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FALK'S PHANTOM

Lee Falk and MandrakeThe recently arrived Mandrake the Magician reprint tome understandably has little to say about writer Lee Falk’s other comic strip creation, the Phantom, but St. Wikipedia tells us that the character was “inspired by Falk’s fascination for myths and legends, such as the ones about El Cid, King Arthur, and Nordic and Greek folklore heroes. ... Falk originally considered the idea of calling his character The Gray Ghost, but finally decided that he preferred The Phantom. In an interview, he revealed that Robin Hood, who was often depicted as wearing tights, inspired the Phantom’s skin-tight costume.”

In the A&E Network's “Phantom” biography program, Falk explained that Ancient Greek stone busts inspired the novel facial treatment of the Phantom when masked: his eyes don’t show. Instead, we see only blank slits in the mask. The old Greek busts had no eye pupils, which “Falk felt gave them an inhuman, interesting look.” Actually, the old Greek statues did have eyeballs; Falk, working from photographs, just didn’t notice.

Ray Moore, who was Davis’ assistant on Mandrake, was the first artist on The Phantom; he was succeeded by his assistant, Wilson McCoy. Both drew relatively simply. McCoy died unexpectedly in 1961, and after a short time, Sy Barry took it over, drawing more elaborately in a knowing style. He did the best job on the strip—and the longest, over 30 years until he retired in 1994. Other artists followed. Mike Manley took over with the strip dated May 30, 2016.

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

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