I am pleased to present a series of short stories describing the first time we read The Phantom.
This third installment has been written by "The Ghost Who Blogs" himself, Aaron Bias. If you want to share the memories of your "First Phantom" with the readers of this blog, please contact me.
What was my first Phantom? That's actually a difficult question. You see, unlike Jermayn and Pidde, I grew up in the U.S.- the point of origin for The Phantom, but ironically a country where The Ghost Who Walks is overshadowed by his progeny.
My first memory of even seeing The Phantom was in a book I checked out of my local library as a kid. The book was "Draw 50 Famous Cartoons" by Lee J. Ames. I was mostly interested in learning how to draw Scooby Doo. I was also fascinated by the drawing of Flash Gordon, who I knew from the Filmation cartoons on Saturdays and the Dino DeLaurentiis film my dad had taken me to. Who was this Phantom guy? He sure looked cool.
You have to understand, at this point even Charlton had stopped publishing a Phantom comic (the only comic book I read regularly at the age of 7 was Chip 'N' Dale) and our local newspaper didn't run The Phantom. I remember being 7 and trying to draw The Phantom, laying on my stomach on the TV room floor, fat pencil in hand, carefully trying to draw the shapes on my drawing tablet. My mom was an art teacher and always encouraged me to draw and paint. I decided pretty early on that I wanted to do comics.
Flash forward a few years: One day last year I was reading a new blog. The blog was Gold Key Comics by Mykal Banta. Mykal had been posting complete scans of single issues of various titles by the now defunct but beloved Gold Key Comics (I was a HUGE fan of Turok, Son of Stone when I was 10). Mykal posted The Phantom # 8, "The Belt," drawn by Bill Lignante. The Belt had a story that was just perfect. The Phantom hears through the grapevine that some former pirates have an island where they run a semi-legitimate gambling operation. And the head pirate has a very peculiar trophy hanging framed on his office wall- a gunbelt and brace opf pistols worn by The Phantom! Seems the pirate managed to gain The Phantom's confidence enough to stab him in the back. Of course, that was the previous Phantom, the current Phantom's father. The pirates believe they are safe from the Phantom, because he's obviously dead. The current Phantom decides to disabuse them of their erroneous belief. It was a great story! And I was really excited by Bill Lignante's artwork. Lignante has a peculiar inking style that reminds me of old, copperplate engravings. And let's not forget the dynamic, painted cover by the late George Wilson, a true master of cover illustration. Could I have been missing out on a great comic all these years? I read a few vintage, Charlton Phantom comics on another blog, Diversions of the Groovy Kind. I was sold!
So, What was my first Phantom? I can't really decide if it was Gold Key issue #8 "The Belt" or if... for the sake of nostalgia... it was really Draw 50 Famous Cartoons by Lee J. Ames. The 7-year-old boy who wanted to be an artist says it was probably the latter. I'll let you all know which one I've chosen, as well as relate the rest of my encounters with The Ghost Who Walks over the years over at my blog "The Ghost Who Blogs".
Aaron Bias is a sometime, freelance - illustrator and full-time stay-at-home-dad. His work has appeared in newspaper advertisements and on toy packages. He has a wonderful wife and two beautiful sons. In addition to being the author of the comics blogs "Silver Age Gold" and "The Ghost Who Blogs" as well as "Refrigerator Art: The Online Sketchbook of Aaron Bias", Aaron conducts a monthly comics chat on comicschatcast.com. Aaron and his family currently live in Columbus, OH.