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.

What’s Going On In The Phantom (Weekdays)? Why is The Phantom destined for an unmarked grave? May – July 2020


Well, The Phantom apparently went and changed destiny on himself, so who can say what’s going to happen next? Happy to catch you up on the goings on in Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom, weekday continuity. If you’re reading this after about October 2020, or if you’re interested in the separate Sunday storyline, there is probably a more up-to-date plot recap at this link.

Also, on my other blog, I’m going through the alphabet to explain mathematical terms. I hope you enjoy that all.

The Phantom (Weekdays).

4 May – 25 July 2020.

The Phantom had caught himself some wildlife poachers, last I looked. But the poachers had wounded a lion, who’s gone into what the Llongo people call the Forbidden Forest. The Ghost Who Walks figures he has to kill the wounded lion, lest it go attacking people, and he doesn’t see any reason to ask why the forest is forbidden.

The Phantom doesn’t have much luck tracking the lion. The lion has better luck tracking The Phantom, catching him right before sunset. He shoots the lion, which seems to end the problem. And he eats the heart of the lion, respecting a Llongo tradition as promised. The Phantom lies down to unsettled dreams.

The Phantom, watching a lion: 'That's not the same lion! It's not wounded! Not leaving a blood trail! ... What am I saying? I cut out the lion's heart! Of course it's not the same lion!'
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 20th of May, 2020. The Man Who Cannot Die is being pretty confident about the possibility of a Lion Who Cannot Die, have to say.

He wakes to find the lion carcass gone. Also, that the lion’s alive. And heading off on its own business. The Phantom tries to clear his thoughts. Then he sees The Python, the big-bad terrorist from before Eric Sahara. The Python vanishes into thin air, though. The Phantom tries to work out a rational explanation for this all. The woods are said to drive men mad. Maybe he had a concussion. The important thing is to get out and get somewhere safe. Like, Skull Cave, which pops in to the middle of the Forbidden Forest, far from where it ought to be.

And inside the cave is … The Phantom? The figure, who keeps calling our Ghost Who Walks “Son”, scolds him. I wasn’t sure whether this was meant to be literally the 20th Phantom. But he eventually describes Kit Walker Junior as his grandson, so that’s a good answer. Phantom Dad scolds about the events of “The Curse of Old Man Mozz”, a story from back in 2017. In it, Old Man Mozz foresaw the killing of The Phantom by a petty henchman getting in a lucky shot. That didn’t happen, because King Features and Tony DePaul worked out a new contract. And Diana Walker tipped off Babudan, who was there with a well-timed arrow.

Finding a replica of Skull Cave deep within the Llongo Forbidden Forest, in a deep wash of blue-greens. The Phantom says, 'Skull Cave isn't on Llongo land ... it's in Bandar territory! The Deep Woods of my ancestors!!'
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 2nd of June, 2020. Did want to say a good word here for Mike Manley in doing a really deeply atmospheric eerie Skull Cave. Also for the colorists. The colorists for the daily comics take a lot of razzing for incompetent flood filling of strips. It’s important to point out when they’ve done a great job like this.

The Phantom protests, fairly, that he didn’t send anyone out to mess up his destiny. The 20th says they were forced to do what they did, when Kit Walker sent his son off to that Himalayan monastery. And did nothing to protect Heloise Walker. 21’st daughter was the one who captured Eric “The Nomad” Sahara, most recent terrorist nemesis of The Phantom. 20 warns that his son, having altered the course of The Phantom’s legend, “will not lie here among your ancestors”. He’ll instead be left in a faraway grave. He’s lost “the right to lie in the crypt of the Phantoms”. And threatens him with oblivion, right then and there, lost to all time.

As the 20th Phantom dissolves into an angry, flaming skeleton taunting his son with ruin, The 21st Phantom suspects something is wrong. It’s the woods, he tells himself, and chooses to leave. As he does, 20 warns that all his feeble mortal plans will be overturned. 21 starts to taunt back, hey, everybody’s plans are overturned, it’s the year — and then stops short before he can say “two thousand and … 20”.

20th Phantom: 'Hear me now ... having altered the course of the legend, YOU WILL NOT LIE HERE among your ancestors!' In front of the 21st Phantom's eyes, 20 turns into a flaming skeleton. 20: 'You have consigned yourself to a faraway grave, my son ... '
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 18th of June, 2020. So, first, my brother had that second panel on a T-shirt in high school. Second, OK, so if 21 had been shot in the back by that coward, back a couple years ago, how would his body have gotten back to Skull Cave? Would Kit Junior have been along for some reason? Or someone else from the Ghost’s support team?

The Phantom runs out of the woods, going past the illusions of Babudan and his faithful supporter Guran and Guran’s elephant. And keeps going until it turns out those are the real Babudan and Guran and Elephant. They’ve got one question for The Ghost Who Walks: what were you thinking tromping into the Forbidden Forest like that? Don’t you know that’s a good way to go mad? Why, Guran’s even seen his son Timo in those woods, and Timo hasn’t been on-screen in the comic strip since 1943. Anyway, the cause of these strange visions is rational enough. There’s fleas in the Llongo woods with a toxin that causes hallucinations. Guran’s got an antidote, though. Why not tell the Llongo about this? Well, Guran tipped off James Allen about these fleas and they’d be in a Mark Trail Sunday panel except, you know, all that drama.

The Phantom’s left to wonder the significance of his vision, though. It’s easy to shrug it off as hallucinations, yes. But The Phantom does happen in a superhero universe. More, a magical superhero universe, since Mandrake the Magician shares the continuity. (Mary Worth, too, by the way.) And, after all, Old Man Mozz did have a useful prophetic dream. So, like many of us, he’s left to sulk about the consequences of his actions.


That, the 18th of July, ends “The Llongo Forest”, 254th of the weekday continuity stories. The 20th started “The Reunion”, 255th of the weekday stories. It opens with Kit Walker getting a letter to Box 7, Mawitaan, his secret post office drop for people in trouble. It’s from Ashrama Raia, General Delivery, Nairobi. The Phantom keeps up his Jumble practice. Those are the letters of Imara Sahara, mother to Kadia Walker, nee Sahara and Heloise Walker’s schoolmate. The Phantom had broken Imara Sahara out of The Nomad’s compound before militias and American terror-bombing could destroy it. But she fled rather than stick around with The Phantom. The Phantom had advised her that someone would answer a letter set to Box 7, Mawitaan, though. Did kind of expect that thread to resume someday.

Next Week!

Will I write up the development of
Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant before deadline on Tuesday?
We’ll see!

What’s Going On In The Amazing Spider-Man? Were they lying when they said Spider-Man would come back? April – July 2020


Well, lying has to carry with it intent. I wasn’t lying when I said I planned to do my comic strip plot recaps for Tuesdays, for example. Stuff just got in the way. And it’s not as if anyone’s 2020 has gone to plan, or else I’d have written this during slack moments of Pinburgh. But as we finish another quarter-year with no new creative team for The Amazing Spider-Man, it’s getting harder to believe that there ever will be. If I get any news about Spider-Man returning to the comics I’ll report it in an essay at this link. And, what the heck, I’ll keep it in the story-update cycle at least a bit longer. This story, from Roy Thomas and Larry Lieber, ran in 2015-16.

On my other blog, I am temporarily not reading comic strips except for my own pleasure. But I am looking at one mathematical term or concept a week, one for each letter of the alphabet. These are all essays I hope bring some fresh thoughts about some familiar old notion like what “normal” is. You might like, and you can suggest topics of your own interest that I might get to. Please consider that.

The Amazing Spider-Man.

19 April – 11 July 2020.

Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner, was threatening the surface world with destruction. He does that every now and then. Something about how the surface world despoils the oceans. As ever, he’s not wrong. He brought Pharus, an Atlantean boy who contracted Tiny Tim Disorder from human pollution. White Spider-Man and Namor fought, Mary Jane brought Pharus to Metro General Hospital.

J Jonah Jameson takes the injured Peter Parker to the same hospital. (Parker was woozy after his fight with Namor.) Partly to be a decent person, but also because Parker let slip that Pharus went there. Jameson meets Dr Liz Bellman, who’s got the toxins out of Pharus, and that’s all he can get before the soldiers arrive. They figure to take Pharus into custody. Parker slips out and, as Spider-Man, uses his spider-powers to open a door. Spidey kidnaps, or liberates, Pharus, who dives into the New York Harbor. And disappears. There’s one day until Namor declares even more war on the surface world.

Peter Parker, ducking into a hospital closet, thinking: 'Namor has a grudge against the human race ... but I can't let the *boy* he brought with him become a hostage!' Coming out, as Spider-Man, thinking: 'Dr Bellman must've come out of one of THESE rooms ... ' (Opening a door) 'Bingo!' Pharus: 'Are --- are you going to HURT me?'
Roy Thomas and Larry Lieber’s The Amazing Spider-Man for the 29th of April, 2020. Yes, I know, dramatic economy and it’s not like the story needs to be slower, especially given how heavy an exposition workload newspaper story strips have to carry. But, man, can you imagine how tough it would have been if Spider-Man had to choose among three doors?

Pharus swims to Namor’s ship, though, and tells of his treatment, and the kindness received. Namor doesn’t see this as any reason to call off the war, and sails back to the New York City pier he just left. He steps out to fight Spider-Man, because it would be rude not to. Spider-Man’s no match for Namor, but Pharus pleads for his life. And the life of the surface world, arguing that Spider-Man can be the brave leader who alters the surface world. Namor’s unmoved.

Mary Jane Parker arrives, offering to become his bride if he’ll spare Spider-Man. Namor refuses this, on the reasonable grounds a leader cannot put his desires ahead of his country’s.

Jameson, watching Spider-Man and Namor fight on TV: 'I don't get it Robbie! Wy isn't the army moving in on the Sub-Mariner? Heaven knows I'm no fan of Spider-Man, but that doesn't mean I want that waterlogged warmonger to kill him!' Robertson: 'Don't you see Mary Jane Parker there, Jonah? And that boy? If the army acts, they'll be caught in the crossfire!' Jameson: 'Isn't there anybody who can intervene?' Robertson: 'The President reached out to some folks who're on a mission out of the country ... but it doesn't look like the Avengers will arrive in time to save their fellow masked man!' Jameson: 'Then, whether I like it or not ... and I don't ... the web-crawler is history!'
Roy Thomas and Larry Lieber’s The Amazing Spider-Man for the 31st of May, 2020. So a recurring bit that always amuses me is when someone in the strip proposes getting Spidey some backup. This always leads to the discovery that all eight thousand other superheroes in midtown Manhattan alone are out on other business. Usually that’s enough spackle to put over the plot hole. But here, Namor has announced he’s going to war, Atlantean ships have been stopping surface ships, and Namor has come to New York City, a city he’s specifically threatened with destruction before, in a situation that’s been developing for … days, at least. Weeks, more likely. Plausibly a month or more. What other thing is going on that Captain America has to deal with this afternoon?

Finally Dr Bellman arrives, asking for mercy on her behalf. She’s the spitting image of her grandmother, Betty Dean, who talked Namor out of attacking the surface world back in 1940 or so. And who Namor’s been crushing on ever since. Bellman says Dean’s last words were begging to remind Namor of how the surface world and Atlantis can share the world peacefully.

And this changes his mind. Namor can now see how his way of going to war will only lead to war. He’ll give the surface world another try, and never bother with killing Spider-Man or whatnot. Namor sails his flying Atlantis boat out of the story on the 15th of June, although it takes a little while to quite wrap everything up. Dr Bellman heading out. Reporters showing up. Spider-Man telling the United Nations how there will be peace when the people of the world want it so badly that their governments will have no choice but to give it to them. That sort of thing. Spider-Man webs out, too, so that Peter Parker can learn how Jameson isn’t buying Spider-Man Versus Namor pictures.


We get the transition to the current story the 28th of June. Peter Parker and Mary Jane walk through the crowds. A trenchcoated figure starts following. He’s Xandu. He figures Mary Jane might just help him get the Wand of Watoomb, and that will make him happy. By a wild coincidence, though, the Parkers walk past the lair of Doctor Strange. Newspaper Spider-Man, sometime in the past, teamed up with Dr Strange to stop Xandu the sorcerer. Hey, what are the odds?

At Dr Strange's door. Peter: 'He mus not be home, Honey. Let's ... ' Mary Jane: 'Wait! The door's starting to ... ' [ The door opens with a slow kreeeeeek ] Dr Strange: 'Hello, I'm Stephen Strange. What can I do for you?'
Roy Thomas and Larry Lieber’s The Amazing Spider-Man for the 10th of July, 2020. Dr Strange is really at ease considering it was, like, maybe this morning that Namor was still planning to sink every surface ship that left port. I mean, the time transition is ambiguous so it’s maybe been a couple days but … like, were people just this chill two days after the end of the Cuban Missile Crisis?

Mary Jane wants to meet Dr Strange, but Peter can’t think of a pretext that isn’t weird or secret-identity-spoiling. Xandu can, though: he ‘accidentally’ bumps her hand and it sets off a weird tingling. She, claiming a strange compulsion to meet Strange, knocks on his door. Dr Strange is happy to take some time away from his job of wearing a giant pinball surrounded by flower petals to meet an actress like Mary Jane. So there we are.

This story originally started the 21st of February, 2016. It ran through the 17th of July, so, 21 weeks total. We should finish the 22nd of November this year if I haven’t counted wrong.

Mary Jane also name-drops Mandrake the Magician, another King Features syndicated comic strip. Mandrake’s a fun strip, sent into reruns in July 2013 when writer and artist Fred Fredericks had to step down mid-story, for health reasons. They’re probably going to get a new creative team for that one soon too.

Next Week!

So that rich guy who wanted ancient alien technology. I bet he was up to something good, right? We’ll find out with a check on Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop. Thanks for reading.

What’s Going On In The Phantom (Sundays)? What was The Phantom doing at Trafalgar? March – June 2020


Well, he had some friends who were going to be there. So, I’m happy to help you catch up with Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom, Sunday continuity. If you’re reading this after about September 2020? If you’re interested in the separate weekday continuity? I may have a more up-to-date plot recap at this link. Though I admit, right now, I don’t know what’s going on with the current dailies storyline. I know the Phantom getting berated by his father for sending Kit Junior off to a monastery in China. We have to read what comes next.

The Phantom (Sundays).

29 March – 14 June 2020

The 21st Phantom was telling Heloise a story of the 13th Phantom. It’s about George Bass. In history, Bass and his brig Venus disappeared after February 1803, on a voyage from Australia to Tahiti. The Phantom explains how Bass teamed up with the 13th Phantom. Bass then turned the Venus to a spy ship dubbed El Sol, sailing the Mediterranean under false flags. This to support the United Kingdom’s War of the Third Coalition against Napoleon.

Phantom, reading: 'George Bass and the 13th Phantom rowed into the heart of the English fleet.' Heloise: 'Dad, I think I know! George Bass had discovered where the French and Spanish fleets were anchored!' Phantom: 'For two years he'd been presumed lost at sea in the South Pacific. Or perhaps he and his crew had been enslaved in the Spanish silver mines of South America.' Heloise: 'He made himself disappear ... so he could go spying in the South Atlantic and the Mediterranean!' Phantom: 'His years of clandestine work came to fruition in October 1805 ... ' Panel showing Bass and The Phantom rowing a longboat up to an enormous ship. Bass: 'There she is, Walker ... HMS Victory!'
Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom for the 5th of April, 2020. Lost at sea, possibly enslaved, are what history records as the likely fate for Bass and his crew. Anyway, uh … so, the 13th Phantom was active in 1805, and the current, 21st, Phantom is the one we’ve been following since the strip started in 1936 so the 19th Century was really bad for Ghosts Who Walk. Like, “13th Century Pope” bad. Yet the 20th Century was surprisingly gentle. (I am happy to suppose the current Phantom isn’t actually old enough to be in Gasoline Alley and his whole career has been “the last couple decades” as of publication.)

Bass has, in his voyages, found useful intelligence for Admiral Nelson and the British fleet. And he communicates that. I’m not sure what the intelligence is. Heloise surmises that it was the locations of the French and Spanish fleets. I’m not sure this was particularly what Nelson had needed. But I’m also not sure what Bass could plausibly offer. 1805 naval warfare espionage involves a lot of technical points challenging to communicate in a Sunday strip, after all. And it would have to be points that could have been recorded by the 13th Phantom. So, likely best to leave it as Heloise’s guess and move on with the story.

Long story short, France loses Trafalgar. Bass and his crew celebrate, confident that whatever happens now, Britain is safe from invasion. Bass can plan to go back to Australia and think up a cover story for where he’d been for two years. That night, though, we see Carter, fuming about royalist spies. We had last seen him lurking around after Bass and Phantom, ashore for no good reason. It turns out the person they thought was acting all suspiciously? He was up to no good. He and some minions knocked out the watch officer, raised the French flag on the Venus, and got into a swordfight with the Phantom of 1805.

The Phantom, recounting the attack on Bass's ship: 'The men of the El Sol were slaughtered by English cannon fire ... her masts toppled ... her hull shattered ... timbers were blasted into deadly storms of splintered wood. Dead and dying men went into the sea, entangled in the rigging, their fates certain. Where the El Sol had been moments earlier, a debris field rose and fell on the night sea.'
Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom for the 31st of May, 2020. This by the way is why they didn’t want brigs at the Battle. (There were two brigs attached to the French fleet, but they weren’t part of the action, and both escaped.)

The Phantom can stab Carter easily. Not so easy to deal with: the Royal Navy ships shooting at what they take to be a straggler French ship. Bass’s crew can’t strike the flag fast enough. The ship’s quickly destroyed. Bass and the 13th Phantom survive, clinging to debris. They make it to some shore, Bass blinded and apparently not recognizing anything. The Phantom promises they have a long journey, to the Deep Woods. Given the location Bass and 13th Phantom have to be either in southern Spain or Morocco. It’s not clear where the Deep Woods are, but that’s quite the hike for two shipwrecked men with nothing but the contents of their pockets. We’ll see how that all develops.

Next Week!

How is Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D., the most medically-themed comic strip in (United States newspaper syndication) history, addressing the biggest public health disaster in 102 years? The answer may surprise you! See you then.

What’s Going On In The Phantom (Weekdays)? Why is the Phantom punching terrorists? February – May 2020


I mean, if he’s not punching terrorists, he’s underachieving as a superhero. Anyway, this is a recap for three months’ worth of the weekday continuity for Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom. If you want to know about the separate Sunday continuity, my most recent recap of its plots are here. And all my plot recaps, Sunday and weekday, are at this link. If you’re reading this after about August 2020 there’s probably a more up-to-date plot recap here, too.

The Phantom (Weekdays).

10 February – 2 May 2020.

The Phantom had busted up a Rhodian column that was messing around in Wambesi territory. Their goal: Chatu, The Python, who a decade ago was the big terrorist nemesis of The Phantom. From a Bangallan prison he orchestrated the apparent death and actual imprisonment of Diana Palmer Walker, the Phantom’s wife. Since then he’s been held by his Wambesi countryment in a secret jail. And now The Phantom was settling in for a serious talk with Chatu about the deal and what is with it.

The Python, laughing at his bleeding nose, looking through the bars at The Phantom: 'Oh, what fun! I see you DO KNOW that Diana Palmer Walker ... will be my revenge ... mourn her now, o Ghost ... start mourning her ... now ... '
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 18th of February, 2020. Before leaving, The Phantom taunted the Python one last time by complimenting him on that cool milk snake tattoo.

The Phantom explains how he turned back the Rhodian column. Chatu says he doesn’t see why The Phantom is trying to mess with his head like that. As if the Ghost Who Walks would play head games. But it tells The Phantom that Chatu did not organize this breakout attempt. There’s no way to know how the Rhodians got word of Chatu’s secret prison, unless any Wambesi person said anything to any Rhodian person about it. Chatu taunts that he’ll kill Diana Walker yet, and The Phantom slugs him. Then heads home, along the way asking Babudan what was with his poking in around the corners of that last story. Babudan gives a noncommittal answer. And this wraps up the story.


The 253rd daily-continuity story, Unfinished Business, began the 24th of February. The Phantom, riled up by punching The Python, heads to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where he punches successor top terrorist The Nomad. … I figured this summary would run a bit longer, but that is the important stuff.

The Phantom snuck in to Guantanamo Bay and disguised himself as Commander Burford. Eric “The Nomad” Sahara acts familiar with The Commander. I’m not clear whether it’s The Nomad being all smug or whether we’re expected to believe that American intelligence agencies will partner with the worst people in the world as long as they’re right-wing enough. The Phantom talks about the woman who captured him, Heloise Walker. The Nomad had thought Heloise Walker a Bangallan intelligence agent, and takes this as a sign the Americans have captured her.

The Phantom, gloating over the unconscious body of The Nomad: 'My Heloise fought back! She settled the score nicely on her own. But as a father, and just on general principle, Nomad ... ' The Phantom steps on a cigarette beside The Nomad's head, extinguishing it.
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 7th of March, 2020. So this got me wondering if prisoners in CIA torture camps are ever given cigarettes, which is the sort of dumb thing that I wonder about instead of why we keep letting the CIA run torture camps.

Then The Phantom reveals that he’s not Commander Burford. He’d been using shadows and night as cover. Saying he wants The Nomad to know he’ll never be safe from him, he slugs the prisoner enough to break his jaw. He gloats that his daughter fought back against him. With The Nomad unconscious, The Phantom escapes to the fishing trawler he’d used as cover to get to Cuba. The action may seem pointless, but it turned out also to be dumb. Now it’s got The Nomad wondering why Heloise Walker matters to The Phantom.

Also, if you’re wondering how The Phantom could impersonate a lead interrogator at Guantanamo Bay at all? Burford had at least one interview up on YouTube. And then interrogated Burford at gunpoint, to get finer details. I cannot force you to believe this, but the text offers an explanation, and I find it within the bounds of superhero stories.

The story ended the 28th of March, with now both the major international terrorist figures of the past decade vowing revenge from prison on the women around Kit Walker. This seems good.


Warrior, speaking of plans for the poacher's guides: 'A quick death, for we Llongo are merciful! But death it is! by our Queen's command!' Phantom: 'Your queen wants these guides to stop bringing destructive men onto Llongo land. We can accomplish that without bloodshed! Friends, are you with me?' Wrrior: 'Our queen would want us to be with you, Phantom!'
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 9th of April, 2020. [ * In the Malay tongue. I know, right? I was expecting Llongo too. ]

On the 30th of March the current story, The Llongo Forest, started. It’s the 254th daily-continuity story. The Phantom gets into a pickup hunt with some Llongo people. They’re looking for a poacher, someone who’s gone around shooting any animal he can find. Poachers are really Mark Trail’s thing. But Mark Trail is being drawn all weird and dealing with a possibly fictional forest fire. The Phantom has to step into the gap.

The poacher’s easy to find; just follow the trail of slaughtered animals. His guides are nervous, afraid of what the Llongo people will do. The Phantom’s friends know: their queen’s ordered them dead. The Phantom talks them into seeing if they can’t stop the poachers without so much bloodshed. They’re up for it. They sneak up on the poacher’s camp and clobber the guides. The poacher himself needs more coaxing, by having Devil, the Wolf Who Walks, poised to rip out his throat.

Warrior, looking over the wounded lion's trail: 'Blood trail leads there! We cannot [ accompany ], O Ghost who Walks! Forbidden forest!' Phantom, thinking: 'These are brave men. If they won't venture into those woods, the tribal tradition they honor must be a strong one.'
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 28th of April, 2020. Also I’m wondering if this is just the one Forbidden Forest for the Llongo, or if there’s a bunch of Forbidden Forests, and if different tribes respect others’ forest-forbiddings. Like, they probably come to some agreements about the territories, right?

The Phantom checks out the poacher’s home movies. Turns out he had wounded a lion without killing it. That’s a problem, as a badly wounded lion might turn to hunting humans. The trail leads into a forbidden forest, which the Llongo warriors won’t venture into. All right. The Phantom puts the poacher and his guides in the Llongo’s care and recommends they be handed over to the Jungle Patrol. And resolves to go into the forbidden forest by himself to track down the wounded lion.

That’s where the story sits as the first full week of May begins.

Next Week!

I get a lightweight week as one of the two-or-maybe-three Sunday continuity strips gets its attention. Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant comes up next time, and we’ll see how my shifting the publication date to Tuesdays helps.

What’s Going On In The Amazing Spider-Man? Have they hired new cartoonists yet? January – April 2020


Nope, no cartoonists yet. We’re still rerunning a Roy Thomas and Larry Lieber story from 2015-16. If the story will repeat in full, then it will end in the middle of June. The following story would be a team-up with Doctor Strange to fight Xandu. I have not heard anything about hiring a new creative team. Given the lead time needed for comics that run on Sundays, I expect this means the strip is not leaving reruns anytime soon.

If I get any news, I will post it in an essay at this link, where you can find other plot recaps for The Amazing Spider-Man. At least until I decide that rerun Spidey has had enough of my attention.

The Amazing Spider-Man.

27 January – 18 April 2020.

Namor, the Sub-Mariner, ruler of Atlantis, is condemning the surface world for its crimes against the oceans again. He’s not exactly wrong, again. He has noticed this Mary Jane Parker is a feisty woman-type and wants to marry her. Namor declares he’ll take her as a princess anytime she wants, and heads off to make war on the world’s shipping. Mary Jane kind of swoons, thinking she might talk him out of this round of condemning the surface world and all.

News: 'The cargo vessel was sunk at the Sub-Mariner's command!' Peter: 'And you thought Namor wouldn't sink any ships!' Mary Jane: 'At least he let everyone reach a lifeboat. If only I could talk to him!' Peter, chewing down on a cob of corn: 'Hey, just because he proposed to you doesn't mean you could change his mind!'
Roy Thomas and Larry Lieber’s Amazing Spider-Man for the 2nd of February, 2020. (Ahem.) “Gosh, what corny dialogue!” I’ll see myself out.

Atlantis starts sinking ships, although gently, to avoid loss of life at first. And then Water Force One, carrying Namor, shows up at the East River docks. Namor’s come to scold the United Nations. And he’s brought along an adorable water moppet. He’s Pharus, a kid who’s contracted Backstory Syndrome, suffering from human pollution and doomed never to recover. Namor says the Atlantean hospitals can’t help him. Spidey asks, well, why not try human hospitals? They’re sure to do great with a non-human child who can’t breathe air without taking an oxygen pill and who’s got all the symptoms of mer-consumption. As they punch each other, Mary Jane kidnaps Pharus. With the help of Dr Liz Bellman she gets him away from the Atlantean guards and over to Metro General Hospital.

Atlantean Guard: 'HALT or we open fire!' Mary Jane, holding a terrified Atlantean boy in her arms: 'Please, I'm trying to save this boy!' Pharus: 'LET ME GO!' Guard: 'Namor ordered us to guard the lad.' Other Guard: 'You leave us no choice ... ' Dr Bellman, swinging a stick that cracks open the guard's helmet, so his water spills out: 'There's always a choice, little boy blue!' Shocked guard: 'WHAT IN NEPTUNE'S NAME?'
Roy Thomas and Larry Lieber’s Amazing Spider-Man for the 16th of March, 2020. The art in the newspaper Spider-Man strip, at least its last decades, was mostly serviceable. But I appreciate that, by luck or design, in that first panel there Pharus’s face perfectly captures that moment when everything is spinning out of control into something new and horrifying and bad. It’s amazing to think that it was drawn well before 2016.

Namor tosses Spider-Man into the water, where they can fight on the Sub-Mariner’s home lack-of-ground. Mary Jane scolds Namor, who says there’s no reason for him to keep fighting now that he’s beaten. Namor accepts Mary Jane’s answer to where Pharus went, and then heads to the United Nations, in session.

He informs the assembled heads of state that he’s taking over the seas. If the surface-dwellers keep control, after all, Earth will soon be dead. It’s a complaint he’s made before and, again, he’s not exactly wrong. He gives the United Nations one day to figure out how it’s going to fix pollution and that’s it. And then he leaves, before anyone can stop him. And almost before Spider-Man wakes up again.

Robbie Robertson: 'How can you think Spider-Man's IN LEAGUE with Namor, when Peter's photos show the Atlantean dragging him in the water?' Jameson: 'Pictures can lie, Robbie. I say the two of them headed underwater to avoid witnesses while they plotted strategy!'
Roy Thomas and Larry Lieber’s Amazing Spider-Man for the 10th of April, 2020. I don’t read the comic books, except that one where the “I don’t want to cure cancer, I want to turn people into dinosaurs” meme came from, and I’m an estimated sixteen Spider-Man movies behind current. Am I correct in supposing, though, that when Robinson feels things are a little slow he just tosses out, like, three names and a place to hear Jameson’s conspiracy theory for Spider-Man connecting them? If not, then I am happy to sell this scene to Marvel Entertainment Products LLC for a reasonable rate, inquire within.

Well, at least Peter Parker can sell some pictures of Spider-Man fighting with Namor. J Jonah Jameson is delighted to have proof that Spider-Man and Namor are in a state of cahootery. While Jameson explains his reasoning, though, the still-woozy Peter Parker faints. Parker says he got hit by debris during the fight. Jameson sees a chance to rush to Metro General Hospital. Which turns out to be a lucky break: Peter Parker mentions that’s where Mary Jane said the Atlantean boy was. So now Jameson figures to prowl around the hospital until he finds Pharus.


Will Jameson, and Spider-Man, find the Atlantean boy? Will there be some act of human kindness that melts Namor’s hardened heart? Will the surface world remain in control of the seas? Will there be an astounding link to the policewoman Betty Dean who headed off the Sub-Mariner’s destruction of the surface world in 1940? Will Scrooge become a second father to the boy, who did not die? There are two ways to find out, one of them coming back here around mid-July and the other looking at late 2015 and early 2016 on Comics Kingdom. Your choice.

Next Week!

Eh, nothing much. What’s Moo with you?

What’s Going On In The Phantom (Sundays)? Why is the Phantom fighting Napoleon? December 2019 – March 2020


Hi at last, people who want to know what’s happening in the Sunday continuity of Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom. The Phantom is sharing a story of one of his ancestors is what’s going on. If you’re looking for the weekday continuity, or if you’re reading this after (I expect) June 2020, you’re likely to find a more relevant essay here. If you’d like a little mathematics in your comic strip talk, please try out my other blog. Thank you.

The Phantom (Sundays).

29 December 2019 – 22 March 2020

We left The Phantom teasing his daughter Heloise with tales of past Phantoms. He suggested he could tell Heloise what really happened to Ambrose Bierce, or to the body of Thomas Paine. Or Khe Pandjang, who’d lead an army against Dutch imperialism in Indonesia in the 18th century. (I hadn’t heard of him before this, but it’s a good reference. Linking The Phantom to him helps diffuse the colonialism baked into the comic strip’s premise.) Or the sole (then-)surviving witness to the Mary Celeste.

What The Phantom finally suggests, and Heloise accepts, is hearing the story of George Bass. Bass was a real-world British naval surgeon and explorer. That strait between Australia and Tasmania is named after him. In reality, he was last seen in February 1803. He was expected to sail the brig Venus from Sydney to Tahiti and then, perhaps, Spanish colonies in Chile. No one knows what happened to him and his crew. What The Phantom (Sundays) supposes is … not no one knows?

In The Phantom’s retelling there were a 26th and 27th person on the Venus. The 13th Phantom was one of those people lost to history. The other was called Carter, and we’re promised that his treachery put Bass in the Vault of Missing Men. And instead of sailing for Tahiti, Bass intended the ship to go “missing”. And then to join actively the Napoleonic Wars, attacking French and Spanish ships under a false flag.

[ The Venus, in the south Pacific, in 1803 ] Bass: 'Napoleon's aim is clear, Walker: he means to invade England! To do so, he needs to destroy our navy and so rule the Channel.' 13th Phantom: 'His Spanish allies tried it in 1588. I understand it went rather badly for them.' Bass: 'Walker, I am determined to see the Venus, under false flag, serve in sending both French and Spanish seapower to the bottom!' [ Modern day ] 21st Phantom, to Heloise: 'Bold Captain Bass and his shadowy sponsors in England did as they intended ... and our ancestor was there to bear witness. The 13th Phantom saw George Bass alter the course of history ... at a place called Trafalgar!'
Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom for the 23rd of February, 2020. It’s already dubious enough that a Phantom — whose original sworn oath is against piracy — would be literally on board with a rogue ship flying false colors to attack his country’s enemies. But besides that, this particular flashback has to be set sometime in early 1803, during the Peace of Amiens. A reasonable person might gamble that this peace was not going to last, but at the moment Bass was making these plans, they were to attack people his country was not at war with. (This, granted, is supposing that someone in Australia would have heard of the peace, which would have been only about 11 months old at this scene.) But one consistent thing, especially about DePaul’s Phantoms, are that they will screw up, and allowing themselves to be patriotically convinced that it’s not piracy if it’s for the English cause is credible. If the Walkers see themselves as English, which, there’s good reasons to go either way. I acknowledge this is a spin-off of my older question, are the Phantoms Anglican?

This is a quite interesting plan since I don’t see how this isn’t piracy. There’s a reference to Bass having “sponsors” in England, so perhaps this got the legal cover of being a privateer. But then that would be on Bass’s Wikipedia page, unless of course Tony DePaul has an explanation to come for that.

Bass, in fiction, renames his ship the El Sol. He names his lifeboat the Tom Thumb III, in honor of the small boats the historic Bass used to explore Australian rivers. He says that he and Walker will launch the Tom Thumb III to save England from Napoleon. Meanwhile they sail to some Mediterranean port, “a nest of cutthroats, spies”. While walking down Ambush Alley in the port, Bass and Walker notice they’re being followed. It’s Carter, who hasn’t got any reason to be off the ship and less reason to follow them. They suspect Carter of working for someone, they know not who. Bass declares he can’t just leave Carter there. He means, unless he murders the bilge rat. But he’s too honest for that. The first time I read this, I thought Bass was saying he’d have to take Carter along and forgive his leaving the ship. On re-reading, I’m not sure Bass didn’t mean to just leave Carter in port. In either case the reasoning seems designed to force Carter to throw in with anyone working against Bass. But no one has ever accused the Napoleonic-era Royal Navy of having any idea how to create or sustain loyalty.

Bass: 'CARTER? Why are you following us?' 13th Phantom: 'This bilge rat is a sneak and a liar. I made him for such at our first meeting. Trust nothing he says!' Carter, on his knees, pleading in the alley: 'No excuse, Captain! I-I've done a crime and BEG your mercy! I had NO LEAVE to go ashore! I feared you SAW me in that watering hole, sir! A narrow escape! Then ... then I must keep you in sight at all times! Lest my fear come true!' Phantom: 'He's lying.' Bass: 'He's been with me for years, Walker. Ever since I left England.' Phantom: 'With you, perhaps, but on whose behalf?' Bass: 'He's seen much. Knows a piece of it all. I can't just leave him here, Walker. ... Unless I murder him. Or *you* do! Alas, we're honest men, not killers! And this poor fellow? A mere fool! ... All's well, my good friend! We sail on the tide!'
Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom for the 15th of March, 2020. By the way, Wikipedia says that sunglasses, as in glasses with color-tinted lenses, can be traced back to 1752, so it’s actually historically all right for The Phantom, 1803 edition, to have dark glasses. But I’m willing to grant sunglasses even for earlier-still Phantoms as being a stage convenience, standing in for however they obscured their faces.

So, this week, we saw the VenusEl Sol sailing under United States, French, and even Spanish colors, on various missions. We’re promised that this will turn into Bass having a key role in the Battle of Trafalgar. We’re not there yet.

Next Week!

How are things going with Aunt Tildy? And that pro wrestler? I look in on Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D., unless events get in the way. But, come on. This is March 2020. How could an event get in the way of anything? Good luck to you all.

What’s Going On In The Phantom (Weekdays)? Did The Phantom Save Kadia’s Mother? June – August 2019


Yeah, he did. Glad to clear that up.

Phantom, thinking to himself: 'Rough night ... that all started ... how? Ah! 'Say whatever you have to say, Heloise'.' Flash back to Heloise, on a rooftop, pleading to Kadia not to jump: 'Your mother's NOT going to die! My dad's going so save her!'
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 24th of August, 2019. The flashback is to Heloise pleading with the despairing Kadia, as seen the 20th of February 2019. Heloise did not reveal her father was The Phantom. But Kadia did understand that the “friend” Kit Walker said he was sending was not someone else. Anyway, that’s a nice Red Roof Inn that The Phantom picked to be their recovery spot. You suppose he got a single room or two separate rooms?

Catch you all again back around here in late early October, for the Sunday Phantom continuity, or in mid-November for the weekday strips. Or if there’s breaking news. And, please, consider my mathematics blog. I use it to examine mathematically-themed comics every week. And starting from next week I hope to explore 26 mathematical terms, as many of them as possible ones readers ask to read about.

The Phantom (weekdays).

3 June – 24 August 2019

OK, I can say the same thing with more words. I last checked Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom, weekday continuity, in early June. The Ghost Who Walks was in North Africa. He was raiding a compound of The Nomad, recently-captured-and-exposed International Terrorist. He’s there to extract Imara Sahara, wife of The Nomad and mother of Kadia, Heloise Walker’s roommate and now sister. Complications: a militia, figuring to hostage Imara to make the Nomad keep their Terrorism secrets, holds Imara. They’ll kill her if anyone comes too near to freeing her. Also making things worse: American intelligence agencies, who figure, well, it’s not a hospital but maybe we could bomb it anyway?

So the past three months have focused on how The Phantom’s going to get this done with these constraints. It starts with the traditional elements: The Phantom punching people unconscious. Stealing clothes. Going undercover to punch more people. Punching codes into locked doors. All that stuff.

Phantom, smacking a henchman with the a gun: 'Your lucky day ... I already HAVE the access code!' Meanwhile in an Intelligence Agency lair. Underling: 'What are you doing? [Dave] Palmer's *talking* to us! He wants to come in!' Chief Intelligence Guy: 'Too late ... you are cleared hot ... fire at will.'
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 15th of June, 2019. “Look, we didn’t get where we are in the intelligence community by letting important new information affect our decisions!”

Meanwhile Dave Palmer gets a call from Diana Walker. Dave Palmer, retired Intelligence Guy, had (last time) refused Intelligence Agency pleas to advise them on this bombing. When Diana says something about “the villa” he changes his mind and says to his (tapped) phone that he’s coming in, don’t blow anything up until he gets there. They’re not going to refuse the chance to blow something up.

The bombing has its good side for the Phantom. For one, everybody who isn’t dead or wounded has a bigger project than Phantom-stopping. For another, the darkness is good for sneaking around. When the emergency lights come on it’s a bit of bother.

The Phantom, hiding in emergency light from many gunshots and ricochets, thinking: 'I've no choice but to take this and not fire back! If they think they've killed me by bouncing bullets off the walls, they've got no reason to turn their guns on Imara Sahara!'
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 28th of June, 2019. Besides being part of a good action sequence this strip neatly summarizes The Phantom’s idea about squaring this circle. He’s going to try to act as dead as possible and then respond. It’s a tough spot to be in but what would the alternative be? See if Mandrake the Magician is free that weekend?

So there’s a nasty gunfight: Sahara’s guards shooting where they conclude the intruder has to be. The Phantom trying to stay out of the line of fire, and ricochets, until he can sneak up on them. And we finally see Imara Sahara, who’s keeping her wits quite well considering. She tries to warn the unknown-to-her intruder that she can’t be saved. She has a point. The Phantom has a plan. It can only work if the writer’s on his side.

He shoots out the lights. They slam the panic room door shut. They expect him to break through the door, but that he’ll then be an easy target. The Phantom figures to break through the door, yes, but only after he disables the emergency generator. In the dark they’ll be helpless, unless they picked up their flashlights. When the lights in the panic room go out Imara takes cover. The Phantom breaks through the door and there’s an intense gunfight. All the militia members die. The Phantom is merely shot three times. This on top of the wounds he’d barely recovered from when he fell for The Nomad’s ambush. That story was over a year ago, reader time. It’s only a couple days in the past for The Phantom, though.

Imara, watching the Phantom disassemble a bookshelf in the panic room: 'What on earth are you *doing*?' Phantom, thinking: 'It seems the Nomad never gave his wife the complete tour.' He thinks of Kadia as a girl popping up out from the other end of the tunnel to a smiling Eric 'The Nomad' Sahara.
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 25th of July, 2019. Part of Eric “The Nomad” Sahara has been this display of honest love for his daughter. His capture started out with him trying to have one last day with Kadia before leaving her life forever and for her safety. So anyway him having what seems like a normal-ish moment playing with his daughter around the escape tunnel feels right to me. The Phantom has no excuse for not answering Imara’s question.

At last The Phantom kind of introduces himself and why he’s there. And leads her to an escape tunnel, the only way out now that the main hallways have collapsed under American bombardment. Imara asks how he can know about this tunnel. It’s a reasonable question. Well, Kadia knew, and briefed him. Why did Kadia know and her mother not? … Not sure. We see in flashback the young Kadia playing in the tunnel with her father. Still, it seems odd to set up a panic room for someone and not share how to leave it in a crisis. I can’t say this is unrealistic. It’s petty jerk behavior from international terrorist Eric Sahara. But I understand commenters who couldn’t suspend their disbelief on this point.

Above ground, a new militia’s come around to see what’s happened and what they can make worse. So they start shooting at the only things still alive, The Phantom and Imara Sahara. This leads to a chase through the remains of the compound, The Phantom leading Imara towards his escape truck. The Phantom sends her ahead, while he distracts the militia by using bullets. She finds the truck and waits the three minutes he asked for, and some more, and finally leaves after she hears the gunfire stop.

Imara, running through the night: 'Walker, Box 7, Mawitaan, Walker, Box 7, Mawaitaan ... !! Walker? My Kadia's *roommate* was a Walker! Heloise Walker! ... A coincidence! What might that sweet girl have to do with this strange man who helped me?'
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 13th of August, 2019. The Phantom had told Sahara to remember “Walker, Box 7, Mawaitaan” as an address to mail if she got out and he didn’t. This strip is part of a recurring little motif of the strip, of people who notice the name Walker and, sometimes, the Phantom’s nickname of The Ghost Who Walks. They invariably dismiss this as coincidence, which is probably what I’d do. Determined comic readers sometimes get tetchy, insisting that they’d never be fooled by so weak a disguise as … two people encountered in two different former-British-Empire countries on two different continents having the same, common, Anglo-Saxon last name.

The Phantom slams against the rear window, and climbs in. He drives them to his recovery space. And is absolutely gleeful that he’s managed to get her out “without a scratch”. And all he has is something like four bullet wounds. The Phantom’s delighted, and smiles. It’s fun having this kind of vigilante superhero actually show delight that he pulled off a stunt like this.

And it was a heck of a performance. The Phantom’s rescued Imara Sahara from captivity. I trust she’s ready to go to Skull Cave. There, her daughter’s already taken the name of her roommate who crashed a private jet into Springfield Gardens. No longer need she live in secret underground North African lairs owned by men with dangerous lives and their own private armed forces. The Phantom’s Skull Cave lair is probably in equatorial Africa.

Next Week!

I finally get an easy week for recapping! It’s
Mark Schulz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant. If all goes to plan, then, I’ll have that comic strip featured next week in this space.

What’s Going On In The Amazing Spider-Man? Is Spider-Man ever coming out of reruns? May – August 2019


Back around my undergraduate days the university wanted to move the student group offices out of the main student union. The space could make money rented out for events instead of given to student groups. The student groups didn’t want to leave. The university planned a major renovation and expansion of the campus center. It would add a bunch of decent food places, for example. And get the building away from its original late-60s “you know the architect was an award-winning prison designer” layout. But it would need most of the student groups to leave for a while. They set up nice enough temporary quarters in the Ledge, the former and still usable student union building. And, after about three years of renovations, there had been nearly a full turnover in undergraduates. Nobody but a few die-hards with old issues of the student newspapers remembered the promise that student groups would ever move back.

So the first of the “classic” repeats of Roy Thomas and Alex Saviuk’s Amazing Spider Man stories, facing Mysterio, came to an end in mid-July as expected. And then they went right to the story which followed the Mysterio story in 2015. It’s a team-up with the Black Widow to fight the Hobgoblin. That’s a storyline which ran from mid-March 2015 through mid-August. If they repeat the whole thing, that’ll take us through October 2019. The following story, if they don’t change things up, would be an encounter with the Sub-Mariner.

I haven’t heard any announcements of a new team to create the comic strip. Or rumors of an announcement being near. If I hear anything about The Amazing Spider-Man rejoining the world of living comic strips I’ll post something at this link. And I’ll keep plot recaps going, at least until they get into rerunning stories I’ve already reviewed.

The Amazing Spider-Man.

19 May – 10 August 2019.

In a story ripped from 2014-15, Mary Jane had just fallen off the Empire State Building. Filming accident during the making of Marvella 2: The Secret of Curly’s Gold. Spider-Man suspects Mysterio, the super … special-effects and hypnosis guy. Correctly, but how? Also the film crew is starting to suspect Mary Jane and Spider-Man have a thing, and this might hurt Peter Parker if he ever finds out.

Smiley: 'The robot! It's falling onto MJ!' Peter, running ahead of the robot: 'I'll get you out of the --- ' (He shoves Mary Jane out of the way but the robot, falling over, crashes on Spider-Man's side.) 'ARRRH!'
Roy Thomas, Larry Leiber, and Alex Saviuk’s Amazing Spider-Man for the 29th of May, 2019. I had thought the World’s Fair robot just stood there talking with people and smoking cigarettes but I’m not asserting that I know about all the World’s Fair robots out there, especially in a variant of the Marvel Universe.

Mysterio, meanwhile, is sure: Spider-Man has got to be Mary Jane’s husband. He’s going to use a publicity photo shoot, using an old World’s Fair robot, to mess things up. The robot chases down Mary Jane. Peter Parker, in disguise as Peter Parker, shoves her out of the way, taking the fall at the cost of a cracked rib. Mysterio cackles at how he almost killed both Mary Jane and Spider-Man.

Producer Abe Smiley’s ready to cancel Marvella 2: The Secret Of The Ooze. But Mary Jane talks him out of it. And Peter’s discharged already: it was a tiny fracture. He even has a copy of the X-ray. Director “Dash” Dashell, curious about the X-rays, stumbles into Peter. Peter screams and spills his plot point right over everybody.

Dash Dashell: 'So that's an X-ray of your cracked rib? Here, let me see ... OOPS!' (He stumbles, knocking Peter Parker's chest, making Peter scream.) Mary Jane: 'I'd better get you home, Peter.' Sharon Smiley, whispering, to a tech person: 'If you're right and MJ's having an affair with Spider-Man ... her husband won't be getting in the way for a while.'
Roy Thomas, Larry Leiber, and Alex Saviuk’s Amazing Spider-Man for the 7th of June, 2019. I like people coming to the conclusion Mary Jane has something going with Spider-Man. It’s logical for onlookers to suppose. And it might help Peter Parker keep his identity secret, a thing he needs a lot of help with.

Marvella 2: Golden Receiver resumes. Spider-Man makes himself very visible watching over the next day of filming, at Washington Square Park. Mysterio does too. Then throws some misting gas grenades to be less visible. He’s figuring a mid-air, smoky fight with a wounded Spider-Man his best shot at killing Spidey. It’s not a bad thought. With a solid hit to the chest Spider-Man goes falling. Mysterio flies after him — well, not flies. Mysterio doesn’t have superpowers. He has a transparent hoverboard. Which Spider-Man snatches.

Mysterio: 'Your webbing --- latching onto my nigh-invisible Sky-Ski! But --- you were too DAZED to hurl that line!' Spider-Man: 'Or maybe, since they were filming a *movie*, I was just doing a bit of Oscar-level acting!' Mysterio: 'OOPH! You've pulled it --- out from under me!'
Roy Thomas, Larry Leiber, and Alex Saviuk’s Amazing Spider-Man for the 20th of June, 2019. I’d like to say it’s a coloring error that the nigh-invisible Sky-Ski is a bright orange, although that there’s not lines for Mysterio’s right boot suggests otherwise. In the previous couple days’ strips the Sky-Ski was invisible, or at least sky blue, which would probably be invisible enough for filming an ordinary special effects sequence. (I suppose a modern effects sequence would want the Sky-Ski to be a bright, easy-to-detect color not otherwise used, so it could be digitally erased. You can’t say that’s going on here. That’s not Mysterio’s thing and anyway his gloves are the same color.)

This offends Mysterio, a reaction I love. But Spidey points out, he can pretend to get hurt. With the hoverboard — er, Sky-Ski — Spidey can stay in the air long enough to continue fighting. Mysterio has an emergency reserve jet pack because, you know, supervillains. Anyway, they throw stuff at each other, they plummet, Spidey grabs on to Mysterio’s flying boomerang discus. He knocks Mysterio down. They fall into the fountain.

Spider-Man: 'I've removed your gimmicky gloves. Now let's see if you'r really who I THINK you are! (Removing the goldfish bowl.) Yep! Dash Dashell, boy movie director --- (Removing a face mask) -- Alias Quentin Beck, the one and only Mysterio!' Mary Jane: 'He was wearing a mask UNDER his mask!?'
Roy Thomas, Larry Leiber, and Alex Saviuk’s Amazing Spider-Man for the 5th of July, 2019. I understand the superhero convention of the mask-under-the-mask thing. But I look at this and wonder if Mysterio was getting any oxygen at all through those masks. His goldfish bowl wasn’t opaque because of special effects stuff. It was opaque because it fogged up.

Spidey reveals that Mysterio is in fact … “Dash” Dashell, director of Marvella 2: Invasion of the Tinysauruses. Or in fact … not. He’s really Quentin Beck, Mysterio. Mysterio kidnapped the real Dashell and took his place. The plan: draw out Spider-Man by staging accidents with Mary Jane Parker. This would let him kill Spider-Man, vanquishing his longstanding foe. Also let him kill Mary Jane, because, eh, what the heck.

Mysterio tries to at least reveal that Peter Parker is Spider-Man, and gets laughed out of town. It helps that Peter Skypes her with a “hey, just heard there’s a villain unraveling going on” call in the middle of this. Mysterio’s not fooled by a pre-recorded message. He slugs Spider-Man in the chest, who doesn’t even flinch, because Spidey doesn’t have a cracked rib. Mysterio leaves, abashed.

Mary Jane: 'That was Peter on the screen, so he *can't* be Spider-Man!' Mysterio, breaking away from the cop holding him: 'That call could've been pre-recorded! THIS'LL prove the wall-crawler is your husband! (And slugs Spider-Man in the chest.) WHAT? You didn't even FLINCH!' Spider-Man: 'Beck, you've got a punch like a soggy beanbag.'
Roy Thomas, Larry Leiber, and Alex Saviuk’s Amazing Spider-Man for the 11th of July, 2019. Question for the class: when did Peter Parker decide on his plan to fake having a cracked rib? He must have figured he had to fake being injured after the robot fell on him, since it would be weird if he didn’t need a hospital visit. But did he realize Mysterio was trying to injure Peter Parker, and needed to fake an injury? When? And on what basis?

How did Spider-Man pull this off? The X-rays Peter brought back from the hospital were old ones, from when this story originally ran four years ago. It’s some clever thinking by Peter, whose comic strip persona had needed the chance to show he can think. I’m not convinced that he had enough information in-world to form and execute this plan, though. But I’m also not sure how he leapt to the conclusion it was Mysterio behind all this either. Sometimes I guess you get lucky.


The Black Widow/Hobgoblin story got started, this time around, the 20th of July. Mary Jane admitted wearing the Marvella costume has kinda aroused something in her and she’d like to try web-slinging with him. And they’re having fun swooping over the town when the Hobgoblin blows through and tries to knock them down. Spider-Man leaves Mary Jane somewhere safe so they can go fighting.

Mary Jane, plummeting, screaming. Hobgoblin: 'Scream your head off on your way down! I've no intention of rescuing you!' Black Widow, swooping in to grab her: 'You don't need to --- while the Black Widow's around!'
Roy Thomas, Larry Leiber, and Alex Saviuk’s Amazing Spider-Man for the 2nd of August, 2019. I admire Hobgoblin’s willingness to say “I’ve no intention of rescuing you”. That’s a real power move of a line of dialogue. You know he could totally have said “I’ven’t any intention” except he’s holding that in reserve in case he has to escalate his dismissiveness.

It doesn’t go well. Hobgoblin knocks Spidey unconscious and returns to grab Mary Jane. She recognizes Hobgoblin as her old boyfriend, and Peter Parker’s friend Harry Osborn. Hobgoblin blames Spider-Man for the death of his father HarryNorman “Green Goblin” Osborn. And he hates Mary Jane now for … I don’t know. Something. Good chance they explain it in whatever this month’s Spider-Man movie is. Fortunately, the Black Widow is around and able to save Mary Jane.

Between the Black Widow and the recovered Spider-Man they’re able to chase Hobgoblin off. This gives Spidey and Black Widow a chance to exposition to each other. Black Widow was seeking a former Soviet Spy who’d killed “friends” of hers years ago, and ran across this by accident. Mary Jane, meanwhile, contracts instant jealousy of Spider-Man talking to Black Widow like this. And that’s the standings as of this weekend.

Next Week!

Doc Wonmug takes Alley Oop and Oola to meet Plato and then something goes wrong with the time machine. And it’s not the Time Raccoons, not yet. Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop is up in six days, unless I get busy.

What’s Going On In The Amazing Spider-Man? When might Spider-Man come out of reruns? February – May 2019


I don’t have information about when The Amazing Spider-Man comic strip might emerge from reruns. If and when I do, I’ll post it here. I do have some thoughts and will include them at the end of this recap of the end of Roy Thomas and Alex Saviuk’s run, and the first two months of the first repeat.

The Amazing Spider-Man

24 February – 18 May 2019.

It was an action-packed moment when I last updated the Spider-Man plot. Mary Jane had covered Killgrave with the plastic sheet that neutralizes his power to command people. Look, if you’re going to stare at me that way there’s no point describing the plot of a superhero comic. But he was falling off the edge of a building. Spider-Man webbed him, but Killgrave’s momentum pulled the superhero along. Luke Cage, also in the plot, grabbed Spider-Man by the ankle.

Luke Cage, supporting Spider-Man and Killgrave by the foot from the edge of a building: 'Can barely hold on to you, and this pipe's going!' Spider-Man: 'My brain's on empty --- can't *think straight*!' Mary Jane: 'HEY! Don't forget You've got TWO web-shooters!' Spidey, shooting a second line: 'Huh? Oh --- yeah --- I forgot!'
Roy Thomas and Alex Saviuk’s The Amazing Spider-Man for the 26th of February, 2019. It does seem like giving in to jokes about Newspaper Spider-Man that he’d forget basic stuff about his own superhero identity. But in the story Killgrave had used his powers to put Spider-Man and Luke Cage under his control. They could resist, but only with great efforts of will because Killgrave comes from the 1960s and Marvel villains were just like that back then. Anyway, their heads are fogged up because they’re trying to wash out a supervillain’s mind control, okay? How would you do in those circumstances?

Neither Spider-Man nor Cage is doing that well. They’re shaking off Killgrave’s command that they fight each other. Mary Jane gives Spider-Man the important clue that he has two web-shooters. Reminded of his power set, Spidey’s able to use a second line to anchor himself and keep anyone from dying.

With Killgrave neutralized, Spider-Man turns to the important stuff. That’s getting selfies with Luke Cage. He needs some good photos of Spider-Man fighting Cage, since J Jonah Jameson wants them off of Peter Parker and all that. You know. The usual.

Luke Cage: 'You want the two of us to pose for a selfie?' Spider-Man: 'Nothing as corny as that. I want us to make like we're having a battle royale --- and MJ will take pictures of it!' Cage: 'I thought it was your husband who took photos for the Daily Bugle.' Mary Jane: 'Well ... don't tell the publisher, but sometimes I help him out a little.'
Roy Thomas and Alex Saviuk’s The Amazing Spider-Man for the 7th of March, 2019. Oh, yeah, so the story began with Luke Cage promising Jameson that if he came to the conclusion Spider-Man was a menace then he’d bring the web-crawler in and not otherwise. I guess we can take from this that Cage was convinced in Spider-Man’s superhero identity. We don’t see him going back to tell Jameson that he was wrong or anything.

Peter Parker drops off the pictures at the Daily Bugle and heads out. The plan’s to resume his and Mary Jane’s planned yet last-minute Australia trip. They head to the airport. There is a ritual of the Spider-Man comic strip in airports. Peter doesn’t know how to get his Spider-Man costume through security. Sometimes he forgets he’s wearing it under his normal clothes. Sometimes he worries it will get noticed in his luggage.

Mary Jane: 'You were up there a long time, Tiger. Was Jameson a hard sell on the photos?' Peter: 'Naw, he took 'em all. And he offered me a big fat bonus, if I cancelled our trip to Australia.' Mary Jane: 'Oh? And what did you --- ' Peter: 'The only thing I could do, honey. I tok him 'I'll throw another shrimp on the barbie in your honor, mate!'.' Mary Jane: 'Peter Parker, I love you!' Peter: 'Like somebody once said in a movie ... 'ditto'.' Final panel: Spider-Man posed mid-swing, on a white background, with the caption 'Excelsior!'
Roy Thomas and Alex Saviuk’s The Amazing Spider-Man for the 17th of March, 2019. The last original Sunday strip. Good luck to anyone who didn’t know the strip was ending to try understanding this; the last panel’s baffling then. And it baffled readers who did know about the ending, since the last panel reads like a full stop, and then the week after this was the adventures of Peter Parker getting through Airport Pretend Security.

This time around he had an idea. He had Mary Jane wear the Spider-Man costume under her clothes, for the reasons. Still, something about him set off a security screen and who knows what all that might be. But it did fake out readers expecting some ridiculous resolution to Peter versus The Transportation Security Theater.

Airport security cop: 'Sorry we troubled you, sir. Must've been a glitch in our machine.' Peter, whispering to Mary Jane: 'Or somehow it reacted by my radioactive spider-altered DNA!' Mary Jane, whispering back: 'We're lucky I didn't set off the alarm and have to explain why I'm wearing a Spider-Man costume under my clothes!' Peter: 'Avant-garde fashion sense?'
Roy Thomas and Alex Saviuk’s The Amazing Spider-Man for the 22nd of March, 2019. Hey, so back in the days when Peter Parker would be using a film camera, did his radio-active blood ever fog the film? Or did they toss in some throwaway line like he always used lead-lined cameras, right? I mean, he couldn’t “really” be strongly radioactive or there’d be serious problems, but this is comic book radioactivity, so anything could happen. (Like, I don’t even know whether radioactivity should be expected to fog commercial film stock instead of, like, science-grade glass plates, but it’s what I associate with radioactivity and cameras so why wouldn’t a comic book writer too?) And, like, I’m guessing he developed his film himself so there’d be all that darkroom time for his body to affect the film. Right? So this was surely dealt with in some pretty funny way at some point? Anybody know?


And, the 23rd of March, the run of The Amazing Spider-Man came to an end. At least, they’re still calling it a hiatus. I haven’t seen any news about the supposed search for a new creative team, or any planned time for new comics to come out. The 24th, the strip went into its current rerun phase, with an edited strip from 2014. The editing teases that this is Peter Parker dreaming of old times while on the plane. New York City to Australia is a long flight, and the newspaper Spider-Man spends a lot of time asleep anyway.

Had the newspaper comic continued, Roy Thomas’s plans included an encounter with The Kangaroo. And I suspect Mary Jane wearing the Spider-Man costume would foreshadow something. Instead, we’re getting a rerun of an encounter with Mysterio. I have a certain odd affection for Mysterio. I learned of him while a teenager, reading the 1980s Sensational She-Hulk comic, which specialized in featuring the villains who were kind of … uhm … how can I put this politely? It’s where I first saw Stilt-Man, a villain who goes around on extendable robot legs. Mysterio was one of that comic book’s first villains. And his gimmick’s a fun one. He doesn’t quite have superpowers. He’s a master of special effects and hypnosis and stagecraft and performance. I guess in principle everything he does is something a professional special-effects team could put together. But, like, in that She-Hulk comic he faked an alien invasion. That seems like it would need a larger special effects house than “one guy with a great swooping cape and a ball covering his head”. I bet the hypnosis helps.


So to the rerun plot, which is still under way. Mary Jane’s show on Broadway is closing. Not for unpopularity; the theater needs repair. This was, in 2014, because of damage done the theater by Spider-Man’s fight with Doctor Octopus. In 2019, it would still be justified, after the damage with Spider-Man’s fight with the Kingpin and Golden Claw. She’ll be out of work three months, or an eternity. But there’s good news: Abe Smiley is in town. A few years before he produced the direct-to-DVD superhero film Marvella. Mary Jane starred. Now it’s time for a sequel. Which is filming in New York, and needs like three months to do. Perfect.

Peter Parker, suiting up: 'How can you start filming? You haven't seen a contract yet!' Mary Jane: 'Mr Smiley said he'll have it ready today.' Peter, climbing out the window: 'Sometimes, honey, I wonder if playing Spider-Man isn't less dangerous than dealing with Hollywood types!'
Roy Thomas and Alex Saviuk’s The Amazing Spider-Man for the 10th of April, 2019. Well, I mean, Spider-Man’s just dangling from skyscrapers on a finite supply of short-lived tethers made of a rapidly-disintegrating material of his own design clasped to his wrists while super-powered villains hurl energy bolts and sometimes cars at him. Meanwhile Mary Jane faces emotional abuse and sexism in an industry as synonymous with financial scams as … well, any industry, honestly. But famous for it. So, yeah, take your pick.

She loves meeting back up with the old gang and the costume still looks good on her. What could go wrong? Besides Peter being mopey about the project. And the strip cutting away to Mysterio cackling about how he loves show business while the narrator asks what he could have to do with all this. The question still hasn’t been answered.

But what could go wrong has. Sharon Smiley, the producer’s daughter, had been slated to play Marvella. Now she’s bumped down to the villainess role, Sister Steel. She’s not happy about this. Mary Jane offers to resign and avoid the unpleasantness. Abe Smiley holds her to her contract. She’ll have to deal.

Spider-Man has a weird event while stopping a routine carjacking right outside his and Mary Jane’s apartment. It’s a bright flash of light and his spidey-sense tingling even after he’s stopped the crime. The cause: Mysterio. He hired a “petty hoodlum” to snatch the car. This to test his hypothesis that Spider-Man is keeping close watch on Mary Jane. This’ll help Mysterio’s project of destroying them both, so that’s something. Spider-Man isn’t sure what’s going on, so he digs an old raincoat out of a trash can to get back into his apartment undetected. That’s not an important story beat, but it’s a wondrous line and I wanted to give it some attention.

[ Movie-acting atop the Empire State building suddenly turns deadly ] Sharon Smiley: ''They'll be scraping you up off the street!'' (She hits Mary Jane, who falls back.) [ When Mary Jane PASSES THROUGH what had seemed solid metal! ] (She falls through the barrier, shrieking.) [ To her watching spouse's horror! ] Spider-Man, swinging up to her: 'Got to save her!'
Roy Thomas and Alex Saviuk’s The Amazing Spider-Man for the 6th of May, 2019. So, props to Spider-Man for figuring something’s bound to happen at the filming and sticking nearby. Might have wanted to, like, hang around the 86th floor observation deck instead of the roof of one of the surrounding buildings, but maybe he didn’t know just how the film crew was staging things. It’s not like he could’ve gotten a view from above to check that out.

On to filming. There’s a fight scene on top of the Empire State Building. Sharon Smiley, as Sister Steel, hits Mary Jane a little too hard. The railing is a little too soft: Mary Jane falls through as if it weren’t there. It’s not: Mysterio removed it, somehow, right where they’d fight and hid the removal. Spider-Man sees Mary Jane falling from the top of the Empire State Building and leaps into action. He grabs her, but something messes up his web-slingers. He tries to get to another building, but smoke clouds his vision. Something else clouds his spider-sense. But he’s able to slow their fall enough and guide them to landing in a dumpster, as safe as can be after a fall from the top of a skyscraper.

There are many questions. How could Mary Jane fall through the Empire State Building observation deck’s railing? Why does Spider-Man immediately suspect Mysterio? Couldn’t, like, one-third the characters in the Marvel universe do the same stunt? Is someone on the film crew working with Mysterio to kill Mary Jane and Spider-Man? Will Mary Jane — at the film crew’s insistence — calling Peter Parker to tell him not to worry reveal Spider-Man’s secret identity? What adjacent building is putting their dumpster on the side of the lot that faces the Empire State Building? (It’s the CUNY Graduate Center, isn’t it? Making some obscurantist point about something?) And, to the other characters, why is Spider-Man always hanging around Mary Jane? Are they an item or something? But she’s married!

So we are, in the repeats, up to the 11th of January, 2015. If you want to skim ahead and see how all this turns out, the Mysterio storyline went on until about the 14th of March, 2015. That fed into a team-up with the Black Widow to fight the Hobgoblin. So that’s nine weeks into our future. That would be the first chance that Marvel and Comics Kingdom would have to transition out of reruns and into a new story.

But if they do mean to get out of repeats in mid-July, as this would imply, then they’d need to have a new creative team working now. If there’s not an announcement in the next week or two I’d suppose they’re going to carry on through another repeat story. Whether the Black Widow/Hobgoblin story or another would be beyond my powers to deduce.

Next Week!

A long-running story comic about a superpowered do-gooder that came to an end, went into reruns for a storyline, and came back with new creators! Come with me to the 80s and Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop, now featuring raccoons!

And meanwhile, my other blog looked at some mathematics-themed comic strips today. You might like that too.

What’s Going On In The Phantom (Sundays)? Will I ever stop complaining about the Comics Kingdom redesign? January – April 2019


I’m glad you want to know the happenings in Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s Sunday-continuity The Phantom. If you’re reading this after about July 2019, this recap may be out of date. A more up-to-date recap should be at this link, as will be recaps of the weekday continuity. Also, The PhantomWiki is a nice handy reference for stuff. And the Comics Kingdom redesign has gotten less bad but I’m still not happy, and shall explain later.

The Phantom (Sundays).

27 January – 21 April 2019.

The Phantom Sunday continuity was partway through its flashback when I last checked in. He had returned a Xanangan child to her village. She was a stowaway on a vintage B-29. The plane’s crew flew at air shows. And they flew stolen wildlife from show to show. And don’t you think Mark Trail won’t be quite cross about all this smuggling when he finds out. But The Little Detective, accidentally locked into the cargo hold, started keeping notes. She dropped postcards at airshows. She trusted someone would mail them off.

Finally someone did. It was a letter to her family, who finally had some assurance that was alive and somehow in Sweden. Her family turned the news over to the Jungle Patrol. They turned it over to the Unknown Commander, our favorite stripey-panted walker. Meanwhile she keeps notes on what the smugglers take, and where they take them.

Smuggler: 'C'mon! Which one of you pigs keeps cleaning out our grub store?' Smuggler Two: 'And to whoever took my flashlight ... oh, man, you must be *trying* toget hurt!' The Phantom, narrating: 'Our young heroine documented every move the crew made in the unlawful trade in wildlife. Philippine forest turtles. The endangered Philippine crocodile. From Australia, lace monitors and black-headed pythons. Our intrepid little detective had the goods on this gang of smugglers! It was time for her to come home.' (It's shown examples of the Little Detective looking at each animal; the final panel is the Phantom sneaking up on the B-29 at a small, sleepy nighttime airport.)
Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom for the 17th of February, 2019. So the Comics Kingdom web site redesign has been tinkered with. It’s no longer so sluggish or all-around annoyingly bad. But it still isn’t as good as what the site used to be. The Sunday strips, particularly, are turning into messes like this. The four-row, two-column format might not be too bad, if the comic naturally rendered at the full width of my browser, the way it did in the old design. As it is, I can zoom in on the image, and see parts of the art in good detail. But … I mean, my eyes are good, for their age, and they’re not finding this an easy read.

The Phantom catches up with the B-29. I’m not sure where. He must have figured there aren’t that many touring B-29s that have made stops in Bangalla recently. He sneaks into the cargo hold at night, catching The Little Detective by surprise. Diana points out, so, he and his wolf named Devil, in the middle of the night, snuck into the cargo hold where a lone girl has been hiding from the crew for months. He concedes he could have introduced himself less alarmingly. But there was a deadline. The plane was leaving just before dawn; this was his best chance of contacting her before a fight.

The smugglers return to the plane. The Phantom glad-handles them, praising their cleverness and what a great story they’ll have to tell in prison. One of the smugglers spoils the cheery mood by taking out a gun. The Phantom takes back the scene, though. He explains he’s just moving the action over there so nobody accidentally shoots the airplane. It’s a deft touch, showing how simple persuasion is a superpower. The smugglers hardly notice they are letting The Phantom lead them, not until he grabs their gun.

Smuggler with gun on The Phantom: 'I'm leaving you two right here, masked man! And the wolf!' Phantom: "Devil ... stay!' Smuggler: 'I said GET THOSE HANDS UP!' Phantom: 'I'm going to turn the both of us. Turn us slowly. I'm telling you what I'm doing so you're not frightened. You're nervous, but that's not the same thing. You should be nervous. I'm turning us because nobody wants you to put a hole in the aircraft.' (They turn away from the B-29; Phantom, thinking: 'The girl's safe now.') Phantom: 'It's our flight home to Bangalla. And yours to Boomsby.' Smuggler: 'S-stop talking to me! I know what you're trying to do! Mister, I'm warning you! Don't start thinking you're faster than a bullet!' Phantom: 'Is it me against the bullet, do you think? Or me against you?' (Phantom suddenly flips around and grabs the gunman's arm; he fires, completely missing.)
Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom for the 31st of March, 2019. And here we go. About half of the archived strips are four-row formatted strips. But about half of them are two-row formats like this. The panels are a little bit larger, and so easier to read, but not all that much bigger. And I know there are plenty of newspaper readers who’ve been getting this format forever, but I’m used to the pacing of the strip in its three-row format. I do not like the two- or the four-row formats at all. And this thing Comics Kingdom whipped up for today, the 21st? Where it’ll show some strips as six rows of one panel each, each panel just large enough that you can make out there might be something there? That’s exquisitely bad. That’s not just blowing off the usability tests, like everybody has since 2002, that’s going out of your way to be unusable.

Having blown it, the smugglers try to appeal to The Phantom’s patriotism. At least his historical enthusiasm. How can we possibly have both vintage World War II aircraft operating and some pangolin left surviving somewhere in the wild, after all? The smuggler starts some Greatest Generation talk when The Phantom slugs him, correctly. I mean, first, War Hardware fans are the worst. Second, Bangalla was part of the British Commonwealth of Fictional Nations. They, and their Buranda and Qumran brethren, were having people killed for a year and a half before the Americans put anything on the line. Still, The Phantom’s reaction is only at the level of punching. It’s not like these are Avro Arrow fanboys.

And yeah, I talk a smug game. But I know where my standing is weak. I kinda like the various preposterous ideas to do a lunar landing with Gemini spacecraft. There is an audience to which this is a very funny thing to admit and it is not my fault that you are not in it. Anyway that’s where the action has gotten by now.

Next Week!

So how’s the plane crash going? Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. promised excitement and an emergency touchdown. In a week, barring emergencies, I’ll recap what’s happened since then.

And until then? I keep reading the comic strips for mathematical themes, and share the results on my other blog. I’d be glad if you considered that, too. This week’s mathematics comic strip essay is here.

Another Quick, Dumb Thing Because I Still Want To Lower My Words-Per-Post Average


Is he merely Aquaman, or is he so singular as to be, in fact, Thequaman?

(This is as promised last week, in my “Elvis, or Le Vis” post. Thank you for reading this. Please come back next week for my “Decrepit: so might a thing be crepit or recrepit too?” post.)

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