By Jim Shepherd
Of the many Phantom characters created by Lee Falk, the Marshall Sisters, Greta and Lana, rank highly in the memories of enthusiasts.
Lee Falk obviously loved them and ensured they gave the Phantom plenty of headaches in their many encounters! Both were mineral geologists following the same career as their father, both were very wealthy and both were totally obsessed with winning the heart of the Phantom. With Diana intent on the same goal (Diana had a special dislike of Greta), it is hardly surprising Lee Falk exploited the sisters to the fullest extent!
The Marshall Sisters made their debut in Lee’s eighth Sunday story Castle in the Clouds in 1942 and this story was last published by Frew in 975 (1991). In that story, the sisters arrive at Morristown, head into the Bengali mountains to prospect and catch a glimpse of the Phantom before being captures by the Old Man of the Mountains and his army of Dervishes.
A rescue attempt by a large squad of soldiers fails and a surviving soldier is rescued by the Phantom who decides to tackle the Old Man in a no-holds barred battle and rescues the sisters who are naturally impressed. Castle in the Clouds ended with the Phantom and the sisters on a raft and Lee Falk’s editor’s confused things a little by printing ‘Cont’ instead of ‘End’ in the final panel.
The Marshall Sisters appeared again in Lee’s ninth Sunday story, The Ismani Cannibals last published by Frew in number 1063 (1994). That story begins with the Phantom saving the girls from a crocodile and a tiger and Greta admits to Lana that she is… ‘falling in love’. Lana admits to the same feeling before both are captured by a roving band of Ismani cannibals tribesmen. The Phantom comes to the rescue again.
The third appearance by the sisters was in Lee’s tenth Sunday story, Hamid the Terrible (1943-44), last published by Frew in number 1000 (1992). In Hamid, the Phantom rescues the two sisters and they reward him by drugging and smuggling him abroad a ship. This time Greta and Lana try to outwit each other to have the Phantom’s hand and after an argument, both go overboard and have to be once again rescued by The Ghost Who Walks. The story ends with the Phantom kissing both of them goodbye. In the final scenes, Greta and Lana wonder whether they will ever see him again.
Lee Falk gave his readers only a short break before bringing back the Marshall Sisters in his thirteenth Sunday story, The Strange Fisherman (1945) last published in Frew number 1063 (1994).
Greta and Lana meet Diana for the first time in this story which begins with the sisters deciding they cannot live without the Phantom and setting off for Morristown. They find their way (by sheer accident) to the Skull Cave and as the Phantom has to explain their presence to Diana he answers her question… ‘You never mentioned them to me’, with ‘I forgot about them Diana. They’re like bad pennies. They keep popping up’.
Diana is understandably jealous, has a hair-pulling fight with Greta and eventually walks out of the Skull Cave, and the Phantom only to be captured by Prince Simitar, The Strange Fisherman. Later, so too are the sisters and the Diana and Greta feud starts afresh.
The Phantom eventually sorts everything out and bluffs the sisters into leaving by having them believe Guran and his friends are cannibals and intend to eat them. It is not until the sisters are safely abroad a ship at sea that they remember their adventures in The Ismani Cannibals, and a law passed down by the Phantom which decreed that cannibalism was taboo. As Lee Falk finished the story… ‘And it’s goodbye to the Marshall Sisters, for the time being, anyhow’.
Their return was to be in the nineteenth Sunday story, The Marshall Sisters, published in Frew number 1148 (1996).