Monday, May 10, 2010

My Phantom Revamp

Last week, Cash Gorman mentioned that both Dynamite AND the SyFy channel had Phantom revamps in the works.

Well, this week, some art from the Dynamite series was released, and it was met with quite the number of moans and groans from comic fans. And not just old geezers like me. If you haven't seen the images in question, then behold...

Now, I don't actually think this comic is going to feature Lee Falk's character running through the jungle in nothing but a loin cloth and leather boots - this just strikes me as a the type of evocative image Alex Ross likes to use (like Captain America with a scarred back.) What I'm more concerned with is the story concept as detailed at Newsarama...

As we begin the series, there is no Phantom. The historic line stops at Kit Walker the 21st, who has forsaken the mantle of The Ghost Who Walks and is enjoying a life with a growing family, while handling the day-to-day affairs of the Walkabout Foundation, a philanthropy created by one of the previous Walkers/Phantoms to help support charities benefiting Bengala, and the surrounding nations of continental Africa...

This seems right in line with what the SyFy Channel is pitching...

I don't know - doesn't that show look more like M.A.N.T.I.S. than jungle adventuring Phantom?

Now I understand my fanboy sensibilities are completely at odds with what the kids want (though I don't think Hollywood is any closer to figuring that out than I am...) but this whole tact of main character who rejects his legacy and then must accept it - not only is that played, it's shortsighted.

That's not enough to build a series on. It's what you PITCH the series with. After that, once the hero has made his journey of self discovery or whatever and accepted the mantle of The Phantom (or Green Hornet or Captain Midnight or whoever) then all you have is Roger Corman's Black Scorpion - it takes more than that to build a series.

What really confuses me is that SyFy was savy enough to green light the groundbreaking Battlestar Galatica series, but damn if they have presented anything with the same verve and vigor since then.

Really, I think a better *modern* treatment of the Phantom would be this:

Jim Shelley's Phantom Revamp Pitch:
A small airplane crashes in the jungle with 12 people surviving. Their only chance to survive is to travel through the jungle on their own to reach civilization. Like Lost, we discover things about the 12 as the series goes on. The Phantom is ever on the perimeter - doing his own thing, watching over them, but his motivations are unknown to us. When he appears it's a moment that can cause fear or relief for our travelers - depending on who they might be. He's the Others and the Smoke Monster rolled up in one. We also get the occaisional anachronistic dinosaur or Roman Soldier ruled lost city thrown in.

See? You get a Phantom that can be true to the original idea, but you also get modern day angst and conflict. The trick is to keep The Phantom mysterious and wonderous. Not turn him into just another vigilante with a gun.

As to the Dynamite version, does anyone know if this means that Moonstone will have to stop publishing their version? I would think the answer would be yes, but in the recent past the Phantom liscensing wasn't always exclusive.

Of late, Moonstone has done some really nice things with the character, most recently was the cool Captain Action/Phantom team up drawn by FBU friend Reno Maniquis

Strangely, the Moonstone Publishing site doesn't seem to be available today. I hope this is just a momentary glitch and not a sign of some other problems. I know Moonstone recently upgraded their website (for much the better) so it's probably just a server error.

Anyway, for today's free comics, I present two issues of a guy who (as far as I know) has thankfully not gone through a recent revamping...Captain Midnight.

[ Captain Midnight 23 ]

[ Captain Midnight 46 ]
- Enjoy!


cash_gorman said...

That link to my name takes you to an old version of my pages. It's now at

Moonstone was supposed to be doing something with Captain Midnight. Not heard anything of it in awhile.

Yeah, not a fan of Dynamite's pitch from the art promo to their concept.

RKB said...

According to what I read on bleeding cool the Moonstone Phantom license comes to a end in June.
Alex Ross great artist, but he can't 'revamp' anything worth a damn. Project Superpowers told me all I need to know about his remake/remodel skills.
As far as your revamp pitch goes Jim, I like it a lot. Maybe mix in a little Flight to Fury (film) style action for a prologue to get readers appropriately unnerved, then here comes the Phantom to do the same job on the characters. Mysterious and wonderous is the ticket, why in the hell can't Dynamite hire you? Your pitch is already full of more potential than basically doing a take off on all those Spider-Man gives up his costume/then takes up the heroes mantle again stories. Arrggghh!!!!
Based on your pitch Mike Grell should draw it, he could use/deserves a hit these days. :)

Reno said...

Thanks for mentioning the Phantom/Captain Action book, Jim!

I've really liked what Moonstone has done, and it's sad that it's ending.

I've read some reviews on the SyFy series, and so far it has been positive. I'm keeping optimistic about that one.

As for the Dynamite series, I'm adopting a "wait-and-see" attitude. But yeah, the concept has been done to death, it's also somewhat similar to what they're doing with Green Hornet now. The new Green Hornet series has been so-so for me, but Green Hornet: Year One by Matt Wagner has me hooked. Moonstone also has publishing rights to the Green Hornet, but I think it's limited to prose stories.

And here's a look at Moonstone's Captain Midnight...

JimShelley said...

@Cash - I changed the link, so it should point to your new site. :)

JimShelley said...

@RKB - Thank you! And yeah, it would be nice to see Mike Grell work on something new, especially in light of Warlord being cancelled.

JimShelley said...

@Reno, yeah, I can imagine the Matt Wagner version of Hornet would be good - I will get that in a collected edition.

Thank you for the Captain Midnight link - those images look fantastic!

Anonymous said...

Jim, I like your idea better than the Dynamite book... but I have to wonder if it doesn't relegate the Phantom to a background character in his own book. Your Phantom seems like a "force" more than a "legend"... Granted, it's a brief pitch and I might be pulling it out of context, but I just can't see the Phantom you describe having humanistic elements and the occasional swashbuckling moment, largely because the story doesn't seem to be about him.

Then again, it IS a revamp you're describing, and this could indeed be an interesting new take on the character if done well.

That said, the Dynamite version reminds me uncomfortably of the Phantom 2040 cartoon. I liked that cartoon a lot, and it was focused more on the Hero's Journey/ acceptance of the mantle than this I-quit cliche, but the show's mere existence gives the Dynamite Phantom a real "been there, done that" feeling.

Sean Kleefeld said...

I should point out that Moonstone's Phantom license expiring doesn't mean they COULDN'T renew. As noted neither the Moonstone nor Dynamite licenses were exclusive, and they could both conceivably produce Phantom comics. I suspect that Moonstone believed that maintaining a Phantom property could make their version look inferior, as Dynamite books are often given a lot of flash.

Another likely possibility is that Moonstone felt that they had a poor working relationship with the licensor (i.e. not at all informed of the Dynamite license agreement, forcing them to be completely caught off-guard by Barrucci's announcements) and are choosing not to renew the license simply because they don't want to deal with the company.

JimShelley said...

@lukeblast - ha! You aren't the only one to point out I sort of *cheated* in the way I used the Phantom. :)

I also thought of the 2040 version as well.

JimShelley said...

@Sean - yeah, I wondered about that. I could see King Features liscensing out to both companies because the character is liscensed throughout the world by other publishers.


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