By Jim Shepherd
Rex, left as a baby with missionaries, made his debut in the Phantom Chronicles in the 1966 Sunday story, Rex King.
In many respects, this was a highly unusual story!
Lee Falk for the first time, introduced Tom-Tom (shortened from Toomytomgano by Rex himself), a jungle school in the Deep Woods where the teacher was an unnamed Miss Tagama, Katon the great lion, who was to be renamed Kateena and Phantom Peak!
The story also featured Rex meeting Colonel Weeks for the first time!
Lee obviously had lots of plans for Rex and his eventual transfer to the kingdom of Baronkhan.
The youngster, whose age was then given as ten, starred in the 1967-68 daily adventure, The Rogue Elephant and began a long and eventful career as a major character.
He next appeared in the 1968 daily, Rex and the Trophy Thieves and the 1968 Sunday, The Little Ones, the 1968 daily, The Frame-Up (originally entitled The President’s Son), the 1968 Sunday, The Black Gold Pirates, the 1969 daily, The Jungle Home and the 1969 Sunday, The Hijackers.
Then he burst into real prominence in the 1969 daily, Rex the Missing Heir!
In that story, the Phantom made a serious attempt to trace the family of Rex and for the first time since 1937 ends up in London.
Rex kept up his appearances. Some of them in minor roles.
He appeared in the 1969 Sundays, The Missing Link and The Golden People, the 1970 daily, The Missing Daddy and the 1970 Sunday, The Dolphins.
Then he was featured again in the 1970-71 Sunday, Alexander’s Diamond Cup and the same year in the famous daily, Yes.
Remarkably, in that adventure, Diana meets Rex for the first time in a daily story!
While it was clear that Lee Falk had a grand vision for the Rex character, he kept everybody waiting as he developed the youngster’s personality.
Rex bobbed up in the 1971 stories, Tale of the Gooley-Gooley Witch, The Fence, The Trophy Bearer, The Vultures, The Wig and The Lost City of Pheenix.
And kept appearing!
In 1972, he was in The Witchmen, The Smugglers (once known as The Flying Drug Smugglers), The Tanker Jackers, The Keeper of the Peace (originally The Peace of the Golden Ox), The Giant of Kaluga and The Hawk Master.
In 1973, he appeared in The Trial of Patrolman Zokko, The Things (previously Vampires of Koquania) and starred in Rex and the Little People before appearing again the same year in The Pampered Princess and Phantom Treasure.
Throughout 1974, he was a highly familiar face , with appearances in The Curse of the Sacred Image, The Story of Joomba, the Normal Life and The Cave Lands.
In 1975 he was again a regular, turning up in Little Girl, T, The First Phantom, The Golden Beach, Hzzz and The Blue Giant and in 1976, he was to be found in Jookar and the Slaves, S.S. Blitz and Return of the Terrorists.
His next appearance was in the 1977 classic, The Proposal and he was then seen briefly the same year in Guardian of the Eastern Dark and The Tyrant of Tarakimo.
In 1977-78 he naturally was included in a huge cast in the blockbuster, The Wedding of The Phantom, but slowly began to slide into bit parts such as in the 1978 stories, Hzz and Hrz, Return to Tarakimo and The Star of Bangalla and returned in a slightly stronger role in the daily and Sunday versions of the 1978-79 story, The Heirs, which celebrated the birth of Kit and Heloise.
Rex’s roles increased a little in importance after that and you will find him in the 1979-80 stories, The Name and Return of General Bababu, The Vault of Missing Men and the 1980 adventures, The Tree House and The Uninvited Visitors and in 1981 in Gooroo’s Jungle Muggers, The Hostages and The Phantom’s Vacation.
In hindsight, it is remarkable how Lee Falk so strongly kept the Phantom family theme alive in that period!
Rex made a brief appearance in Kit and the Little People in 1981-82 (the story was a re-working of the original theme which featured Rex).
Then came the famous Tale of Rex in 1982 in which Lee Falk went to a lot of trouble to re-tell the story of Rex being found as a baby. Rex was to keep reappearing, but it was then obvious Lee was developing his plot to have Rex return to Baronkhan and in 1983, the move took another turn in the story, Visit to Baronkhan.
Not that Lee was in a desperate hurry to remove Rex from the Skull Cave and the Tree House!
Rex was to bob up in the 1983-84 story, The Eastern Dark, in 1984 in The Deadliest Animal in the Jungle, The Diamond Cup, and The Embassy Siege. He was not to return until 1985-86 in The Forest Giants and Tale of Phantom Head Peak and then in 1986 he was to star in Ruler of Baronkhan.
After a cameo appearance in the 1986 adventure, The Escaped Convicts he was finally to star again in the 1989 classic, Rex: Prince of Baronkhan.
By that time, Rex had been installed as the permanent Prince of the Realm and in the story, he meets Princess Alicia, the ruler of Shambad.
Lee Falk obviously had plans to slowly develop a romance between the two 12 year olds!
However, he had to put the idea on ice because the necessary ageing process would have thrown Phantom continuity into chaos. Had Lee somehow managed to jump eight or nine years ahead, the Phantom and Diana (and everybody else in the cast) would have had to age by a similar number of years! So, the only way to avoid such a problem was to leave Rex safely in Baronkhan and move onto other things!
In 1992, Lee returned to Rex and Alicia in the story Prince Rex and Princess Alicia and wrote about them both being 12 years of age, the same age they were in 1989!
Rex was not heard of again until 1996-97 story, Prince Rex – Kidnapped!
Lee Falk died in New York on 13 March, 1999 and he departed without plotting out what he had in mind for both Rex and Alicia.
That had to be left in the hands of the new creators in the United States.
Writer Tony De Paul and artist Graham Nolan rekindled the fire a little in the 2005 Sunday, The Prince Rex Conspiracy, but it is now increasingly difficult to develop plots involving Prince Rex without depicting him as the richest and most powerful 12 (or so) year old boy in the world!
Just as Kit and Heloise have only aged slightly, Rex (and Alicia) have followed the same slow motion path!
Obviously, Rex and Alicia are destined to marry one day, but in the wonderful world of comics creation, that will be held over (it simply has to) until the day when it is decided that Kit become the 22nd Phantom.
And that is simply not on the cards.