Wednesday, January 7, 2015
The Phantom Is Real?
It occurred to me to the other day that of all the "superheroes" which have been created over the past many decades, that of all of them, the earliest, The Phantom created by Lee Falk in 1936, might well be the only one who could actually be real.
What I mean to say is that aside from a few fantastical elements such as the Isle of Eden, all of which could be brushed off with no damage to the core concept, the Phantom as created could actually exist. The suspension of disbelief is necessary for all superheroes to lesser and greater extents. Batman needs a little and Superman needs a lot, but all of them require a little. Any fundamentally romantic view of the world demands some of that to make it work. The Phantom does too, but not all that much as it turns out.
There is nothing truly supernatural about The Ghost Who Walks, there is nothing super-scientific about the tools he uses. He doesn't talk to animals aside from his horse and his wolf, and that stays pretty realistic most of the time.
The key element though which makes it just barely possible for the Phantom to really be is his location in the heart of a continent which even today with modern communications and reasonably ready travel remains for the Western world a bit of a mystery. Though far more unlikely than eighty years ago, it's just imaginable that such a thing as the Phantom might exist without becoming a celebrity.
He operates almost always alone, usually in secret, and when he leaves the confines of he jungle he travels with an appearance that is slightly antique but not bizarre. He could be among us now, and we'd never really know.
I realize there is no Bangalla, I realize that with all the hundreds of adventures the Phantom has had which have been recorded it is unlikely he'd not be better known, but given the limits of imagination in the news media in general, I'd say it would easier for him to remain hidden now amidst all the noise than ever before. Some joker somewhere might capture him on a cellphone image, but how likely is it that picture would catch the attention of a world fascinated with musical cats, startled prairie dogs, and Kim Kardashian's keister.
Now don't think for a moment I imagine the Phantom to be real. But unlike Flash Gordon who requires an inhabited alien world, Mandrake who requires magic and unheard-of hypnotic powers, the Phantom might could be. The notion that a family might make a trade of heroism is not that far removed from those families who generation after generation ply their trades on high wires, fireworks shows, and the mob. The idea of following in Daddy's footsteps is a most common event.
But even if he doesn't exist, it's neat to think he could. We sure could use him.