Tagged: Chicago Tribune

Mike Gold: Phantom Survivor

While we’re all busy celebrating the 49th anniversary of Doctor Who and the 50th anniversary of both Spider-Man and the James Bond movies, the daddy of heroic fantasy characters quietly turned 76 way back in February. Or, depending upon how you look at it, he turned 476.

The Phantom was the very first masked, costumed hero in comics, debuting in the pages of the many Hearst papers February 17, 1936. He wore a dark outfit – when the feature added a Sunday page, an unthinking engraver made the costume purple for some unknown reason and the color stuck. He fought piracy and other crimes and handed down his clothes, his weapons, his Skull Cave, his fortune and, most important, his legacy to his son. The current guy – most have been named Kit Walker – is the 21st. This cool concept predated Doctor Who by a generation.

One would think the locals were pretty stupid to believe this dude has been the same guy all these many years. Indeed, given the fact that the base for the Phantom’s stories is in Africa (originally, it was sort of India-ish), one might even think this concept was kind of racist. Creator Lee Falk’s liberal street-cred was impeccable and he built the myth on local folk-lore and the unimpeachable fact that criminals are a superstitious, cowardly lot.

As time progressed we saw African civilization modernize as we continued to see its treasures and its history plundered by contemporary pirates and opportunist Europeans. Nonetheless, about 30 years ago I was having a conversation with the features editor of the Chicago Tribune who expressed astonishment that The Phantom polled highest among its black male readership. I told him he wasn’t reading the strip very closely.

What’s remarkable – astonishing, really – is the fact that The Phantom remains in the newspapers to this very day. This is a feat unmatched by Terry and The Pirates, Little Orphan Annie, Li’l Abner, Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, and just about every other continuity newspaper comic strip except Dick Tracy and Mandrake The Magician.

I should point out that Mandrake the Magician was created by Lee Falk as well… two years before The Phantom.

The original artist was Ray Moore; subsequent talent on the strip and on the comic books reads like a Who’s Who of comics: Carmine Infantino, Bill Lignante, Sy Barry, Joe Orlando, Luke McDonnell, Dave Gibbons, Dick Giordano, Don Newton, Jim Aparo, Alex Saviuk, Graham Nolan, Alex Ross, Paul Ryan, Eduardo Barreto, and Terry Beatty… to name but a few. Writers include Peter David, Mark Verheiden, Scott Beatty, Tom DeFalco, and Tony Bedard. Tony DePaul has been writing the strip for the past twelve years; he’s also written many of the comic book adventures as well. Nearly every major American comic book publisher had a turn in creating new adventures, and it remains a top-seller in Australia, Sweden, India and many other nations.

Currently, the dailies are being drawn by Paul Ryan and Terry Beatty – perhaps best known for his work on Ms. Tree – is the Sunday artist. Terry had the awesome responsibility of stepping into Eduardo Barreto’s shoes after Ed’s sudden death last year. He’s doing quite an admirable job.

I continue to be amazed by The Phantom’s enduring appeal. If your local paper isn’t carrying the feature (assuming you still have a local paper) you can read it at King Features’ excellent Daily Ink site, where they carry all of the current KFS strips, including Mandrake, as well as reprints of many of their classics, including The Phantom, Mandrake, Flash Gordon, Buz Sawyer, and about a zillion others. It costs $19.99 a year to subscribe to the whole thing, and I doubt you can spend the same amount on a better mix of comics material.

Every time we read a costumed hero comic of any sort, we owe a debt of gratitude to Lee Falk, an amazingly gifted and singularly interesting man.

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil


Spider-Man puts thief in jail for seven years… really!

Spider-Man puts thief in jail for seven years… really!

I’ve waited years to write a headline like that and have it be true.

Scott Meherg, 28, pleaded guilty to theft yesterday for obtaining
Amazing Spider-Man #2 from Graham
Crackers Comics
in Naperville, IL in 2007 with a $980.99 forged bank check, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The comic book has never been recovered, and the judge ordered Meherg to pay $980.99 in restitution.

Meherg fled the area after police
identified him through a photo lineup and his fingerprints on the phony
check but was arrested last fall on a deceptive
practices charge. He faced a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

J. Jonah Jameson could not be reached for comment.

Could a Vampire be the Next Doctor?

Could a Vampire be the Next Doctor?

Add one more name to the Doctor Who sweepstakes: Robert Pattinson. The star of this week’s Twilight feature film told the Chicago Tribune’s Rob Elder, “That would be quite cool. I didn’t know [David Tennant] he was leaving. The Doctor is great…yeah, maybe. I did grow up watching it. I loved it when I was a kid. In fact, I met one of them the other day, Sylvester McCoy [the seventh Doctor]. He’s one of the few people I’ve asked for an autograph.”

Pattinson has been under the harsh glare of the publicity spotlight and he’s clearly been uncomfortable with it, preferring to just be himself. He’s proven to be a deep-thinker, obsessing about his character and his motivations almost to the point of paralysis on the set.

He thought Edward’s choice to remain in high school, for example, “was one of the most difficult things to figure out. You think he’d stay in college, or be a street kid. It’d be way cooler. But I think the whole concept of it is: He’s like an addict. I think he wants to make his life really, really, really boring. He always does all his homework. He just doesn’t want to get into a situation where he’ll kill someone.”

In addition to acting, he’s also a musician with a song on the best-selling soundtrack album.

Gallery of Recalled Classics

Gallery of Recalled Classics

Comic book fan Charlie Meyerson, currently a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, helped assemble a photo gallery of infamously recalled comic books.  We direct your attention to their website.

Not every title included here was recalled nor is this list in any way complete.  But in the wake of last week’s recall and reprinting of Action Comics #869, All-Star Batman & Robin #10, and DC: Decisions #1, it was a good time to go tripping down memory lane.

WW-CHICAGO: The Big Wiener

WW-CHICAGO: The Big Wiener

Perhaps the coolest event in Chicago at the start of this year’s Wizard World involved costumed characters and big cars, but it wasn’t at the convention center. It was downtown, right in front of the offices of the Chicago Tribune.

Yes, Li’l Oscar got a ticket.

Illegal parking. $50.00 fine. Damn, how many quarters would it take to feed the meters?

Matt Smith of Chicago’s Streets and Sanitation Department told the Tribune they could have towed the big weiner.  "We have access to tow trucks that could have handled a Polish sausage, not just a hot dog." Ah, but would they tow an Italian Beef sandwich?

Thanks to the Tribune’s Charlie Meyerson for the lead, and thanks to Jamie Brockett for the joke. Photograph copyright 2007 Chicago Tribune, All Rights Reserved. With mustard and onions. The author is about to jump on an airplane and fly to Chicago for one of those fantastic Italian Beef sandwichs, and, oh, some sort of convention.


MIKE GOLD: A Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Waste

MIKE GOLD: A Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Waste

I’m writing ahead so I can properly annoy people at this past weekend’s San Diego Comic Con, so here’s some massively random thoughts from a probably senile old fart.

Remember the old Batman villain Doctor Double-X? Detective Comics #261, November 1958? The idea was, this guy Doctor X could split into two villains, the second known as Doctor Double-X. Okay, he wasn’t one of your better villains. But now that I think of it – and Crom knows why I was thinking of it – when he split into Doctor Double-X, shouldn’t Doctor Double-X have been a woman?

Back when the Chicago Tribune was still running Lee Falk’s The Phantom, their feature editor told me the strip ranked first among black males. I like The Phantom, but let’s face it: the story is about 21 generations of white men who rule (they each sat on a throne) Africa and the black natives who think he is really one 400 year old man. Was there a severe self-image problem amongst those polled, or what?

You probably remember Marvel Comics’ adaptation of the Planet of the Apes. What you might not know is that what you may have read from Marvel was not their original adaptation. They did the story, printed it and received a few untrimmed copies from the printer. Only then did it come to Marvel’s attention that star Charlton Heston had approval rights to all depictions. Marvel trashed the print run, made the appropriate changes, and went back to press. But at least one of those untrimmed, uncollated copies still exists. It’s not noted in the Overstreet Guide (at least not volume 35, the one closest to me). I wonder what it’s worth on the collector’s market?

Back in the height of the alternate / silver foil / prism / wacky numbering fad (as opposed to today’s alternate / pencil cover / second-printing cover fad), Mike Grell and I wanted to publish a special issue of Shaman’s Tears between issues 3 and 4. It would have been called Shaman’s Tears #π, and it would have been printed on bubble gum stock. We were overruled. Within a year or so, Marvel licensed their comics out to be printed on bubble gum.


Is Sylar Spock?

Is Sylar Spock?

The Chicago Tribune‘s Maureen Ryan reports Paramount is "close" to signing Zachary Quinto to play young Spock in the next Star Trek movie. Right now, Quinto is playing bad-guy Sylar on Heroes.

If this comes to pass, a few changes might be in store for one of the few successful teevee shows launched last season, as Sylar was expected to play a major role. Quinto’s Trek shooting schedule might disrupt those plans.

An announcement is "expected" to be made at the San Diego Comic Con.

Harry Potter and The Final Sacrifice!

Harry Potter and The Final Sacrifice!

Well, it’s a book, now. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows went on sale at the crack of Saturday, and the world will never be the same. (Or something.) For this link round-up, I’ll corral the stories into groups, by theme, proving that there are only about a dozen potential Potter stories, each of which is being endlessly recapitulated around the world. (And thus I’ll refute Bishop Berkley.)

The last few “anticipation” stories from before the launch:

PopMatters wonders if all of the Potter-readers will become writers. (Because what the world needs is more wanna-be writers.)

Associated Content, writing on Friday, says the book is already on sale.

The Free Lance-Star announces that Fredericksburg shops are ready for the onslaught of young muggles.

The Dallas Star talked to people in line.

Savannah’s WSAV told eager readers they would have to wait just a little longer.

The Money Times reported on the leaks a few hours before Deathly Hallows’s release, which would also be several days after the story broke.

The Motley Fool also reported on the leaks just before the release. (I thought the financial press was supposed to be sleek, fast and up-to-date?)

The Philadelphia Inquirer had a quiz.

The Irish Times had the usual “we’re waiting, none-too-patiently” story.


“The Times It Is A-Changin'”

“The Times It Is A-Changin'”

If you think we’ve come a long way in butting out of people’s personal affairs, remember this: the last anti-miscegenation law prohibiting people of different races from marrying was repealed on November 7, 2000. Seven years later, an interracial couple breaks down one of the last barriers to a normal American family life: the newspaper family comic strip.

On April 2nd, the Creators Syndicate will be debuting Charlos Gary’s Cafe Con Leche. Gary, a 39 year old cartoonist living in Chicago, got his start with a strip called Working It Out. It was initially carried by the Chicago Tribune, but is now syndicated by Creators. He told Editor & Publisher "Cafe con Leche is about an interracial couple learning about each other’s cultural background. It’s loosely based on the first year of marriage to my wife Agustina, who is originally from Argentina."

This marks the second time a newspaper strip has been built around such a theme. Color Blind ran for one year, at the end of the 20th century. Let’s hope Cafe Con Leche enjoys a much longer run.