The Walking Spirit.

Posted by Gerardo Macias – – 21st August 2019

When talking about the origin of superheroes, Superman is always cited as the first and most influential. But the Man of Steel has a clear antecedent, at least aesthetic, in The Phantom, born on February 17, 1936, two years before the Man of Steel (1938)… and is still published today in day.

The Sunday pages accompanied them from 1939. It has appeared in virtually all media, either alone, along with other comic characters, more or less updated… The Masked Man enjoys a very long editorial life that still extends.

The Phantom meets the characteristics of many superheroes, although it is not: mask without pupils, hood and uniform adjusted to the muscular body and the assumption of super powers and an immortality that the reader knows are false, but that in fiction work as if indeed the character was superhuman.

Phantom is subject to a family oath that goes back hundreds of years. Our Ghost, whose secret identity is Kit Walker, inherits the role of Phantom as the twenty-first in the series, although most of the characters in the series think that Phantom is always the same person and is immortal. Over the years, he would increase his list of nicknames: “Walking Spirit”; “The man who never dies”; “The guardian of darkness” …

The Phantom is a press strip created by Lee Falk, with drawings by Ray Moore. The worldview of the thirties makes the first adventures exotic: pirate women, cannibal tribes, remote enclaves and thugs crews…

In this first volume, the strips published between 1961 and 1963 are compiled, when they had been published in the American press for twenty-five years. With the script of its creator, Lee Falk, and drawings by Sy Barry, the series is modernized, to introduce social and political issues anchored in the historical stage that crossed the world and above all, the African continent, where the adventures of the character.

The arrival of Sy Barry in 1961 coincides with the resurgence of the superhero genre (with DC Comics Justice League and the emergence of the Stan Lee Marvel Universe and company), which influenced the more realistic and naturalistic style of The Man masked.

In addition, in the sixties the world changes very quickly, as can be seen in the series. The tribes are no longer wild, but are aware of today and actively participate in the life of the modern world. The readers are witnesses to the independence and democratization of the imaginary country of Bangalla and the rise to the presidency of a black doctor, Lamanda Luaga, who is five years ahead of the Black Panther of Marvel Comics; and even more so to real figures like Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama.

The protagonist’s environment is modernized, but the essence is still there, the central character is basically the same, his legend is the same, he continues to carry two guns, which he does not use to kill, he is always accompanied by his wolf dog Satan and his white horse Hero; he is helped by the only ones who know the truth of Phantom (the dreaded Pygmy Bandar and his boss Guran); and by the Jungle Patrol, of which The Ghost is anonymous commander. Not forgetting the two rings worn by the Ghost: one with the image of a skull, to mark criminals with a blow to the jaw; the other, with a symbol that identifies those who help him.

Diana Palmer, the ghost’s girlfriend, who since the beginning of the series was created as a feminist icon, very far from the stereotype of the damsel in distress to which we have to rescue, now becomes socially aware and enlisting as a nurse in a team UN doctor assigned to Africa.

Lee Falk (St. Louis, 1911-New York, 1999), was a writer recognized for being the creator of the cartoon heroes The Phantom and Mandrake the Magician . He was also a director and theater producer, where he directed Marlon Brando, Charlton Heston, Paul Newman, and Chico Marx.

Sy Barry (New York City, 1928) is known for his drawings of the strip The Masked Man , which he made for more than three decades. He also collaborated with his brother Dan in front of the Flash Gordon strip.