By Jim Shepherd
Lee Falk caused something of a stir among Phantom enthusiasts when he introduced the Little People in a 1956-57 story called The Rattle.
The Little People were just that, tiny beings identical to grown adults in features, but not stature, being small enough to easily stand on a couple of the Phantom’s fingers.
They were to return in later adventures of The Ghost Who Walks, but their first appearance caused fans to wonder whether Lee had decided to jump aboard the sci-fi fad which was then beginning to spread into all manner of fiction and movies.
There were even some enthusiasts who predicted the Phantom would lose popularity, just as the fames detective strip Dick Tracy later did when creator Chester Gould blasted his hero off into outer space.
As it turned out, Lee was only testing the waters. While he never had any serious intention of plunging the Phantom fully into science fiction themes, he was interested in expanding the idea of taking The Ghost Who Walks outside the traditional arena of earthbound adventures.
Lee only injected science fiction themes into a small number of Phantom stories before deciding his other comics creation, Mandrake the Magician, was far better suited to such pursuits.
For many years, Mandrake was embroiled in a vast number of out-of-this-world mysteries and fans of the famous magician loved them all!
Mystery, however, always enveloped the Little People.
When they first appeared in The Rattle, the 21st Phantom had to dig through Chronicles to trace whatever history had been recorded. He discovered that the first mention was in a Chronicle dated 1656 and established that his grandfather, ’12 times removed’, had made the first entry.
Lee’s first story about the Little People had them living in a miniature city in a cave at the base of Flying Eagle Rock.
The Little People made many references to their cave home being a ‘ship’, but none knew why!
The Phantom discovered that the cave mouth seemed to have been blasted by some form of heat and inside the cave walls were made of some type of steel.
The Little People know nothing of their origins and tell the Phantom simply that the cave city has always been called a ‘ship’.
Naturally enough, the Phantom determines to unravel the mystery, but Lee was in no hurry!
It wasn’t until 1968 that we again meet the Little People, in a story entitled The Little Ones, which in many ways, was a repeat of the theme used in The Rattle.
In that story, the Phantom remains mystified about the word ‘ship’ being used to describe the home of the Little People.
Lee Falk, by now confident that his curious, semi sci-fi theme was accepted by Phantom enthusiasts, brought back the Little People in the 1969 story, The Missing Link, but this time, they played only a minor role.
Lee clearly liked the Little People scenario. He brought them back again and again until in their sixth appearance (Exodus of the Little People in 1988-89) it is revealed that the ‘cave’ home of the Little People is in fact, the remains of a space ship. The Little People had come to earth from somewhere in outer space!
Within the cave/space ship is a ‘black box’ which sends “messages to the stars: our people have waited for 200 of your centuries…”.
For at least a brief moment, readers must have had visions of the space ship being repaired and the Little People returning to their place of origin, or being rescued by a space ship from their homeland.
It could have only been a passing thought, for the cave ‘ship’ is dramatically filled by a flood of fiery lava! The black box is saved and the Phantom helps the Little People to re-settle on Eden.
Three more stories involving the Little People were to come, ending with the 1997-98 adventure, Waterman.
Whatever Lee Falk had in mind (and all fans hoped that one day the Little People would be rescued and returned home) will never be know.
Lee was to commence only nine more stories before his death on March 13, 1999 and the Little People were never mentioned again.
It can only be presumed that their descendants still live on Eden.
Perhaps one day, one of the modern creators of Phantom adventures will remember their existence and pick up on the story.
I, for one, hope so! I’d like to see the Little People plucked from Eden and transported (by one of their own space ship) back to whichever star or planet is their homeland.
In this day and age it would be completely acceptable, and it would not only make a great stroy, but tidy up yet another Phantom myster!
Chronology of the Little People Stories
- The Rattle – 1956
- The Little Ones – 1968
- The Missing Link – 1969
- Rex And The Little People – 1973
- Kit And The Little People – 1981-82
- Exodus Of The Little People – 1988-89
- Blackie – 1992
- Drama On Eden – 1996
- Waterman – 1997-98