By Jim Shepherd
The Phantom from The Bronx is not the first Ghost Who Walks adventure in which somebody dons a Phantom uniform.
There is, however, a vital difference in this plot, the character Christopher Walker has no evil intention when he dresses as the Phantom, unlike the first occasion when this happened. Let’s go was back to 1942 and Lee Falk’s wonderful story, The Imposter.
In that story a convicted killer, known as Trader Joe, escapes from Morristown gaol, heads into the jungle and by sheer chance stumbles across the Phantom’s complete uniform and gun belt on a river bank (the Phantom had gone for a swim). To avoid any confusion, it should be pointed out that this ‘Trader Joe’ is unrelated to the kindly Trader Joe who appears in later Lee Falk stories as the proprietor of a jungle store.
The evil ‘Trader Joe’ is mistaken by the Bandar pygmies, including even Guran, for the real Phantom and leads The Ghost Who Walks a merry dance until the inevitable showdown. The fact that the real Phantom is wearing the legendary skull ring plays a vital part in finally unmasking the imposter, but the Phantom’s life is actually saved by Devil.
Trader Joe receives his just desserts, a thorough thrashing at the fists of the Phantom, before being taken back to prison. The Imposter ran as a Sunday story (from 3rd January to 11th October 1942) and the last Frew appearance was in edition number 1069 (1994).
Trader Joe was evil enough, but the appearance of another imposter in the Scandinavian story Wanted for Murder (Frew number 1057, published in 1993) went right over the top. A character called Charlie McCrane was a motorcycle patrol policeman who turned insane when his entire family was murdered in Boomsby. Seeking revenge on the murderers and all criminals, McCane decides to dress as the Phantom and embarks on a wild killing spree.
His decision to impersonate the Phantom naturally gave him an immediate advantage over criminals and because he was so conspicuous, the police began hunting down the real Phantom. Little wonder! McCrane commits an least a dozen murders using a machine pistol.
He is finally brought to justice by the real Phantom and committed to a psychiatric institution. Amazingly, the real Phantom (dressed as Kit Walker) actually sees the imposter at one stage shooting down a gang of bank robbers and hears his voice. Immediately afterwards, he meets McCrane in his police uniform and hears his voice again, but fails to make any connections!
Villains have occasionally taken possession of the Phantom’s skull ring (see The Phantom’s Ring last published in Frew number 844) and used it for the wrong reasons and there is at least one instance of gangsters faking the Good Mark sign to get themselves out of trouble. But for sheer evil, nothing comes close to the maniacal deeds of Charlie McCrane in Wanted for Murder.
Not even another Phantom story by Lee Falk, The Jungle Tourneys (1956). In that story which appeared in Frew number 1000 (1992) for the very first time, an escaped convict known only as ‘Jack’ finds the Phantom’s uniform on a river bank when the Ghost Who Walks goes swimming (shades of The Imposter) and takes off into the jungle.
This imposter creates surprisingly little trouble, but plenty of confusion, before he is exposed by the real Phantom and ends up back in gaol. Once again, the skull ring worn by the Phantom is the key to unmasking Jack.
There is another Scandinavian created story, which while called The Imposter is not a straight adaptation of Lee Falk’s 1942 adventure. In this story (Frew number 791, published in 1984), an actor named Floyd disguises himself as the Phantom and kidnaps a native beauty queen to generate a tribal was which has bosses intend filming and selling to worldwide television networks. Sounds pretty heavy, but the real Phantom cleans everything up in no time at all!