Saturday, March 2, 2024

The Phantom - The Charlton Years Volume Two!

The Phantom - The Charlton Years Volume Two introduces us to the artist who actually drew more stories for Charlton's Phantom run than anyone else, Pat Boyette. Boyette had already done one story during Aparo's run, but now he takes over the reins and steadily produces three short tales for each issue of the series. The introduction by Don Mangus takes time to fill readers in Boyette's elaborate career not only as a comic artist, but as a movie maker, radio personality and more. This tome has special meaning to me and the Dojo in that it contains a quote from yours truly concerning the sales of the Phantom in these years and how it was Charlton's top performing comic. "I found some numbers for Phantom, and it said it was far and away the best-selling book for Charlton in 1969 with over 190,000 in sales. The next closest books were the war books, and they were in the 150.000 range, so Phantom had to be seen as a bonafide bonanza when it hit."  It was quite a thrill to be reading this when it arrived and suddenly see my own name in print. I remember startling my beloved wife when I gasped seeing the quote. 

"A Small War" sees the Phantom ambushed and then hypnotized by a villain named Pruitt who then uses his skills to gain a measure of control over a local tribe and turn them into his private army. "Canyon of Death" has the Phantom help two chaps who rush to assist downed pilots of a plane shot down in a remote canyon in Bangalla. Their quest is made all the more deadly by the men who shot down the plane to get its treasure of gold. "The Silent Thieves" are a deadly gang of pirates who use a submarine to slip away after their lethal land raids. The Phantom is able to find out their secret base and stop them. 

"The Ritual" brings back memories of Robin Hood and Little John as the Phantom must confront the large representative of the Mobika tribe battling to earn the right to cross a log bridge. "The False Mark" pits the Bandar against the Phantom when it looks like the Ghost Who Walks is killing members of the tribe. His distinctive mark is on all the victims. But the secret is even stranger as the Phantom barely escapes death. "The Second Phantom" is the ghost of a young woman's father who disappeared into the jungle when she was very young and now an adult, she travels to the Deep Woods to try to find him with the Phantom's help. 

"Slave of Beauty" is a strange one as an ancient queen rises from her tomb and compels the Phantom to help her gather workers to help uncover more tombs and temples so that she can once again rule the lands. There is a lot of story packed into a few pages. In "The Idol" the Phantom heads to London to retrieve a stolen icon, an idol which might have taken its own revenge on the man who stole it. "Deadly Foe" has the Phantom confront a plague which seems to be the result of the experiments of a man named Niffo. We are reminded of another Phantom who years before died saving folks from a deadly plague. This is a strange one with a plot twist I'm not sure I understand. 

"The Keeper of the Herd" has the Phantom doing his best to protect a herd of magnificent elephants from the clutches of Ramajahn who tries to use the herd to crush the Phantom at one point. "...Who Needs Enemies?" tells our the fabulously rich E.R.Randall is saved from certain death after a snake bite and wishes to use his wealth to express his appreciation. But his gifts interrupt the normal lifestyles of the natives much to the chagrin of the Phantom. "Prey of the Hunter" gives us a version of "The Most Dangerous Game" when the Phantom finds himself being hunted by Hugo Lusk and his henchmen. The Phantom is dropped into a strange bowl of a canyon with no outlet for the chase. Strangely, the Phantom's horse is named "Flash" in these stories. 

"Test of an Idol" has the Phantom confronted with a new menace, the romantic advances of the actress Iris Benton when a film crew comes to the jungle to make a movie. The Phantom seems a bit out of character in this one as he responds to her, or at least seems to want to. No mention is made of Diana Palmer. "Paid in Full" has the Phantom confronted with an Englishman named Edward Cowper Smythe who claims the Phantom owes him one million pounds. It relates to events concerning both men's ancestors. The Phantom takes Smythe on a tour of the deadly jungle and all is forgiven when he's helped by a hospital apparently paid for by the money. "The Rain Stopper" is a medicine man named Medguli who brings a drought to the Bengali jungle and who works in cahoots with a man named Professor Harrch to gain control of the weather. The Phantom's horse gets his name back in at least one of these stories which are presumed to have been written by Joe Gill, but it's uncertain. 

"To Right a Wrong" sees the Phantom pursue a daring thief and would-be murderer Acmid Raz after the latter steals some jewels from a temple. This one has a good build-up, but the finale is compressed because of a lack of pages. "Danger in Bengali" features Diana Palmer who is kidnapped by a man impersonating the Phantom. It's full-tilt derring-do as our purple hero rides an airplane to get the woman he loves. "Death from Far Away!" pits the Phantom against a witch doctor named Zulanga who gets his revenge by poisoning the Skull Cave and seemingly killing the Phantom. But they don't call him the Ghost Who Walks for nothing. These are pretty good, but a number of stories in this issue and before really demystify the Deep Woods and the Skull Cave. It seems all sorts of people are finding it with relative ease. 

"Return of the Ruby" has the Phantom attempting to retrieve yet another stolen gem, this one taken a century before from his ancestor. The only rub is the woman who now owns it, assumes she has a legal claim to the stone. "The Phantom and John Paul Jones" delivers what you'd expect. The Phantom from the 18th Century is fighting pirates in Tripoli when he's taken as a slave aboard a ship which is then attacked by the famous Captain John Paul Jones. "The Cave of Kings" is a deadly misadventure as a tribe attempts to get hold of another tribe's treasures hidden among their esteemed dead. When a friend of the Phantom and king dies, it's an opportunity to find the hidden location and steal. This one is a little confusing to be honest. 

The forty-sixth issue of The Phantom has a cover that's a bit different in that its image represents two different adventures in the issue. The first is titled "The Last of the Cat" and has the Phantom battle a man named Felix Cattmann who is aided by the strangely-garbed Leopardmen. Cattmann imitates the Phantom to get hold of Diana, but his scheme is not without flaws when his volcanic hideout proves unstable. "The Vanishing Thieves!" is the second and pits the Phantom against a creature called Piranna, who enters the Skull Cave through an unknown watery passage. The Phantom gives chase through the aquatic pathway to the Piranna's lair. "Nest of the Man-Eaters!" sees the Phantom working hard to save the young girl who has been taken hostage by raiders and taken to a high mountain lair. The Phantom employs an airplane to reach the area. 

"The False Skull Cave" kicks off the last issue in this collection. A treacherous man named Busas using air surveillance and a small tank to get access to the Skull Cave and the treasures he imagines to be there, but the Phantom is unconcerned since he suggests that Busas cannot find his way out of the Deep Woods. "Soundless Voices!" has yet another guy attempt to imitate the Phantom, this time after seemingly killing him off by dumping him in a lake. The Phantom of course rises and weirdly uses whale songs to stop his enemy. "The Vapors of Vulcan" wraps up this issue and in yet another volcano (there are lots of volcanos in Benaglla it seems) strange men kidnap the Phantom and take him to their queen named Brilla. The odd green creatures are not explained and are soon killed by Brilla. She wants the Phantom to stay with her and rule by her side, but he chooses to escape before a diamond door closes off the kingdom for another century. This one has echoes of She by H. Ridger Haggard as well as The Mole People. 

There are some dandy and highly imaginative stories in these comics. Some are ideal at the average seven-page length, but more than few scream out for more pages to develop stories that end abruptly. Clearly the three-story-an-issue thing was an editorial mandate, but I don't know if it was because of Charlton's editor, or a condition laid down by King Features. Whatever the case, it does seem to make all the stories feel a little like back-ups. Nevertheless, the artwork by Boyette appeals to me, even when he gets some things off model by a good margin. His Diana Palmer is suspect and changes. 

But she improves with future issues. More Boyette next time as the Charlton run continues. 

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  1. I really liked the Texan's comic work, especially his horror stories. What a varied career he had, which I presume you'll be covering.

    1. Actually, the focus this time around is on the Phantom. But click on Pat Boyette's name in the labels and you will find I've covered him quite a bit here. He was a fabulous talent.