By Jim Shepherd
The Phantom’s fabled Isle of Eden seems to have been around almost from the time Lee Falk created his acclaimed character in 1936!
That, of course, is a misconception. Eden did not enter Phantom history until 1960 when Lee Falk wrote his story, The Honeymooners and Wilson McCoy became the first artist to depict the site.
The theme surrounding the Isle of Eden (wild and relatively tame animals living together in perfect harmony as vegetarians) hasn’t changed much over the years. However, there have been a few subtle changes since Lee and Wilson combined on The Honeymooners.
As you will notice, a house existed on the island and the Phantom and anybody else invited to do so, crossed the Piranha-infested river hand over hand on a single rope. The famous rope and pulley crossing was yet to come!
Elsewhere in The Honeymooners, you will discover that the Isle of Eden is situated some ‘535 miles south of Morristown’ and ‘several days ride from the Skull Cave’.
The Isle of Eden appeared completely out of the blue in Phantom history. Prior to the appearance of The Honeymooners its existence never rated a mention and the early part of the story completely glossed over its history.
A check of the Phantom chronology however, establishes that Lee very quickly realized he had created something special. The second featuring of Eden appeared in the 1961 story, Fluffy, a lion which apparently was the same one which appeared in the 1946 story King of Beasts and which was tamed and taught how to catch fish by character Conley. The Phantom eventually takes Fluffy to the Isle of Eden where fluffy teaches the other cats how to catch fish (note that in The Honeymooners, members of the Bandar tribe actually deliver fish to the jungle cats).
By then, Lee Falk had a perfect back-up scenario to the adventures of the Phantom and Eden was featured in such stores as:
- The Rogue Elephant (1967-68),
- The Missing Link (1969),
- The Dolphins (1970),
- Alexander’s Diamond Cup (1970-71),
- Yes (1970-71),
- The Tanker Jackers (1972-73),
- The Giant of Kaluga (1972),
- Tale of Joomba (1974-75),
- Little Girl (1975),
- The Cave Lands (1975),
- The Stolen Ring (1976),
- The Swamp Dragon (1976-77),
- The Proposal (1977),
- The Hunters (1977),
- The Wedding of The Phantom (1977-78),
- What’s Wrong with Hzz (1978),
- The Uninvited Visitors (1980),
- The Phantom’s Vacation (1981),
- The Missing Link Family (1982-83).
Lee then decided to rest the Isle as the setting of adventures.
The Isle of Eden was not, of course, completely forgotten!
In 1990, Lee wrote the story, The Master of Eden which was illustrated by Sy Barry, who had first depicted Eden in Old Baldy back in 1963.
After Sy’s retirement, Eden bounced back into prominence in the 1996 story, Drama on Eden written by Lee and penciled and inked respectively, by George Olesen and Keith Williams.
Although not written by Lee Falk, another story entitled Eden was once published by Frew. This adventure, written by Donne Avenell and illustrated by Hans Lindahl, was originally published in Scandinavia by the Semic company (now Egmont) and appeared in Frew #931 in 1989. It was (and still is) regarded as a quite offbeat story with all manner of overtones which differed from Lee’s official history of Eden.
Lee Falk’s Isle of Eden was a unique creation in the comics world. It was not Lee’s intention to climb aboard the environmental movement which, when The Honeymooners appeared in 1960, was still in it’s infancy. Rather, he simply expanded on his love for nature generally and animals in particular, to develop a theme he believed complemented his Phantom/Jungle scenario.
That it worked – and worked perfectly – is yet another testimony to Lee Falk’s unchallenged skills as a comics story-teller.
Where is the Isle of Eden?
Among the many Phantom mysteries Lee Falk left unexplained is the exact location of Bangalla and by association, the Isle of Eden.
From the very first story in 1936, Phantom Country has been loosely hinted at being somewhere in the African continent, India and surrounding South-east Asian areas, and on at least two occasions has been actually pinpointed as being somewhere in the Sudan region.
Matiwaan (and Morristown) have been shown to be sea ports, occasional maps have indicated Bangalla to be located on the southern end of a land mass and that the Golden Beach of Keela Wee and the Isle of Eden face south to an unidentified ocean.
These vague clues have never provided anything like an answer to the exact geographical position of Bangalla.
The presence of so many species of jungle animals is confusing. The range of animals is a mix of Africa and India (leaning more strongly to Africa), but the situation is bewildering when one considers the presence of Piranha fish in the waterways separating Eden from the coastline, The flesh-eating Piranha is a river fish.
Adding to the confusion are Scandinavian created stories which are at variance with Lee Falk’s official Phantom history and it is recommended only Lee Falk stories should be considered when researching anything to do with The Ghost Who Walks. No disrespect intended, of course, but all the characters and locations featured in Phantom adventures during Lee’s long association with his creation were his personal inventions.
When Lee died on 13 March 1999, the answers to so many riddles and outright mysteries linked to the Phantom died with him and short of a forgotten diary being discovered one day, we will never know whether Lee had a specific location in mind for Phantom Country, and the Isle of Eden, or whether he never intended to nominate a site.
It is most likely that Lee never had any intention of exactly locating the geographical site because he thrived on perpetuating so many mysterious things associated with the legend of the Phantom!