A movie called Phantom, featuring Saif Ali Khan and Katrina Kaif, will release on August 28. But a Phantom has been prowling the periphery of pop culture for close to 80 years. Kit Walker, aka Phantom, the ghost who walks, is a purple-clad, masked, comic- book superhero created by Lee Falk.
If you’re not a Phantom ‘phan’, here’s where to catch up:
The Phantom predates Superman (1938), Batman (1939), and other me-too costumed superheroes. He began life in 1936 as an urban American playboy named Jimmy Wells who stalked criminals by night in a mask and costume. But then comic creator Lee Falk moved the Phantom to the jungle and kept him there.
The fabled Skull Cave, deep in the jungles of a fictional Afro-Asian land called Bangalla, said to be inspired by good old Bengal (later rechristened Denkali). So the stories are inhabited both by Oriental rajas as well as African tribes.
Guran, the chief of the Pygmy tribe. Since childhood, he has been a valuable ally in the Phantom’s ongoing battle against evil.
His relationship status:
It ain’t complicated. In 1978, he married his girlfriend Diana, a former socialite, Olympic diver and karate black-belt, who works with the United Nations.
The first in the series of Phantoms (the most popular is its 21st avatar) took an oath on a skull to fight piracy, greed, cruelty and injustice after his father was killed by the Singh Pirates.
Milk! When the Phantom leaves his jungle home donning a fedora, a trench coat and sunglasses in his Mr. Walker avatar, and visits the city undercover, he generally asks for milk. Even at shady bars!
He likes to keep the jungles safe. So Phantom fights pirates, smugglers and even African witch doctors who trick a gullible tribe into feeding a fake man-eating plant.
A skull-shaped ring. When the two .45 pistols that he carries fail him, the Phantom falls back on his wits and his fists to plant his mark on the chins of his adversaries as he punches and upper cuts the baddies.
Very colonial. The Phantom has a white-man’s eyes behind his mask. If Superman is the symbol of American justice, the Phantom appears to be the product of a white colonial fantasy. How else will the white hero with a girlfriend from New York modernise tribes and protect tribespeople from modernity’s evil designs?
The Phantom has a mountain wolf called Devil, and a horse, Hero. He also has a trained falcon named Fraka.
The Phantom could make a strategic retreat from the jungle. Phantom 2040, a new series from Marvel Comics, chronicles the adventures of a twenty-first century Phantom, who returns to an American “Metropia.”
Celeb Trivia: Bill Lawry, the iconic former Aussie cricket-captain-turned-commentator acquired the nickname ‘Phantom’ on tour in England in 1961 because he carried Phantom comics in his kit-bag!
From HT Brunch, August 23
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