Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Review: The Phantom- The Complete Series: The Charlton Years: Vol. 1


Mike The Fanboyable

Charlton Comics was the now long-gone company that gave us such cult-classic characters like Captain Atom, Blue Beetle, The Question, The Peacemaker, Nightshade, and Thunderbolt. All of these characters would eventually be bought by DC Comics, and then Alan Moore would use them as models for the main characters in his graphic novel "Watchmen". So, in short, it could be said Charlton Comics is partly responsible for the creation of Watchmen.

Ah, but Charlton is also known for something else; they published original adventures for Lee Falk's costumed crusader of the jungle, The Phantom, during the period of The Bronze Age of Comics. The first nine issues of this series, which ran from 1969 to 1977, are collected for the first time in the hardcover edition of "The Phantom- The Complete Series: The Charlton Years: Vol. 1", published by Hermes Press.

The yarns featured in this volume stay very much within the tradition of engaging The Ghost Who Walks in perilous, cliff-hanging jungle adventures, much as it had been established in the original comic strips. In one story, we see The Phantom taking on a cult called The Ghost Tribe, who intend to take over the Bengali Jungle. Another story has our hero tracking a friend of his to the fabled city of Shang-Ri-La. There's also an adventure involving a vengeful mad man who intends to control killer apes to kill The Ghost Who Walks.

For good measure, we also see The Phantom trying to uncover the secret of The Pharaoh-Phantom, who claims to be the one true Phantom.

The writers included in this edition are Dick Wood and Norm DiPlum, while artists are Pat Boyette, Don Perlin, Bill Lignante, and Jim Aparo, who does the majority of the artwork in this volume, and is probably the best reason why to purchase this book. Most fans are probably most familiar with Aparo's work on the Batman titles, but before he graced The Dark Knight's pages, it was with The Ghost Who Walks where Aparo first displayed elegant style of drawing a realistic version of a fantasy hero. Those who loved his Batman, should enjoy his Phantom as well.

I personally would put Jim Aparo's rendition of The Phantom on par with those of classic Phantom artists like Ray Moore, Sy Barry, and Paul Ryan. Hence, this is a must for Phantom and Jim Aparo fans. For those who came in late, this is not a bad place to start.

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