By Jim Shepherd
For the first time in Frew’s long history, this classic piece from 1944-45 period is presented in its entirety (Frew #1203). The last highly modified and edited printing was in Frew #858 and Frew #859 back in 1986.
The most interesting part of the story deals with the Phantom comic into possession of Hero and a short article about this appeared in Frew #1046 published in 1993.
It is well worth expanding on the topic because the brief mention in Frew #1046 only touches upon the subject. As you will discover in the story, Hero was originally named ‘Royal Hero’ and is described by the Maharajah as the fastest and most expensive horse in the world. Nowhere in the story is there a clue about the breeding of Hero or how he was acquired by the Maharajah. There is one vital piece of information about Hero’s background however. The Phantom reveals he was ‘the Maharajah’s favorite racer’, clearly indicating Hero/Royal Hero was a galloping star on the racetrack.
It’s interesting to note that the Phantom refers to the horse as ‘Royal Hero’ when he makes his spectacular escape from the palace. However, once the Phantom has made good his escape and rejoins Devil in the jungle, he refers to the mighty steed as simply ‘Hero’… ‘Devil, meet Hero’… ‘Hero’ it remains until the end of the story when the Phantom returns the horse and both he and the Maharajah call the great stallion, ‘Hero’.
Rather than start the following story with Hero being introduced to wild jungle living, Lee’s next daily adventure was The Blue Gang in which the Phantom leaves the jungle to visit Diana in the United States.
However, it wasn’t long before Hero made his debut in a Sunday story, The Strange Fisherman which commenced on July 1, 1945.
A few more points about The Maharajah’s Daughter, Frew gave the story the title The Kidnapped Maharajah in its first printings… the daughter of the Maharajah is called ‘Lakani’ early in the story. Later on, this changes to ‘Lakania’. There’s another, equally strange name changes for Rajah Simbal’s tigers during the end part of the story, ‘Rima and Nima’ to ‘Rima and Nimi’!
One more piece of Hero trivia, in the 1946 story, ‘Princess Valerie’, Valerie has a special nickname for Hero… she calls him ‘Billy’.