Monday, May 17, 2010

My First Phantom [4]

I am pleased to present a series of short stories describing the first time we read The Phantom.
This fourth installment has been written by Indrajal Comics Super-Phan, Ranjan Dutta.  If you want to share the memories of your "First Phantom" with the readers of this blog, please contact me.
The memories of my early school days are always sweet and become even sweeter when it comes to the time when I read My First Phantom.

I was only eight years old, then. One day, in my classroom, I witnessed a group of boys forcing another kid out of his seat. The poor outcast was left with no other choice than coming to sit right beside me. He was very angry with those boys, he grumbled and complained. After a few minutes, speaking in a really low voice, he said, “Do you know I can defeat those stupid boys in a second?

“Oh... - I replied in surprise - ...can you..?”

“Yes I can! - he said - But I don’t want to show them my powers, here in the classroom.- Then he added - I know Judo and Karate and I read The Phantom. That’s the way I became powerful.” Then,  he flexed his biceps...

At the time I didn't know much about Judo and Karate, and it was first time I ever heard about The Phantom.

So, I asked him, “Who is The Phantom?”

“Oh! You don’t know who The Phantom is? - He replied in surprise- The Phantom is The Masked Man of the Jungle! He's The Ghost Who Walks!" Then he told me much more about this mysterious man.

For some reason,  right then and there, his story didn't appeal much to me.

Later, that afternoon, I was playing in front of my house with some  friends when I saw him again standing outside his house. He looked at me, ran into his house and came back out, immediately, holding in his hands two comic books.

That was the first time I saw some Phantom comics. They were The Mystery of the Veiled Lady  by Lee Falk and Sy Barry (Indrajal #41, 1 May 1967)  and “The Great Riddle” by Lee Falk and Bill Lignante (Indrajal # 54, 1 Nov 1967).

“Take them... -  he said - ... and you will know who The Phantom is.”

I ran into my house; showed the comics to my elder brother, and we read them together.

We read “The Great Riddle” first. It talked about a female Phantom and a witch who had kidnapped a girl. The old witch spoke about a riddle which, at the time,  I didn’t completely understand. Nonetheless,  I enjoyed how brave and smart  The Phantom came across in the story.

The second story was marvelous and it is still my all time favorite. Inside a volcano called Veiled Lady, lived some big bugs, 12  feet butterflies, praying mantis as big as horses and many other incredible creatures. The Phantom was there to rescue a professor and her assistant. I can still remember a huge frog with its huge tongue trying to swallow the assistant and  The Phantom killing it with his gun. At the end of the story they safely came out of the volcano right before it violently erupted. Reading that story was a wonderful experience for me that I'll  never forget.

Then I realized the masked the man was very smart, strong and intelligent, and above all he was very brave. I was really attracted by his bravery. " The Phantom fears nothing!" (Old jungle saying)

I tried to be brave like The Phantom, but I found out that being brave was not that easy. Then I read another Phantom story where bravery was described as "being afraid and going ahead anyhow.” That was a lesson I remembered throughout my whole life.

That's how I started reading  The Phantom. As of today, more than 42 years later, I haven't stopped yet.

Ranjal Dutta is a freelance illustrator who lives and works in Kolkata, India. He's married and has a kid who also likes to read The Phantom. Some of Ranjan's works can be seen  here.

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