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Comic Strip / The Phantom

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"I swear to devote my life to the destruction of piracy, greed, and cruelty, in all their forms, and my sons and their sons, shall follow me."
— The Oath of the Skull

By some accounts the first costumed superhero in comics, the Phantom was created by Lee Falk (creator of Mandrake the Magician) in 1936 for King Features Syndicate and has been fighting evildoers on Newspaper Comics Pages around the world ever since.

In Darkest Africa, in a secret valley guarded by sinister blowgun-wielding pygmies, dwells the Phantom. Immortal, implacable, foe to all evildoers, pirates especially: criminals everywhere speak in hushed whispers of the Ghost Who Walks, the Man Who Cannot Die.

Except that, well, he can. And has, repeatedly. The current Phantom is the 21st of the line, continuing a tradition begun four centuries ago when his forefather washed up on a lonely African beach, the sole survivor of a pirate attack, and was nursed back to health by the sinister pygmies (who are actually quite nice once you get to know them). He is just a normal man, with no supernatural powers (save his skull ring, which forever leaves its imprint on anyone he punches) — but, much like in Batman, criminals are a superstitious, cowardly lot, and they're much easier to beat if they're already afraid of you.

The Phantom has no Secret Identity. Each man who takes up the mantle forswears all former attachments and becomes all-Phantom, all the time, from that day forth. When he needs to walk the streets as an ordinary man, he puts an "ordinary man" disguise over it. The disguise has a name, "Mr. Walker", (i.e., "The Ghost Who Walks") but is otherwise a cipher. How he negotiates airline booking desks and customs checkpoints has never been revealed, although obviously the Bangallan government facilitates the situation, as the Phantom works closely with Bangallan authorities. He has a wolf companion, Devil, and had an ongoing on-and-off relationship with his Love Interest Diana Palmer until they married.

Developed during the Golden Age, and written by a single author for over sixty years, The Phantom is a bit of a living fossil. Representations of women and minorities have become more sophisticated, but it has never tried to become darker or more realistic.

By mid 2000s, though you could still find further issues from Moonstone, the current publisher, those were rare, too expensive due to very low sales, and new releases were few and far in between.

The Phantom has been adapted for film twice. A 1943 film serial starred Tom Tyler as the Phantom and Ace the Wonder Dog as Devil. Better known (if not better regarded) is the 1996 film starring Billy Zane as the Phantom, Kristy Swanson as Diana Palmer and Catherine Zeta-Jones as Sala.

The Phantom has had three Animated Adaptations. He appeared in the 1972 special The Man Who Hated Laughter and the 1986 series Defenders of the Earth, both of which teamed him up with other King Features characters. In 1994 he got his own show, the Cyberpunk-ish Phantom 2040. He's also the subject of a Syfy miniseries. Dynamite Comics has also revived the character with their Kings Watch miniseries, leading into a solo series where Lothar takes over the role of the Phantom while searching for the actual heir to the identity (the previous Phantom having taken it on his predecessor's deathbed, then performed a Heroic Sacrifice to prevent more of Ming the Merciless' forces from invading Earth). Also from Dynamite, but in a separate continuity is the Darker and Edgier The Last Phantom.

On April 26, 2023, it was announced that a Beat 'em Up official video game is in development, and it's scheduled for release in 2024.

Adaptations and spin-offs with their own trope pages include:

This series includes examples of:

  • The Ace: All Phantoms are this, being trained from birth both by their parents and by various tutors and trainers from around the world for their eventual role as the Phantom. Yes, even female children receive training. Just in case (and that case has come up once or twice - see the Action Girl entry below).
  • Action Girl:
    • Explorer and Olympian Diana Palmer, though sometimes the plot required her to be somewhat less badass.
    • Sala, who was a pilot, spy, crack shot, and second in command of the Sky Pirates.
    • Julie, the twin sister of the 17th Phantom, who filled her brother's place on several occasions when he was unable to wear the Phantom costume.
    • Flame Stanbury, who donned the costume in a bid to encourage an uprising against a tyrant, and ended up marrying the real Phantom.
    • In a vision of the future that Moz the storyteller had, Heloise Walker, daughter of the 21st Phantom, is quite badass.
    • In a 2018 storyline, the current-time, teenage Heloise, while at boarding school in New York City, realizes that her room-mate Kadia is the unknowing daughter of an international crime boss known as “the Nomad”, while out to dinner with them both. The Nomad believes she's a spy sent by President Luaga, and arranges for Heloise to be framed and arrested as a terrorist, and then turned over to him by corrupt officials so he can take her out of the country to torture her for information as he chooses. Heloise then brings down the small plane they're on, complete with Pre Ass Kicking One Liner, turns him over to a rather bewildered honest cop, and runs before she can be arrested for said plane crash. (She also does all of this in a Little Black Dress and heels!) She escapes being arrested and gets Kadia to the Embassy for sanctuary in the nick of time to avoid the reprisals of the Nomad's syndicate and arrest by numerous law enforcement agents. Noteworthy in this case: She did such a spectacular and effective job of taking down the Nomad that when her brother Kit (who's off training in a monastery on the other side of the world) hears the news of the Nomad's defeat and arrest, he assumes it was done by their father, even writing in a letter something about being able to recognize the Phantom's work when he hears about it. Heloise may never wear the Phantom costume, but she's proven she's just as worthy a successor to the name.
  • Actually, That's My Assistant: In "The Veiled Lady", a biologist mounts an expedition to the eponymous mountain. In an early scene, biologist and assistant meet with Colonel Weeks of the Jungle Patrol to arrange permits, and Weeks initially assumes that the man is the biologist and the woman is the assistant.
  • Affluent Ascetic: The Walkers are undoubtedly wealthy. On the other hand, aside from some personal luxuries and whatever hardware the Phantom needs, they live rather modestly, at best not much better than their Bangallan neighbors. Meanwhile, their children don't even know the concept of money until after they see the world.
  • Afraid of Doctors: When a missionary doctor first arrived in Bangalla, he was distrusted by the natives. However, when their shaman routinely failed to cure their ills, the natives began coming to the genial, methodical doctor.
  • All Just a Dream: Once in a fight with the Singh, the Phantom gets shot in the neck and needs surgery to remove the bullet from his spine. During the surgery/coma he dreams a vividly detailed version of his origin story that spans several issues. The reader knows all along that it is just a dream.
  • Amazon Brigade: Sala's Sky Band.
  • Amoral Afrikaner: Colonel Zwaart, a former mercenary from South Africa who commands the Prince of Jamadan's royal guards. Thanks to his support, the evil Prince Asad is able to seize all power for himself from the tiny country's elected parliament once he ascends the throne.
    • In the Scandinavia-made adventures, Rhodia generally serves this purpose. Its apartheid regime greatly resembled South Africa's, and its capital Marcusburg stood in for Johannesburg, South Africa's largest city. Many white Rhodians also have Afrikaner-style last names, like Van Basten and Leeuwenhoek.
  • Appeal to Force: In the first issue of the 1989 comicbook series, a group of bandits posing as British soldiers raid an African village and are summarily crushed by the titular hero. When the bandit chief protests they are authorized by the Queen, the Phantom coldly replies he is the only authority figure that they should be worried about.
    Bandit Chief: We're soldiers, damn you, authorized to seize this land by—
    Phantom: You're pirates, simple thieves. And your authority ends with me.
  • Arbitrarily Large Bank Account: Between the dowries of the princesses the various Phantoms have married, chestfuls of gold and jewelry given as gifts, and that they live mostly off the land, the Walkers are very well off.
  • Arch-Enemy: The Phantom is traditionally opposed by the current leader of the Singh Brotherhood; the 21st Phantom first battles Dogai Singh, and later, his daughter Sandal Singh. Other notable enemies include the mercenary Gold Hand and the evil President Lubanga.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: The Phantoms in any era often found themselves opposing various evil counts and barons while travelling in Europe, especially during the early generations of the dynasty when the continent was littered with various small kingdoms and city-states. Of a more specific note is Sir Thomas Moore, an enemy of the first Phantom who plotted against Henry VIII, and murdered the Phantom's mother in an attempt to cover his tracks by killing a boarder she hosted, the alchemist Paracelsus.
  • As You Know: Whenever a Phantom meets a group of people that had a history with a former Phantom, they will helpfully inform him of what happened the last time "he" was there, even though they think he is the same guy. Slightly justified in that the Phantom is believed by outsiders to be one immortal man, not a line of sons taking up the father's mantle upon his death, and it's not entirely unfounded that a very ancient being would need reminding of who someone he met many years ago is.
  • Badass Armfold: The Phantom often poses this way.
  • Badass Creed: One of the classics - The Oath of the Skull, sworn by the first Phantom on the skull of his father's murderer, and repeated by each of his successors in turn:
    "I swear to devote my life to the destruction of piracy, greed, cruelty, and injustice, in all their forms, and my sons and their sons shall follow me."
  • Badass in Distress: The Phantom has found himself in some sticky situations on occasion resulting in his various allies having to bail him out in various ways.
  • Beneath Notice: While the Ghost Who Walks is feared over the centuries, the Walkers generally keep a low profile wherever they go, allowing them to keep outsiders from being suspicious.
  • Best Her to Bed Her: The thirteenth Phantom's wife was from a Fantasy Counterpart Culture of the Mongols (who decided to start raiding sub-Saharan Africa some 400 years after the Mongol Empire fell) and used this trope to avoid Arranged Marriages imposed by her father. When the future Phantom defeated her in a wrestling match as part of Combat by Champion, she decided to marry him.
  • Beware the Skull Base: Inverted. The comic features the Skull Cave, but this is a famous hideout for superheroes, not supervillains.
  • "Blackmail" Is Such an Ugly Word: In the 1947 story arc "Romance":
    Cruise ship captain: Is this — piracy?
    Pirate: That's a nasty word, Captain.
  • Blank White Eyes: The Phantom literally invented this superhero costume cliché, supposedly inspired by the blank white eyes of ancient Greek statues.
  • Blasting It Out of Their Hands: Played straight pretty much every time, except in the '90s when the Scandinavian version went for a period of Darker and Edgier (if a comparatively mild one).
  • Blindfolded Trip: In the 2019 Sunday Strip "The Spy Ship", Heloise Walker blindfolds her friend Kadia when she takes her to the Bandar Village.
  • Bluffing the Advance Scout: In the 1970s story The Blue Giant, alien advance scouts land to check out whether humans are a good prospect for invasion. After encountering the Phantom, they decide that if all humans are like him, the planet's best left alone.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: Endemic since the time of the first Phantom. Of course, 20 generations of Legacy Character doesn't happen without the occasional someone averting this trope.
  • Breaking Bad News Gently: In "Fathers and Sons":
    Styx: I have news for you — it may be a shock. Mebbe you'd better sit down and listen.
    Mike: I can hear anything standin' up! What is it?
    [Styx gives him the news. He sits down suddenly.]
  • Bulungi: Bangalla plays with this. It was an English colony when the series started in the 1930s, transitioned to self-rule in the 1960s, and handled the transition to the post-Colonial age better than most. The capital of Mawitaan (formerly Morristown) is a modern city, but there are still deep jungles and parched savannas a-plenty.
  • Call-Forward: The 1994 Marvel comic featured the Next Sunday A.D. 22nd Phantom, who had wrist bands containing a pocket computer and other gadgets. In other words, a more primitive version of Phantom 2040's "analytical".
  • Calling the Old Man Out: The Third Phantom went through a period of this, demanding to know why his father had essentially decided his life for him from birth, and ended up running away and joining Shakespeare's theater troupe in London. He eventually decided to take up the cowl anyway after his wife was murdered and returned home just in time before his father died from wounds inflicted by pirates.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: A major reason why it took the Phantom and Diana so long to get married — they loved each other, and both knew it, but when it came to actually popping the question, the Phantom's otherwise undauntable nerve failed him. The 1947 story arc "Romance", for instance, begins with a sequence in which the Phantom works himself up to pop the question several times, only to chicken out and change the subject each time, to Diana's mounting irritation. (Then he hits on the idea of buying a ring and letting it do the talking — and that leads, by a series of steps each straightforward in itself, to the Phantom trapped on an abandoned ship that's about to be blown up, and Diana swearing never to speak to him again.)
  • Cassandra Truth: A character during the very first story arc correctly deduces the truth about the Phantom, that it is a hereditary title passed down through generations, but no one else even believes the Phantom exists.
  • Cave Behind the Falls: The Skull Cave lies in a valley that has to be entered through a waterfall.
  • Challenging the Chief: In olden times, the jungle tribes were united under a high chief who ruled until he was challenged and killed in single combat. An earlier Phantom gained the loyalty of the tribes by successfully challenging the high chief (but sparing his life, of course). In modern times, the challenge has evolved into an annual friendly wrestling competition in which all the tribes send their best to fight for the honour of coming second to the Phantom.
  • The Chew Toy: The 4th Phantom is considered by his descendants to have been plagued by misfortune. He ended up losing the iconic Skull Ring to a conspiracy led by a Jesuit priest, and had to wear a replica for the rest of his life, with the ring eventually being regained by his son, lost the love of his life to the Black Plague, and contracted the disease himself, narrowly surviving, but was left with horrific scars all over his face from the boils.
  • Clingy MacGuffin: A very mild example. The two rings of the Phantom tend to find their way to the Phantom's son regardless of where the Phantom dies. How much of this is mere good luck and how much spooky voodoo is not specified.
  • Clue from Ed.: Every single time "Mr. Walker" is mentioned, Ed reminds us that the name is derived from "The Ghost Who Walks". As such it doubles as Viewers Are Goldfish.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: The Phantom is a rare example of a superhero whose costume color is radically different from country to country.
    • His most well known getup is the purple costume which he wears in most non-comic media as well as in American and Australian comics, among others, though it was originally intended to be grey.
    • In Scandinavia, his costume was originally rendered as blue with red trunks due to technological limitations but proved popular enough that it never got changed.
    • In Mediterranean as well as South American countries, The Phantom's tights are bright red.
    • In New Zealand, his costume is a dull yellowish-brown color.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Being raised in a jungle with Everything Trying to Kill You can do that to a guy.
  • Comic-Book Time: Despite the built-in opportunity to go the Legacy Character route.
  • Conviction by Counterfactual Clue: In the '80s and '90s, in the Swedish edition, on rare occasions.
  • Costume Copycat: In the early newspaper comics, at least two different stories in which a convict on the run finds and steals the Phantom's clothes while the Phantom's having a swim. Fantomen has done both the "criminal wears a replica of the Phantom's outfit to divert suspicion" and the "hero in distant land, inspired by tales of the Phantom, wears a replica of the Phantom's outfit" plots at various times. In fact, this was how a historical Phantom met his wife.
  • Covers Always Lie: An odd variation occurs with the Australian covers — they generally do show events that actually occur in the story (since, to keep design costs down, most of them are direct copies of actual panels), but they're apparently coloured by somebody who hasn't read the story. Sometimes this doesn't matter. Sometimes it does; examples range from a Fiery Redhead being depicted with black hair to several instances of African characters being given yellow hair and pink skin, as well as one instance where a criminal aviator's leather flying helmet was coloured purple, resulting in a cover that appeared to show the Phantom shooting an innocent bystander.
  • The Cowl: Definitely the "scares the villains in the dark" kind of superhero.
  • Crossdresser: Before he became the Phantom, the third Phantom was an actor playing Juliet. His father was apparently more upset the fact that his son ran away from school to become an actor than about his costuming choices, since actors were not well respected in those days. As he puts it, "There's nothing lower than that, like a vagabond."
  • Crossover: Among the tribal leaders invited to attend the Phantom's wedding is Lothar, the Scary Black Man sidekick of Lee Falk's other famous character, Mandrake the Magician. (Mandrake himself also attends.)
  • Curse: "He who sees the face of The Phantom dies a slow and horrible death." This is an ancient jungle saying that pops up reasonably often in the comic, it's a rule in the comic's narrative itself that any villain who ends up seeing The Phantom without his mask is disposed of, and this one curse is just about the only consistent instance of something resembling "magic" occurring in the comic. The Phantom's friends and family seem immune to it though.
  • Cycle of Revenge: Of a sort. The Phantom line and the Singh Brotherhood are sworn enemies, and have a centuries long feud, with each side often claiming the life of the head of the other, which in turn just leads to a new Phantom, or a new Singh leader arising.
  • Daddy's Little Villain: Sandal Singh, the current President of Bangalia, and secretly the new head of the Singh Brotherhood, after the death of her father Dogai Singh, the original arch enemy of the 21st Phantom.
  • Darker and Edgier: In the Scandinavian version, during the mid-90s, the Phantom's native Bangalla was taken over by the ruthless dictator and voodoo sorcerer Lubanga, who murdered or drove mad several minor supporting characters. Violence by all parties was also depicted more graphically in this period; see the note above on Blasting It Out of Their Hands. Particular mention goes to the Heart of Darkness ongoing storyline, in which the Phantom's enemies included neo-Nazis and a horrific, apparently immortal serial killer.
  • Darkest Africa: Where Bangalla is located. In the beginning it was in South Asia.
  • Darkest Hour: At one point, Phantom and lifelong friend Luaga have a falling out after the disastrous presidential elections, Diana and the Phantom separate, and Lubanga is in control of the country.
  • Deadpan Snarker: The Phantom can pull the occasional stinging zinger, usually in response to criminals doing some rather foolish things in opposition to him. In one story, for instance, he gives quite a biting reply to a cult leader who thinks a little too highly of himself.
    Cult leader: My destiny! It happens right here!
    Phantom: You're special! Got it. Now go be special outside. We leave at first light.
  • Death Glare: The viewer can't tell due to the mask, but he's apparently very good at this along with a really scary voice. There's even an ancient jungle proverb about how the Phantom's glare/voice turns blood to ice.
  • Death Is Dramatic: The number of Phantoms who have died without having the time to dramatically pass on the rings to their son while on their deathbed (usually back in the Skull Cave, no matter where in the world they've been mortally wounded and apparently keeping themselves alive on sheer willpower), can be counted on one hand.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: The Phantom who founded the Jungle Patrol single-handedly defeated the legendary pirate Redbeard and his three lieutenants in single combat. Upon defeat, they swore allegiance to him and became the Patrol's first commanders.
  • The Dog Was the Mastermind: A borderline example, perhaps, but in the very first news strip adventure ("The Singh Brotherhood"), when we first meet Sala, she appears only as the pirate king Kabai Singh's useless mistress. She's gradually established as smarter and more manipulative, and in the end she's the one to tell Kabai he's outlived his usefulness and kill him. Turns out she was really a double agent for the Sky Pirates under deep cover who sabotaged Kabai so the Phantom could destroy his organization because it competed with hers...
  • Double Standard Rape: Female on Male: Subverted. When Sandal Singh informs him that her son is his after she took advantage of him when he was mostly unconscious with fever, he is visibly upset.
  • Downer Ending:
    • One historical Phantom adventure set during the Renaissance, involves the current Phantom getting involved in a feud between three brothers who have split up their father's kingdom between them, and are constantly trying to conquer the others' lands. The storyline concludes with every single named character dead, including the woman the Phantom has fallen in love with, and leaves the Phantom to bury the dead alone before returning in grief to Bangala.
    • Another Downer Ending involved the second Phantom and his unknown half brother Renee, the son of the first Phantom and a French noblewoman. After his father's death, the new Phantom is contacted by Artois, a friend of said woman, and through him finds out that Renee is a prisoner of the catholic inquisition for his involvement with the Protestant movement. The Phantom rescues him, but Renee is eventually killed in the Hugenot massacre which they had failed to prevent, and nearly every character in the story aside from Renee's mother is killed in the riots. All that is left for the Phantom is to bring Renee back with him to Bangala and bury him with the father he never knew.
  • The Dreaded: The criminals of Bangala are terrified of the Phantom, even if they've never encountered him in person. Hell, his reputation has reached all over the world, with criminals and pirates of all creeds often having second thoughts when they hear that he's around. An unusually poignant example is one story where the 16th Phantom's twin children are kidnapped alongside a group of natives, and one of the criminals notices that they're wearing pendants with the Phantom's Good Mark. He tells his boss, who was going to have the boy killed and the girl put in his harem, about how an unusually cruel slave auctioneer once released a slave just because she carried the Good Mark, and the boss decides that it'd be foolish to take any risks and just has them imprisoned instead.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: One storyline from the 80s involves a super virus released after a plane crash killing all life in Bangala, including, it's implied, the Phantom's wife and children. It turns out to be a fever dream Phantom is having, but later revealed to be a premonition of the future, leading him to prevent the terrorist attack that caused the plane crash, and disposing of the virus into a volcano.
  • Dub Name Change: A curious Composite Character version in the Norwegian translation, where Diana is named "Sala" and is considered the same character as Sala the Sky Pirate. This change has its origin in the early 1940s, when the Phantom comic was published as a serial in the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten. One of the earliest translated storylines featured Sala and her Unresolved Sexual Tension with the Phantom, and the very next storyline translated was the first time Diana appeared in the Norwegian translation. Rather than risk leaving the readers confused as to who this Diana was and why she was talking about marriage, the translators simply changed her name to "Sala" and treated her as the same character. Nowadays, Norwegians have known her as "Sala" for so long that it's unthinkable to change the name back.
  • Early Installment Character-Design Difference:
    • The Phantom's outfit evolved a bit over the course of the newspaper strip's first story arc, before finally settling on the appearance it has had ever since. One conspicuous difference is that on his very first appearance he wore a pair of gloves that quickly disappeared from subsequent outings.
    • As the daily newspaper strip was in black and white, it was not obvious what color the Phantom's suit was, although there was occasionally dialogue mentioning that it was gray. When the color Sunday strip started, the suit came out as a grayish-purple color, which evolved over time into the definite purple that it's now accepted as having always been.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • Early stories placed the nation of Bangalia in southeast Asia, likely inspired by the real world country of Bangladesh.
    • The first Phantom is an in-universe example. He never actually called himself the Phantom, instead he called himself the "Avenger". The name Phantom as well as the iconic rings were both creations by his son, the second Phantom.
  • Elaborate Underground Base: Various villains, beginning with the Singh Brotherhood in the very first story arc.
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil:
    • The Singh Brotherhood takes members of all races (though being centered in the Pacific region, most of them are either middle eastern or asian), and doesnt care what gender you are either, as many high-ranking Singh are women.
    • Same with the graverobbing Vultures.
  • Evil Cripple: Sir Thomas Moore survives his supposed death after his battle with the first Phantom, but is left paralyzed and hideously disfigured, reduced to moving around in a wheeled cabinet-like contraption, an early precursor to the wheelchair.
  • Exact Words: In 2019 storyline "The Spy Ship", Heloise Walker invits her friend Kadia to visit the Bandar village. As Kadia is hearing stories from the Bandar, Heloise sneaks out to greet her father. When she returns and Kadia asks where she has been, Heloise states she ran into someone who had a story to tell.
  • Expressive Mask: It hides his eyes, but is apparently very flexible, and allows for a solid Death Glare.
  • Eye Scream: One historical Phantom had his eyes poked out with hot irons while being held captive by the beautiful but sadistic Lala Singh, a high ranking female Singh pirate. He would later have them returned to him through magical means.
  • The Faceless:
    • The Phantom's unmasked face is never shown. There is a legend that "He who sees the face of The Phantom... dies a slow and horrible death", and although his close friends and family are shown to be immune, apparently readers aren't. And there's always an African mook around to warn the villain not to remove the mask and scare the other mooks into leaving the room. The villain himself will usually profess not to be impressed by these African superstitions — but there's never been more than a handful who haven't lost their nerve at the last moment and decided to leave the mask on, and they all died a horrible death not long after. This goes so far that The Phantom has actually been arrested by the police, tried in a court of law and put in a psychiatric institution once... And at no point during the process did anyone remove his mask. It looks like the legend in question only applies when the mask is forcibly removed.
    • The Nomad has this as his main gimmick as well. We the readers do get to see his face, of course, but in-universe he goes to great pains to make sure NOBODY knows of the connection between his criminal self and his civilian persona, Eric Sahara, to the point of killing informants shortly after they've delivered valuable information to him.
  • The Fagin: The Phantom once encountered such a man leading a crew of pickpockets in Africa in the "Black Fagin" storyline.
  • Fan Fiction: This picture is worth at least a thousand words.
  • Fantastic Nature Reserve: The island of Eden, populated by many peacefully coexisting animals; the carnivores eat fish and have never tasted blood. As well as a single genuine unicorn, a dinosaur and whole family (male, female, single offspring) of semi-sentient prehistoric man-creatures.
  • Fauxshadowing: The first story arc features an Upper-Class Twit named Jimmy Wells, who occasionally drops hints that there's more to him than people think, and who tends to make excuses and leave quickly when something exciting happens; the clear implication is that he's the foppish alter-ego of the Phantom, like Lamont Cranston in The Shadow (or Bruce Wayne in Batman, except this was before Bruce Wayne had been invented). Eventually, the Phantom decides to reveal his true identity to Diana — and he's somebody completely different. It's generally assumed to be a case of an Aborted Arc, where the writer originally did intend Jimmy Wells to be the Phantom but then had a more original idea partway through.
  • Flat-Earth Atheist: Almost to the level of Agent Scully, the Phantom is a skeptic to the extreme. Sometimes justified in that the supernatural events he witnesses are juuuust ambiguous enough to cast doubt, but usually he seems to be skeptic just for the sake of it.
  • Forgotten First Meeting: The hero and his love interest meet for the first time in the first story arc, until Lee Falk wrote the story of "The Childhood of the Phantom" and included a scene where they met briefly years before when they were both children.
  • For Halloween, I Am Going as Myself: Literally every costume ball any Phantom has ever been on.
  • Generation Xerox: 21 generations and counting.
  • Geographic Flexibility: The Phantom's home is somewhere in the jungles of Darkest Africa, near the fictional nation of Bangalla. Although various details over the years have narrowed the possibilities down, the precise location and layout of the region deliberately remain vague. (And this is without going into the fact that until the 1960s, Bangalla was called Bengali and was in India, and in the very earliest Phantom stories his home and the pygmy tribe were situated on an Indonesian island.)
  • God Guise: The Phantom costume was designed to resemble a demon feared by a malevolent tribe that had enslaved the tribe that rescued the first Phantom after being shipwrecked in Bangalia and worn as a form of psychological warfare when freeing the enslaved tribesmen.
  • Go-Go Enslavement:
    • Diana in the Scandinavian version in the 1970s was captured by the Prince of Jamadan for his harem and made to wear a revealing outfit for the rest of the story.
    • The 11th Phantom's wife Renata in the 18th century when she was kidnapped by Red Sea pirates, shipwrecked and sold into slavery in Yemen, beliving her husband had drowned in the shipwreck. Nothing happens to her, as she is unknowingly pregnant, and her new owner balks at having been sold a pregnant slave and just has her locked up in a tower. By the time her husband finds her, she has given birth, and presents him with his son.
    • Mary Poe attempted this on Jeanette Walker, born Lafitte, but no one at the auction had the courage to bid on the wife of the Ghost Who Walks.
  • Going Native: An interesting variation. While the Walkers, despite having lived in Bangalla for over 400 years aren't part of the nearby Bandar tribe, they are their closest allies, and live comparable lifestyles, the Phantom's best friend is Bandar tribesman Guran, and the Walker children grow up alongside the Bandar children.
  • Gone Swimming, Clothes Stolen: At least twice, both times to set up a Costume Copycat plot.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: At one point in the 1974 story arc "The Normal Life", a character is castigated for his foul language; the strongest word he is actually seen to use is "creep".
  • Gossip Evolution: Several stories have tags showing how one of the Phantom's feats grows in retelling and becomes part of the legend of The Ghost Who Walks. For instance, in one story, the villains attack the Phantom in a tank, which results in the jungle tribes spreading a story about the Phantom single-handedly defeating a fire-breathing dragon.
  • Guile Hero: It is almost weird that most of the training shown of the young Phantom-to-be are of him learning martial arts or sharpening his senses by doing something while blindfolded, seeing as he is so good at lying, acting, and strategizing.
  • Highly-Visible Ninja: The Phantom's stealthy jungle-ninja suit is purple. (Lee Falk intended it to be gray, and the early black-and-white dailies occasionally have dialogue saying so. When the color Sunday strip started up, it became purple, either due to editorial decision or a printing error.note  Falk eventually gave in and wrote in a handwave that it was purple because the Phantom's look was intended to evoke a particular idol worshipped by the jungle tribes.) Meanwhile, various international publications have depicted him in a range of colors, from a dark blue in Sweden to a short-lived Italian comic that showed his costume as a mixture of bright red, green, and orange.
  • Historical In-Joke: Several. With a history spanning back to the 17th century and a lot of stories to choose from, the Phantom has had his finger in lots of background events throughout history. Among others, he was involved in the French Revolution, helping the Dauphin escape the guillotine; he befriended Nostradamus, who was the one who gave him the Skull Ring; and he helped the British defeat the Spanish Armada by time travelling and helping to vanquish Mordred from Camelot.
  • Hollywood Natives: Pretty much every native tribe the Phantom ever encountered, to a greater or lesser extent, although the depictions have tended to become more nuanced as the series goes on.
  • How Unscientific!: The Phantom occasionally (as in, maybe once every few decades) had encounters with visiting aliens.
  • Humanoid Abomination: What most people see the Phantom as. Since nobody knows it's actually a family lineage of different Phantoms, who are just very well-trained men, to outsiders the Phantom instead appears as some kind of vengeful, immortal jungle demon that's lived for centuries and who permanently marks his enemies with a skull-shaped scar.
  • Hungry Jungle: Downplayed; the comics never shy away from portraying just how dangerous the jungles of Bangalia really are, and on the occasions when untrained outsiders wind up there, they better hope the Phantom finds them before the wildlife does. However, for the native tribes and the Phantom's family, who have lived in the jungle for centuries, it's far less deadly since they know how to survive and even thrive there.
  • I Am Spartacus: In "Hooded Justice" (one of the Scandinavian arcs), the fifth Phantom is transported back in time to 12th century Nottingham where he takes on the role of Robin Hood. The Sheriff captures Maraian and declares she will be executed if Robin Hood does not present himself. The Phantom steps forward and declares he is Robin Hood. Then each of the Merry Men planted throughout the crowd claims that he is Robin Hood. The Sheriff's men attempt to arrest everyone and the confusion allows the Phantom to rescue Marian.
  • Identical Grandson: Every Phantom looks exactly like the first (it's implied that there is minor variations in height and size, but the costume tends to hide any real distinctive differences), except in occasional stories where the diversion is a central plot point, such as the tale of the Thirteenth Phantom, who was extraordinarily short.
  • If You Ever Do Anything to Hurt Her...: At least once, in the 1947 story arc "Romance", Diana's entanglement with a Romantic False Lead went so far that she ended up doing a Runaway Bride to get out of it; the Phantom had stood aside, since it seemed to be what she wanted, but he did give the groom-to-be the "You're marrying the finest girl in the world, and if you do anything to hurt her..." speech.
  • I Owe You My Life: People saving the Phantom occasionally get the good mark printed on them (or sometimes in the form of necklaces or other jewelry) in return. Later Phantoms tend to return favours to people who have the mark — or their descendants — in kind.
  • Irisless Eye Mask Of Mystery: The Phantom is the Trope Maker, preceding Batman by three years. Falk stated that his inspiration was from busts and statues of Greek and Roman deities which lacked irisesnote , thus making "the look of them feel a bit inhuman, which made a great addition to his character".
  • Ironic Nickname: The Phantom's title as "the man who cannot die" is doubly ironic as not only has he died numerous times, but most Phantoms tend to die young, only living long enough to sire and train an heir before their child has to take the mantle.
  • I Want Grandkids: Not that it's mentioned often, the current Phantom is married with two kids, but every Phantom is expected to father an heir to continue their legacy. The biggest difference that Phantom has from most examples of this is that the pressure is coming from beyond the grave not just his father, but his grandfather, and great-grandfather, and so on.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Several times, from both the Phantom and Diana on various occasions, as part of the ongoing relationship plot.
  • Jungle Drums:
    • Frequently appear as a method of sending long-distance messages in the African jungle.
    • A sinister version was used in a series of Scandinavian stories from the 80's, revolving around the last survivor of the Tinpeni tribe, a tribe of black magicians who used enchanted drums to hypnotize members of the surrounding tribes and force them into slavery or death. Eventually, the tribes banded together and massacred the Tinpeni, but one man and his son survived, and they salvaged one of the cursed drums. The man trains his son in the use of the drum, and in present day, he attempts to get revenge on the tribes who wiped out his people, but is stopped by the Phantom. A sequel story from 2020 had him return.
  • Lactose over Liquor: Anytime The Phantom goes to town in the guise of Mr. Walker, to extract information, he will invariably visit the grungiest bar in the seediest part of Morristown and order milk. Nobody ever mocks him for it... more than once ("It is good for the bones" [starts breaking bones]). And they will always have a bottle handy.
  • Legacy Character: Although the main continuity has focused on the same person from beginning to present day, many episodes are about the lives and adventures of previous Phantoms, and the legacy is strong.
  • Legacy Immortality: The Skull Oath includes a promise that all male descendants shall inherit The Call.
  • The Lethal Connotation of Guns and Others: Often averted. In the finale of the second story arc of the serial strip, The Baroness shoots him in the chest at point-blank with what looks like a heavy-caliber pistol, and he doesn't raise an eyebrow. (Although this is treated as an extreme case; in context, it convinces the villainess that he really is the Ghost Who Walks, and when he sees a doctor about it later, the man considers it a medical miracle that he's alive, never mind up and running.)
  • Lineage Comes from the Father: The mantle of the Phantom has been passed on from father to son, though daughters are also trained the exact same way just in case.
  • Lost in Translation: In French, the series is sometimes referred as "Le Fantôme du Bengale" ("the Phantom of Bengal"), because of some confusion between the African fictional country of Bangalla and the real-life India region of Bengal
  • Low Fantasy: Mostly, the Phantom's series is a fairly mundane setting. But, fantastical elements do creep in now and then. For example, recurring island of Eden houses, as mentioned above, an honest-to-goodness unicorn, a living stegosaurus, and a family of primeval humanoids. Magic has repeatedly shown up, as in the story of it being used to regenerate one Phantom's gouged-out eyes. Monsters and weird humanoids have appeared in some stories. There's even been a couple of encounters with aliens!
  • Make Games, Not War: Several stories feature the Jungle Olympics, an annual sporting event founded by a past Phantom as a proxy for the wars the jungle tribes used to fight. It's a running joke that the tribes have found many of the sports insufficiently challenging, and have added spikes, red-hot coals, and dangerous animals to make them more interesting.
  • Man of Wealth and Taste: Eric Sahara, otherwise known as the Nomad.
  • Mighty Whitey: There's such a strong taste of this it can be rather uncomfortable, though this has been downplayed with the passage of time. Especially when it sinks in that, despite the fact the Phantoms have been living in Africa for centuries, they still have white skin. In fact, no historical Phantom has ever been said to marry an African woman (although the 19th came close, and several of the historical Phantoms' wives were South European or Asian). His continued Caucasian appearance seems to coast by due to Grandfather Clause. This was especially prevalent in the early decades of the strip, with the African tribes being portrayed with the usual finesse common to comic books of the '50s and '60s. That said, this has thankfully lessened a lot since then, with The Phantom, the Bandars, and the other tribes being portrayed as allies and friends rather than semi-servants like in the comic's early years. His design is also unchanged from the time when he was just supposed to be a rich, American, Bruce Wayne-type vigilante, and not a what-if-Zorro-was-more-like-Tarzan sort of hero.
  • Monster Modesty: The Croccos wear loincloths (and are either a Single-Gender Species or an aversion of Non-Mammal Mammaries), but since they live in the ocean... where do they get the cloth?
  • Multilayer Façade: The secret leader of the Jungle Patrol is The Phantom itself - the masked superhero identity, rather than its mundane counterpart "Mr Walker".
  • Non-Human Sidekick: Devil, who is a wolf. In the jungle, also his horse Hero.
  • Non-Powered Costumed Hero:
    • An excellent example of the central concept, though slightly less than typical for not having a proper Secret Identity.
    • The one "superpower" he does have (as revealed by a blood test when he is held captive) is that his blood contains antibodies for every disease known to man, thus enabling him to live a long and healthy natural life.
  • Not-So-Harmless Villain: Recurring villain Chatu/"The Python" was recently experimenting on bats in order to start an Ebola epidemic. The only person he managed to infect was himself, and he needed the Phantom to rescue him from painful death. A few months after this embarassing failure, Chatu orchestrates a terrorist attack (from his prison cell) and had his men abduct Diana, leaving the Phantom thinking she'd died in the attack.
  • Offhand Backhand: The Phantom delivers one to a hoodlum sneaking up behind him in "Whirlpool Channel".
  • Once an Episode: Every story arc of the newspaper strip would begin with the Phantom's origin story. Not as in "they retell the story every time"; they had one strip showing the story and they would just rerun it every time a new arc was beginning (though it did get an update every decade or so).
  • Or Was It a Dream?:
    • Several historical adventures set before the Phantoms existed take place like this, among them the events that led to Excalibur and an arrow that once belonged to Robin Hood coming into their possession.
    • One adventure involving a magical genie ends like this, where the Phantom is mortally wounded at the end of the story, but is saved by the Genie despite having used up his three wishes. He later awakens on the beach where the story began, and isnt sure whether any of it really happened. Evidence in favor: he has in his hand a piece of a puzzle that he found in the "dream". Evidence against: he has his eyes back.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: While Julie performed well as a standin for her brother as the Phantom, it's VERY obvious that it's a woman wearing the form-fitting costume. Aside from her slimmer musculature, she didnt even tie her breasts down!
  • Perfect Poison: The Bandar's iconic poison, which is made from a special type of berry that only grows in the jungle, and causes almost instant death. The Bandars use Poisoned Weapons (usually arrows) treated with the poison, and even a scratch means certain doom. However, it has to be both completely pure, and properly brewed, otherwise it loses its potency. The Phantom uses a dilluted version on the Skull ring, which only causes some scarring, and in one story, the victim was just knocked out for a few minutes because the poison hadn't finished fermenting.
  • Pietà Plagiarism: One of the covers of the story The Ghost Who Died Twice has one Phantom being held this way by his son.
  • Pirate: Have a tendency to appear in the Phantom's adventures, since he's the sworn enemy of their kind.
    • Female pirates are sometimes a different story. The fifteenth Phantom married one, the thirteenth or fourteenth married the sister of one (Jeanette Lafitte, sister of Jean Lafitte), and the sixteenth Phantom had an affair resulting in a child with the pirate Kate Sommerset.
    • Not so much with Mary Poe, who was only after avenging her father, the pirate Black Poe. She did make her alias Mary Read, so maybe she wanted to get caught.
  • Pirate Girl / Sky Pirate: Sala
  • Poisoned Chalice Switcheroo: The 17th Phantom once fought a cruel witch doctor who had the reputation of being unkillable, and liked to force his victims to eat a type of lethally toxic legume with him, with him surviving while the other man died in agony. The Phantom figured out that the witch doctor broke the skin of one of the legumes, then ate the intact one himself, which kept the poison from entering his system. The Phantom outwitted him by taking the intact legume before the doctor could eat it, leaving the villain with the option of either admitting defeat or committing suicide. The witch doctor wussed out, earning him the scorn of his former followers, and the Phantoms own myth of immortality was just made stronger.
  • President Evil: The Scandinavian comics have twice had Bangalla taken over by evil presidents:
  • Private Military Contractors: Jungle Patrol is a heroic version of this trope, largely being made up of ex-mercenaries and trained volunteers. Originally led by repentant pirates given a new lease on life by the Phantom, they've over time evolved into a mix of a private police force and conservationist movement, which still answer to him in secret. They also continue to serve as one of the Phantom's allies, providing him intel and backup even if the rank-and-file don't always realize it.
  • Proto-Superhero: Since 1936. He predates Superman and the rest of DC.
  • Purple Is Powerful: He wears purple Spandex.
  • Real Award, Fictional Character: Diana is an Olympic medalist in diving.
  • Red Right Hand: You get the occasional villain like this, most notably the mercenary Goldhand who, you guessed it, had a prosthetic hand made out of gold. Another villain had an iron claw due to having his hand cut off for thievery under Islamic law.
  • Refusal of the Call: The third Phantom originally rejected the legacy and ended up becoming an actor under Shakespeare, but eventually found himself taking on the cowl anyway after his wife was murdered.
  • Rejected Marriage Proposal: Diana had to turn down several proposals from various villains and Romantic False Leads before she married Kit. She even turned down at least one proposal from Kit, because she'd found out that he'd been unthinkingly assuming she'd be a stay-at-home mom once they married, and she refused to marry him until he updated his thinking.
  • Rogues Gallery: As a series and franchise that's over 80 years old by this point, the Phantom has amassed a rather sizable list of foes across various media. In the newspaper strips and the comic books his foes consist of the Singh Brotherhood, Eric "The Nomad" Sahara, Chatu "the Python," Skul and his terrorist organization T, Goldhand, the Sky Band, Kigali Lubanga and his father Bawuko, the Iron Hand, General Tara and his right-hand man Major Isaru, the Black Carnation, Bullets, Ali Gutaale, General Bababu, the High Priest of Kua, and Manuel Ortega.
  • Romantic False Lead: Most notably Lieutenant Byron.
  • Runaway Bride: Diana, at the end of the 1947 story arc "Romance", does a runner from a posh society wedding after realizing that she's making a mistake and that the Phantom is the one for her after all.
  • Running Gag: His faithful companion Devil is actually a wolf. On several occasions an official informs the Phantom (or, more usually, "Mr. Walker") that he can't bring his dog with him, and the Phantom breezes past, saying "Oh, that's all right, Devil isn't a dog..."
  • Ruthless Modern Pirates: Being as he is the scourge of piracy, the modern-day Phantom has encountered modern-day pirates from time to time.
  • Sand In My Eyes: In "The Fourth Son", the title character (the fourth son of an earlier Phantom) starts sobbing when his elder brothers leave to attend school. When his mother reminds him that his father thinks boys shouldn't cry, he claims between sobs that he's not crying, he just has a bug in his eye.
  • Scarecrow Solution: The Phantom's usual tactic. He relies far more on cunning and guile than his fists.
  • Secret-Keeper: The Bandars have traditionally been in on the true nature of the Phantom ever since they saved the original one, and he helped them free themselves from another tribe that had enslaved them. Also in the Scandinavian comics, Dr Axel, a local doctor who has treated the modern Phantom and his family on a few occasions.
  • Series Continuity Error: The same women have been said to have been married to consecutive Phantoms, such as princess Pura having been married to either the third or the fourth, depending on the story; a woman named Flame Stanbury married either the eighth or ninth Phantom, and so on. Also, the Jungle Patrol was founded by either the fifth or the sixth Phantom.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: The life of King Djonkar, a close friend of one of the historical Phantoms, is best summed up this way. He was a much-loved king who ruled over an area of Bengala sometime in the 17th century, and first met the Phantom when he helped save his bride from pirates. Then his wife died in childbirth, with the child being stillborn. Djonkar never remarries, and is eventually assassinated by a high-ranking Singh pirate who is looking to conquer the kingdom. He lives long enough to see the Phantom defeat the pirates and save the kingdom, and wills the kingdom to his friend (actually his son) before dying, and the Phantom relinquishes the crown to the people who form a democratic council instead. Then a few years later, a massive drought sets in, causing the people to leave and the kingdom to cease to exist. The End.
  • Shared Universe: It's well established that The Phantom exists in the same universe as fellow Lee Falk-creation Mandrake the Magician, with Mandrake having had several cameos in the Phantom's comics, including at his wedding.
  • Shark Pool: The Singh Brotherhood has one, as shown in the very first story.
  • Shooting Superman: One story has a criminal attempt this, and seeing the Phantom not even flinch at being shot, gives up and pleads mercy. The Phantom later reveals he was bluffing, the bullet hit him in the arm, but he was able to ignore the pain and keep up his façade.
  • Shout-Out: An early 2000 story arc in the newspaper dailies dealt with criminals recovering millions in Belgian jewels from a steamboat called The African Queen that had crashed in an impossible to navigate river, killing both on board.
  • Shrouded in Myth: Most villains hearing about the Phantom for the first time just assume he is some jungle myth that only superstitious jungle tribes believe in.
  • A Simple Plan: In the 1947 story arc "Romance", the Phantom goes to buy an engagement ring so he can propose to Diana, which leads, by a series of steps each straightforward in itself, to the Phantom trapped on an abandoned ship that's about to be blown up, and Diana swearing never to speak to him again.
  • Sky Pirates: Sala and the Sky Band
  • Sports Hero Backstory: Diana is not just athletic and good at swimming, she's a Olympic medalist.
  • Statuesque Stunner: Princess Vhatta in "The Fourth Son".
  • Steven Ulysses Perhero: According to a later retcon, "Walker" is the actual surname of the first Phantom, and thus of every Phantom since. This hasn't stopped Ed telling us that it's derived from "The Ghost Who Walks".
  • Strong Family Resemblance: Every Phantom is the son of the previous one, and all 21 generations of Phantoms look pretty much identical to those before and after, which definitely helps sell the idea of the Phantom being one supernatural, immortal being.
  • Superhero: Although he has no magic, just lifelong training in anything that might prove useful in his line of work, he still has a skintight suit and what might be termed super strength. A jungle proverb has it that he is as strong as ten tigers, but to be fair the Phantom who inspired that proverb defeated the tigers mostly by outsmarting them.
  • Superhero Packing Heat: Has two guns in his gunbelt. Rarely misses with either hand.
  • Superhero Sobriquets: The Ghost Who Walks, The Man Who Cannot Die, because of all the people who have killed him only to meet him again, either as a later Phantom or as himself after surviving seemingly fatal damages. Sometimes it's an old person who tells their grandchild they saw the Phantom when they were the grandchild's age, and the Phantom doesn't look older than he did at the time. One story has it the first Phantom called himself the Avenger, and only became the Phantom because one of his enemies thought he was his murdered cousin risen from the dead.
  • Sure, Let's Go with That: The Phantoms did not actually cultivate the legend of their immortality on purpose, by the time of the fifth Phantom, the jungle tribes, except the Bandars, belived that the person under the mask was still the same man as a century and a half before, since they looked the same. The Phantoms decided to simply go with it as it proved to be a valuable tool against crime.
  • Technical Pacifist: The Phantom does use guns, but is apparently such a great shot that he almost never needs to shoot people - see Improbable Aiming Skills, Blasting It Out of Their Hands. He does shoot people in self-defense on occasion though, especially if they start shooting first.
  • The Teetotaler: The Phantom doesn’t drink alcohol, when they enter a bar situation their drink of choice is a glass of Milk.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Not directly, anyhow. The Phantom doesn't kill, but he doesn't lose much sleep over criminals who end up dead and doesn't go out of his way to save everyone he crosses paths with. There are at least two recorded instances of the Phantom fatally shooting someone, and unlike many other superheroes this has apparently never been retconned.
  • Tiny Guy, Huge Girl: "The Fourth Son" tells the tale of the shortest Phantom (five foot two and a half), who winds up marrying a six-foot Amazonian Beauty.
  • Torture Technician: Recurring concept, as torture technicians are often employed by whatever Big Bad the Phantom is currently fighting, only a scant few are named, such as Cyclops and Maestro Morte.
  • Training from Hell: Every Phantom is trained in combat, jungle survival and shooting by their father, and often have careers in the military prior to taking up the mantle.
  • Trouble Magnet Gambit: A storyline explaining the disappearance of George Bass has the 13th Phantom sailing with Bass on his final voyage, which was a secret mission for the British crown. At the end of the mission, Bass is sailing his renamed ship to rendezvous the British fleet off the coast of France. However, a traitor on board secretly lowers the British ensign Bass if flying and runs up the French tricolour. This causes Bass' ship to be fired on and sunk by the British fleet.
  • Tuckerization: The title character of the storyline "Princess Valerie" has the name and appearance of Lee Falk's eldest daughter.
  • Underwear of Power: Arguably the Trope Codifier, especially in countries where he is still popular. He wears red-and-black striped trunks over his purple spandex. In several stories this is the only thing he wears aside from his hood/mask, boots, and gunbelt.
  • Unexpected Successor: The thirteenth Phantom was a fourth child, and sickly as a child on top of it (even though he became one of the most heavily built phantoms by working himself to the bone, his adult height was about 5'2''). He was, however, the only son around when his father was killed and thus able to recite the skull oath.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: Not all the time, but a lot of the stories told about past Phantoms are more enjoyable if you know your world history. The Swedish comic book would often have a condensed version of the relevant historic events in it.
  • Viewers Are Goldfish: Every time Diana has to defend herself, we are reminded by a caption that she is a former Judo champion.
  • Villain Decay: Rhodia's apartheid regime. In all the Scandinavian Phantom stories it featured in the 1970s and onwards, it was an ever-present Greater-Scope Villain that was constantly scheming to expand its power and influence while keeping its system of apartheid at home, and the Phantom often had to battle agents of the Rhodian government, including the Rhodian secret agent Miss Mist (real name Sarah Cartwright) before her heel-face turn. This culminated in the 1990s with Rhodia helping Kigali Lubanga win the Bangallan presidential election. When Lubanga turned against his Rhodian benefactors, Rhodia responded by engineering his downfall as part of their plot of invading Bangalla and turning it into a vassal state of Rhodia, which failed thanks to the actions of the Phantom and the Jungle Patrol. By 2012-2013 an increasingly outnumbered and demoralized apartheid regime was stuck fighting a losing war against the black Rhodian Liberation Army, which steadily took over more and more of the country until only Marcusburg, the capital was left, which was then followed by the fall of the regime.
  • Wheel of Pain:
    • In "The Chain", featuring the twentieth Phantom trying to free his fiance from an evil sultan who wants to force her into marriage.
    • In one of the Paracelsus arcs, the First gets this in a torture chamber.
    • The second Phantom found himself chained to one of these shortly after becoming estranged from his son and undergoing a Despair Event Horizon. After recieving a vision of his father, the First Phantom, who showed him the misery of the people trapped under the reign of the tyrant who imprisoned him, he regained his heroic spirit, and began using the nights to wear away the chain he was imprisoned with using the wheel. Finally, the chain was weakened enough to allow him to snap it, and attacked the guard who kept watch over him during the days, allowing him to flee. Rather than escaping, he chose to take the place of another prisoner, kept isolated in a cell and forced to wear an iron mask, because said prisoner was the legitimate ruler of the country. The Phantom stayed behind, allowing the prisoner to mount a rebellion.
  • Whole Episode Flashback: The Numerous stories of the current Phantom's ancestors used to start with a page or two of the 21st Phantom finding a reason to read the story, and then ending with an commentary from him and the people he read it to. Lately this has been replaced with a simple text box at the besinning that states [A story from the Nths Phantom's Time]
  • Will They or Won't They?: The ongoing soap opera of the Phantom's relationship with Diana Palmer, whom he met, rescued, and fell in love with on his first published adventure. Unlike most superhero romances, by the end of the first story arc the Phantom had already revealed his superhero identity and offered to show Diana around his secret lair, but the course of true love does not run smooth: she thinks she's been paralysed so she calls off the relationship, he thinks she's chosen the Romantic False Lead over him so he goes back to the jungle to brood, her mother disapproves, the latest Damsel in Distress wants him for herself, lather rinse repeat, he's afraid to propose in case she says no, he's afraid to propose in case she says yes and then finds out that the Phantom's wife traditionally stays in the Skull Cave doing housewifey stuff... After forty years of this, they finally got married in 1977.
  • Worthless Yellow Rocks: Until each Kit leaves the cave they either don't know anything about or understand the concept of money. The twenty-first Phantom carried around a bag of stones his father gave him not knowing why until he heard his uncle complain about tuition costs months latter. The same story had a very young Kit playing with the gold like they were building blocks.
  • Would Hit a Girl: He's not crazy about it, but since he, and his predecessors, have fought female villains quite a bit, The Phantom IS willing to use force against women. However, there's no record of him ever putting the Evil Mark on their faces like he does with nearly every male villain he fights, so presumably he's not comfortable punching a woman in the face.
  • You Can't Fight Fate:
    • A handful of Phantoms have tried to find lives outside of the mask, like the third one (who first wanted to be an actor), but they nearly always find themselves drawn back in, usually because they can't stand to see the injustice around them go unpunished.
    • In one historical adventure featuring the 18th Phantom, which revolved around a pirate slaver working with a British governor, the governor is shown to be vaguely uncomfortable with the deal, but is both weak-willed and greedy, and tries to pass off any responsibility on his part that "we all just play our parts in history" (notably, one of the defendants at Nuremberg used the same defence. It didn't work for him either). He gets off relatively easy—the Phantom just punches him in the face, leaving him with the Evil Mark, and tells him it'll serve as a reminder that, fate or not, he'd better still try or else! The ending implies he takes it to heart.
  • Zorro Mark: The imprint left by either of his rings. With the good ring it's given consensually and nonviolently as a mark of respect. With the skull ring... It's none of those three. The skull mark is actually a scar created by the force of the Phantom's punch, and the bladed edge of the skull motif, while the good mark is imprinted with a secret permanent ink hidden inside the ring. The Mythbusters examined the skull ring use and found that it would be impossible to leave indentations in people's skin with mechanical force without also shattering the victim's bones in that location and (in the case of the head) killing them. The comic Handwaved this by explaining that the Phantom dips his rings in a less-concentrated version of the Bandar arrow poison long before the Mythbusters examined it, though.