The Heirs

Press Release by King Features Syndicate, 1978.

The Heirs (Sunday comic strip published 12 Nov, 1978 thru to 20 May, 1979)

Diana Palmer, bon vivant, liberated career woman and, in private life, wife of the Phantom, has a secret.

Her husband, the well-known nemesis of evildoers around the world, is going to be a proud father. But don’t tell. He doesn’t know. And for goodness sake, don’t tell the pygmies. They think the man is immortal. Truth is, adventure lovers, the Phantom needs an heir.

Diana’s news is going to make a great Christmas present.

Phantom readers, who follow the daily thrills in more than 500 newspapers around the world, have guessed the secret Diana will reveal later this month. Speculation has begun on the gender of the child. The conjecture is split.

A few generations ago a woman temporarily took on the job from her twin brother, the then Phantom, when he was injured. Before she said her vows last year, Diana discovered this temp’s costume in the Skull Cave and tried it on. Was that a hint?

Lee Falk, creator of the masked man, refused to comment. “If the mother doesn’t know, how do you expect me to?”

For those who came in late… The Phantom legend begins over 400 years ago when the sole survivor of a pirate raid was washed up on a remote beach. He swore to dedicate his life to the elimination of evil and vowed that his descendants would follow him in this cause. This was the first Phantom.

Natives of the Bangalla jungle, thinking that all Phantoms are the same as the first, believe he is imperishable. They reverentially refer to him as The Ghost Who Walks.

Diana uses the sobriquet endearingly when she tells the news on Christmas Eve, “I’m waiting to hear your secret”, the Phantom says. “Yours, too, O Ghost Who Walks. You’re going to be a father!”, Diana coos.

Phantoms are real fussy about who can claim kin and get in on the adventures. This is, after all, a very fine family. Only a legitimate heir of the bloodline can site on the Skull Throne. A bride is, of course, sine qua non.

Diana and our current hero were married a year ago.

After he proposed and Diana said yes, she told him she intended to keep her job in Manhattan and commute to the jungle. The Phantom hesitated and went away to think. Love won out, however, and they were wed in a spectacular ceremony in the Phantom’s compound deep in Bangalla.

The first Phantom married the Spanish granddaughter of a great admiral, the third Phantom said I do to a niece of Mr. William Shakespeare whom he met at the Globe Theatre, the sixth Phantom took a great beauty for his wife and he literally took her from captivity by pirates. If that was not enough, she turned out to be queen Narrarre!

The fifteenth Phantom hit it off with a diva and they lived, like all the relatives, happily ever after. There are no sticky divorces dangling from the family tree. If there has ever been trouble in paradise no one knows about it. Phantoms do not wash their dirty leotards in public.

Another matter up in the air about all this is, will Diana follow precedent and give birth to the baby Phantom in the Skull Cave? Perhaps so. She was recently seen in Manhattan buying a book on natural childbirth. Many think, however, the father will want to end the jungle birth tradition and will persuade Diana to go to a hospital.

And one other thing. Will a liberated woman knit tiny masks and capes? Stay tuned!

Lee Falk created the Phantom, the first costumed super hero and the most widely read super hero comic strip on earth today, in 1936.

The character was the lodestar for what has become practically an industry built around supernatural men and women. He was also the forerunner of a school of comics which critics see as a modern day version of such romantic narratives as The Illiad, The Oddyssey and Tales of King Arthur’s Round Table.

The Phantom translates into 15 languages and is read in approximately 40 countries.