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Reviews and commentary by Tony Isabella
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for Monday, February 8, 2010

Phantom 9

I met the Phantom on a Saturday. I know this because Saturday was the only night when my father had time to read a newspaper, so that was the only day we got a newspaper.

I could really follow the Phantom's adventures seeing only one strip per week, but I was fascinated by the look of the character, by his pet wolf Devil, and by the exotic setting of his adventures. When Gold Key started publishing Phantom comic books, I bought them as often as I could afford them. They weren't as exciting as the Marvel super-hero comics I had started to buy, but my fascination with the character was strong.

Memory being what it is, I can't recall for certain if The Phantom #9 [November, 1964] was a typical issue of the title. Certainly its George Wilson cover is the dullest of Gold Key's 17-issue run, but I enjoyed the story it illustrated.

Phantom 9

"The Sixth Man" opens with a pair of hired thugs attempting to kidnap the Phantom. Knowing five other men have been seized, the Ghost Who Walks allows himself to be kidnaped as well. With Devil boarding the ship as well, the men are taken to a tropical port. They are wined and dined by their captor, the exotically lovely but evil Queen Sansamor. She offers them the chance to battle in the arena for the chance to face her mysterious champion. If the victor should best the champion, he will receive a treasure chest full of priceless jewels. All is not as it seems.


The champion is the executioner shown on the cover and those priceless jewels are paste. Yes, Sansamor is even more of a bitch than you thought.


The writer is uncertain, but the artist is Bill Lignante, who remains one of my favorite Phantom artists. He also drew the one-page Phantom origin recap that appeared after the story, probably because the inside front cover was a "Keys of Knowledge" educational page on domestic goats drawn by Ray Bailey. The inside back cover was an educational page on fish drawn by Jack Sparling. I've yet to find a practical use for the information I learned from either of these pages.

Like all Gold Key comics of this era, there were second-class postage requirements to be met. In The Phantom, these were met by a two-page "Phan-Mail" letters column and a four-page comics story starring King, Queen, and Jack.

The letters column is quite good. The readers discuss various suggestions made by other readers in previous issues and also ask questions about Phantom lore. The editorial responses don't have the "hey, true believer" friendliness of the Marvel Comics letters pages, but neither are they of the condescending/insulting variety seen in the Superman comics edited by Mort Weisinger.

As for "King, Queen and Jack" - Lignante art on a script by an unknown writer - I can't recall what their deal is. King and Queen are male "white hunter" types while the much younger and possibly teen-age Jack is their ward or intern or some such. This wouldn't have occurred to me back in 1964, but, today, I'm wondering if King and Queen were a couple. I could see it.

Expect more "blasts from the pasts" in upcoming TOTs, but I'll probably forego the nostalgia for the rest of the week.



I have just five more episodes to watch of Dollhouse, including the never-broadcast original pilot and "Epitaph One." I confess to some minor annoyance that the final broadcast episode of the series apparently continues from an unaired episode, but that's a minor complaint. This second season has had me on the edge of my seat throughout with its great performances and surprising twists. I think the show will be remembered as a classic and also that two seasons was the right length to tell this story. Of course, I may change my mind on the latter after I watch the remaining episodes. I'll let you know.

Fringe, the modern-day successor to The X-Files when that show was good, continues to delight. My favorite aspect of the show is the very believable familial relationships between Dr. Walter Bishop (brilliantly played by John Noble), his son Peter (Joshua Jackson), and FBI agent Astrid Farnsworth (Jasika Nicole). Also included in this family grouping, and it's very cool to watch such straight-laced characters getting all warm and cuddly on us, are Anna Torv's Olivia Dunham and Lance Reddick's Phillip Broyles. The show pulls the neat trick of being both exceedingly creepy and wonderfully life-affirming.

A "Stupid Writing Condemnation" goes to Law and Order for its January 15 episode, "Blackmail." A reporter is murdered. This ties into the attempted blackmail of a female talk-show host who had affairs with female staffers. The murdered reporter was a former staffer. The murder conviction hangs on the blackmail case, but the host won't testify in the blackmail case because there's a something in her personnel files she doesn't want exposed. So the prosecutor, using the murdered reporter's diary entry of the host giving her half a Vicodin, threatens to charge the host with - get this - distribution of a controlled substance. It's a ridiculous threat, one the host's lawyers could easily get tossed, and works only because the episode is almost over. If Law and Order is part of the NBC plan to save its ten o'clock slots, the writers are going to have to start bringing their "A" game to the scripts. This is bush-league writing.

Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. I'll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

<< 02/05/2010 | 02/08/2010 | 02/09/2010 >>

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Zero Tonys
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.

ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.

TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?

THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.

FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?

FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.

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