By Jim Shepherd
The Heirs is one of the most important stories in the long history of Lee Falk’s the Phantom character.
Most important, because this 1978-79 daily and Sunday is one of the few stories which delves into the background of children born to any of the 21 Phantoms!
All we know about the children is that each Phantom become the father of at least one son, all of whom were called Kit, that the wife of the eighth Phantom bore four sons, the wife of the seventeenth Phantom had twins (Kit and Julie) and as documented in The Heirs, Diana, the wife of the twenty first Phantom, also gave birth to twins, Kit and Heloise.
In hindsight, it seems strange that Lee Falk glossed over the family history, because so many exciting stories must be linked to the children.
Because Lee was strangely reticent to elaborate, it can only be assumed that the first to seventh Phantom inclusive, became the fathers of at least one son.
The eighth Phantom and his wife had their family connection explained by Lee in the 1991-92 Sunday, The Fourth Son (Frew number 1019). That story is worth revisiting.
The wife of the eighth Phantom gave birth to triplets (three boys) and a year later, to another son. They were named, in order of arrival, Kit-one, Kit-two, Kit-three and Kit-four.
All grew up in the Skull Cave but the triplets decided against taking over the role of the Phantom. The first two joined the British Army and the other triplet opted to become an academic, specializing in Afro-Asian history. That left the fourth son, who was physically powerful, but so short he was known to all as ‘The Runt’.
Kit-four does become the ninth Phantom on the death of his father and marries the six-foot tall Princess Vhatta, daughter of a Mongol leader.
The twins born to the seventeenth Phantom and his wife, both donned the uniform of The Ghost Who Walks.
Kit was already in the role when he is injured and his sister Julie (dressed in a replica Phantom uniform) briefly fills in for him while he recovers.
Kit, who is also called ‘Kip’ in this 1952 Sunday story (The Female Phantom, Frew number 437) eventually returns to his task of maintaining jungle peace and Julie retires gracefully to marry a jungle missionary.
Over the years, we have watched both Kit and Heloise grow ever so slowly, from babyhood to primary school age.
As the twenty first Phantom is guaranteed to be the central character for many years to come, the current creators of the strip have to face up to the challenge of keeping the children young, and the twenty first Phantom ageless!
It’s the sort of dilemma which only occurs in the wonderful world of comics!
The mystery of the lives of all the other Phantom children is unlikely to be solved.
Lee Falk realized long ago that he had probably over-stepped the mark of credibility by listing so many Phantom wives.
Think about it!
Lee’s Phantom wives came from all over the world and the bloodlines of Phantom children now includes Scandinavian, Portuguese, Spanish, English, Indian, French, Italian, Mongol and North American, to mention just a small sample.
Yet, from the admittedly sparse depiction of previous Phantoms, none have shown any trace of foreign backgrounds!
All Phantom (give or take the different styles of all the newspaper strip artists) look identical, with the exception of ‘The Runt’.
Somehow, when the almost dwarfish ninth Phantom became a father, his son, we can only assume, grew to be a strapping six footer, courtesy of the height of his mother.
However, it must be remembered that the wife of the ninth Phantom descended from the Mongols. Why then, has there never been a trace of European or Asian physical appearance in any of the Phantom children over the centuries?
It remains a mystery which can never be explained without leaving readers floundering in a sea of genetic confusion!
It may well be the reason Lee Falk, after a brief series of family history explanations, moved well away from the subject.