Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Phantom #64- Charlton

March 1975
Charlton Comics
Cover: Frank Bolle
Script: Joe Gill
Pencils/Inks: Frank Bolle

Apparently, Charlton's "New Look" for The Phantom wasn't very popular, because it was gone by issue #64. Charlton chose Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom artist Frank Bolle to draw this story, which was written by Captain Atom scribe, Joe Gill. The cover of this issue, also by Bolle, makes me think of Doug Wildey's work on Jonny Quest which, with it's far off locales and classic sense of adventure is not the worst take one could have on The Phantom. Without further ado, enjoy "Duel With Death" and I'll have a few comments at the end.

An observation: It seems weird to me that a guy who only uses his guns to shoot other people's guns from their hands would own a fighter plane. It also seems like a shame that, if the Phantom were to own his own fighter jet, it wouldn't be an F-4 Phantom.


  1. What was the “New Look”? Did someone have the temerity to fiddle with the costume? I did notice a break from convention in this comic, in the second panel on page 21 when the eyes are visible through the mask.

    I don’t know about the wisdom of having a full-blown fort that has an ordinary door with an ordinary lock… but then nothing about “Colonel Death” strikes terror into my heart. He’s a bit of a goof!

    This Phantom is a little different to the one I grew up with, in terms of character and behaviour. I’m not sure about the big toys like fighter planes for The Ghost Who Walks. They seem more like something Batman would have stashed away. By the time it got to plane vs. plane and the accompanying threats, I couldn’t really tell “Death” and The Phantom apart.

    One thing I liked: Diana on the plane. She’s no walkover, and karate chopping the bad guy is something she would do.


  2. Anthony: The "New Look" debuted in CHarlton's issue #60. Basically, when sales on their monthly comic declined, they fired artist Pat Boyette and switched to reprinting Italian Phantom comics. It only lasted 4 issues before they went back to original material.

    I totally agree about the fighter plane, and I suspect this was it's only outing.

  3. Aaron: Being a big Frank Bolle fan, I loved this. I think Frank Bolle's simple, uncluttered way with a panel lends itself nicely to the iconic quality of the Phantom. He also drew very nice woman, as his Diana will attest.

    For me, you have hit upon the one and only disappointment I ever had about the phantom: He only shoots weapons from hands. Here's a guy that has both hands stuffed with kick ass .45 autos - with enough stopping power to drop the Packers’ front line - and he's shooting guns out of hands. Crap, he could have went with a pair of "nines" (9MM) for that light duty.

    Great post! – Mykal

  4. I wonder if that's the legacy of Lee Falk's Daily and Sunday strips. In the early days, The Phantom would occasionally kill, especially if being shot at. With newspaper comic strip sections being intended for the whole family, perhaps as sensibilities to violence changed, The Ghost Who Walks had to change.

  5. Mykal: Bolle's Phantom is very sharp indeed. I don't mind that The Phantom is a hand-shooter. It's a trait he shares with another of my favorites, The Lone Ranger. "Mythbusters" did an episode on "Wild West Myths" where they tried shooting guns out of simulated hands. It didn't work very well. They also did one where they tried punching a simulated head with a Skull Ring. It gave the pigskin they used a terrible cut, but no scar. When they turned up the force, they crushed the skull they were using. I didn't think it was a very scientific test, though.

    Anthony: I think you've probably hit the nail on the head, there. A lot of early heores used guns for their intended purpose at first, only to change to a more "family-friendly" tactic.

  6. Frank Bolle, IMPO, is one of the most underrated artists of our generation. Just doesn't get enough credit.

    When this issue of The Phantom came out in the winter of 1974-5, my local newsstand didn't carry many Charltons, and this wasn't one of them. Back then, the local distributors, I think, cherry picked what books were going to each store.

    Since I retired from comics collecting, I've been debating whether to get the TPB collections from Moonstone. I think I will one day soon, just not right away. Now, if they can try another Phantom movie and get it right this time.....

  7. Frank Bolle also did the interior art for King's Flash Gordon #2 in 1966 or '67. The cover art for that issue was by Gil Kane, but it looked like it was from a Flash Gordon back-up story that ran in Phantom #18-20.

  8. Batman and some other comics heroes carried guns and killed villains in the early days (1939-40) but I get the impression that comics in general toned down the violence when it became obvious that most of the readers were children.

  9. I saw the "Mythbusters" episode that debunked the idea of shooting the weapon out of someone's hand. Joseph Wambaugh's novel "The New Centurions" also addressed the same subject. In the first chapter, a police academy instructor complains that movies have given people unrealistic expectations about using force. In the heat of combat, it would be hard enough to shoot a man in the chest, let alone shoot the gun out of his hand. So I'm not completely comfortable with fictional heroes who shoot to wound, and who "don't kill" under any circumstances. What annoys me is the assumption that the good guy always has a choice. It is (unintentionally) insulting to soldiers and police officers in real life, who might be forced to kill in the line of duty. But I can tolerate it in the Phantom and Lone Ranger, as long as their fans understand the difference between fantasy and reality.