Friday, May 6, 2011

My First Phantom [5] Mother's Day Edition

I am pleased to present a series of short stories describing the first time we read The Phantom.
This installment has been written by Canadian Phantom-Phan extraordinaire, Guy Poissant.
Guy sent me this story, about a year ago.  Since the story deals with Guy's memories of his dear mom, I decided to save it for this year's "Mother's Day."
If you want to share the memories of your "First Phantom" with the readers of this blog, please contact me.

When I was 5 or 6 years old, I remember that every Saturday morning was for me a big event, because my older brother brought me a bunch of comics like Spider-Man, Captain America, etc. I was especially happy those times when I got to read my favorite hero: Batman! I always had a kind of "ritual" at that time; I settled down with my comics at the table, in the kitchen, and  like Linus from Peanuts, I always had a blanket with me! Once I was comfortably settled, my lovely mother prepared me a sandwich and then... the magic began, I was in another world...

In spite of the fact that I had several comics to read, it was never enough! My other brother liked reading Tintin, Asterix and... Le Fantôme so, I often went to his room to "borrow" his comics as well.
I remember that I was very impressed by those Phantom covers. These comics were coming from France (they were also distributed in Canada for the French-speaking market) and they were in fact the translation of the Italian series L'Uomo Mascherato by Fratelli Spada and those amazing painted covers were done by Mario Caria. I was very fascinated by this character in a red suit (I grew up with this version; it was a shock for me to discover, many years later, that the original costume's color is purple!). And, as a lot of kids, I wanted so much to possess a skull-ring like his!

I cannot say which Phantom story was my first one but on the other hand, I know which one was a turning point for me; it was "The Founding of the Jungle Patrol". It was the first time that I read a story of a previous Phantom and I was very captivated by its fight against pirates. And what a fight! I liked the dialogues and the sense of humor in this story but I especially preferred the romance between the Phantom and Queen Natala. In France as in Italy, this story was published in two parts but my brother didn't have the end of the story: some pages were missing in his comics and it was very frustrating! It's only several years later (at least 10 years later!) that I knew that the Phantom had married her! I was 7-8 years old when I read this story for the first time and from that moment, I knew that I was hooked on the Phantom.

I was about 20years old when I seriously started to collect The Phantom but here where I live, in Montreal, it was very difficult to find anything concerning my hero. We received no more comics from France because the series was stopped in 1980 and even if I searched all over the city's nooks and crannies, it was almost impossible to find anything (and it's still is today). Sometimes, when I found an old number, it could take more than a year to find another one. (Thank God, eBay exist now!)

The Phantom was published in Montreal only on a French newspaper ("La Patrie", created in 1879) but this newspaper stopped existing in 1974. Even the comics in English (from Gold Key and Charlton) were very hard to find! Luckily, I met 3 collectors who helped me a lot for my collection. Thanks to one of them, I was able to collect many pages which appeared in this French newspaper at that time (I almost have all of them today).

One day, by looking and classifying my pages, my mother approached to see what I was doing. Then, she said; "Hey, it's the Phantom!". What a surprise for me!!! I was very amazed to notice that she knew the character. She told me that she also read The Phantom when she was young! She followed his adventures since the 40s till the end of the newspaper's publication in the 70s and even that it was her favorite character! She was very impatient to read it every Sunday; "It was my moment of relaxation", she said.

Very comfortably I sat at the kitchen table  (without my blanket this time!), looking at the pages and talking about the Phantom. I asked my mom what she liked in this character and she replied; "the legend surrounding him, the oath and the tradition from fathers to sons,  as well as (like me) the romance between the Phantom and Diana". We talked a lot about our hero and I can remember her expression that day; she was so amazed to see all these pages again. It was a special and a magic moment for me. I was simply happy and proud to learn that she loved this character. After our conversation, I said to myself that I was certainly going to talk again about the Phantom with her. Regrettably, I didn't have the chance to do it...

More than 10 years ago, my mother began to lose memory and we learned that she had Alzheimer's disease. She became more and more confused and I then decided to return to live with her and to take care of her. But after 4 years, we had to place her in a specialized center. At this time, she couldn't recognize us any more. Last April, I felt that I missing the opportunity to talk to  her or even to do with her certain things.  I went to see her and we looked at some old family photos and then, I read to her this story that I like so much, "The Founding of the Jungle Patrol". Even if I know that she was not conscious of what I was doing, I liked to believe in my heart, that she was there with me like she did before and that she appreciated this moment, no matter how brief it was. Then I told her what I should have told her many times before: "I love you, mom!".
 Two days later (and 3 days after her 77th birthday), she left us for (I sincerely hope) a better world.

My mother was a smiling person with a great sense of humor; even during the time she was ill, every  she always smiled to me every time we met. Today, I realize that my taste for many things came to me from her. To know that she appreciated the "Ghost Who Walks" increases my desire to continue to read his adventures and to pursue my collection. Now, when I read a story of my hero, I always have a small thought for her.

Guy Poissant is a painter / decorator, a profession he inherited from his father. Since he was very young, he liked arts and music (especially the 50s and 60s music). He was influenced by his mother and, of course, by his brothers and his sister, all older than him. As a teenager, he had the brilliant idea to not follow his friends. Then, instead of spending his money on beer and drugs, he started to collect things! That way, he can see every day where its money goes! He is a Beatles collector since age 11 and later, he became a Phantom collector. He likes also the medieval era. He was even foolish enough to transform his bedroom into a castle room!!! He is not married (no children) but he is very faithful to the girl  he met the day before the release of The Phantom movie in 1996! Unfortunately for him, his girlfriend doesn't read the Phantom...

Those who are interested, can view part of Guy's Phantom collection by clicking here.