By Jim Shepherd
For years, we all had great hopes for Queen Pera becoming a reasonably regular visitor to the adventures of the Phantom.
Introduced way back in the 1945-46 Sunday story entitled Queen Pera The Perfect, the impossibly beautiful character was originally depicted by Ray Moore, who perfectly captured not only her ravishing glamour, but her haughtiness, cruelty and vanity. They were the ingredients which would have made it so easy for creator Lee Falk to occasionally bring her back in the Chronicles.
But for reasons which Lee will now never be able to explain, the comics master dispatched her into limbo!
Queen Pera The Perfect ran in the Sundays from the 9th of December 1945, until the 17th of March 1946 and those enthusiasts with comprehensive files can track down the story in Frew numbers 38, 134, 229, 358, 516, 694 and 1063 (issues which spanned the years 1951-1994).
It was an interesting creative time for Lee, because for a long time, he seemed hell-bent on injecting female themes into the adventures of the Phantom. Queen Pera The Perfect was preceded by The Wild Girl and followed by The Mermaids of Melo Straits and the classic Princess Valerie, which all keen fans know was a very special tribute to Lee’s daughter Valerie (now Mrs. Arthur Falbo).
Queen Pera The Perfect was set in the strange ‘Kingdom of Karola’, (misspelt at least once in the original story as ‘Korola’) and featured not one, but two native tribes (the Bandar and the Llango) and some interestingly-named support players such as the fighter pilot Major Ace, the actor Ronald Ronald, violinist Vacha, prizefighter Kid Buster and Queen Pera’s right-hand man Count Jorge.
The pilot, actor and violinist were obviously based on real-life characters, but Lee never gave a clue as to their identities!
Doubtless some research into household names of the period might give an inkling, but probably the most interesting ingredient of the story in the real-life character on whom Queen Pera was based. Lee once broadly hinted that his character was based on a famous movie star of the time and if you are a film buff, it will not take too long to narrow down the selection to no more than three stars of the silver screen!
Another interesting sidelight to the time was in the successive stories, The Wild Girl, Queen Pera The Perfect and The Mermaids of Melo Straits, 3 different women (not including Diana, who was very much around at the time) fall in love with the Phantom.
That alone is worth pondering over, because before the mentioned stories, romance did not play a major part in the adventures of The Ghost Who Walks.
Romance did, however, continue to be used as a theme for some time after Queen Pera and the proof can be found in such stories as the 1946 masterpiece, Queen Asta of Trondelay and the 1947-48 story, The Marshall Sisters.
The more you study the original Falk-Moore Queen Pera story, the more familiar are some of the faces in the artwork and to give you just an idea, more serious Phantom historians are convinced they have identified movie star Clark Gable and Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
Have some fun and see if you can spot the frames!
Assuming the researchers are right, Queen Pera The Perfect stands alone as one of the very few stories in which Lee Falk and his artist have taken the liberty of hinting at famous people in their depiction of major characters.
Despite some quire heavy overtones in the story (Queen Pera, after all, was completely ruthless) there is a strange air of fun running through Lee’s script. Note that a native describes Hero as a ‘flying horse’ and Devil as a ‘dog’ and that even the suave Count Jorge reports to Queen Pera that ‘according to the natives (the Phantom) is anywhere from six to sixty feet tall’…
In its original form, Queen Pera was a classic piece of teamwork by Lee Falk and Ray Moore and this new presentation, with art by Felmang and Lee’s original script quite closely adapted, loses nothing in enjoyment.
Redrawn adaptations of original Lee Falk strips occasionally appear in the output of Scandinavian publishers, Egmont.
Later this year, Egmont has scheduled a new treatment of The Lady Luck Pirates which originally appeared in 1948 with art by Wilson McCoy. Assuming there are no changes to the schedule, Frew will publish this story around February/March 2001.
Lady Luck last appeared in Frew #1156 (1997) and on that occasion, for the first time in its entirety.
It is a wonderful adventure which stars Diana (a little more than the Phantom) and no, to the best of my knowledge, Lee and McCoy did not inject any famous faces as appears to be the case with the Queen Pera story.