Thursday, August 6, 2020

King Comics - The Phantom!

Of all of the King Comics hero books, The Phantom was arguably the most consistent. That consistency didn't necessarily rise to greatness, but there was a modicum of quality issue in and issue out. The reason was artist Bill Lignante, a seasoned talent who had broached the Phantom on the strip itself after the passing of Wilson McCoy. When it was decided Sy Barry would take the helm of the venerable strip Lignanted was shifted over to the comics. The comic books were then being published by Gold Key and underneath outstanding dramatic covers by George Wilson Linante's efforts were quite good.

That diminished somewhat over time and by the eighteenth issue, the first of the King Comics issues, the work was decent but hardly stunning. The Phantom had been involved in a range of stories at Gold Key, but it seems with his arrival at King the stories took on a smaller scope with nearly everything happening in or around the Deep Woods.

There are of course some exceptions, but the Phantom of the King Comics era spent his time battling river pirates and smugglers and such and sadly few of these villains were all that memorable.

One truly memorable aspect of the King Comics run was the debut in comic book form of the "The Girl Phantom". This was a rather silly story at its heart, but certainly one that made attempts to broaden the demographics of the strip. The Phantom of an earlier time had a sister named Julie and when he was wounded for a protracted time she took it upon herself to put on the mantle and act in his place despite the basic fact that no one ever thought she was actually the Phantom.

One thing about the King year of 1966 was the new cover regime. Art was repurposed for the covers, sometimes quite effectively as seen above and in the several covers just below.

But despite the deft handling, the amazing drama of George Wilson's paintings was really missing from the total package.

As with all of the runs from King, the wheels slowly felt like they were coming off a bit as sales ended up putting the series into the famous plastic bags three a time.

But still and all good stuff was being produced such as my favorite Phantom cover from the run seen above.

The Phantom was never bad in any real sense while King Features guided its destiny, but alas neither did it rise up and distinguish itself in any particular way.

These are good Phantom stories, perfectly fine, but not great ones for the most part. That would come later of all places at Charlton Comics.

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