Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Phantom, The

Masked Avenger of newspaper Comic strips and, to a lesser extent, comic books, with a skintight mauve costume, striped shorts and black boots, belt and eyemask, created in 1936 by Lee Falk (1905-1999). He is a man of mystery, known as The Ghost Who Walks, and is believed to be immortal, but the individual with whom the strip deals is the 21st to hold the title – which has been passed from father to son since the 16th century, when the son of a seaman who had served as a cabin boy to Christopher Columbus was washed up on a remote Bengal shore. After seeing his parents murdered by Pirates he swore an oath on the skull of the murderer to devote his life to combating "all forms of piracy, greed and cruelty" in the jungles of Africa and remote cities of Asia. TP lives in a skull-shaped cave in the Deep Woods and his symbol, the Sign of the Skull, strikes terror into the hearts of wrongdoers. His wife is Olympic gold medallist diver, explorer, pilot, athlete and paramedic Diana Palmer, with whom he shared adventures for four decades before finally marrying in the 1980s. A grey wolf, Devil, is his faithful Companion.

TP was drawn at first by Ray Moore (1905-1984); when Moore went into active service in 1942 the art chores were passed on to Wilson McCoy (1902-1961), who continued to assist the war-injured Moore from his return to his 1947 retirement. McCoy was succeeded by Bill Lignante and then Seymore ("Sy") Barry (1928-    ), who drew the strip from 1963.

At first TP appeared only in daily newspapers; a Sunday strip was marketed by King Features from 1939. There have been several attempts to introduce TP into comic books by Harvey, Gold Key, King Features and Charlton Comics; artists have included Wallace Wood, Jeff Jones and Al Williamson. In addition there have been novelizations by Falk, Basil Copper (1924-2013), Ron Goulart, and others, and movie serials, for which latter we have been unable to obtain details. There have been related tv series: the animated Defenders of the Earth (from 1986); and Phantom 2040, set in the future, when the 23rd Phantom continues his activities. The latter also appeared as a comic, Phantom 2040 (4 issues, 1995) from Marvel Comics. Illustrators have also included Steve Ditko. [RT]


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.