The Undead Files: Bones

Growing up a comic reader in the 80’s and 90’s, the market was flooded with lots of options with many coming from the big companies like Marvel, DC and Archie, and during this time a powerhouse in the world of comics was Malibu! And like all good independent comic companies, they did a line of Horror Comics and even had some they mixed with humor.  For this Undead File, we will be taking a look at one of their more humorous offerings in a series called Bones! This weird comic series is one that has been in my life since 1987 when one of my Dad’s close friends bought my brother a stack of comic books for his birthday.  The first issue was in that pile, and it quickly became a comic that we both read and I became a fan of. And now in 2018 I am going to revisit that first issue and read the rest of the issues for the first time! So grab your anti zombie repellant as we head into the old bone yard and see what flesh eating ghouls we can find along the way.

First I want to give a crash course history lesson about Malibu comics before we get to all the spooky dead stuff, so sit back and enjoy. Malibu Comics was created in 1986 by Dave Olbrich, Tom Mason and Chris Ulm and was an independent comic company that was trying to get a foothold in the comic industry. They started very small with their releases being creator owned titles that were in black and white.  Their first release was Ex-Mutants with other titles like The Fist Of God, G.I. Mutants to follow, among many others. And very quickly they also gobbled up Eternity Comics, Aircel Comics and Adventure Publications and in 1989 those imprints did the Horror, Action, Drama and Adult Comics while Malibu was just for Superhero titles now. In 1992, Malibu was the company who published the first books from Image Comics and helped lead the fight against Marvel and DC that were dominating comic shops. Before 1993 Malibu had been releasing some great titles under all its imprints, but it was The Ultraverse line of comics that made them truly stand out by delivering cool new high quality hero characters like Prime, Night Man, Mantra and Sludge to readers.  They also upped their paper quality and used a great digital coloring process in order to make them stand out from their competition that now included Image Comics who became self published. Their Ultraverse comics did well for them, and many of the characters became popular with comic readers even getting the characters toys and in the case of Night Man, his own Live-Action TV Show! In 1994, they even opened up a branch called Rock-It Comics and did comic books based on popular bands like Black Sabbath, Pantara and Lita Ford.

But sadly the comic industry was in a decline due to the main two, DC and Marvel, pumping out gimmick filled releases of death of heroes, hologram & foil covers and all other types of cash grabs. Sadly comic buyers were limiting what comics they bought at the time and companies like Malibu suffered as readers dropped them from pull lists and still stayed with the comics of Marvel and DC. Malibu tried to stay afloat by cancelling lower selling titles. By mid 1994 DC Comics had shown interest in buying Malibu to own their characters as well as their coloring style, but by November of that year Marvel Comics stepped up and bought Malibu Comics and barely used the characters and had them mostly in crossover books before they disappeared shortly after 1996. Many rumors have went around comic shops on why Marvel does not use the characters anymore with much of the talk coming down to money as it’s said that for every Malibu title created now in comics, the creators of the characters get 5% of profits.  Other rumors that have been spoken are that the characters just do not fit in the currant Marvel plans all the way to the small hum that something is in the works with Malibu characters coming back to the Marvel Universe. With the character Topez showing up in Thor: Ragnarok, maybe there is hope. I would love to see Night Man in Daredevil comics, Prime join The Avengers and Prototype join sides with Iron Man.  Will this happen in the future? Well, that’s up to Disney and Marvel.

One of the world’s scariest places is said to be in the underground of Paris, France and houses over six million skeleton human bodies that many have been their sense the 1800’s! This place is called the Catacombs Of Paris and is a maze of tunnels with no lights that is filled with the dead and long maze like tunnels that easily a person could get lost in. Being lost in the catacombs I am sure is a nightmare for many of you and in fact this has even been the topic for some horror movies like “As Above So Below” and “Catacombs” showing that this area really is a scary place. In the early 1990’s an explore went into the catacombs armed with his video camera and shot all that he seen down in the tunnels that are forbidden for people to go into, while walking around he finds lots of rooms filled with bones and skulls and even some drawings on the walls from explores of the past. But during his time down their something seems to spook him and clearly as the tape goes on he is slowly building up to a panic as he realizes he is lost and the tape ends with him dropping the camera into some water on the ground and he runs off into the dark! So was this man truly in a state of fear that allowed him to make a terrible decision by leaving behind his camera that had the only source of light for him or was he being chased and possessed by the spirits of the dead? No one know for sure if this man ever made it out of the catacombs as his body nor he has ever been found. This lost explores video can be found on YouTube and aired on the ABC Family show The World’s Scariest Places”.

Zombie Cop is a 1991 shot on video film directed by J.R. Bookwalter that is a cheesy horror film that I really do think would make a great comic book series that mixes the elements of action, horror and camp. So for you readers that don’t know what this movie is about here is the write up from our friends at IMDB “During a drug raid, a narcotics officer confronts a strange Voodoo priest named Dr. Death, who is chanting. The officer and the priest shoot it out and they both wind up dead. Later, the two rise from their graves and return to the land of the living as zombies. Dr. Death is resurrected with a new mission in mind, to take over the world. The “zombie” cop enlists the aid of his old police buddies to stop the mad priest.” yeah it’s as cheesy and over the top as it sounds. My idea for this comic series would be that it would be set in modern times and Zombie Cop is still working for the side for good, but something wicked this way comes when a relative of Dr. Death shows up in town and wants revenge and raises demons to run amuck and take down Zombie Cop. The comic would have the odds against Zombie Cop and the demons would be very mean spirited and brutal in their killing ways and would be more gory than the film. If we did the book at Sparkle Comics I would say that for writer besides myself I would like to see Natalie Claude tackle it and if I had to choose an artist I would say Marc Gras Cotes or Jason Gilmore would be my choice. If another company was to tackle this I would like to see Rough House Publishing or a returning Fangoria Comics do it. Will Zombie Cop ever be a comic book…only time will tell.

Speaking of Horror Movies on April 15 2018 I held another Horror Movie Marathon at my cousins Stephen’s house that was filled with good food, great friends and lots of movie watching! The attendance was small but once more filled with fans who love Horror and love to be around friends and were Stephen Alexander, Theresa Daniels, Juliet Fromholt, Josh Weinberg, Jason Young, Jeremy Hoyt, Todd The Fox, Queen V, Sarah Sharp and Garrison Kane. As always we started this event at 7am with the first film being the 1945 film “The Vampire’s Ghost” that was about a Vampire in Africa that is the target of voodoo and Americans who are wise to his blood sucking ways. The low budget Horror Comedy “Swamphead” was next and about a cursed killing severed head that targets a group of friends out camping. The third film of the day was released by Dead Alive and was called “Mr. Ice Cream Man” about a murderous merchant of ice cream who targets a young man on his birthday. The 2016 film “The Crooked Man” took the fourth film spot and was about a nursery rhyme legend that is real that goes on a killing spree years after a young woman is charged with one of his past crimes is freed from an asylum. The werewolf film “Night Shadow” was next and was about a werewolf on a killing spree that leaves on family and the cops into a world of horror. The sixth thriller of the day was “The Headhunter” as 1989 release about a evil sprit brought on by voodoo on a killing spree in Florida and the two cops that have to stop it from claiming more heads for it’s trophies. “Sweatshop” was next and followed a massive brute in a wielders mask killing some party planers and goers during a warehouse rave. Next we had another Horror Comedy that was called “Bonejangles” that has a supernatural killer along with the cops who captured him being stuck in a small town that is being over taken by an evil witch and her undead minions, oh and did I mention Elissa Dowling stars as the witch! We needed to add some Italian Horror to the mix so “New York Ripper” was next up and is a slasher film about a duck-talking killer who targets women in the streets of the Big Apple. What would a Horror Movie Marathon be without a Fullmoon Entertainment film so I unleashed “Unlucky Charms” a film about a leprechaun and his magical friends being used by an aging model to drain the youth off models on a reality TV Show. Next up was the locally shot creature feature “Don’t F*** In The Woods” about a giant turtle like humanoid that kills any one foolish enough to make love in his woods. And our final film of the night was the 1976 Horror, Martial Arts and Gang movie called “The Devil’s Express” that has a New York kung-fu master taking on a Chinese demon freed in the subway tunnels by the foolish actions of on of his students. Over all another great all day Horror Movie watching marathon spent with good films, great friends and tasty eats.

Like always this was a super fun event and one that I always enjoy doing with friends! Like before I have chosen Stephen to give you his choice for the Golden Turkey of the day as well as his top three films as he was along for the horror ride from start to finish. Me being the host of the event and this fun little blog will go first and for me the Golden Turkey of the day had to go to Night Shadow as I found it to be a very boring and uneventful werewolf movie that sadly barely showed the beast until the very end, this one I had high hopes for and it just didn’t deliver a scary werewolf horror film. I also want to say that Swamphead almost made my Golden Turkey pick as it was really silly, but at least I chuckled a few times and that made it safe from getting the worst pick. The # 1 film of the event for me was New York Ripper as it’s a sleazy Italian Horror flick done by the godfather of gore Lucio Fulci and has a weird duck talking killer and plenty of nudity and gore to please fans of splatter. # 2 for me was The Vampire’s Ghost as I loved the mixture of voodoo and vampire and the African setting helped add to the over all mystery and thrill. I also really liked the bug eyed evil performance of Jon Abbott who played the vampire. My # 3 was a little harder to pick as I enjoyed many of the other films but I think I would have to go with Sweatshop as it was an over the top splatter film that had lots of brutal killings done to goofy raver kids. But to be fair Headhunter and Devil’s Express almost took this spot as all three were close in enjoyment for me and all for different reasons. For Stephen the Golden Turkey of the marathon was Swamphead as he had this to say about it “It was just completely ridiculous and there was so much that just made no sense.”! His # 1 film was The Vampire’s Ghost as he said this about it “I have an affinity for those old black and white horror films”. His # 2 was The Crooked Man as he almost was going to make it his number one. And his # 3 was Devil’s Express! And for a runner up he wanted me to let you readers know that it was New York Ripper. So with another Horror Movie Marathon in the books, I look forward to the next one as they really are a wondering time to be had.

The Golden Massacre award that is presented to the one killer who has the biggest body count of the day went to The Beast from the film Sweatshop as he smashed and crushed a little over 20 people in the movie! One of the best kills in the movie for this Horror fan was when The Beast rams a woman’s head through a metal grate on an elevator leaving her face looking like hamburger meat…really brutal. So here is to you The Beast for being the killing machine of this Horror Movie Marathon!

So now that the dead are all around use we should maybe find some shelter in this old tomb and hope that all the old undead that use to live here are out trying to find some human flesh to eat. So as we close this rusted old door I would like to thank Game Swap Kettering and Lone Star Comics for having these issues in stock and making this update possible. As the sounds of the dead echo off these stone walls I want to also remind you all 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, it’s entertainment value and it’s art and story. So lets take a look at the Undead Files and take a look at Bones!

Bones # 1  ***
Released in 1987      Cover Price $1.95      Malibu Comics      # 1 of 4

Seymour was an advisor to the King of Myrill and was well respected and loved his pampered life. The Kingdom was set as they had technology, food and peace, all was perfect…that is until the King died and with this his loyal soldiers and Seymour were murdered and placed in the tomb with him. Years pass and Seymour wakes up in the tomb rotting and yet alive and surrounded by The King and his Men who as well are rotting and they all have a hunger for human flesh! But things soon get bad for Seymour as he is picked on and bullied by his fellow undead in the tomb and finally decides that he has had enough and walks out of the tomb for good and into the Kingdom that is now in ruin and ran by Trolls! After being caught and beheaded by the Troll King, our skeleton hero as only a head pieces a new bottom together from bones in a body pit and is able to escape the Trolls but during his escape falls into a water well and washes up on shore and found by two young alive children.

This first issue starts off with a bang as we have Seymour’s skull flying through the air and landing in a massive body pit. From their we are treated to his back story of being a man who had the respect of his King and the Kingdom’s people, to becoming an Undead Ghoul who is teased and bullied to becoming a Skeleton on a mission to live and make his own way in the world of chaos around him. And reading this comic again after all these years, I found it still as enjoyable and still as brutal in spots as I did back then with the most gruesome scene being when the guards spear and kill Seymour in order to bury him with the King. Seymour as a man and undead is a peaceful man who enjoys to write plays, poems and stories and is wise and smart when coming to dealing with other people. But because he is such a good guy also makes him an easy target to be bullied by those who are stronger than him, but during this first issue we see him not only use his mind to survive but also his killer instinct as he takes out his anger on two sarcastic skulls stuck in the pit with him using a large rock. Plus at the end of this issue it makes you wonder what adventure awaits Seymour and will he eat the kids that find him to stop his hunger. The King and his Men are just undead ghouls now who just want to eat flesh and stay hidden in the tomb and play cruel pranks on Seymour. The Trolls are large, fat foul creatures who are lazy and as well like to kill the living and anything else including their own kind! Plus they are simple minded and that’s why Seymour is able to trick them and escape their Kingdom. The cover for this comic is very eye catching and I love the fact our hero is pounding on a tomb door for his life as a shadow of a Troll is sneaking up behind him. The interior art is also fantastic and is the style I love for independent Horror Comics of that time and is done by Bryon Carson who I would have love seen do a few comics based on Horror Movies. So to sum it up issue one of Bones is fantastic and really makes me look forward to reading the next issue, and whats cool is this will be the first time I have read the rest of this series!

Bones # 2  **1/2
Released in 1987      Cover Price $1.95      Malibu Comics      # 2 of 4

Seymour awakens and is hungry and wants to scare and eat the kids, but he soon finds out these kids are brats and they rip him apart and fling his skull into a hot water gauzier firing him our like a cannon ball and through the window of Ursula who works for the Boy King Drake in the Kingdom of Spontoon and after Seymour and her chat she takes the skull to the King and his Knight Maddog who want to know the location of Myrill as they want to steal all the gold that has been left behind. Maddog bullies both Seymour and Ursula until he gets the location and after doing so he and his men set out to bring back the riches and Seymour tells Ursula that he has sent them on a death mission as the suns heat and the goblins that await them will for sure end Maddog and his men’s lives. Ursula tells Seymour about the murder of the prior King and that he was beheaded and she thinks Maddog was the murder! Seymour then tries to get Ursula to be on his side to take over the Kingdom and his plan includes killing the Boy King and she does not want to have anything to do with it and plans to smash Seymour with a hammer when Maddog enters the room with an arrow in his forehead and looking for answers to why he was backstabbed.

This second issue has Seymour once more being the victim of bulling as two youngsters rip him apart and torment him for their own amusement. And after this torment he at least finds himself in a Kingdom with what he thinks is a new friend. In this issue Seymour is really loosing his human side as he really wants to eat humans and is going through a weird power hungry rage as he thinks that he should have taken the thrown at least once in his lifetime. I also like that in this issue he uses his mind in order to try and get ride of the King’s right hand man who has also has a very dark side. Ursula is a woman who practices necromancy for the Kingdom who is very bored in her job and hates most of the people in power as she thinks they are the ones who beheaded and murdered the former King. Sadly for her the scheme of Seymour has put a target on her back as the Knights think she was apart of their slaughter. The Child King Drake as well seems bored with being in charge and just wants toys and ponies! The real evil s.o.b in this issue is the head night named Maddog who is calling the shots more than the King and who uses intimidation and death to get what he wants, and he is so strong that even an arrow to the head does not stop him! This issue leaves us on a major cliffhanger as well as Ursula is about to smash Seymour and Maddog has returned and is in a clear rage….wonder who will survive and what will be left of them! The cover of this issue is ok and is nothing special and looks like a number of other independent comic covers that are filling quarter and dollar bins the would wide. Bryon Carson once more does the interior art and it’s as good as the first issue and I must say I enjoy his work. Well this second issue is a solid follow up and proves this series has gas in its tank and makes me look forward to reading issue three.

Bones # 3  **
Released in 1987      Cover Price $1.95      Malibu Comics      # 3 of 4

Maddog is not pleased and wants to kill both Seymour and Ursula and his blind rage is making him charge like a bull, and Ursula uses a spell and makes a T-Rex appear to distract the mad knight. But the T-Rex does not slowdown Maddog who attacks the beats and rips it apart with his bare hands and Ursula pulls a trap door switch that causes her and Seymour to fall into a bottomless pit. The Pair fall for days and finally find that the pit is not so bottomless as they land in a village filled with simpleminded people who believe that they are Gods that have fallen from the sky. Old Coot is their King and he has Seymour and Ursula locked into a hut, were Seymour comes up with a plan to rule the village and build his own empire! In the morning as Seymour speaks one on one with the villagers telling them that they are all now soldiers and not farmers, Ursula goes to Old Coot to try and warn him of the uprising, but the old King admits he don’t care as he himself only uses the villagers for his own gain and as they talk Old Coot is crushed by a fallen horse that is ridden by Maddog who has lead his army into the bottomless pit to get revenge on Seymour and Ursula! The Knights kill most of the villagers and take Ursula prisoner and football kick Seymour into the ocean.

This third issue is a weird one…wait this whole series is weird this one is just a little more odd as the plot is Seymour and Ursula falling throw a pit and landing in a weird village that thinks they are Gods that ends up being under attack from Maddog and his knights who want to take over the village and get cold revenge. Seymour in this issue is more and more power driven as he lies in order to gain power and wants to cause a war and eat human flesh! Seymour has slowly turned more and more evil over the past issues and it’s clear that while he likes Ursula he would turn on her if she got in his way. While Ursula is a good person who is a bad Necromancer and has been stuck in bad situations cause of all the ego driven power of Seymour. King Old Coot is a weird and yet wise man who has himself used his people to make his own life better, very cool and odd character. Maddog is one mean knight who is willing to fling himself and his men into a believed to be bottomless pit in order to get revenge on people who set him up to die, oh yeah and he uses his bare hands to kill a T-Rex! This issue slips a little and is not as horror and comedy filled as it seems more like a comic that had a little more of a message about peoples will to follow something. I do like that this issue leaves you on a cliffhanger as Seymour has been kicked out to sea, Ursula is a prisoner and could be killed by Maddog who has now taken over the village and claims it for his own! The cover of this issue is a little weak and once more screams cheap bin, the interior art by Bryon Carson is solid and good and to sum this one up its middle of the road a good issue but nothing special. So lets move onto the fourth and final issue of this cool Malibu Comic series.

Bones # 4  **1/2
Released in 1987      Cover Price $1.95      Malibu Comics      # 4 of 4

Seymour’s head is eaten by a giant whale and while inside the belly of the beast he meets the skeleton heads of a pirate ship crew as well as see’s their ship and their Captain Long John Ugly who is mean but is quickly smashed by Seymour who finds a new body in the whale and now Seymour is the Captain and he comes up with a plan that frees him and his new ship and crew from the Whale. Seymour is filled with power and rage and wants his new undead pirate crew to help him get revenge on all those who he thinks have wronged him like Maddog, The King, Ursula and the Trolls and while heading their way they come across a small boat that is filled with wise and spiritual men who are all slaughtered by the word of Seymour who in turn feels bad for what he has done and this makes his crew kill him…and this time Seymour is dead and wakes up in Hell! He soon finds that he is on trail for all of the crimes he has done while undead and his being trashed by all those he has killed with the now dead Ursula being the only one to defend him. In the end Seymour defends himself and as this is only his first offense is sent to ghoul training and will allowed to go back to his Undead world, were he will be a better scary creature of the grave.

This final issue in the journey in the life and undead life of Seymour takes us from him building an army of dead skeleton pirates to being killed again and being put in the hot seat while being judged in Hell and while it was a cool idea with some cool moments sadly the send of Bones is a little of a letdown. Now let me explain why I feel this way during this four issue mini series we watch as Seymour was the most trusted right hand man of the King, then in death becomes a victim of bullies who then turns into a power hungry skeleton who wants to be a ruler who later feels bad for all the mayhem he has caused only by the end to be right back to being a power hungry goofy ball flesh eater…so while the character grew in the end it all was really the same for him. I really did like how in this issue all of the people/creatures he killed or lead to be killed all come back to share their story of how terrible he is so the likes of King Old Coot, Captain Long John Ugly and Ursula to name a few are all in Hell at his trail and it made for a great way to cameo all the characters from the past issues. Seymour while kind of a jerk in much of this series still is in his own way a likable main character who does do bad things that ends up hurting himself and others, but seems to really feel bad when he is faced with the horrors he has done…well that is until he is told he will get another chance. Seymour really is a character you find yourself loving and hating at the same time and that perfect for an undead skeleton who’s the star of a horror comedy comic. Ursula the poor Necromancer who meets her fate at the hands of the Knight Maddog is swept up into this twisted web of goofy horror thanks to Seymour and its kind of a letdown as your not really sure how she died. The Skeleton Pirates are a cool touch and were in this comic long before they became cool again in Independent Comics with Captain Long John Ugly and his dead parrot being the standouts. So while this series ends it clear that maybe another mini series might have been in the works as the ending is very lackluster and ends on a “Here We Go Again” kind of joke…pretty disappointing really. The cover for this issue is fun and pretty eye catching with the use of the color orange, and the interior art done by Bryon Carson is good stuff. So while the final two issues in Bones are just ok the first two issues are lots of fun making this a Horror Comedy Comic that I would recommend to fans of this style of humor and indie comics. Check out the art below to see the style of Bryon Carson as well as the glory of Seymour and his friends.

So it seems like the dead are starting to return to their graves and I really had fun looking back at Bones and reading some of the issues for the first time on this update. While doing this update I really did find myself missing Malibu Comics as they did so many great comics from Horror all the way to Superheroes and offered something different from Marvel and DC, but with Marvel owning them and not doing anything with them for many, many years we can only hope that they decide to someday bring the characters back to comics. But for our next update we are leaving the world of the dead behind and will again try to travel to space with Juliet as she takes a look at Forbidden Planet! So until next time read a independent comic or three, watch a movie or two and as always support your local Horror Host. Hope your ready for a space time adventure my next update!

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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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