Thursday, February 25, 2010

Just Where IS Bangalla, Anyway??

So the Phantom lives in Bangalla, in Africa. Except it used to be called Bengali. Which, despite it's obviously Indian name, was also in Africa. Except it used to be on the Indian Subcontinent. Which is funny, because in India, Bengali is an ethnic group and a language which is shared by Northeast India and Bangladesh. Also, in India (where Phantom fandom is HUGE) the comics all say that the Phantom lives in a country called Denkali. Which is near India. Except when it's in Africa. So what's the deal??

Well, the most thorough account I've been able to find on the subject of The Phantom's shifting geography was on "The Phantom Reference Guide" :

  • Way back in the 1936 story, The Singh Brotherhood, the Phantom's home was on the island of Luntok somewhere in the Indonesian archipelago (then known as the Dutch East Indies). At first mention Luntok was off the coast of Sumatra (12 June 1936), but a few days later it was off the coast of Java (15 June 1936). Perhaps it was a floating island!? Of course Luntok is a mythical place, but there is actually a village called Muntok -- it is on the island of Bangka off the coast of Sumatra. And while we're on the subject, Krakatan, the underwater hideout of the Singh Brotherhood was probably derived from the volcano Krakatoa which famously blew itself apart in 1883. Krakatoa is located between Sumatra and Java.
  • Over the next few years of The Phantom strip, creator Lee Falk seemed almost anxious to have the Ghost Who Walks based somewhere in India. In his second story (the 1936-37 classic The Sky Band), the names of three flying boats were India Clipper, Bombay Clipper and Calcutta Clipper.
  • Lee Falk probably accidentally answered the continental whereabouts of Morristown and Bengali in the 1964 daily story The Reef (D88). In that story, Diana writes to The Phantom and addresses her note: "Mr. Kit Walker, Box 7, Morristown, Bengali, Africa".
  • Lee Falk changed Bengali to Bangalla halfway through the daily story The Witchman from 1972 (D116). Bangalla has often been spelt Bengalla, sometimes both spellings appearing within the same story! Morristown was changed to Mowiton in 1971 (D113) and then became Mawitaan in 1972 (D119).
  • Maps showing the location of Bengali/Bangalla in Africa have often been very vague and contradictory. Locations near Zanzibar, Ethiopia, Kenya and Cameroon have all been indicated on maps. Incredibly, it is not even certain if Bengali/Bangalla is on the east or west coast of Africa!
  • The last map of Phantom Country to appear in Lee Falk's lifetime was seen in the 1998-99 Sunday story The Floradon Mystery (S149).

So, Bangalla, Bengali, Bengalla, Bangolia, Denkali is currently in Africa where it will probably stay. No matter how many covers of The Phantom show The Ghost Who Walks wrestling tigers.


  1. Mykal: Thanks! I expect inconsistencies in any comic that's been running for seven decades. But jumping from India to Africa is a little sloppy.

  2. I may be wrong, but I believe Falk moved Bengali from India to Africa rather early on in the strip, during its first or second decade or so. After all, most of the jungle tribes appearing in the strip don't look very Indian, do they?
    ...And it's always been Bengali and Morristown in the Swedish version, it still is.
    I know that the Swedish editors sometimes had to make corrections when they published Falk's stories. Team Fantomen in Stockholm has all the facts, they look everything up. Falk had a tendency of forgetting things. He mixed up older generations of the Phantom and their wives, families, friends, names of horses and pets... If something's wrong, the hardcore phans will notice and complain!

  3. Pidde: No, the tribes of Bengali do not look terribly South Asian. It's kind of vague when the change really happened. By the 1960's most everyone was looking pretty African, but the huts they lived in and a lot of their customs seem Polynesian or Micronesian, which hails back to Luntok (the original setting). And, of course, the ever-present tigers would seem to imply Asia or the Pacific. I would say the name changed officially in the US Strip in the 1970's to Bangalla, simply because Bengali doesn't sound at all African. Also, Guran's hat is very Asian.

    I've read that Falk didn't keep very careful notes. He may as well have named the locale "The Jungle" and been done with it. :-)

  4. You know, I've never given this a thought. It's never struck me that Bengali doesn't sound African. It's always been called Bengali and it's always been Africa since I started reading Fantomen. As a matter of fact, I didn't encounter the name Bangalla till the movie opened in '96 - and since that movie takes place in India, it's odd they used the "African name".
    I don't remember what it was called in the DC version.
    I seem to remember a map of Africa with Bengali and Morristown marked out on it (somewhere on the eastcoast) in an old issue of Fantomen, but I'm not sure.

  5. I've seen a "Map" of Bengali drawn by Barry, but it was printed small and incomplete on the letters page of one of my DC issues. It looks like Barry drew the country as an island, something like Madagascar.

    Oh! In the '96 movie, it wasn't Bangalla, it was BENgalla. And I think it was a South Pacific Island, near Indonesia or something, based on the locals. It seems to me that, for the movie, they combined the original Island of Luntok, near Java with Bengali and Bangalla into one homogeneous concept.

  6. Oh! and Pidde, if you want to talk Phantom or any other comics, you can e-mail me directly. Follow the "Monkey Mail" link on the right, or visit my profile.

  7. I haven't seen the movie in a long time. I think the Swedish subtitles read "Bengali" whenever Bengalla was mentioned.
    Speaking of the movie, an editor at Egmont told me that the screenplay they received and okayed was for a completely different Phantom movie than the one that eventually premiered. This is of course far from unusual, but it would be interesting to know what the movie was supposed to be like.
    A friend in Hollywood told me that the movie was doomed to begin with, since they had hired a gay man to play the hero. Well, I don't know about that. Btw, I met Billy Zane a couple of years later. He smiled when I said I was from Sweden and he said "Hey, I heard The Phantom was a success over there!"

    Hey, I kinda like this crossover discussion! People have to read both The Ghost Who Blogs and Gold Key Comics to get all the parts! ;-)

  8. ..."To get all the party"?!
    It should of course be "parts" - but hey, let's call this a party!

  9. Pidde: I wonder what the original screenplay was like?

    As to Billy Zane... I don't THINK he's gay (no matter how "pretty" he is). He's certainly been married enough times. You know, over on the Phantom Phorum someone was complaining about him being a "girly-man who wears eye makeup" The next person misunderstood and thought they were referring to when he has on the mask. I think the original commenter thought Zane wore eyeliner and mascara. I'm pretty sure he just has really dark eyelashes, as I've seen that before with a co-worker.

    I AM enjoying the cross-over discussion, I was just giving you the option.

    In fact, I think I will put up a post directing people to this conversation.

  10. Well, I've seen Zane having dinner with what was supposed to be his boyfriend according to some Hollywood people. Btw, it was actually at Dennis Hopper's birthday party Zane mentioned the Phantom to me. Everybody was there - but Hopper. A gorgeous girl pressed her body to my back in the bar. A couple of days later I saw her photo in one of the daily trades. "Playmate of the year..."

    I've no idea what the original screenplay was like. And it must be close to 20 years since that Egmont guy read it. I had one of the producers sitting next to me at a dinner with the Comics Adademy the other year, he's working for Bulls, the syndicate that has The Phantom here. I don't remember what we talked about, though. I just remember him mentioning the Phantom movie.

  11. thank you for sharing....i was always so proud to know that Phantom resides somewhere in the jungles of India :D...well, if we talk facts then india is part of Africa,broken off from the african plate around 70 million years ago:D
    Due to continental drift, the India Plate split from Madagascar and collided (c. 55 Ma) with the Eurasian Plate.
    So, may be he wanted to go back to his roots in africa..
    I thank you so much for sharing the comics.Its such a respite after a gruelling day at office

  12. The Good old days