Debuting in 1936, The Phantom has a terrific backstory. In 1536, Christopher Walker’s father was murdered by pirates. Swearing an oath over his father’s skull to fight evil, Christopher became the first Phantom, a line of heroism that continues to the present day. Passed from father to son, the identity has fostered the legends of The Ghost Who Walks, The Man Who Cannot Die and Guardian of the Eastern Dark.
The current Phantom is the 21st and is married to Diana Palmer. They have two children – Kit and Heloise – and live in the Skull Cave in Bengali. While he has no powers, he is a tremendous fighter and knows his terrain better than anyone. He is frequently aided by Devil and Hero, his trained wolf and horse. Armed with pistols and his famous Skull Ring (he is able to leave a mark on anyone that will always identify them as a villain; likewise, he has a mark that identifies them as being under his protection).
I came into The Phantom not through the comic strip but through the Gold Key comics series. I’ve since tracked down the Lee Falk original strips and read many, many issues of American comics and those published through Frew in Australia. I also really enjoyed the Billy Zane film that came out in the Nineties and have fond memories of Defenders of the Earth, an animated series that paired The Phantom with Flash Gordon and Mandrake the Magician.
My favorite Phantom creators are Lee Falk, Sy Barry, Paul Ryan, Tony DePaul and Mike Bullock.