The Phantom & His Influence On The Superhero Genre

Appearing on the CBR website, we find an interesting article titled How ‘Pulp’ Comics Influenced The Superhero Genre written by Ben Schultz.

The focus of Ben’s article are 2 comic book characters which influenced characters as we see them today, released by well known publishers such as Marvel and DC. The 2 characters featured are the Phantom and Doc Savage.

The article provides us with a brief explanation of how/when ‘Pulp’ comic book characters came to be:

Pulp was one of the major players in comics all throughout the early 1900s. They were called pulp magazines because they were made very cheaply using wood pulp paper. As a genre, Pulp was diverse, including horror, noir, western, and classic science fiction stories. Because they were cheap, more risks could be taken with their storytelling and world-building concepts. Pulp was often times synonymous with schlock, but there are several standouts of the genre that still survive today.

The Phantom’s groundbreaking features at the time, introduced by Lee Falk in 1936, were unheard of and were the motivation for characters predominantly released in the Golden Age of comics. Ben lists a number of these features in his article:

He is inspired by the likes of Tarzan and the popular pirate adventures of the time. The Phantom lived in the jungle, wore a skin-tight purple suit, and vowed to rid the world of piracy. But his most interesting trait would be his moniker; The Ghost Who Walks. In the universe of the Phantom, he has stalked the jungle since the golden age of piracy, yet he exists in the modern era (the 1930s).

He accomplishes this by passing on the mantle of the Phantom to an heir, so every generation has a new Phantom. This motif is used constantly in modern superhero comics, whether it’s the mythologizing of a character to appear more than human, like Batman, or to establish a character’s title as more important than the individual beneath the mask. This is an idea that is very prominent across properties like the Spider-Verse or every other multiverse lore at the moment. The Phantom is also one of the very first heroes to wear tights. Previously, heroic character designs were inspired more by cowboys or swashbucklers.

Lee Falk himself explains to us how the Phantom came to be and the various mythos traits that make him so unique…

To read the full article, How ‘Pulp’ Comics Influenced The Superhero Genre on the CBR website, click HERE