Saturday, February 23, 2013
Phantom Of The Phuture!
Wandering through a discount retail store last week just browsing, I stumbled across an intriguing display of vintage DVDs. Almost immediately I spied a copy of Phantom 2040 "The Ghost Who Walks". This is a feature-length version of the 1990's cartoon show, the first five episodes melded together.
This is one of the better and more imaginative variations on Lee Falk's classic hero. Set obviously in the future, the Phantom dynasty is almost sundered by the murder of the 23rd Phantom when he tries to stop a madman industrialist named Maxwell Madison from destroying Earth's eco-system. His son grows up unaware of his heritage but is brought into the know by Guran and his aunt Heloise. He quickly enough ends up battling Rebecca Madison, the widow of his father's murderer and her son Maxwell Jr. and her henchman Graft, as they seek to follow through on the mad schemes of the elder Madison.
Removed from his classic African setting, this Phantom is a sleek post-modern hero who has lots of high-tech equipment to wage his battle for justice in Metropia, a typical future environment where the people are hypnotized by technological entertainment and suffer from all manner of subtle mind control. Robots called "Biots" are ubiquitous and often are pitted against the Phantom. It is this basic conflict, between the natural world and the technological one which forms the primary tension in the series. The suggestion is that by being torn from his natural connection with the world, man has become poisoned in a manner of speaking. It is the purpose of the Phantom to reform that connection and achieve a proper balance between nature and technology. As he says in the movie's last line "The world is his jungle".
This above average cartoon was engaging during its initial run. The character designs are by the same talents who sprung Aeon Flux on the world and while they seem a tad quaint today, certainly weren't so in the early 90's. The animation seems a bit underwhelming, looming larger my memory than in reality. But it's still an engaging experience with some offbeat sequences.
The series was adapted to comics by Marvel of all folks. They tapped the great Steve Ditko to pencil the four issues. Here's a look at the covers.
Here's a glimpse of Ditko's rendition of the futuristic Phantom.
This Phantom succeeded, at least in my mind because while they changed up the background, they did not tamper with his desire to battle for justice. He is still an admirable man who is trying to find a way to make his world better by standing up for those who need his help. In the case of this Phantom, it just happens to be the whole planet which needs his help.