Created in 1936 by writer Lee Falk, The Phantom began life as a weekly syndicated newspaper strip. The popularity of the character earned him a Sunday strip as well in 1939. Both strips are still in print today, and have been so across most of the world.
However, it is no doubt in comic books where The Phantom found his greatest popularity. Comic publishers in almost every country have published The Phantom at one time or another, including large publishers Marvel and DC. However, it is in Australia and Scandinavia where The Phantom has historically been the most popular and The Phantom comic has seen consistent release since 1948 and 1940, respectively.
The Phantom is an important character in the history of the comics medium as he was the very first adventuring hero to wear a costume and mask. Debuting two years before Superman, The Phantom is considered a “proto-superhero” by many comic book historians, establishing many of the tropes that superheroes would go on to become known for.
Lee Falk continued to write both The Phantom strips until is death in 1999. Since then both strips have been written almost exclusively by Tony DePaul with many different artists contributing. In the comic book arena, thousands of original The Phantom stories have been produced for the various publishers around the world, with a plethora of creative teams.
Outside of Comics
The Phantom has seen some success outside of the realm of comic strips and books. Obviously if you’re reading this site you’re aware of the Phantom 2040 animated series and video game. Previous to 2040, The Phantom co-starred in the animated series Defenders of the Earth alongside Mandrake the Magician (also created by Lee Falk), Flash Gordon and Lothar. His first screen appearance, however, was the 1943 movie serial The Phantom. Of course 1996 saw the first big-screen Phantom movie staring Billy Zane. There have been several other adaptations, some sadly not making it past script stage.
A Generational Hero
The mantle of The Phantom is passed down from father to son, and has been done so for 400 years. In Phantom 2040, we see the adventures of the 24th Phantom, while the current Phantom in the comic strip and the majority of comic books is the 21st. There have been many comic stories which feature both past and future Phantoms, however most fans consider only the first 21 to canonical. This could change, however, if the newspaper strip ever began telling stories of Phantoms post-21.
If you would like to learn more about **The Phantom** and the character’s long history, the below links will surely prove of interest.
- The Phantom Wiki- the best source for information on The Phantom.
- ChronicleChamber.com - the leading The Phantom fan website.
- ThePhantom.Fan - another great Phantom* fan site.
- The First Phantom Comic - article about the discovery of the first ever published *The Phantom* comic.
- The Phantom: Why Has America Ignored this Proto-Superhero? - an article detailing the influence *The Phantom* has had on the world of superheroes and why he may not be as popular in America as other countries.
- The Phantom: A Hero Who Influenced the World - an article looking at the influence *The Phantom* has had on various cultures around the world.