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"Ghost Who Walks Will Never Die": The Phantom's First 400 Years.

Before Batman, before The Shadow, before The Green Hornet, before The Lone Ranger, the comics' first masked mystery-man hero had long since been striking fear into the dark hearts of the wicked.

Indeed, by the time the world-famous adventures of The Phantom were first recorded in print more than six decades ago, the grim champion of justice had already been around for nearly 400 years.

Such is the riveting, myth-freighted legend of The Phantom -- "The Ghost Who Walks," "The Man Who Cannot Die," "The Guardian of the Eastern Dark." In the beginning he had been a half-drowned sailor, flung ashore on the terrible, blood-drenched Bengalla coast after pirates burned his ship and slaughtered his mates. The gentle Bandar pygmies, taking him to be a sea god of ancient prophecy, nursed him back to fitness and became his everlasting friends -- as the castaway faced his destiny, donned costume and mask and was reborn as the first of the Phantoms, scourge of predators everywhere.

"I swear to devote my life to the destruction of piracy, greed, cruelty and injustice!" he cried as he formally took "The Oath of the Skull" by firelight. "And my sons and their sons shall follow me!"

And in time there was a son. In time that son begat another, and thereafter that son begat again. After a while, there arose a dynasty of Phantoms, one after another, born into the legend then reared and rigorously drilled in the disciplines and the duties.

Through the generations these eerily identical jungle lords have prowled an evil world in the cloaks of many identities, and none today, but the Bandar and a handful of other secret souls know that all are not one and the same.

The modern Phantom is the 21st of the line. Since Feb. 17, 1936, he has been the law in his dangerous part of the world, a one-man police force, a silent avenger who appears and vanishes like lightning. His home is the fearsome "Skull Cave," deep in the heart of his jungle. His only intimates have been the faithful Bandar, his great white horse Hero, his savage gray wolf Devil and his lovely American sweetheart Diana Palmer. Even the men of the Jungle Patrol, the paramilitary peacekeeping squad an ancestor had organized some years ago, have never seen the face of their mysterious commander in chief.

From thieves and smugglers to cut-throat harbor rats to crazed dictators seeking to enslave free men, all have met the Phantom over 60 thrilling years, and all have tasted his wrath. Always changing with the whirlwind times around him, he has increasingly come to function as something of a United Nations troubleshooter-at-large, a shadowy trench-coated figure slipping in and out of modern Third World political intrigue.

But never far from the Phantom's stage are the great emperors and brigands of yore, in the shining tales of his 20 heroic forebears, recounted in the epic Phantom Chronicles. In more than 60 years of daily newspaper stories and 58 years of Sunday-only yarns, "Phantom" creator Lee Falk has meticulously fleshed out the most minute details of a fabulous dynastic pageant, illuminating the lives of the Phantoms of old whose blood courses through the veins of the modern Ghost Who Walks. Many of them have swashbuckled their way through the famous newspaper comic strip in grand flashback sequences -- one early Phantom is known to have married Christopher Columbus' granddaughter; another is known to have married Shakespeare's niece; still another took a Mongol princess as his bride.

The fifth Phantom crossed swords with the pirate Blackbeard in the early 1600s. The 13th Phantom traveled to the young United States and fought alongside Jean Lafitte in the War of 1812. The 16th appears to have put in some time as a Wild West cowboy.

And succession is assured.

The current Phantom and Diana Palmer were wed in 1977, and today their scrappy young son, Kit, is in training to someday take the sacred "Oath of the Skull" and become the 22nd Phantom. (Phantom 2040, the futuristic television series that in 1994 spun off from Lee Falk's classic comic-strip legend, posits a 24th Phantom, apparently Kit's grandson.)

Paul Ryan

Paul Ryan

A native New Englander, Paul began his career in comics at the not so tender age of 35.  His first attempt at producing a comic book story brought him to the attention of Bob Layton.  Bob hired Paul on as his background man and basically showed him all the things he was doing wrong.  One year later Paul was getting his own assignments at Marvel. They included inking chores on two issues of The Thing, penciling on the Squadron Supreme mini series and Graphic Novel, a Thor Graphic Novel, DP7, Quasar, the Avengers, Avengers West Coast, IronMan, Fantastic Four, Ravage 2099 and a three year stint on the Spider-Man Sunday strip.  In 1996, Paul moved over to DC where he had the opportunity to work on such titles as Superman, Man of Tomorrow, Flash, Legion Science Police, Legends of the DCU: Crisis on Infinite Earths, Batman: No Man’s Land, Shadow of the Bat, Gotham Knights, Aquaman, Gotham City Secret Files, Superboy and Green Lantern.  Paul was a contributing artist on Celebrating the Century Stamp Collecting book DC produced for the US Postal Service and the NASCAR/Superman custom comic.  Ryan returned to his old stomping grounds to collaborate with Tom DeFalco on the Fantastic Five for Marvel in 1999.  He lent his talents to such titles as Maximum Security, The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine, Pantheon- Lone Star and Tribulation Force- from the Left Behind series.  Paul contributed penciled art to several CrossGen titles including Ruse, Crux, Mystic and Solus.  Paul produced finished art and covers, for five years, on The Phantom comic book published by Egmont, Sweden. In January of 2005, Paul took on the art chores for The Phantom Daily Newspaper strip, owned and distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc. April 1, 2007, marked Paul’s debut on The Phantom Sunday strip.

Paul also has the unique distinction of being the only person to have worked on both the Spider-Man wedding issue for Marvel and the Superman wedding album for DC.  

Paul enjoys hiking in the mountains, horseback riding, archery and weight training.  In his younger days he studied karate and fencing.  While in the National Guard he was a member of their pistol team. 

Terry  Beatty

Terry Beatty

Terry Beatty is a 30-year veteran of the comic book business.  He is the artist and co-creator (with writer Max Allan Collins) of the long-running (and soon-to-be revived) private eye series, Ms. Tree.  His other collaborations with Collins include Johnny Dynamite, Mickey Spillane's Mike Danger and the Vertigo Crime graphic novel "Return to Perdition."  For more than a decade, he was part of the art team for DC Comics' Eisner Award-winning cartoon-based Batman Adventures comic books.  His cover illustrations have appeared on Scary Monsters magazine for 18 years and have earned him a Rondo Award.   

He is a published author, with numerous short stories to his credit and is also an accomplished sculptor.  He has worked in the model kit and toy industry, including designing and providing the box art for Moebius Models' retro-styled Green Lantern model kit.  For several years he held the "Visiting Artist " post and taught in the comics program at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.   

He and his family recently relocated to the Kansas City area, where he began drawing the Phantom Sunday strips in January 2012.

Replacing Graham Nolan, Beatty began his tenure on the daily Rex Morgan., M.D. comic strips on Dec. 30 2013 and the Sunday strips on Jan. 12, 2014.

Tony DePaul

Tony DePaul is a freelance writer based in Rhode Island. He started reading the Phantom in the early 1960s, in Philadelphia, and was assigned to write the daily and Sunday scripts after the death of Lee Falk in 1999. He was a newspaperman for 26 years until sudden inspiration struck and he didn't go back to work after lunch one day, forsaking the newsroom for the open road and the hit-or-miss life of a freelance writer. He's had a few misadventures in the film business but is mostly concentrating on riding motorcycles on every road worth riding in North America.

Lee Falk

Leon "Lee" Falk created two of the most successful and longest-running action-adventure strips in the history of comic art: Mandrake the Magician and The Phantom.

Falk was born in St. Louis in 1911. He was a graduate of the University of Illinois. He spent four years writing copy and directing radio shows for an advertising agency in St. Louis. Once he was comfortably situated as the producer of two of the most sensationally successful features in daily newspapers, Falk took to globetrotting. For many years, the adventures of both The Phantom and Mandrake the Magicianwere as often as not set to paper in hotel rooms in one of the world's great capitals.

The inexhaustible stories continued to come one after another even as World War II intervened. Immediately after Pearl Harbor was attacked, the patriotic Falk took on duties in secret intelligence operations with the Office of War Information and became chief of its radio foreign language division. In 1944, Falk enlisted in the United States Army.

Up until the time of his death, the expert storyteller still roamed every corner of the globe and continued to mastermind the daily and Sunday newspaper adventures of both The Phantom and Mandrake the Magician.

The Phantom
The Phantom

Though his given name is Kit Walker, this jungle avenger is better known as The Phantom, the Ghost Who Walks, the Man Who Cannot Die. Kit is the 21st to wear the mysterious purple costume of the Phantom. To the good people of the jungle, though, there has only been one Phantom, and the secret of his succession has been jealously guarded. It was over 500 years ago that Walker's ancestor vowed on the skull of his murdered father to fight piracy, greed and injustice in all its forms. Today, the Phantom wears the Skull Ring as a symbol of his quest to right wrongs and punish evildoers. The Phantom's base of operations is the Skull Cave deep in the Bengalla jungle. His quest has taken him around the world, and legends continue to grow around him daily. When people speak of The Phantom, they talk of daring escapes and hair-raising adventures!

Devil and Hero
Devil and Hero

The Phantom's trained wolf, Devil, and his white stallion, Hero, helps the Phantom track down evil-doers. They are almost as legendary as the famous masked man himself!

Diana Palmer
Diana Palmer

This globe-trotting socialite was the first to discover that her boyhood friend, Kit Walker, was, in reality, the Phantom. The two have shared many adventures together, with the plucky young Diana matching him in his heroics. It was in 1977 when Diana married Kit and went with him to the Skull Cave to live.

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