in, talking a great deal about The Detective’s many-times-great ancestor, the late 17th century Emperor Joonkar. And a friend of the 7th Phantom. Meanwhile, he prods The Detective into busting up the gang as it arrives at a warehouse.

Phantom and The Detective look at a minivan with 'Thugs Fated To Fall Next.' Phantom, whispering: 'Take out the driver. Leave his friend to me.' Detective, whispering: 'Hold on! My Bibi says you saved Joonkar from slavery. Tell me how!' Detective, thinking: 'This is the test! He won't know how Bibi tells the tale! That Joonkar was enslaved at sea, that he was made a gallery slave!' Phantom, moving in: 'We're wasting time; let's get to work.' Detective: 'I knew it! You're just a man! You haven't fought evil for centuries!' Phantom, with Detective's help, punches the thugs unconscious. Phantom, full voice: 'I hope your Bibi tells this one how it really happened. Your ancestor Joonkar was sold into bondage as a galley slave.' Detective: '!!'
Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom for the 6th of December, 2020. DePaul has used this story to tease at some inconsistencies in how the story of 7th Phantom encountered Emperor Joonkar has been told. That brings in a brilliant element of how much even what we-the-readers-see is legend based on what the “actual” events were. Like, did Lee Falk himself, transcribing from The Phantom Chronicles, make a mistake or alter things for dramatic effect? Still, the Ghost Who Walks is lucky the story passed through The Detective’s line didn’t mutate in a way inconsistent with what the Chronicles had.

The gang is, lucky for The Phantom and The Detective, coming in groups small enough for two guys and a wolf to knock out. And yeah, The Detective. It’s another story where people get addressed by title. When they get to the boss level, they’re able to just drive a truck into the warehouse and hold the bosses at gunpoint.

And, as a bonus, to give The Detective the chance to hit the bosses a lot. This is extrajudicial and all, yes. But they are the people who had The Detective locked in a cell below the water line, which so nearly drowned him. It can be called karmic justice, at least.

Phantom, as he and The Detective move in for the bosses, thinks 'Something tells me this round won't last long.' While fighting, Detective thinks: 'This man! Phantom! Ghost who walks! He set things right! These cowards used me for a punching bag ... dumped me in a hole in the ground ... left me for dead ... then comes a man straight out of jungle lore! A champion!' (They finish clobbering the bosses.) Detective, thinking: 'Has he really been fighting men like these for 500 years!?' Phantom, aloud: 'Well done.'
Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom for the 7th of February, 2021. A big part of this story has been The Phantom playing up the illusion of his immortality. And he’s done a great job playing it up so The Detective would plausibly believe he’s encountered the legendary defender of Bangalla. The Detective’s scrupulous in not mentioning The Phantom or hinting at him in his reports, though. So I’m not sure how this is supposed to burnish The Phantom’s legend. I suppose either The Detective is expected to mention it informally, with friends and family. Or The Phantom figures it’s worth making sure some individuals believe really, really strongly. Then his legend can take care of itself.

So, with the whole criminal syndicate recovering from being punched, The Detective calls in the Mawitaan police. And explains to them how he’s not dead! And how he punched unconscious a whole crime syndicate! And did not need the help of an immortal spirit-protector summoned to his aid by his worried grandmother! Because The Phantom finally learned the name of The Detective — Yusuf Ali Malango, badge 941 — and vanished.

This past Sunday strip did not promise a new adventure next week. I imagine there may be a coda with The Detective’s Grandmother. We last saw her in August, waiting by the giant Phantom head that Emperor Joonkar had people carve into a mountain. After that, though, I expect the 191st Sunday story to begin. We’ll see, though.

Next Week!

I get to one of the two story comics that are addressing the pandemic at all. It’s Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D., here in a week, if all goes well.

What’s Going On In The Phantom (Weekdays)? Who is Towns Ellerbee? October 2020 – January 2021


“Towns Ellerbee” is a fake name The Phantom, Kit Walker, uses in the current story. He gave it to someone we know as the Trusted Man. I can’t say why he gave the Towns Ellerbee name rather than Kit Walker. It might be so as to keep other people in the story (Ernesto Salinas and Victor Batalla) from linking this person to The Phantom.

This essay should catch you up to mid-January 2021 for Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom, weekday continuity. If you’re reading this after about April 2021 or want to follow the separate Sunday continuity, an essay at this link may help.

On my mathematics blog, I’ve finished the glossary project. That was one essay for each letter of the alphabet. I’ll have some new stuff coming soon. I haven’t decided when I’ll resume writing about mathematics in the comic strips.

The Phantom (Weekdays).

19 October 2020 – 9 January 2021.

When we last looked Kadia had just had a nasty quarrel with her mother, Imara Sahara. Diana Walker and Kit Walker discuss the Saharas. Kit, The Ghost Who Walks, thinks Imara Sahara was unaware of and uninvolved with her husband’s international terrorism. Diana thinks it was fate that guided Kadia to join the Walker family. That’s where the story ended, the 22nd of October.


Monday the 24th started Then Came Towns Ellerbee, the 256th weekday-continuity story. It picks up on a trio of stories from 2011 and 2012: A Detente with Crime, and The Den with Crime, and Mexico’s Phantom. These introduced Ernesto Salinas, a police chief in Ciudad Jardin, Mexico. Salinas used his prowess as a lucha libre wrestler to battle organized crime for territory. We’d last seen Salinas beating his old childhood friend Victor Batalla for control over some part of Ciudad Jardin. Now? They’re both in Rhodia, the fascist state bordering Bangalla. Salinas is under “house arrest”, and Batalla taunts him with actual arrest and entombment in Gravelines Prison. There’s some mutterings about a broken promise of safe conduct from the Rhodian government. When Batalla falls asleep Salinas calls his assistant back in Mexico. His assistant — the Trusted Man — flies to Bangalla. The Trusted Wife sends a note to Walker, Box 7, Mawitaan.

Trusted Wife: 'Ernesto believed he was there to take Victor into custody ... the opposite was true!' The Phantom, thinking: 'Victor Batalla isn't the first crime lord to enjoy government protection in Rhodia ... the failed state on Bangalla's border runs on payoffs to the ruling generals ... '
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 4th of November, 2020. So this is the explanation we get for how Salinas ended up in Rhodia, and in custody. It came several weeks into the story, after we’d seen Batalla taunting Salinas some. It was a bit confusing to start, especially if you didn’t check the Phantom Wiki to refresh yourself on characters from a decade ago.

The Phantom moves to intercept the Trusted Man, before he gets himself in serious trouble with the Rhodian police. As the bus crosses from Bangalla to Rhodia he gets into serious trouble: his forged passport is awful. He readies for a fight with the border guards. What do you know, though, but Kit Walker’s on the bus too, and picks a fight before the Trusted Man can have it. The Phantom and the Trusted Man are able to punch out all four border guards pretty efficiently. This would seem to cause trouble for the bus driver and the other passengers. The Phantom tells them to drive to the next town, report what happened and describe the two vigilante superheroes in great detail. I’m not sure this would actually clear the innocents. I guess The Phantom must do this sort of thing often enough Rhodian security is used to it.

The Trusted Man is happy to team up with “Towns Ellerbee”, as The Phantom calls himself, to rescue Ernesto Salinas. They make their way to Victor Batalla’s compound. There, The Phantom’s advanced skills in clobbering people impresses the Trusted Man. But there’s no sign of Salinas. They need to take Batalla by surprise. The Trusted Man goes in through the front door. The Phantom breaks in through the back window with the help of a trusted rhinoceros.

Narrator: 'El Bucanero Infernal's night goes wrong!' The Phantom, beside a rhinoceros, smashes through the plate glass window where he and henchmen sit. Narrator: 'Doubly so!' The Trusted Man bashes in the door.
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 17th of December, 2020. Even granting that the rhino is probably a statue that The Phantom is using as a battering ram, have to say, the Trusted Man has got to feel upstaged.

I’m sorry, I didn’t quite make a big enough deal of that. I’m not sure how to frame it well. But The Phantom got, somewhere, a rhino to charge through the back of this house. And then the rhino has nothing else to do with the story. I don’t know where it’s from. I don’t know how it got involved here. I have to suppose it was a statue or a taxidermy model or something like that which the Phantom slid through the window. It’s a wild, striking image and I don’t quite understand it. But it makes an impression.

Batalla taunts the Trusted Man, asserting there is no Salinas anymore. After the Trusted Man throws him into the wall enough Batalla explains he turned Salinas over to the Rhodian authorities, perhaps for making long-distance calls on the house phone. They sent him to Gravelines Prison. It’s a grim place. In a noteworthy 18-month-long storyline The Python arranged for Diana Walker to be imprisoned and almost killed in it. The Phantom knows well where it is. To raid Gravelines now requires doing something about Batalla and his henchmen.

Trusted Man: 'Mister Towns, how is it a migrant working man like yourself can summon the Jungle Patrol into hostile territory?' The Phantom, flashing back to how he puts instructions in the Jungle Patrol safe: 'Their commander knows me. Sometimes I ... give him information. He passes it down to whoever needs to know.' Trusted Man: 'I see! You are a criminal informant! Bravo, Mr Towns!'
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 8th of January, 2021. So if I were a real comic strip critic, I would have articulate thoughts about The Phantom, an impossibly wealthy man, adopting the guise of a migrant laborer to assist the rescue of a police chief who adopts a luchador identity to protect the public? There’s a rich vein of text there for someone who knows how to refine it.

Fortunately for them, the Phantom is also the Unknown Commander of the Jungle Patrol. He’s able to order this private army to kinda technically speaking invade Rhodia and abduct people for trial in a country they never set foot in. The Trusted Man is impressed with The Phantom’s resources. The two set off for Gravelines.

Next Week!

It’s Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant, and a tale good household management in the time of King Arthur. See you then, if all goes to schedule.

What’s Going On In The Amazing Spider-Man? Why are you covering The Amazing Spider-Man reruns? October – December 2020.


I want to, and that’s that. The current story first ran from the 17th of July through to the 20th of November, 2016. So, if I’m reading this all right, the current storyline should last another 13 weeks. That’ll be around the 28th of March, 2021. The story after that features Rocket Raccoon. I started my plot recapping around the back half of the Rocket Raccoon story. So my plan for now is to keep recapping until I’ve looped myself and then retire this reading. Or I’ll reprint old recaps and take an easy week every three months. Or I might start covering Rip Haywire after all; there’s not much good reason I’m not. We’ll see.

So, this gets you caught up on Roy Thomas and Larry Leiber’s The Amazing Spider-Man repeats for the end of December 2020. I’ll post later plot recaps, and any relevant news, in an essay at this link.

And, finally, it’s Worthy Awards time over on Mary Worth And Me. If you’ve got opinions on who should win Outstanding Floating Head, Favorite Inconsequential Character, or other aspects of Mary Worthiness, go over and cast your vote. If you don’t remember anything from the past year of Mary Worth, I’ve got your plot recaps right here. Thanks for reading.

The Amazing Spider-Man.

4 October – 27 December 2020.

Mary Jane Parker had offered to marry evil sorcerer Xandu. This to get him to stop fighting Dr Strange, whom Xandu thinks is her boyfriend, and Spider-Man, who is her husband. Xandu uses the Wand of Watoomb to bring more and more of the Nightmare World into lower Manhattan. And there’s not much anyone can do about it. Spider-Man has to hide behind Dr Strange’s magic shield to not be mind-controlled … oh, OK, so Spider-Man runs out from behind the magic shield and he can’t be mind-controlled. He fights off a bunch of New Yorkers whom Xandu mind-controls into fighting him. But how could Spider-Man be immune to mind control? Don’t go making the quick and easy joke, now.

Xandu: 'How could you resist the spells of the Wand of Watoomb?' Spider-Man: 'I didn't ... not really. Dr Strange put me under HIS control --- so you were really fighting HIM the whole time!' Dr Strange: 'It was all Spider-Man's idea.' Narration: Watch it, guys! Xandu isn't finished YET!
Roy Thomas and Larry Leiber’s Amazing Spider-Man repeat for the 16th of October, 2020. I give Spidey credit for reasoning that he can’t be mind-controlled if he’s already mind-controlled. He’s just lucky Dr Strange plays so many first-person shooters using the weird remote cameras so he was any good at fighting remotely, is all. (Well, and that Xandu couldn’t break Dr Strange’s mind-control, but you have to take some chances when you’re superheroing.)

So since conquering New York City isn’t working out, Xandu goes back to the Nightmare World, and drags Mary Jane off with him. Spider-Man and Dr Strange follow because of the reasons. But Dr Strange is also frozen by the thingy with the magic doohickey. So what choice does Spider-Man have but to run away from Xandu’s magic blasts of magic blasterness? Ah, but there’s strategy to Peter Parker’s running away.

Xandu, shooting energy beams at Spider-Man and the statue he's bounced off: 'You're getting WINDED evading my bursts, wall-crawler. This is the SECOND time you've landed on the immobilized Nightmare!' Spider-Man: 'Hey, I don't know if you've noticed --- I can't fly --- and around here, I can't exactly come down to earth!' Xandu: 'Too true! So it is high time I disposed of you --- FOREVER!'
Roy Thomas and Larry Leiber’s Amazing Spider-Man repeat for the 28th of October, 2020. Here again, have to give credit to Spidey for out-thinking the bad guy. One might sulk about how things get explained to the reader, but it’s hard to tip off readers to this kind of thing, especially when everything in this kind of superhero comic is energy beams blowing up abstract shapes.

Way earlier in the story Xandu froze Nightmare, master of the world, in a layer of magic freeze stuff. Xandu misses Spider-Man, but hits Nightmare, freeing him. And he’s right fed up with all this nonsense. A revived Dr Strange offers the deal: if Nightmare lets the four humans go, they’ll leave. This sounds great to Nightmare, who drops them all off in Washington Square Park. Dr Strange takes the opportunity to wipe Xandu’s memories, he says just long enough to remove Xandu’s magic powers. I’m sure this is the sort of resolution that leaves Xandu a happy, beneficial member of society again forever and ever. And on that unsettling note — the 22nd of November — the story ends.


And the next story begins. The Daily Bugle has a new owner. J Jonah Jameson’s cousin Ruth, longtime silent owner, has died. Her widower thinks it would be fun to run a newspaper. He’s Elihas Starr. Or as Peter Parker knows him, the supervillain Not That Egghead. This Egghead is a fellow who uses long words and fights Ant-Man. Since Starr figures to publish the paper himself, he doesn’t need J Jonah Jameson any more.

J Jonah Jameson: 'You're the super-brainy hoodlum they call Egghead? I thought he was a 'Batman' bad guy!' Egghead: 'THAT Egghead was just an insignificant figment of television. I am the GENUINE ARTICLE, and of considerably greater stature.' Peter Parker: 'Or so you thought ... till Ant-Man cut you down to size!'
Roy Thomas and Larry Leiber’s Amazing Spider-Man repeat for the 3rd of December, 2020. Yes, Peter seems to be butting into the conversation with a needless insult. But we do learn later that Egghead once stuck Ant-Man to a sheet of flypaper, so we understand that Egghead knows how to have a giggle.

He does need Peter Parker, though. Starr figures Peter should put his talent at taking pictures of Spider-Man to a good use: taking pictures of Ant-Man. Peter does not know what Egghead is up to. Ant-Man might know, but Peter also doesn’t know where to contact Ant-Man. He’s met Hank Pym, the original Ant-Man, but who’s the current Ant-Man? With the help of Mary Jane he has the idea that Hank Pym might know. I understand they have to lay out the thought process for readers who you can’t assume see every strip. But this is the kind of thing that gave Newspaper Spidey that reputation.

Anyway, the past week of comics Peter’s been trying to get to Hank Pym’s Long Island laboratory. Me, I’d try calling or sending an e-mail first. Too much genre-awareness can be a bother. But Peter Parker should know it would be exactly his luck to get all the way out there and find out Pym is visiting with Doc Wonmug for a week of shenanigans.

Next Week!

Oh, Doc Wonmug and his shenanigans are back in a week. I start the new and I hope better year with Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop, if things go according to plan.

What’s Going On In Gasoline Alley? What comics would you have Comics Kingdom bring back? August – November 2020


The Comics Kingdom survey still seems to be up, so, let me remind you of it.

There are strips I’d love to see revived. There are strips I can’t see being revived usefully. What I mean is, we don’t need a new generation of Kabibble Kabaret. There, I’m sorry, estate of Harry Hershfield, but you know I’m right.

So, now, this essay should catch you up to early November 2020 in Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley. This link should have more up-to-date plot recaps, and any news about the strip, as I get it.

On my other blog, I’m writing up essays about mathematics terms. This week should be ‘V’. It’s probably also going to be late because it’s been a very busy week. I should have had a busy week for the letter ‘X’ instead; there’s so few X- words that I could miss the week and nobody could tell. Too bad. Now on to Gasoline Alley.

Gasoline Alley.

17 August – 7 November 2020.

Last time in a story I had thought might be a repeat, small-scale crook Joe Pye met his long-lost wife Shari. (I think it was new.) Shari’s upset about his vanishing years ago. But Pye and his sons had escaped from jail and need everything. He claims they’re wandering minstrels providing music for church services and stuff. She’s willing to fall for this. And they’re willing to go along with this for a bath, a meal, and a bed.

Joe Pye: 'Shari! Your church might not have the instruments we're, uh, used t'playing!' Pye Boy: 'Daddy's right! We need a five-string banjo, fiddle, guitar and tambourine! Most churches wouldn't have such as that!' Shari: 'No problem! We've got all them in the choir room! Great, huh?' Joe and Boy: 'Yeah! Great!'
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 10th of September, 2020. Once again, I want to point out Scancarelli’s draftsmanship. For example, in the three panels the camera rotates nearly 180 degrees around the action without being confusing. For another, look at Shari’s hand in the last panel, with the middle fingers resting together and the index and pinky fingers separating. That’s a pose your fingers take when you don’t notice, and it speaks to artistic observation that Scancarelli depicts that. Also it’s cute that Shari and her son have their hands to their cheeks simultaneously and conveying nearly opposite feelings.

And she can offer a job. Pastor Neil Enpray’s happy to have them perform in church this Sunday. They’re worse at music than I am, and I’m barely competent to listen to music. But all the Traveling Truebadours can do is bluff through it. The Pye men try to figure what they can do, while the pastor lectures on the appearances of snakes in the Bible. Joe Pye figures what they can do is pocket cash from the collection baskets.

Pastor Enpray asks Roscoe Pye to bring him a box, though. And inside is a snake! They’re terrified, fairly, and run, fleeing the church. It’s a rubber snake, of course, a toy. Enpray was hoping to “make an impression” on his congregation.

So, they escape without showing how they don’t know any hymns. But they’re also hungry and homeless. And figure Shari won’t take them back. Joe Pye figures they have one hope left: go back to prison. Why not break back in to their cells? This inspired me to wonder, when someone does escape prison, how long do they wait to reassign their cell? I have no idea. If you do, please write in.

They get there as another prisoner’s trying to break out. They’re caught up by the prison guards and confess they’re escaped prisoners. Warden Bordon Gordon, a tolerably deep Bob Newhart Show cut, is having none of it. He insists their time was up and they were released. He just forgot to mention. It so happens they were let out the same night four other people escaped, which is why there was a manhunt.

Warden: 'What brings you boys to see us?' Joe Pye: 'We're turning' ourselves in, warden.' Warden: 'What for? Your time was up! We released you!' Pye: 'You didn't tell us!' Warden, thinking: 'Hmm! I knew there was something I forgot to do!' Pye: 'So we escaped fo' nuthin!'
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 19th October, 2020. And yes, I see the Warden’s finger-cracking in the first panel too. It’s not hard to imagine Scancarelli having a decent career at Mad Magazine filling in the corners of the page with little toss-off gags.

The comic logic is sound. The Pyes figuring jail’s their best bet and they can’t get in, makes sense. I don’t know a specific silent comedy with this premise, but I’d bet all the A-tier comedians did something like that. I don’t fault you if you don’t buy this specific excuse.

Onward as the premise demands, though. They have to get arrested. Their best plan: steal from the grocery store. When they try to wheel a cart full of food out and admit they can’t pay, the store owner apologizes. Times are tough. Take the food. Have some soup, too. Because, you know, when you leave food in the hands of people rather than corporations, hungry people get to eat.

In the last days of October they approach a spooky old house. It sounds haunted. They run out of the place, and out of the strip; with the 30th of October we transition to Slim Skinner and the new story.


The haunted sounds are Slim’s fault, of course, but in a good way. He’d decked out a slated-for-demolition house for Halloween and that went great. There’s a bit of talk about getting the city to save the building, but that doesn’t seem to be the plot. Instead, in the middle of the night, Slim’s mother and cousin Chubby come to visit. And that’s where the daily plots stand.

Slim, dreaming of himself narrating a story: 'I'm Herbert Lewot, alies the Towel! (That's Lewot spelled backward!) My partner in grime is the Washrag! (His real name is Tex Grxznopfski, but it's too hard to pronounce forward or backward!) We patrol Ajax City aboard our sleek, modern vehicle, the Barsoap V, in search of crooks to clean up in the cities' clean up grime campaign! I spied a silhouetted 'second-story' man sneaking in a 20th story window!' Washrag: 'Wouldn't taking the fire escape be easier?' Towel: 'Washrag and I climb up the building and burst into the apartment after the crook! But to our dismay and alarm there was no villain! Who is it then?'
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 20th of September, 2020. I picked this as the most active of the Towel strips. But the 13th and the 27th of September are the ones that have more little jokes and references tucked into the corners, so you might like those better.

For a couple weeks in September there was at least a running thread. Slim dreamed of being a Herbert Lewot, wealthy comic-book-reading bachelor who’s also the grime-fighter The Towel. (Spell “Lewot” backwards.) The setup feels very like an old-time-radio spoof of any number of old-time radio superheroes. (The ‘Tex Grxznopfski’ and talk about spelling backwards particularly feels Jack Benny Show to me.) Slim Skinner’s shown, for example, reading Yellow Jacket comics. Remember that both the Green Hornet and the Blue Beetle were respectable-enough radio superheroes. I’m sure there are more obscure bug-themed radio superheroes too. I think this is just a one-off, but if Scancarelli wants to fit a sub-strip into his strip? There’s a long history that he knows very well to support him.

Next Week!

The most anticipated plot recap since the new team took on Alley Oop. It’s my first plot recap for Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail, next week, if all goes well. See you then.

What’s Going On In The Phantom (Weekdays)? Why did Heloise tell Mrs Daft they called their Aunt ‘Mom’? July – October 2020


I think she panicked? At least she hadn’t figured on ever having to explain Kadia was anything but her sister to Mrs Daft. That may seem like an oversight but she didn’t know she’d need an explanation anytime soon. That’s what I have, anyway.

So this essay should catch you up on Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom, weekday continuity, for mid-October 2020. If you’re reading this after about January 2021, or are looking for the Sunday continuity, or other Phantom news, you should find an essay at this link. And on my mathematics blog I’m still writing one essay for each letter in the alphabet, with this week reaching ‘S’. You might enjoy.

The Phantom (Weekdays).

27 July – 17 October 2020.

Last we checked, someone had written to The Phantom’s post office box in Mawitaan. It seems to be Imara Sahara, mother to Kadia Walker and wife of terrorist Eric “The Nomad” Sahara. After Heloise Walker got The Nomad arrested, The Phantom rescued Sahara from her husband’s terror compound. She, sensibly, fled while he slept, and has only the Walker post office box to try to find her daughter.

The Phantom writes back, arranging a meeting on the outskirts of Mawitaan. But withholds information such as Kadia’s survival. He doesn’t know who wrote that letter, or whether they’re being eavesdropped on. The Phantom is late for the meeting, not at all helping Sahara’s paranoia. But he’s convinced she isn’t accompanied, at least. The Phantom gives her an address, saying that she lives with the friend she fled New York City with. Sahara realizes Kadia’s New York City friend was Heloise Walker, and the name can’t be coincidence.

Imara Sahara 'I suppose you've been watching me these last few hours!' Phantom: 'To be certain you weren't followed. Or didn't lead anyone here on purpose.' Imara: 'On purpose!?' Phantom: 'You could be in the custody of any number of governments by now. I don't know you well enough to say you'd never trade me for something you wanted.'
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 8th of August, 2020. The Phantom avoids admitting how he forgot and was playing Trivia Murder Party 2 on Johnny Hazard’s Jackbox stream all night.

The Phantom explains that the Walkers came to him on her behalf and he set up the post office box. And that addressing it to “Walker” then let him know who it really was. I mention this lie because it’s well-delivered. It make sense Sahara would believe it. Later, Heloise Walker tells a lie and it’s a mess that the recipient accepts because … I’m not sure. I think the lying motif shows the difference between the father’s experience and Heloise’s enthusiasm. But I’d be open to the argument that I’m reading things into a storytelling coincidence.

Kadia: 'Heloise ... you never *did* tell me wh a police colonel I never even met would help me get work with Gugu Lee!' Heloise: 'Oh! Um ... Well ... ' We see the scene of Colonel Worubu getting his orders from the Unknown Commander's safe: 'Put in a good word? For two students I don't know? The Unknown Commander must have his reasons ... '
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 22nd, 2020. They have to go through all this mysterious-safe trouble because Colonel Worubu won’t add the Unknown Commander to his professional network on LinkedIn.

Over to Heloise, though, and Kadia, who’s taken the Walker surname and considers herself adopted. They’re in Bangalla, attending school. They’re boarding with a cheerful motherly type, Mrs Daft. They even have a job working a cafe. The Phantom arranged the jobs, getting references from Colonel Worubu of the Jungle Patrol. If this seems like a petty use of The Phantom’s influence, well, yeah. But asking someone to do you a small favor is a reliable way to make them like you more. Yes, human brains are broken. So could be The Phantom’s shoring up his social network. Also he figures if Kadia does become a danger, in another (justifiable) low moment, having Colonel Worubu ready is a good move.

Heloise, running up to Kadia and Imara: 'Mrs Sahara! Quick! Give me a hug! So our LANDLADY can see!' Mrs Daft, watching the confused group hug: 'Their favorite aunt! They call her Mom! How sweet ... why didn't I think of that with *my* favorite aunt?'
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 1st of September, 2020. “It’s kind of weird, and my favorite aunt loved weird!”

Imara Sahara interrupts their breakfast by pulling up. Kadia calls out, “Mom!”, to Mrs Daft’s confusion. Heloise tries to explain why Kadia is calling someone who’s not Mrs Walker “Mom”, and it gets weird. She claims it’s their aunt who’s so much a favorite she might as well be their Mom and that’s why they’ve called her that. Mrs Daft accepts this explanation. Heloise huhs, and considers how they are never going to have trouble explaining boys in their rooms after curfew.

Imara Sahara tells of her escape from the North African compound, and of meeting The Phantom the night before. And that the Walker family had arranged his sending. Here Heloise does better at lying in a way consistent with what Kadia thinks she knows. She claims her dad arranged it through go-betweens that protect that mysterious man’s identity. The lie works for Imara, but not for Kadia.

Kadia was sure that Mr Walker went to save her mother. But she also knows she’s had a heck of a time after learning her father was international terrorist The Nomad. So she wonders what she’s wrong about now.

Kadia: 'Mom, I don't even use OUR NAME anymore! Not even in my own mind! I'm a WALKER now! Kadia Walker! I have FRIENDS here! I like my SCHOOL! I have a FUN JOB on the weekends! And best of all? No one knows ... NO ONE KNOWS ... who I really am.'
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 17th of September, 2020. So yes, keeping an eye on your friend/sister is important as she deals with, like, everything. But you might need to call in an expert. And you do have an expert meddler’s number.

Imara tells Kadia that she has a new name, and assets that would “never” be connected to The Nomad. They can have their lives back and leave Mawitaan right away. Kadia can’t have it, refusing her father’s “murder money” and calling Diana Walker her mother now. It’s a horrible, messy scene, punctuated with Mrs Daft encouraging them to invite their favorite aunt to lunch now.

Heloise goes to Imara, trying to talk her into trying again, sometime when Kadia is less shocked. Imara says she wishes the Walkers had left her alone to die. Kadia smashes Imara’s windshield and demands she never come around again. She’s reasoned that Imara must have known who her husband was and what he was doing. It is hard to see how she wouldn’t, but people can be quite oblivious, given any motivation to be.

Heloise relays the events of the day to her parents. Kit Walker tells Diana that he believes she didn’t; “unlike you, she just has terrible taste in men”. This man, by the way, is someone who used to have her family leave a bedroom window and door open all the time in case he popped in unannounced some day. All right. Also, Diana proposes that they should get Kit Junior back home. Kit Senior had sent him off to study at a Himalayan monastery, a development that hasn’t lead to as many stories as you might have expected. And, what the heck, last story the hallucination of the 20th Phantom scolded the current Phantom for sending him off. (Sending Kit Junior off, by the way, to a place that the 20th Phantom wanted the 21st to go.) Might be time for a change.

The story feels at, or near, an end. I am curious whether Imara knew what was going on and, if so, how much she was willing to accept. She is hurt by Kadia’s turn, in ways that fit and that remind one that our protagonists are not the only people in the world. Kadia’s doing well in making connections. But she also has a lot of trauma on her and needs better therapy than being watched by Walkers. She’s going through her superhero or supervillain origin story now. Heloise has fumbled a couple points this story, but in ways it makes sense to fumble. Would have helped if Heloise had not tried to explain the “favorite aunt, called Mom” thing to Imara, though.

Next Week!

Hey, how’d it go when Queen Aleta revealed to the common folk of King Arthur’s time that there are witches and she’s one of them? Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant gets its plot recap next Tuesday, again, all things going well. Thanks for reading.

You know, it is a little odd Mary Worth hasn’t called Heloise Walker, just to check whether she needs a quick meddle to pair-bond already. Hm.

What’s Going On In The Amazing Spider-Man? Could Jules Rivera take over Spider-Man too? July – October 2020


I do not know Jules Rivera’s schedule besides that her Mark Trail starts next week. Maybe she could, maybe she couldn’t take over The Amazing Spider-Man. It does seem like Marvel and King Features Syndicate should be able to find someone to, if they had any interest in carrying on the comic. But, for now, I update the reruns of Roy Thomas and Larry Leiber’s The Amazing Spider-Man and post news about the strip. If there is any. I figure to stop if we get to the point that the reruns are ones I’ve already recapped.

Meanwhile, on my mathematics blog, I’m writing essays about the words of mathematics. Coming up this week: the letter Q. It will not be about the quadratic formula.

The Amazing Spider-Man.

12 July – 3 October 2020.

Mary Jane Parker had just knocked on Dr Strange’s door. She’d wanted to, but actually doing so was an unexplained impulse. Dr Strange is pleased to meet both. He remembers Mary Jane Parker from seeing her on Broadway. He remembers Peter Parker as existing. Also as being Spider-Man. Dr Strange has those mind powers, you know, and can read scripts.

The impulse to knock on the door came from Xandu, trenchcoated street mystic master. He wants to steal Dr Strange’s Wand of Watoomb, which will make him happy. You understand. I smiled writing the first half of that sentence. He’d bumped Mary Jane and thanks to that can see what she sees, although not hear what she hears. More, he gives her the compulsion to walk to the forbidden upstairs and through the locked door to grab the Wand of Watoomb.

Mary Jane, under a spell, looking around Dr Strange's stuff: 'There are ... so MANY artifacts in this CHAMBER. Somehow, I know that the one I want ... is THIS one!' She reaches for a wand. Outside, Dr Strange races upstairs, Peter Parker trailing: 'HURRY, Peter! We may already be TOO late!'
Roy Thomas and Larry Leiber’s The Amazing Spider-Man for the 24th of July, 2020. OK, so the haunt’s revealed with the magic wand in the Sacred Chamber, so that’s going to be haunt #32, The Lost. Whoever has the highest sanity is the Traitor.

A burst of magic and Mary Jane swaps places with Xandu. Xandu takes over Spider-Man’s body, which, like, keeps happening to him. Well, he has the proportional ability to resist magical body-control of a spider. Xandu compelling him to punch Dr Strange and then do nothing, standing still. You know, like snarkers always say he does.

Xandu leaves Dr Strange’s mansion and grabs Mary Jane along the way. He apprehends her, to become his Queen. He also misapprehends that Mary Jane is married to Dr Strange. He’s going to feel SO AWKWARD when he finds out. She asks to see his kingdom, to distract him from killing Our Heroes. And meanwhile Spider-Man and Dr Strange escape their magical bondage by remembering Dr Strange has a magic thingy around his neck.

Spider-Man: 'A whole ROOM FULL of 'mystic talismans' - and the one you plan to use was hanging around your NECK the whole time?' Dr Strange: 'I wa dazed by Xandu's attack ... needed to gather my WILLPOWER! And now ... I HAVE!'
Roy Thomas and Larry Leiber’s The Amazing Spider-Man for the 22nd of August, 2020. Look, you get the Angel Feather, you put it in your inventory and just forget it’s even there until you remember it’s good for a sanity roll up to eight and you wasted four turns, all right? Lay off.

Xandu and Mary Jane pop over to the Realm of Nightmare. It’s one of those 70s comic book realms where everything is droopy shapes and silhouettes that sometimes look like teeth. Nightmare, lord of the realm, rides his horse in to threaten Xandu and Mary Jane. Xandu uses the Wand of Watoomb to freeze him solid. And then has an even better idea, moving a chunk of the nightmare world to Washington Square Park. Dr Strange does a lot of work building up this menace to Spider-Man, and the audience. Xandu does the same, only using Mary Jane.

Me, I admit, I’m not shaken. The Nightmare Dimension doesn’t strike me as all that fearsome. There’s elevated walkpaths that don’t look safe, given how far they are from level and how none of them have handrails. And there’s silhouettes of spiders. I guess that’s annoying, moreso if you have mobility issues. But annoying isn’t the same as terrifying. Oh, and there’s lots of those energy clouds and bubbles flying around, like you see all over Marvel Comics. But if you didn’t buy the original premise of “ooh, this is scaaaary”, it’s not going to become scaaaary by having energy ribbons around it.

Xandu: 'Mary Jane Parker - have you decided you'll WILLINGLY be my queen?' Mary Jane: 'What girl WOULDN'T? You've got enough power to turn a city block into a dream world. All I ask is that you let Spider-Man and Dr Strange leave us in peace!'
Roy Thomas and Larry Leiber’s The Amazing Spider-Man for the 1st of October, 2020. Oh, great, so it’s a two-phase haunt. That’s good to know. Now if we could get a single not-awful roll maybe we could make some progress here.

Well, Mary Jane, trying to keep Spider-Man safe, kind of suggests she might marry Xandu if he transforms the world into a nightmare land. So that’s the project he’s working on now, as October gets under way. If I am judging right from when this ran in 2015-16, we should finish around the 22nd of November. The follow-up story, back in 2016, was about J Jonah Jameson losing control of the Daily Bugle to Elias Starr, the villain Egghead. One of Ant-Man’s villains, which is why you’re thinking wasn’t that Vincent Price on the Adam West Batman? We’ll see what they do with the reruns, when we get to that point, though.

Next Week!

A journey to the greatest amusement park of all time! Plus Albert Einstein’s Clone. All this and more in Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop, if all goes well. Thanks for reading.

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