That stalwart hero of the comic book The Phantom, he who is The Ghost Who Walks, has been around a long time. He began back in 1936 as a U.S. daily newspaper strip created by Lee Falk, who got in before both Superman and Batman. That strip still runs today even after Falk's death in 1999. Though he's become the hero with the hell-cool skull ring, who's adventures are followed all around the world from India to Scandinavia, Australians seem to have a special bond with him. He's so beloved by generation after generation that this year sixty years of The Phantom comic in Australia can be celebrated. It is the longest uninterrupted publication run anywhere of The Phantom and the longest running comic published in Australia.
Yes, The Man Who Cannot Die, the masked dude with the best tight-fitting threads, is a stayer with a rich history, not just the newspaper strips and comics but the 1943 movie serial, the 1996 movie, a heap of novels, collectors cards, animated appearances and continual talk of future productions. What is the secret to his long-standing success? He's a valid icon transcending the changing of cultural guards. Amidst the continual waves of new pop-cultural movements he seems to continually reappear like a surfer bobbing up from the behind the breaking surf. Perhaps because amongst all the other comic book heroes, he has found a balance of not being too silly and not too serious. Similar to Wonder Woman, he successfully operates as a heroic, iconic figure and as an ironic, iconoclastic figure with fans on both sides able to jointly revel in his groovy awesomeness. Best of all, with maybe Batman the only one beating him for the coolest look, The Phantom still is hip with little, if any, design change in his seventy-two years. Out of all comic book heroes one gets more from him of a sense of history.
But I have a lament, or at least a bit of a whine, that despite his vast coolness, there is very little decent merchandising to allow much of anyone to celebrate his funky style. Sure, there are non-genuine skull rings, a very funny "Phuck it's The Phantom" t-shirt of a few years back, unofficial diaries, a few recent graphic novels, but where are the t-shirts now, the posters and omnibuses of classic Phantom, history/art book and other cool things people, old and young, would like to get hold of and proudly display? I've met passionate Phantom collectors and they are hungry. I predict that a series of well-designed Phantom t-shirts, some humourous, some straight, would be a successful fashion trend, like the Astroboy t-shirts you still see around.
Besides being a hero to the down trodden and ladies in distress he could become a sub-cultural icon of fashion. He deserves to be. And that's as good a reason as any for me to put up some cool Phantom graphics.