The Phantom is a rarity among superheroes. As one of the first costumed superheroes, he paved the way for characters like Spider-Man and Batman while creator Lee Falk showed independent writers and illustrators the importance of holding onto their creations. Phantom fever may not grip audiences in the same way as characters from the Marvel and D.C. universes, but this hero who’s a little bit Tarzan and a little bit Sherlock Holmes will always have a place in the hearts of true superhero fans.
The Phantom: Origins
Before the Phantom made his way through the mysterious jungles of Bangalla, Lee Falk was just a student at the University of Illinois, where he submitted stories and poems to the college paper before pitching his first comic strip, Mandrake The Magician, to King Features Syndicate. The young writer and illustrator waited all day to meet with the company’s general manager, Joe Connolly, who promptly forgot about the meeting and left the young man in his waiting room. Upon realizing his mistake, he took Falk out for dinner, a show, and drinks, and at that point, he couldn’t very well reject him.
Mandrake The Magician premiered on June 11, 1934, and fortunately, it was good. In fact, it ran for the next 80 years under various writers and illustrators. Falk continued writing it until his death in 1999, but he quickly begged off illustration duties in favor of developing his next idea. He poured himself into the concept of The Phantom, structuring the first few months of the comic before presenting it to K.F.S. He got the green light almost immediately, and the comic premiered on February 17, 1936, just before Falk’s 25th birthday.