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The Saturday Comics: The Phantom, Day by Day

16 Apr

April 16, 2011

A daily comic strip has a near-impossible task. It is serialized seven days per week, each week. While it needs to present a cohesive and continuing story, each day’s strip needs to stand alone as well. And it needs to be done in only three or four panels.

Newer strips may be forgiven, just a bit, if they sometimes flounder. After all, comic strips are an old medium in an era of instant gratification. While there are many great new strips, it boggles my mind to come across one of the big names of the genre that seems to have not just lost its way, but to have driven off the road, through a grove of trees, and somehow ended up floating in a pool in somebody’s backyard.

I present, day by day,

DAY ONE:

OK, I get it. I came in at the end of an adventure. It looks like a happy ending. It is actually a good thing I came in now so I can enjoy the start of a whole new story tomorrow. Looking forward to it.

DAY TWO:

Well, that’s nice. Sort of the same thing as yesterday though. And it seems a bit of a waste, story-wise, to do it in one big splash but I guess it gets the emotion across. OK, let’s see where this goes tomorrow.

DAY THREE:

What the? What’s the point of this? Is the next arc about haircuts? If this were a play I could almost hear the stage manager hissing “vamp!” while the star desperately searches for her line. This is ridiculous, the big splash yesterday should have ended the arc. I’m getting a bit tired of this, hopefully things will move ahead tomorrow.

DAY FOUR:

Um, Ok. More wasting time. Maybe they haven’t hammered out the next script yet and just tossed this in? I can’t figure out a purpose to this strip, unless it is to reinforce their dedication to fighting evil? This isn’t much of a superhero strip, it is more like a bad show on the religious station with Kirk Cameron. I’m not hopeful for tomorrow.

DAY FIVE:

Ahh, now we’re getting somewhere.

DAY SIX:

Huh? Where’s The Phantom? And isn’t that the guy who was supposed to be in jail? Who are these people? I sat through almost a week for this? That strip could have been told in three panels. And re-read the second panel. “Colonel Weeks met the unknown commander.” “Worubu doubts it.” There is a verb tense problem there, and I’m usually not that picky outside of a grammar blog but that is really annoying to read. I really hope The Phantom picks up but I’m losing hope.

DAY SEVEN:

UGH! Back to that? It’s like the Sunday strip exists in a different timeline, and maybe it might. Many strips do a separate storyline on Sundays because some papers only run the Sunday strips. So I can follow the annoying story on Sunday, or follow the slow and boring story during the week, or maybe wait and see if indeed that Sunday strip is part of the same story as the weekly though it doesn’t seem to be.

DAY EIGHT:

To Hell with The Phantom. Popeye never fails. I got more out of that strip than an entire week of The Phantom. And why not? It looks like they are running a classic Sagendorf strip.

That Phantom run may have been the worst week of a comic strip that I have ever read, and that’s coming from someone who read comics written and drawn by Rob Liefeld so you know I’ve read some bad comics. The artist of this strip, Paul Ryan, was the artist on one of my favorite runs of the Fantastic Four so this hurts all the more.

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6 Responses to “The Saturday Comics: The Phantom, Day by Day”

  1. Mac of BIOnighT April 16, 2011 at 12:44 am #

    OK, after the Mandrake affair it should be evident that we have different tastes in comics, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I think this Phantom strip is not that bad. Actually, it makes me want to know what happens afterwards. Mind, it’d never be top spot in my priorities list, but if I bought that newspaper, I’d go on reading the strip.
    Maybe what you miss is the two-seconds-with-photoshop-then-copy-and-paste-into-every-single-panel backgrounds ;-P
    A bit of trivia: when way back the Phantom was imported to Italy, not only did they change his name to “L’Uomo Mascherato” (the Masked Man), as “the Phantom” was considered inappropriate for children (while a wolf that ate little girls and grandmothers alive to later be cut open – alive, again – by a hunter who filled his stomach with stones and threw him in the water to drown slowly was considered perfectly appropriate, of course), but his costume was changed from purple to red, as purple is said to bring bad luck here…

    Like

    • bmj2k April 16, 2011 at 12:58 am #

      My problem has nothing to do with the art- even though I know the artist’s work rather well and this isn’t his best. My problem is that nothing happens for an entire week. Bear in mind that you read all of that in one sitting, took about a minute. Years from now when that entire arc is collected somewhere and you can read it all at that pace it won’t seem as bad, it is in fact a nice slice of life, but try to imagine reading only one strip each day, one strip every 24 hours. That is 168 hours worth of strip. After an investment of an entire week the story has still not yet begun- he still hasn’t even ridden off!

      Compare that to the Popeye strip. Different tones, sure, but still a sequential story. It is the middle of an arc but look at all you learn from one day. I have a good idea of what was going on and a good idea of where it is going. I am not lost in the weeds, I am not waiting for something to happen, and even the artwork advances the story. Take out the word balloons and the visual still gives a good idea of the tale. Bud Sagendorf is a true master of the craft. You could learn a lot about creating a daily strip from his work.

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  2. Marc Barnhill April 16, 2011 at 10:24 am #

    Not everything can achieve the literary standard set by Lugo Belogi.

    Like

    • bmj2k April 16, 2011 at 2:08 pm #

      Is Spidey still falling off that rope?

      Like

  3. The Hook April 18, 2011 at 6:35 pm #

    Have you seen the new Phantom series, “The Last Phantom”? The character seems like he’d be a challenge to write properly, but in the right hands the Phantom rocks!

    Like

    • bmj2k April 18, 2011 at 6:49 pm #

      I may be the only person who didn’t hate the film with Billy Zane, but since then no one seems to be able to use him right. The recent Scyfy (or whatever) reboot? Awful. I’ve seen the comic on the stands but haven’t picked it up. I’ve cut back most of my current titles but I’m buying a lot of 60’s and 70’s collections.

      Like

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