Watch Out Here Comes The Amazing Tiger-Man!!

Welcome back to Rotten Ink, a place where I share my memories of the past as well as the present.  For this update, I would like to take a look at another comic hero from the world of Atlas Comics! In our past Atlas Comic updates, we have taken a look at The Brute, The Cougar and The Hands Of The Dragon, all great superheroes in their own right.  This time around we are taking a look at another one who, when I was younger, was one of my top Atlas Comics heroes.  I am talking about the one and only Tiger-Man! Have your ever-wondered why in the world of comic books there are so many heroes who have animal names? I mean just to name a few: Spider-Man, The Fly, Batman, The Tick, Hawkman, Black Panther, Wolverine, Black Canary, and Blue Falcon.  The list could go on and on, and on that list would be Tiger-Man showing that fighting crime and animals must go hand and hand! It’s a shame that Atlas Comics went out of business in 1975 as it would have been really cool to have seen what further adventures their characters would have had as well as what new heroes would have been made. I mean who knows, maybe a Tiger-Man vs. The Cougar could have been in our reading future if they would have lasted longer than only one year as a comic publisher. As always, I want to send a big thank you to the gone but not forgotten comic shop Bookie Parlor for introducing me to Atlas Comics all those years back, and I think that at this point we are ready to dive into seeing what this crime fighter offered to the world. Also yes, the picture below is Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin feeding a young tiger!

croc-hunter-and-a-tiger

So when I hear the name Tiger Man, one of the first things that pop into my mind is a figure in the “Galaxy Warriors” toy line that literally is called Tiger Man. Growing up He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe was one of my favorite toy lines for the longest time, and between my brother Bryan and I, we had a pretty massive collection of the figures, vehicles and castle playsets that we would get from not only garage sales and trades with friends but also stores like K-Mart, Hills, Hearts, Gold Circle and Children’s Palace among other toy and department stores. But while Mattel and He-Man took the toy aisles in the 1980’s by storm at major box stores, the smaller retailers who stocked the none-mainstream companies filled their section with toys made by Remco, Sparkle, SunGold and Imperial.  Being a fan of Masters Of The Universe, Conan The Barbarian, Beastmaster and other barbarian films, the knock off figures I had to get were ones like Defenders Of The Planets, Galaxy Fighters and Galaxy Warriors with the latter being the one filled with all type of animal people who had the bodies of a man and the heads of a animal, and Tiger Man was one of the figures in the line. While these knock-off figures ended up just being henchmen and guards and took orders from He-Man or Skeletor, they still added lots of great moments of toy adventures. I am sure you’re wondering if I have ever owned Tiger Man, and the answer is sadly no.  I would have to buy most of these types of toys from Woolsworth or Odd Lots and with us living in Waynesville, far away from the nearest one of those stores, we always had to get whatever ones were left on the shelf.  Most of the time, the more flashy and monster looking ones were always gone. Below are some pictures of Tiger Man, and the logo for the line of figures he was a part of.

galaxy-warriors-tiger-man-in-packagegalaxy-wariors-logogalaxy-warrior-tiger-man-figure

Lots of people in the world love tigers and I have had lots of friends and family who have had a love for tigers and had tacky posters, tattoos, statues and even t-shirts, but none of them took it to the extreme like a man named Dennis Avner, also known as Stalking Cat, who had 14 surgeries on his face and teeth in order to make himself look like a tiger! Dennis was born on August 27, 1958 in Flint, Michigan and is from Native American decent.  From a young age, he felt like he was a cat, and when the Medicine Man of his family’s tribe gave him the name Stalking Cat, he knew that his true spirit animal and totem was the great tiger. As he grew older, he worked for the Navy as a sonar technician and later on he took a job as a computer programmer.  During the 80’s he also started his body modifications, all with the blessing of the tribe’s chief who informed him that his totem was in fact a female tiger and that he should also blur gender lines. As his appearance became more extreme and more tiger-like from surgery and tattoos, Stalking Cat, as he changed his name, to went to Furry Conventions and met Tess Calhoun who is known as Tess The Red Pony and her husband Rick and the three would move together to a small town in Washington were Stalking Cat became somewhat a local celebrity being covered on TV and newspapers. Stalking Cat was also well known in the Furry world and tried to promote the lifestyle alongside Tess, but in 2007 Tess and her husband could no longer afford to pay for Stalking Cat to live with them as he did not have a job and in some ways his extreme appearance kept him from getting a regular 9-5. Stalking Cat ended up moving to Nevada in 2007, and sadly by 2012, he passed away alone in his garage due to suicide at the age of 54. Over his lifetime Stalking Cat enjoyed some fame thanks to Ripley’s Believe It Of Not! who brought him to the world’s attention as well as Larry King Live and Weird, True & Freaky. His extreme makeover was met with mixed reactions as many enjoyed the fact he was doing what he wanted while others thought he was just addicted to plastic surgery. But say what you want about Stalking Cat, the man sure did love tigers!

stalking-cat-1stalking-cat-2stalking-cat-3

Before we take a look at the three issues that Atlas Comics released based on Tiger-Man, I think we should spend some time getting to know him and why he is what he is. Tiger-Man made his first appearance in the first issue of the magazine “Thrilling Adventure Stories” back in February 1975 with the story being written by John Albano and the art was done by Ernie Colon who also handled the art on the first comic book issue that was released in 1975 and later in the series artist Steve Ditko would handle the duties. The series would only last three issues before being cancelled as Atlas Comics, the publisher, was not able to compete for retail space against Marvel, DC, Gold Key and Archie who all dominated shelf space on the racks. The character’s origin is this: Dr. Lancaster Hill, a scientist who is working on tiger blood to find the chromosomes that give the big cats their agility and strength who injects himself with a serum and gets the ability of a tiger complete with strength, reflexes and super sight. When his work is done in Africa, he returns to his home in New York and gets a job at a hospital.  After the murder of a loved on he puts on a costume made out of the fur of the tiger he gained his powers from as well as a tiger mask and roams the streets as a hero vigilante. His costume is this: a face mask that looks like a tiger, blue spandex bodysuit with his vest and boots made out of the tiger skin as is his gloves that sport razor sharp claws. His costume might not be super flashy, but it gets the job done and puts fear into the heart of those who are on the wrong side of the law. Tiger-Man does what he has to do to stop crime with most killers meeting their deaths by his hands and this is why he would make a great addition to the Marvel Comics Universe if only he could have joined them as he could have been a great foe for Spider-Man as they both have different ways of fighting crime. So that’s a quick crash course about Tiger-Man as I felt I needed to share this so if you didn’t know who he was, you might have more of a connection with him and might even trigger your interest in reading his comic adventures yourself. Check out the pictures below to see the outfit of Tiger-Man and notice the first picture has him with flesh colored tights!

tiger-man-art-1tiger-man-art-2tiger-man-art-3

So now we are at the heart of this update jungle and we have talked a little about Tiger-Man’s publication history as well as Tiger Man, the action figure from SunGold as well as Stalking Cat the man who transformed himself into a tiger, but now we are at the point where we need to take a look at the three issues Atlas Comic released back in 1975! I want to thank Bell, Book And Comic for having these issues in stock as they are the closest thing to the Bookie Parlor we have around the Dayton, Ohio area and my favorite comic shop in the area! I want to also remind you my readers and friends that I grade these on a star scale of 1 to 4 and am looking for how well the comic stays to the source material, its entertainment value and its art and story. So let’s dive into the Atlas Universe and see just why this small company is one of my favorites from the past, I should also note that my pal Jason Young has been into reading old Atlas Comics and he is hooked on their classic stories and heroes, but with that let’s get to the comic reviews, shall we?

tiger-man-1

Tiger-Man # 1   ***
Released in 1975     Cover Price .25     Atlas Comics     # 1 of 3

A young nurse leaving work is attacked by two bikers who want to steal her car and kidnap her, but she is saved when Tiger-Man comes out of the shadows and shows the bikers that crime doesn’t pay with his super strength and razor sharp claws. After saving her life, he flashes back to how his crime fighting days started when he as his alter ego Dr. Lancaster Hill spent two years in Zambia, Africa and with the help of a captured tiger he found a way to make a serum that when he injected himself with made him faster, stronger and filled with the will to survive! He even saves the village from the rogue tiger set free by the old medicine man of the village who was jealous of his people trusting the young doctor’s cures over his. Once his internship is over, he returns to New York to find he has a job at the Harlem Hospital and to his sister Anna Hill who is a Broadway actress has a huge show the next night he is invited to! That night Anna is attacked and killed by two scumbags who think she is rich and this sets Lancaster off and with the tiger skin outfit the Tribal Chief made him, he becomes the vigilante avenger Tiger-Man and sets out to find his sister’s killers and does as they are a pair of rodeo riders and stalking them to a dive bar he makes his move and kills the pair getting revenge for his sister. Now back to present time, he wonders if he should have also killed the pair of bikers who attacked the nurse but while he thinks that over he knows his calling to be a superhero of the city.

The first thing I want to say is that this issue of Tiger-Man has the feel of a 70’s Marvel comic like Spider-Man or even Daredevil, and that’s the charm and appeal this character holds with this aging comic reader. I mean I could have seen Tiger-Man being in the Marvel Universe and running around New York fighting Kingpin and The Vulture! The plot of this issue is the origin story of Tiger-Man and follows his start of getting his powers in Africa all the way to avenging his sister’s death in the streets of New York and shows the rise of the Big Apples newest superhero. Dr. Lancaster Hill seems like a good Doctor who cares about helping sick people and wants to find new ways to heal and make the ill better, but it’s also clear he has a killer instinct side and will do what he feels right to protect himself and others. As Tiger-Man, he becomes almost animal like as he is able to stalk his prey just like a real tiger by using cunning stealth as well as amped up sense of smell, sight and reflexes. It also doesn’t hurt that he has superhuman strength much like Captain America or even Spider-Man just slightly toned down. The issue’s bad guys are a pair of rodeo cowboys who don’t mind robbing and killing women in order to get money as they let money rule them all the way to their deaths.  While they are no threat to Tiger-Man, they where still terrible people who deserved being killed by his hands. Over all this is a solid and fun comic that has a cool superhero who has the vigilante attitude of Paul Kersey of the Death Wish film series, and that’s why he was dark before Batman became all moody. The cover is eye catching and captured my attention all those many moons back when I found the first issue in Bookie Parlors $1.00 box. The interior art is done by Ernie Colon and is fantastic 70’s style art. I should also note that Ernie is also known for his work on such comics as Casper The Friendly Ghost, Creepy Magazine, Doom 2099 and Arak Son Of Thunder to name a few. If you like classic superheroes of the past and are looking for a fun origin comic, make sure to check out this issue as its really a fun read.

tiger-man-2

Tiger-Man # 2  ***
Released in 1975     Cover Price .25     Atlas Comics     # 2 of 3

Three crooks in electric modified suits just robbed a bank and instead of just running away from the crime scene, they waste time and end up killing two security guards with the help of their amped up suits. Tiger-Man shows up and knocks the crooks around and finds that their suits were made by a Professor Anderson Kobart who teaches at Manhattan University and as Tiger-Man makes his way to the Professor to get answers to why he is supplying crooks with bio suits, he is attacked by a costumed character calling himself The Blue Leopard who has all the ability of Tiger-Man and even scarier knows his real identity! The pair of costumed figures fight it out above the Manhattan landscape and as they punch, scratch and flip each other around it becomes clear that Blue Leopard is from Africa and knew the Dr. when he was there for 2 years helping the ill in the village of Zambia.  But just when Tiger-Man gets the upper hand, he gets light headed and passes out thanks to a sleeping drug on the claws of Blue Leopard who leaves our hero asleep on top of a roof. Waking up many hours later, he changes back to Dr. Hill and does his shift at the hospital with both Blue Leopard and Professor Kobart on his mind, and once his shift is over Tiger-Man goes back on the prowl to get answers about both. As Tiger-Man gets to the office of Professor Kobart, he finds him dead already thanks to the claws of Blue Leopard who informs our hero that he was sent to kill him by the village’s Witch Doctor as he blames him for not just stealing his peoples trust in his medicine but also cause a food drought left many of his people dead and its because of his white man witchcraft! As Blue Leopard leaves the scene Tiger-Man is left at the crime scene questioning if killing the criminals is really the way to help New York.

This second issue is all about action and drama as we follow Tiger-Man as he tries to tangle with two set of bad guys, one being a mastermind college professor and his enhanced armor henchmen and the other is the African avenging Blue Leopard who wants to make our hero pay for his crimes against the village’s Medicine Man. Dr. Hill and his hero side Tiger-Man are having a hard time gripping the difference between the two sides as Hill saves lives daily as Tiger-Man takes lives of those who commit crimes, and the war in his heart and mind is causing him to be distracted doing both jobs. I like that about Tiger-Man, he has two sides and while a vigilante, he himself questions if he should act as their judge, jury and executioner. Professor Anderson Kobart is an older college teacher who for some reason has teamed up with criminals to make them powerful suits in order to steal money, but sadly the Professor dies before we can get answers to why he choose crime, and to be honest neither he nor his henchmen really put up a good fight against Tiger-Man. The issue’s main villain is Blue Leopard, a magically enhanced costumed baddy who is on a mission of revenge himself with orders to torment and kill Tiger-Man, all still over the jealousy of the African Medicine Man.  The worse thing for Tiger-Man is that Blue Leopard is as skilled and quick as he is! But while we get the answer to why Blue Leopard is around, we don’t get an end to his madness as he gets away at the end. This issue is well written, and the script was done by Gerry Conway and is solid and classic superhero stuff as is the cover that once more reminds me so much of 70’s Marvel. The interior art is done by artist legend Steve Ditko who is known for co-creating Spider-Man for Marvel as well as his work on so many other amazing titles. Over all this is a great follow up issue and shows that the folks at Atlas Comics knew how to make quality comics for readers. Well let’s see what the final issue in this series has to offer.  I can’t wait to re-read it as its been a very long time since I have read any of these issues.

tiger-man-3

Tiger-Man # 3  ***
Released in 1975     Cover Price .25     Atlas Comics     # 3 of 3

Tiger-Man rushes into Manhattan Hospital with a man who set himself on fire for no reason.  While the man is getting help at the burn unit of the building, Tiger-Man turns into Dr. Hill and tries to save the life of the man who sadly passes away but does manage to say the word “Hypnos” before expiring. The death of this man shakes Dr. Hill, and a couple of nights later while on patrol in the city as Tiger-Man, he witnesses another suicide this time a old woman embraced death on train tracks as it hit her.  The only connection he can think to check into is the free clinic run by Dr. Otto Kaufman, a man who helps people with their deep mental issues.  As Dr. Hill, he pays him a visit and is not impressed with Kaufman’s attitude. That night Tiger-Man saves a woman who attempted suicide by driving her car off a bridge and she as well says “Hypnos,” and this time as Tiger-Man he goes to Kaufman’s clinic and finds files that proves he is hypnotizing these people into committing suicide and now is using his Hypno-Power to try and stop Tiger-Man from turning the files over to the police. But Kaufman is able during the fight to hypnotize Tiger-Man with the want to kill himself by setting himself on fire, but when a pair of robbers knock out Tiger-Man as he is pouring gas on himself in order to steal his wallet, they really saved his life as it broke the power Kaufman had over him. Tiger-Man goes back to the clinic just as Dr. Kaufman has polluted the mind of a young man to kill himself, and once Tiger-Man knocks out the young man he turns his fury onto Kaufman who ends up running to the roof of the clinic.  After a brief fight, Tiger-Man is able to rip off the monocle that is the source of Kaufman’s power and turns it onto him causing the crazed Dr. to leap from the building killing himself.

The third and final issue in this Atlas Comic series is a nice send off for this great character as the plot of a crazed doctor killing off his patients because he thinks they are all weak willed people is stuff classic 60’s and 70’s comic were made of. Tiger-Man/Dr. Hill in this issue is really upset that strangers around him are killing themselves and it really bothers him when he is not able to save them from death.  But while he was too late to save two of them, he did save two others who were near death’s door. Plus once he cracks the case and finds who was responsible for placing the urge to off themselves into the victims’ minds, he himself doesn’t pull the punches and wants the killer to embrace the cold grasp of death. Dr. Otto Kaufman is an older man who wears a monocle that holds a hypnosis power and runs a free mental health clinic in New York and uses his power of persuasion for evil as he wants to kill off most of the population of the world so he can fill it with super beings who are free of emotions. Kaufman is such a jerk that he wants his victims to die in horrible ways like setting themselves on fire, drowning and death by speeding train and has zero remorse for sending them to the grave. But when his power is turned on him, he himself knows that he is insane and leaps to his death from the top of a building! Dr. Otto Kaufman is a great bad guy and while not physically threatening, he is mentally threatening to Tiger-Man. The downside of this being the last issue is that we as the readers never got the answers and an ending to Blue Leopard who was still on the prowl in New York waiting to strike Tiger-Man and bring him down, not to mention the next issue was planned for Tiger-Man to fight a villain called The Slasher…imagine that, a serial killer taking on Tiger-Man…that would have been amazing! The character of Tiger-Man, I think, is my favorite Atlas Comics hero as I found him very much to be what I enjoy in a hero, let alone he is set in New York and if he was a Marvel Comics created character or even would have been bought by them in 1975, we could have seen him interact with such heroes as Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, The Avengers, Daredevil and Dr. Strange, to name a few. The cover this time around is pretty solid and has that 70’s look that flooded newsstands, and Steve Ditko did the artwork and of course it looks amazing. Over all Tiger-Man issue 3 is great and fits very well into the series and really if you are looking into getting into Atlas Comics, these three issues of Tiger-Man should be your starting point.  With rumors that Dynamite Comics now has the licenses for many of these characters, maybe sometime soon we could get a follow up series based on Dr. Hill and his Tiger-Man alter ego. Check out the art below to see Tiger-Man in action!

tiger-man-art-4

Tiger-Man might not be a well known hero like Superman, Captain America or even Spawn, and that’s a shame as I find this costumed hero to be one that delivered good adventures and who could have had many more if he was allowed to stay around longer. It’s been a blast re-reading these old Atlas Comics and chatting about them here on Rotten Ink as this blog was meant for comics like this that I remember reading in my youth and sharing them with my readers who might not have even known about Tiger-Man or any of the other Atlas Comic heroes. But for our next update, we are leaving Tiger-Man and New York behind and we are traveling to the world of Nintendo for another NES Challenge.  This time I will be tackling the star of one of this summer’s biggest films, the one and only King Kong.  The game is based on the 1986 film “King Kong Lives” with a comic series from Markosia! So until next time, read a comic of three, do a good deed or two and as always support your local Horror Host! See you next update for an ape of a good time!

king-kong-2-nes-logo

Advertisements

The Ghost Who Walks Among Us And Can Never Die…The Phantom

In the world of comic books, crime doesn’t pay thanks to the Superheroes who protect the innocent and punish the guilty. I mean Gothom City has Batman, The City has Dick Tracy and New York has many like Spider-Man, Daredevil and Fantastic Four, to name a few. But while the big cities have their protectors, so does the jungles of Bangalla in Africa who has the one and only The Phantom! What is really cool about The Phantom is that he is much like Batman and Dick Tracy as he has no superhuman powers and is just a man who is a vigilante and dedicates his life to defending the weak and beating evil down. If you think about it as well, The Phantom, who was created in 1936, is a character who bridged the comic strip hero and the comic book superhero and is the first hero to really walk that line. So let’s kick 2017 off right and spend some time in Bangalla and see what The Phantom is all about and how DC brought him back to comic books in 1988.

the-phantom-banner

First, we must take a look at the life of the creator of The Phantom, the one and only Leon Harrison Gross aka Lee Falk, who was born on April 28, 1911 in St. Louis Missouri and had a decent childhood growing up Jewish.  Things would take a slight turn for the bad when his father passed away when Lee was still young, but his mother remarried sometime later and this gave Lee a stepfather he loved and respected and looked up to. The older he got, he began making comic strips and made up a fake bio story for himself as he claimed to be a world traveler who experienced so much out in the world which lead him to create the characters Mandrake The Magician and later The Phantom who were both picked up by King Feature Syndicate. He created The Phantom as he grew up loving the stories of Tarzan and The Jungle Book and decided to also add in pirates and thugs from around the world as it was a topic that also interested him.  Originally he wanted to call the character The Grey Ghost and wanted his costume and all to be grey but things changed when he liked the name The Phantom better and the news printer screwed up and made the costume purple, and the color stuck with readers. Weirdly enough, Falk did not have faith in his characters and thought they would only last a few weeks and was shocked that they lasted his whole lifetime, During World War II Falk worked for KMOX radio and was the chief of propaganda.  Also, the older he got the more world traveling he did in order to not have to lie about his background stories. Lee Falk was married three times and had three children with two daughters and one son. Lee Folk also loved the theater and over the years wrote 12 plays, directed 100 of them and produced over 300 others! Not to mention over his lifetime he even ran five theaters! His plays would have such Hollywood actors as Basil Rathbone, Marlon Brando, Paul Newman, Shelley Winters, Chico Marx and Charlton Heston acting in them! As you can see Lee Falk was a very creative man who did lots of very cool things. Lee Falk passed away from heart failure on March 13, 1999 at the age of 87 and up to his death he was still working on his comic strips…a true man who loved his characters and creations. It’s amazing to think about just how many comic strip creators worked on their strips all the way up until their deaths showing that unlike the comic book world, the creators loved their creations and got joy of bringing them to life for the readers. This update is dedicated to you, Lee Falk, a true icon of comic strip artists and a man who lived for what he loved to do.

lee-falkyet-another-the-phantom-bannerthe-phantom-close-up

The Phantom is a hero who has no super powers and uses his wits, fists and guns to right the wrongs and protect his friends and tribes around his home in Africa. His costume is the following: a black eye mask, a skull ring and a purple costume that was based on an old African idol.  The look is used to scare criminals and pirates, who are his main targets. The Phantom is a costume and legacy that is passed down from generation to generation within the Walker family who do this in order to give the appearance that The Phantom is not human and immortal to strike even more fear into the hearts of those who do evil. The Phantom is a trained fighter with his fists, and I would guess that he has the punch of a heavy weight boxer! He is also skilled with a gun and while not a full dead shot, he hits his target when it’s needed. The Phantom is very smart and has the same kind of mind for solving crimes as Batman, The Shadow and Dick Tracy as he is also quick to get out of a bad situation. The Phantom’s main weapon is fear as legends spread of him being a ghost and not able to be killed, using superstition of the unknown to his advantage of just passing on the title to the next in the family bloodline. The 21st Phantom also has a pet wolf named Devil who helps him uphold justice and has his white horse Hero to get him places faster. Say what you will, The Phantom is a kick butt hero who might not be super but sure knows how to get the job done!

the-phantom-1the-phantom-2the-phantom-3

On June 7, 1996, thanks to Paramount Pictures, a film based on The Phantom was released to theaters and was directed by Simon Wincer and had Billy Zane as The Phantom himself. Also in the cast were Catherine Zeta-Jones, Treat Williams and Kristy Swanson with the score being done by David Newman. Before it was made The Phantom had many different directors attached to it including big names like Sergio Leone, Joe Dante and Joel Schumacher who all left the project at one point or another for reasons of their own. Paramount picked the relativity unknown Simon Wincer, who had directed a few films before it like Quigley Down Under, Free Willy, Lightning Jack and Operation Dumbo Drop to name a few and they gave him a $45 million budget.  He is the one who hired Zane to play the title role as they both were fans of the character since childhood. The film’s production went smooth, and the hype was high for the film’s release as Paramount was wishing for the same kind of success as Warner Brothers had with Batman in 1989 and Touchstone had with Dick Tracy in 1990…but the box office and critics were not nice to this film as it only brought in $17,323,326.00 in the US and didn’t even get released in theaters overseas! The film came in at #93 of the year and beat out such films as The Frighteners, Trainspotting, Thinner and Mulholland Falls to name a few. While the film bombed at the theater, it developed a cult following when it was released on VHS and DVD, making the film turn in a small profit for Paramount. While I am a fan of The Phantom character, I skipped this film at the theater and waited for home video.  I found it to be a fun dumb popcorn movie that, while it didn’t 100% capture the magic of the comic strip, it at least delivered some fun action and adventure. And I must say that the outfit for The Phantom that actor Billy Zane wears was pretty well done and looked like a modern version of the classic suit and brought out elements to make it stand out on the big screen.

billy-zane-as-the-phantom-1the-phantom-movie-posterbilly-zane-as-the-phantom-2

But the 1996 film was not the first time The Phantom made the jump from comic strip to media on the big and small screen as the first was the 1943 Columbia Pictures serial simple called “The Phantom” that had a total of 15 chapters and had Tom Tyler as The Phantom. A serial sequel for The Phantom was in the works in 1955 with actor John Hart in the role of The Phantom and as production was chugging along they soon found that they no longer owned the rights to use The Phantom and quickly changed it over to calling it “The Adventures Of Captain Africa.” This was followed by the cartoon “Defenders Of The Earth” that aired on TV in 1986 and had Peter Mark Richman voicing the character for a total of 65 episodes, only lasting one season. In 1994, a cartoon called “Phantom 2040” was released as a series that lasted for 35 episodes and a total of 2 seasons with Family Ties actor Scott Valentine lending his pipes to make the character speak. And in 2009 they made a TV mini series based on the character and called it “The Phantom” that had two feature length movies to tell this new version of the character.  This time around actor Ryan Carnes landed the role of the character. So as you can see, Hollywood has had many plans for this character to be the next comic character to be on every kid’s t-shirt and have toys on every chain store shelf…while they tried, it just was not meant to be as it was clear the youth was just not biting at The Phantom to replace their Batman toys and comics. I can proudly say that as a youngster I did my part, as I owned The Phantom action figure from the Defenders Of The Earth toy line.

the-phantom-serial-dvddefenders-of-the-earth-vhs-tapephantom-2040-posterthe-phantom-mini-series-dvd

Besides the movies and cartoons getting released on VHS and DVD, some other really cool stuff based on The Phantom has been released over the years from action figures, t-shirts, posters, statues, comic books, novels, card game, video game, Halloween costumes, replica skull rings, bobble heads, lunch box and so much more! The Phantom has had his fair share of collectibles for his fans to collect and enjoy, not to mention, besides DC, other comic book companies like Pacific Comics Club, Gold Key, Whitman, King, Pioneer, Dynomite, Marvel and Moonstone among others have printed adventures of this character. Besides some of the comics and the Defenders action figure, one thing I had in my teens was a skull ring replica that a fellow classmate gave me, and I can remember wearing it around school and feeling super cool…yeah, I know –  I was young and didn’t know any better. I wonder if that ring is still someplace in my parent’s basement, also know as Independent B Movie Studios. So in closing, if you enjoy The Phantom, the world is filled with collectibles for you!

old-school-the-phantom-comicthe-phantom-halloween-costumephantom-skull-ring

Speaking of Independent B Movie, the old shot on video company that my friends and I use to make films together under that brought you such shot on video classics as The Wolf Hunter, Farmer Joe and Who Keeps Feeding Grandpa to name a small few.  For a small time we toyed with the idea of doing fan films based on some of our favorite movies and characters with lots of things being written and talked about at our annual company meetings. Characters like Superman, Lone Ranger, Leatherface, Spider-Man and Neo from The Matrix all had fan scripts written or talked about, and one of the characters I was developing a fan film for was The Phantom! The idea for my film would have had Matt Hoffman or Jason Gilmore playing The Phantom who was sent on a mission to stop Dr. Frankenstein from creating a monster for the Nazi’s who needed this super solider to turn the tide of the war.  The setting was Frankenstein’s Castle in Kettering and the woods around it would have acted as the jungle with all the typical friends taking on roles like Josh Weinberg who I wanted to play Dr. Frankenstein.  Garrison Kane would have played The Monster and Dave Wean, Patrick Neeley, Mike Ritchie and Jason Young would have made up the supporting cast. If memory serves me right, I think the title of it would have been called “The Phantom vs. Frankenstein,” real original right? The costume was going to be ordered offline and The Frankenstein’s Monster mask was something we would have gotten from Foy’s in Fairborn. But the film idea went nowhere and a script was never written as only scraps of paper with notes was all I had taken down for my idea for this flick, and sadly that are long gone by now. I could have only imagined if we were to have filmed this just how cheesy and terrible the action fights would have been, but I am sure much like all the films we made, it would have had a small cult following for being so bad it’s good. Below is a mock-up poster for this movie done by my friend Jason Young who I’m sure would have been cast in this could-have-been fan made film.  Check it out!

the-phantom-vs-frankenstein-poster-done-by-jason-young

Speaking of Jason Young – before we get into the reviews of DC Comics first run of The Phantom, I want to share something very cool with you: my good friend Jason has started a comic review blog called “The Bewildering” for independent comics issue # 1’s he finds in .25 and $1.00 boxes at stores as well as conventions! And with his reviews, he breaks down the issues’ plots really well and will update about once a month.  It’s worth checking out if you enjoy your comics on the moldy side of the comic racks. Jason Young is a super talented dude as he is the owner of “Buyer Beware Comics” that puts out his bio comic called “Veggie Dog Saturn” among other titles. He is the co-owner of “Sparkle Comics” and its horror comic branch “Blood Scream Comics” and is working on a very cool comic called “Defenders Of The Planets” based on knock off He-Man toys from the 80’s! He also is co-host on the comic podcast called “Gutter Trash” with artist Eric Shonborn, not to mention he works at Mavericks Cards And Comics, a local shop that helps hook me up with comics for this blog! So in other words you are for sure in for a high quality good read with his blog, and I recommend that you check it out and show him some love.

jason-youngs-blog-logo

So now that we have taken a look at The Phantom from comic strip to an old never made fan made film that would have been directed by me, lets get to the main attraction here at Rotten Ink and that’s the comic book reviews! When choosing The Phantom as this update I had to think long and hard about what comic company I wanted to choose as many have tackled releases for The Phantom.  Most of the time I would just gone with Marvel Comics but decided to go with DC as the covers caught my attention more and looked like it could be a fun mini series.  Plus I feel like sometimes poor DC gets the short end of the stick here as I cover Marvel way more often. I want to thank Game Swap Kettering and Lone Star Comics for having these issues in stock to make this update possible and want to also say thank you again to the late great Lee Falk for creating this iconic character for all us comic readers to enjoy! And as always, I need to remind you that I grade these issues on a standard 1-4 star scale rating and am looking for how well the comic stays to the source material, its entertainment value and its art and story. So with that, let’s enter the Skull Cave and see what kind of adventure we can share with The Phantom!

dc-the-phantom-1

The Phantom # 1  ***
Released in 1988     Cover Price $1.25     DC Comics   # 1 of 4

A young boy named Kit Walker is writing in the journal in the Skull Cave as he is the next in line to be The Phantom, the ghost who cannot die.  He is talking about his fears and reads back to the first Phantom who watched as his father was killed by pirates and he himself washed ashore in Bangalla, Africa near death.  He was taken in by its tribe and found that if the world was going to get justice, it was by him becoming justice itself and becoming the first Phantom who wanted to protect his new home and get revenge on the pirates! Now Kit Walker is an adult and the 21st Phantom who along with his step-nephew Rex, wolf Devil and white horse Hero are called upon by the tribes people as some drug smugglers have kidnapped two of the patrol men and are waiting for the big drug transaction. As The Phantom rushes off to save his friends the patrol men, one who even is under his protection for saving his life some time back, Rex starts to read the history of The Phantom journal and learns that the 13th Phantom was tricked onto a pirate ship by a evil men named Chessmen and captured! In modern times, The Phantom arrives too late as one of the patrolmen is shot dead, and as he frees the other, he soon finds himself looking down the barrel of a gun of a hired gun of one of the original Chessmen who has always been told to kill The Phantom and his supporters!

Three Phantoms’ tales are woven together into this issue’s plot as we take a look at what sparked the 1st Phantom to take on the mantel of being the ghost of justice as well as follow the 13th on a set up mission and are in present day with the 21st who is battling relatives of enemies from the past! And while this might sound confusing, it’s really not and by all accounts is really well done and gives each of The Phantoms their own characters and own traits letting you get the feel that this is truly a mantel that is handed down from father to son over the decades. All three of the Phantoms are very strong-willed people who understand that evil in the world will prey and destroy the weak if someone does not watch out for them.  Each puts his life on the line to rescue the innocent and stomp out the evil that is running loose. Rex is a young man who while is not blood to current The Phantom, he is adopted into the legacy and feels very much connected to it all and wants to learn the history and family secrets to prepare for the day he is called upon to wear the purple costume of good. The pirates and captain are the villains of the story thus far and when they are not stealing or selling drugs, they are killing and have zero remorse for ending lives too soon.  One of them shoots a man in the head without a care all because he had the mark of The Phantom on him! And what’s really shocking is they show the aftermath of the gunshot with a body on the deck in a pool of blood; that’s pretty crazy for a comic based on a comic strip character. The only thing that kind of made this comic a hard read was that some of the lettering for the journal was written in cursive and at times it was hard to read as it felt piled up and a little sloppy. The cover is well done and has The Phantom doing what he does best and that’s beating up pirates! The art is great and is done by Joe Orlando who I think did a fantastic job of mixing the normal 80’s DC Comics style with a touch of Sunday Comics appeal. Over all I am very impressed with this first issue and really kick myself for waiting until 2017 to read this comic as younger me would have really enjoyed this back in 1988!

dc-the-phantom-2

The Phantom # 2  ***
Released in 1988     Cover Price $1.25     DC Comics   # 2 of 4

Rex is reading the history of The Phantom in the Skull Cave as The Phantom kicks into high gear and saves the remaining officer and takes down the captain and his men, but all he could get from the captain as who is his boss is the name Chessman because his own shipmate shoots and kills him before turning the gun on himself. The officer calls the colonel on the ship’s radio for back up and help as The Phantom slips into the jungle with anger and revenge on his mind as the name Chessman is attached to those who did his father wrong many moons back. After a few hours The Phantom contacts the colonel and finds that a man named Charles Chessman from New York is the prime suspect of being the head of the drug smugglers, so alongside Devil, The Phantom as Kit Walker boards a plane for New York to get his answers and justice…but soon finds that his American girlfriend Diana’s family are long time friends with Chessman! The Phantom heads to the office of Charles Chessman only to find himself under arrest! All the while young Rex is reading about the 13th Phantom and his struggle to break free from the pirates who sold him into slavery.

The Phantom once more shows why he is the man who cannot die when he beats up a boat full of pirates and heads to America to settle a score with a person connected with the torture of his father. While he is dealing with his want for revenge, his adopted nephew is learning the history of The Phantom. This issue feels like a great classic hero tale and adds in just enough violence, drama and modern settings to give it an appeal to readers who enjoy Batman, Superman and classic stuff like Dick Tracy and Flash Gordon. The Phantom is as heroic as he can be in this issue and saves not only the life of an officer but also a whole plane full of passengers and crew when a man tries to take it over and with one quick punch that threat comes to an end. Rex, like any young man, is wanting to learn all he can and prove that he could be very worthy of The Phantom legacy someday. The pirates and the captain are such scum that they even turn on each other when the odds are out of their favor.  The Captain has no spine and is about to squeal like a pig on who hired them before his own right hand man put a bullet to good use. Diana Palmer is a woman who clearly cares about her boyfriend The Phantom and understands his odd way of life, but her mother doesn’t like the relationship and thinks The Phantom is too creepy. Something that is working really well for this comic mini series is that like his father The Phantom is trying to get the revenge that his father was unable to dish out all those years back and this adds to not only the drama but also the action. The cover is pretty slick and holds a classic look and the interior art is done by Joe Orlando again and is fantastic.  Again, the only complaint I have is that some of the cursive lettering is hard to read in spots but that’s very minor and didn’t take away any of the enjoyment of the issue. So with issue two being as good as issue one, I cannot wait to see what issue three has in store for us the readers, and I wish I would have bought this series when I was a kid as I would have enjoyed it a lot.

dc-the-phantom-3

The Phantom # 3  ***
Released in 1988     Cover Price $1.25     DC Comics   # 3 of 4

The Phantom and Devil outsmart and out-maneuver the officers and as they go on a wild goose chase to track him down he slips back into the office of Chessman and beats him up and tells him he has a short time to turn himself over to the police and tell them the truth about his drug selling and stolen good ways or that he himself will be the judge, jury and executioner. After taking his leave, Diana comes to see Chessman and is upset over the fact that he beat up one of her friends who she thinks is truly a nice guy and decides to go on a dinner date with Chessman and has a terrible argument with The Phantom leaving the couple at odds and even possibly broken up. The Phantom goes out the night of the date and gets information on all of Chessman’s thugs.  Meanwhile, during dinner Chessman hires a hitman named Stryker to hunt down and kill The Phantom who is in turn now hunting down Chessman’s right hand man! All the while, we get flashbacks to the 13th Phantom who escapes his chains and goes on a hunt and kills the first of The Chessman brothers to send a message to the others that no one crosses justice and The Phantom.

This third issue ushers in the idea that The Phantom is now onto the man who has not only killed his friend and is pushing drugs but also is a relative of the evil men who pushed his father, the 13th Phantom near death’s door. And while trying to put a stop to the evil of this man he might lose his girlfriend as well as his life as now the hunter might just very well become the hunted. The Phantom is a man alone in New York as his own lady thinks he is on the wrong track, and this leaves him trying to fight this fight without her knowledge of the target, but at least he has Devil by his side and is kind enough to give Chessman a choice of turning himself in or become a body in the morgue. Diana is making a big mistake by thinking that her longtime family friend is a nice guy and not scum.  This leaves her also at the madman’s mercy as she is now at his house for dinner and he is desperate to rid the world of The Phantom.  I would not put it past him to use her as a human meat shield when the action goes down. Chessman is just so slimy and plays the role of a nice guy who really has a black selfish heart, and I can’t wait for him to get served some cold justice. Stryker is a mystery and looks like your typical mafia style hitman, and he could be a challenge for The Phantom once they meet! The story of the 13th Phantom from the past and the 21st Phantom’s paths are one in the same dealing with the same evil and crappy people The Chessman family is good story telling and writer Peter David is doing some amazing things to make The Phantom cool for comic readers of 1988 and beyond. The cover once more holds a classic look and captures the adventure style of the character and his legacy as again the art by Joe Orlando is top notch and amazing stuff. Once more this issue is as good as the other two so far and leaves the reader wanting more and wanting to see how the story ends in the next issue. So like The Phantom, let’s lurk into the shadows of your favorite place to read comics and see what happens next.

dc-the-phantom-4

The Phantom # 4  ***
Released in 1988     Cover Price $1.25     DC Comics   # 4 of 4

At dinner Diana overhears Chessman telling Stryker about his right hand man being busted by the cops thanks to The Phantom and that this spoiled a major drug deal for him.  Before she can get away, Chessman and Stryker take Diana hostage and want to use her as bait when they find out she knows him! The Phantom spends the next nights breaking up Chessman’s illegal operations but finally finds a message that Diana is in trouble and heads to Chessman’s house and into a trap. The Phantom sets Diana free but she is soon recaptured by Chessman who throws her into his car and hits the streets to get to his private plane.  While The Phantom and Devil make short work of Stryker, who, armed with a sniper rifle, hardly put up hardly before being knocked out. The Phantom watches as his enemy takes his true love away and borrows a police horse and tracks them down to bridge where traffic has come to a standstill and with a gun to her head Diana is forced to watch as Chessman and The Phantom have a showdown that leaves them both falling off the bridge. Chessman is in bad shape and rushed to the hospital but is suspected to live and will face charges for his drug empire.  The Phantom is thought to be dead until he shows up with Devil to Diana’s house and they patch things up and all ends well. We also see that the 13th Phantom also had an epic fight with the pirate Chessman brother that as well left them both falling off a mountain that they both died from, but this once more proved that the legacy of The Phantom would live forever.

This four issue mini series took us on an adventure that had us in the past and modern times as well as in the jungles of Africa and the slums of New York and pitted good vs. evil and justice against law breaker. The Phantom in this issue not only brings down many drug and gambling rings but also takes down a hitman as well as defeats a rich business man who is the ring leader of smugglers and has lived his life as a lie and gotten the support of many with his phony good guy persona. And most importantly, he also wins his girl’s heart back as well as keeps the legacy of The Phantom going and intact. The best part about The Phantom is that while he is super talented in hand to hand combat, he also uses his mind to really bring down those who are doing bad and wicked things. Devil is a loyal wolf and is a big help when it comes to fighting crime and is the best ally as he is threat with his razor sharp teeth! Rex learns lots about The Phantom legacy by going into the records, a place he is not meant to be, but a place it is known he would enter as all future Phantoms have interest in the past adventures. Diana Palmer is a woman who stands by her man…well that is until he beats up and points the figure at a rich family friend and then you turn on him and try and send him home until everything he said turns out to be true and he saves your life and then you fall back in love with him. Diana should have had faith in her superhero boyfriend as she clearly has a brain in her head. Stryker is all talk as he acts as if it would be easy to kill off The Phantom and when he gets his chance, he crumbles faster than a house of cards in a hurricane! The 13th Phantom in this series is a hero who is beaten, sold and near death but finds his inner power to get his revenge and to prove that his family legacy is not to be taken lightly. Charles Chessman is a man who has no morals and only cares about making money and getting his own fat out of the fire and would kill an innocent woman to get away, even after being given the chance to turn himself in he decides that he would rather not and try to kill his nemesis. He is much like the Chessman Pirate Brothers as his ego is what causes his downfall and leads him to a life in jail. The one thing that shocked me about this comic series was the fact that it shows not only blood but also a suicide and shows them both very gritty and this brings a more raw and natural feeling to it. The cover on this issue also is very well done and captures the heroic nature of The Phantom and adds the touch of mobsters and gritty city life to its appeal. The art is again done by the talented Joe Orlando and his work helped make this comic series even better of a read and added to the enjoyment of the sold story written by Peter David. Over all, if you enjoy classic hero tales that are filled with drama, action and a more realistic hero, then I suggest checking out this 4 issue mini series as I am glad that I did all these years after its newsstand run. Check out below to get a taste of the artwork from Joe Orlando and see just how good it is.

dc-the-phantom-art-1dc-the-phantom-art-2dc-the-phantom-art-3

Being a fan of The Phantom since a young age, it really is shocking that it took this long for me to read this mini series as to be honest I remember seeing it at comic shops in my teens and never pulled the trigger on buying the issues. I really think fans of such characters, as Batman, Dick Tracy, The Unknown Solider and Moon Knight should check out The Phantom if you have not already. With our next update, we are staying with DC and taking a look at one of the biggest events in comic history in my life time and one that some say brought the beginning of the end for the comic boom and I am of course talking about Doomsday: The Death Of Superman! So until next time, make sure to read a comic or three, read a novel or two and as always support your local Horror Host, and I will see you next update for Superman’s deadliest fight ever.

death-of-superman-bloody-shield-logo