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Western Animation / Phantom 2040

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A father's desperate sacrifice. A young boy survives to swear an oath. "I swear to devote my life to the destruction of piracy and injustice. My sons and their sons shall follow me." This is the legacy of my family — a vow handed down from father to son for over 500 years. Now, in the year 2040, I am the Ghost Who Walks. I am The Phantom!

Phantom 2040 is an Animated Adaptation of the comic book superhero The Phantom which aired between 1994-1996, breaking from the hero's usual routine battling evil in the jungle into a Cyberpunk future.

In the year 2040, college student Kit Walker learns that his father, who disappeared when he was a baby, was the 23rd Phantom, latest in a long line of heroes. Kit takes up the mantle, with the support of Guran, his father's friend and assistant, and Professor Archer, one of Kit's teachers, who puts two and two together after the return of the Phantom coincides with a sudden decline in Kit's academic performance. Kit's Aunt Heloise, who raised him in ignorance of his heritage in the hope he could avoid the short and dangerous life his father had led, also lends her support when it becomes clear that he's committed to it whatever she does.

The Phantom's fight against crime and corruption often involves crossing swords with Megacorporation Maximum, Inc. Maximum's founder, Maxwell Madison, disappeared on the same night as Kit's father, and this, it quickly becomes clear, is not mere coincidence. The corporation is now run by his widow, Rebecca, with (not much) help from Max Madison Jr. Following the death of his father, Max Jr. has developed into a psychologically withdrawn young man with no interest in anything much except his cat, Baudelaire. (Having the temperamental Rebecca for a mother probably didn't help.) Rebecca Madison's Dragon is Maximum's security chief, Graft, a cynical former soldier and environmentalist who was critically injured in a battle and now is kept alive by Maximum technology; what's left of his body can be plugged into a variety of robotic frames ranging from approximately human to full-on battle mech.

The visual aesthetic of the series is similar to that of Ĉon Flux, as it has the same designer, Peter Chung. The series also, in retrospect, has some interesting similarities to the later Batman Beyond and Zorro: Generation Z, though this is probably just convergent evolution from a similar premise, that being a Legacy Hero character in a cyberpunk future.

The people behind this series went on to also do a teenage animated version of the Phantom's King Features stablemate Flash Gordon.

Is being released a few episodes a week on the youtube channel for Comics Kingdom, a comic strip site that also digitally runs the comic about the original Phantom.

The animated series has these tropes:

  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot:
    • Mr. Cairo. He was originally an analytical program that was going to be integrated into Doctor Jak's mind to help him find out who was responsible for the Sector Zero wreck (which killed his wife), but the illegal clinic where he was receiving the operation was raided by the Enforcers, and the program ended up being lost on the net, where it eventually became self-aware and developed its own personality.
    • Heisenberg, the fractal biot, becomes self-aware after his external processor is damaged. He then uses his own sub-components to make other biots self-aware, beginning with Pavlova, Dr. Jak's assistant.
  • Big Applesauce: The series is set in New York (though it's now called "Metropia"), with a brief handwave about why the Phantom doesn't live in Africa any more.
  • Clothes Make the Superman: The Phantom suit includes a variety of high-tech gadgets that help Kit to act as the Phantom even though he hasn't had the usual years of training. For instance, it has a cloaking device that makes him invisible.
  • Comic-Book Adaptation: It was drawn by none other than Steve Ditko.
  • Compilation Movie: The video release Phantom 2040: The Ghost Who Walks was the first five episodes edited together.
  • The Commissioner Gordon: Enforcer Sagan Cruz is Phantom's contact in Metropia's law enforcement.
  • Consulting Mister Puppet: Max Madison Jr. never expresses an opinion without prefixing: "Baudelaire says...". Baudelaire is his cat. Who doesn't actually talk.
  • Cool Old Guy: This version of Guran is significantly older than Kit, as he was a contemporary of Kit's father, the 23rd Phantom, and frequently gets in on the action personally.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Rebecca Madison, the head of Maximum, Inc., is out for power and money regardless of who she has to step on along the way.
  • Creepy Monotone: Maxwell Madison Jr. speaks in one, which is one of the indications of his emotional disturbance.
  • Cyberpunk: In a 20 Minutes into the Future City Noir setting with cyborgs and transhumanism all over the place, a small group of heroes fights back against an evil Mega-Corp.
  • Detachable Lower Half: The cyborg Graft has several interchangeable lower halves, including a set of everyday legs and a ten-foot-tall battle platform.
  • Distinguishing Mark: The Phantom's Good Mark, that marks its bearer as under the hero's protection. The Phantom inscribes a pendant that Kit won Sagan Cruz earlier that episode in the episode of that name. Because she still regards the Phantom as a dangerous vigilante at that point in the show, she's less than flattered by the display, and accuses him of trying to bribe her.
  • The Dragon: Graft, the security chief of Maximum, Inc., has a weapon-packed cyborg body, and handles all fight scenes on behalf of the Corrupt Corporate Executive Big Bad. A unique case in that he hates her and is only loyal because she has control of most of his body, and plots behind her back when he gets the chance.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: Inverted. DV-L is initially uneasy around Kit, so Sagan has to firmly tell him that Kit is a friend. Later on, when they meet the Phantom, Sagan expects DV-L to attack... but, of course, DV-L remembers that he's a friend and lets him go.
  • Evil Diva: Vaingloria is a singer employed by Rebecca Madison to brainwash the masses. While she loves the fame, she's something of a Punch-Clock Villain when it comes to the brainwashing and only does Rebecca's bidding under consequence of having her implants removed and being forced back into obscurity as a nameless face that she was before Rebecca hired her.
  • Evil Plan: Maximum Inc.'s master plan is to initiate what is known as the Maximum Era, a complete restructuring of the Earth's ecosystem by deliberately causing the extinction of 99% of the planet's lifeforms to create a balanced artificial environment that would support only humans and a few other carefully selected species. Before that, Cyberville will be take in a sheltered few who will protected from the ecological adjustments while the rest of mankind dies.
  • Fallen Hero: Graft. Some of the series' most notable moments are the ones where it turns out he still has some lines he won't cross.
  • Fantastic Racism: Sean One believes in the superiority of people born and raised in orbit, complete with colorful slurs like "gravity slave".
  • Fat Bastard: Gorda, an obese crime lord who travels everywhere in a hoverchair because she's too large to walk under her own power.
  • A Fate Worse Than Death:
    • What happened to Sparks' parents. They were used as mental tissue for the biomechanical "living building" Project Gauntlet, Cyberville's security system.
    • Graft definitely would've preferred dying on the battlefield to becoming Rebecca Madison's half-robotic errand boy.
    • Maxwell Madison, Sr. would've also preferred to remain dead rather than getting his brainwaves uploaded into a mainfraime at Maximum and, later, to a biot body. And his response upon learning that his nemesis "survived"? A blood-curdling scream as if it came from the depths of Hell.
  • Five-Episode Pilot: Though the show technically had a two part opener, the first five episodes all act to introduce the main characters and establish the status quo that would remain for the remainder of the series. The first five episodes were also later reworked into a Compilation Movie.
  • Flying Car: Flying vehicles are common. In particular, the Phantom has a flying motorbike in place of the traditional white horse.
  • Fun with Acronyms: Riffing off the original Phantom's wolf, Devil, Enforcer Cruz has a cyborg police dog named D.V.L. It's not revealed what this stands for.
  • Future Slang: A few slang terms are derived from a rather prescient anticipation of how big the Internet would get. A common apparatus used to access information is the Integrated Cybernetic Environment, or ICE. This logically leads to 'skating' (using the net), and even 'heat source' (cracking software).
  • Good All Along: Maxwell Madison, Sr. We're lead to believe that he was as bad as his wife, but then it's revealed that he and Kit's father were allies, working together to try and save the Earth by using ghostwood to purge the world of pollutants before releasing a special toxin that would cull the ghostwood so that it wouldn't overrun the planet.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Mr. Cairo sacrifices himself to steal important information from the Maximum, Inc. database in "The Sacrifice, Part II".
  • Hero with Bad Publicity: The Phantom is chased by the authorities because he's believed to be guilty of the Sector Zero crash and the murder of Maxwell Madison, Sr. Not even Guram or Heloise know for certain if Kit's father, the 23rd Phantom, actually murdered Madison.
  • Hidden Depths:
    • Graft, Rebecca Madison's chief enforcer, comes across as a Blood Knight who wants to be the only one allowed to defeat the Phantom, and also acts as a scheming Dragon with an Agenda. Then we get to his back-story, where it's revealed that he's a Fallen Hero who would rather have died on the battlefield than be remade as a cyborg (he lost his original body defending a small village from extermination when he tried briefly to turn on Maximum Inc.), and we also learn that in the present day, even though he's quite willing to commit murder for Maximum Inc., he won't deliberately harm children or allow them to be harmed.
    • We can all agree that Doctor Jak is a major douche whose "news reports" are heavily biased against the Phantom, plus he's not afraid to interpret facts his own way or make up false reports against the Ghost Who Walks for his own amusement and for higher ratings. Then we get to his Day in the Limelight episode...and he turns out to be a man full of self-loathing and misery and who misses his late wife, who died in the Sector Zero crash, to the point that he named his personal assistant BIOT after her and feels guilty for not being able to uncover what caused the crash in the first place. He also really doesn't care about uncovering the Phantom's secrets, as Kit had initially feared.
    • So Guran is mentor to the Phantom, always has a good word of advice for Kit to follow both as the Phantom and in life in general, and is in fact quite willing to give advice to anyone who's in need of it...but he's also filled with guilt and self-hatred over not being there to prevent the death of Kit's father, the previous Phantom and that despair manifests itself as the Shadow Panther.
    • A particularly creepy example can be found in Maxwell Jr. Yes, he's a disturbed young man whose only real friend is his cat...but his psychosis comes as a result of his Parental Abandonment issues (his father being dead and his mother not being all there in the head herself), and he is in fact quite capable of being a VERY Manipulative Bastard when the episode calls for it.
  • Hollywood Cyborg:
    • Graft lost most of his body from the chest down in a battle, and now most of his body is cybernetic. He actually has several robotic bodies, including a human-sized everyday one and ten-foot-tall weaponized one, and can have the human part of him disconnected from one and connected to another as required.
    • The pop star Vaingloria has implanted cybernetic "wings" that add to the visual effects during her performances (and form part of a mechanism for brainwashing her audiences).
    • The muckracking reporter Doctor Jak has several cybernetic implants, including a camera eye and data ports that let him jack into a computer and download his experiences directly.
  • Holographic Disguise: The Phantom suit has an integrated holographic projector that can be used to render him invisible by projecting an image of whatever's behind him.
  • I Cannot Self-Terminate:
    • As a cyborg, Graft's paid for and owned by Maximum, Inc., regardless of his wishes. In one particularly harrowing scene, he's left in agonizing pain after having his cybernetics damaged in a fight and begs Maximium's retrieval team to kill him, while Max Jr. simply watches from afar:
      Max Jr.: Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall. Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. But all the queen's horses and all the queen's men just kept putting poor Humpty back together again. And again, and again, and again...
    • Played up even more when Max Madison Sr. returns. A continuing plot from his reintroduction to the finale was his desire to die, but inability to end his life because of his programming. Ultimately, the Phantom does this at his request.
  • I Just Want to Be Special: Vain Gloria made a deal with Maximum to be implanted with mirrors that emit hypnotic lights, making her performances exceedingly popular. She pretty much considers having them removed and being Brought Down to Normal to be a Fate Worse than Death for her.
  • Imposter Forgot One Detail: An episode focuses on what appears to be messages from a future Phantom telling the current Phantom that he must break his rule and kill Rebecca or she will cause an event that will cause the complete destruction of the world. Despite believing the possibility that it is a true message, they notice that the "future" Phantom addresses the current Phantom as if it was himself as if he was an immortal like the legend says, rather than how it's actually a role passed from father to son. They later find out it was created by Sean One when he stated that the Phantom was going to kill Rebecca where everyone else knew he doesn't kill.
  • Is the Answer to This Question "Yes"?: When they have to fly a scramjet to Antarctica, Professor Archer asks Sparks if he's ever flown one before; Sparks answers "Does a neutrino have mass?" (At the time the episode was made, it was believed that neutrinos were massless.)
  • Job-Stealing Robot: Many people hate Biots and became Biot Hunters because a lot of people lost their jobs to Biots when Maximum Inc. started mass producing them and as such try to destroy them out of their belief that the world would be better off without them.
  • Kent Brockman News: Doctor Jack's news reports provide exposition while also being entertainingly eccentric.
  • Knowledge Broker: Mr. Cairo. He only values knowledge and no amount of currency, which is probably why he hasn't told the Big Bad who The Phantom is despite the hefty reward. He never appears in person, only communicating with his customers through holograms. It turns out he's not a person at all, but rather a sentient computer program.
  • Lampshade Hanging: The reason the Phantom defeats Biot soldiers so easily is because, it's explained in an early episode, the villains are specifically avoiding using Biots designed for combat. Normal Biots supposedly going rogue and attacking people (like the Phantom) would be one thing. Biot soldiers doing that would lead to the cops showing up and asking Rebecca Madison lots and lots of uncomfortable questions.
  • Land of One City: There is no real "United States" any more, just a series of city-states that are independently ruled.
  • Land Down Under: That one episode set in Australia, with the brown-plated boomerang-throwing Biots and the rocket-launcher-toting robot wallaby.
  • Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: "The Magician", an old friend of the Phantom family who bears a striking resemblance to an elderly version of Falk's Mandrake, who was also teammates with the Phantom in Defenders of the Earth. Peter Renaday even returned to voice the character.
  • Lean and Mean: Sean One, who is inhumanly tall due to having lived his entire life in an orbital platform.note  He requires an exoskeleton to walk on Earth.
  • Legacy Character: The Phantom identity is passed down from father to son; Kit is the 24th person to bear the mantle.
  • Loves My Alter Ego: Enforcer Sagan Cruz is attracted to Kit, but is suspicious of The Phantom.
  • Meaningful Name: Two meanings of the word "graft" are "A portion of living tissue surgically transplanted from one part of an individual to another, or from one individual to another, for its adhesion and growth" and "The acquisition of money, gain, or advantage by dishonest, unfair, or illegal means, esp. through the abuse of one's position or influence in politics, business, etc." It's the perfect name for the character Graft, a Cyborg who is the enforcer for a Corrupt Corporate Executive.
  • Mecha-Mooks: Maximum, Inc. apparently consists of three people (well, more like two and a half with Graft) and an army of robots. The licensed game literally states those three are the only actual humans working in the corporation.
  • Mega City: Metropia is a self-governing city state of 32 million inhabitants — that's over 10% of the entire population of America at the time the show was made.
  • Mega-Corp: Maximum, Inc. is a massive corporation that has influence everywhere.
  • Mole in Charge: The chief of Metropia's law enforcement turns out to be on the payroll of Maximum, Inc.
  • My Horse Is a Motorbike: As part of his updated look, the Phantom has a flying motorbike instead of the horse his predecessors rode in the comics.
  • Nephewism: Kit doesn't have parents, only an aunt.
  • Never Hurt an Innocent:
    • The Phantom, which is one of the reasons there are so many robots for the Phantom to blow up now.
    • Poignantly, Graft once stopped a fight he was winning when a kid got endangered, revealing one of the few uncrossable lines he still possesses.
  • Never Mess with Granny: If you threaten Aunt Heloise or her nephew, you can expect her to go Guns Akimbo on you.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Vaingloria, a pop idol voiced by Deborah Harry, is the show's futuristic Expy of Madonna who brainwashes her fans using multiplied light at frequencies matching waking brain activity.
  • Older and Wiser: The father-to-son premise doesn't allow for the Phantom to be advised by his predecessor, but Aunt Heloise comes close, as she was actively involved in her brother's activities and received the same childhood training he did (and her nephew didn't).
  • Paparazzi: Doctor Jak, for most of the series. In "Matter Over Mind", it is shown that he was actually an Intrepid Reporter in the past, before his wife died in the Sector Zero crash, and these more heroic tendencies resurface throughout the episode.
  • Pick on Someone Your Own Size: In an intergender example, Rebecca Madison and Kit Walker quickly pick up the enmity previously shared by their husband and father, respectively.
  • Powered Armor: The cops (enforcers) are known to be equipped with this when expecting dangerous resistance.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: The clinically insane Max, Jr., who wistfully speaks to and through his pet cat, Baudelaire.
  • Reforged into a Minion: Graft's backstory is that he started out helping people fight against Maximum, Inc. when it tried to take away their homes and livelihoods; during a battle with Maximum's security forces he was fatally injured and Rebecca Madison had him rebuilt as a Cyborg loyal to Maximum, Inc.
  • The Resenter: Aunt Heloise reveals that she was this toward the Phantom legacy for a long time because her brother, Kit's father, was chosen to be the next Phantom instead of her, despite both of them undergoing the same training together.
  • Right-Hand Cat: Max Madison Jr. never goes anywhere without his cat Baudelaire, usually cradled in his arms.
  • Rogues Gallery: The enemies that the Phantom contends with throughout the series include Rebecca Madison, Max Madison Jr., Graft, Gorda, Gunnar the Hunter (who appears for only one episode), Queen Nia (who appears for two), Sean One, and Doctor Jak and Vaingloria to a (somewhat) lesser degree.
  • Secret-Keeper: Professor Archer becomes one after he figures out why Kit suddenly isn't focusing on his academic performance as much as he used to.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Sean One's main orbital platform is named Dykstra Platform, likely a reference to John Dykstra, the visual effects supervisor for the original Star Wars films. The episode "The Woman in the Moon" takes place on Trumbull Platform, named for Douglas Trumbull, the visual effects supervisor for Blade Runner (and one of Dykstra's mentors).
    • When Archer discusses 20th century detective fiction, alongside Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe he namedrops Dixon Hill.
    • In one episode, Kit receives messages from the future in the form of a tachyon signal coming from a point in space where Earth will be in the future. This is the same premise as Gregory Benford's novel Timescape, but unlike the novel, the messages turn out to be a hoax.
  • Sticks to the Back: The Phantom's smartguns (well, to his hips, anyway).
  • Superhero Sobriquets: Like all his predecessors, The Phantom is known as the Ghost Who Walks and The Man Who Cannot Die. It's part of creating the legend that the Phantom is one immortal hero as opposed to a lineage.
  • Super Wrist-Gadget: The Phantom's bracelets contain all manner of devices, from scanners to lasers to saws to Grappling-Hook Pistols.
  • Troubled Child: Perfectly describes Maxwell Madison Jr., apart from the technicality of him being an adult now.
  • Turn Out Like His Father: Aunt Heloise raised Kit ignorant of his family heritage, because she didn't want him to go out and get killed like his father did. When he finds out anyway and takes on the Phantom mantle, she's initially resistant but quickly realizes that he's going to follow his father's path regardless of what she does and the best way to prevent him getting killed is now to offer her full assistance.
  • The War of Earthly Aggression: Foreshadowed, with off-world colonies and an independence movement, but it doesn't come to outright hostilities during the run of the series.
  • Unrobotic Reveal: A human woman disguised as a biot.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Rebecca Madison, who appears to the world at large to be the benevolent head of a large corporation, plagued by a villainous purple-clad vigilante.
  • Visible Invisibility: When the Phantom's cloaking device is engaged, he appears transparent to the audience while being invisible to other characters due to a multiplied light field that blurs all artificial vision systems.
  • Where Are They Now: One's given for the villains in the final episode: Rebecca Madison's in jail, Gorda's been deported to Australia (where it's implied she'll be in jail), Maxwell Madison Jr.'s in a psych ward where he can finally get the help he needs after being freed from his pyscho mom's influence, Graft's at a halfway house, and Maxwell Madison Sr.'s finally dead (at his request). Kit gets to go back to his normal life. At least, supposing the Phantom isn't needed again.
  • Wretched Hive: Metropia appears to be mostly slums, full of Scavengers (homeless people) living off of whatever they can find or steal.

The spin-off video game provides examples of:

  • Extinct in the Future: The game features a wildlife memorial with tributes to several extinct animals, including pandas, lions, gorillas, wild boar, kangaroos, mountain goats, snakes, giant turtles, crocodiles and dolphins. A black panther which is believed to be the Last of Its Kind also serves as a MacGuffin in the early part of the story.
  • Golden Ending: There's over twenty endings, but all but one of them involves the Phantom dying or being otherwise screwed over.
  • Guide Dang It!: The final branching point of the game seems like a Morton's Fork where it is impossible to obtain the Golden Ending: Sean One has a Kill Sat aimed at Metropia, Maximum Inc. is ready to unleash an army of biots on the city. You are given the choice to head to space or Maximum's headquarters. What nothing in the game hints at is that there is a third option, as the Maximum facility contains a well hidden space rocket which allows you to defeat both threats.
  • Missing Secret: There are three multiplier items you can find in the game. One doubles the damage you do, one halves the damage you take, and a third halves your ammo consumption. Hidden in the game are upgrades for the incoming damage multiplier and the ammo consumption multiplier that reduce their respective attributes to one fourth of the original value. There is no upgrade for the damage inflicted multiplier.
  • Multiple Endings: The game had over twenty endings, and while which one the player earned usually depended on obvious things like which option they took when given a story choice, there were a few cases of a determining factor being just which literal path they took to complete their objectives. Almost all the endings involve death, destruction, and an invitation to the player to "Try Again".
  • Permanently Missable Content: The route splits available will pretty much ensure you'll miss the opportunity to find upgrades, be it HP or EN extensions, weapons, or the damage, armor and energy consumption multipliers.
  • Press X to Die: Near the end of the game is a level where the player is running on the outside of a moving train. Pressing down+jump allows the player to drop down to a lower part of it, even when on the lowermost part of the train. Dropping from there (and thus onto the tracks) can only ever result in instantaneous death.
  • Rogues Gallery: In addition to those from the series, the game has two unique villains, the hunter-slash-wildlife-smuggler Tracker (presumably an Expy of Gunnar) and Mars, a former military general on Rebecca's payroll.
  • Violation of Common Sense: How some of the route splits work. From a hero's standpoint, the Phantom should verify the explosion in the university for wounded or survivors, Prof. Jack Archer in particular, but going after the assaulting vehicle is a viable option as well. Same goes for deciding whether the Shadow Panther should be given to Guran to be freed in the jungle, or given to a sketchy merchant in exchange for dubious intel on where your captive friend is being held at. And ironically enough, doing the less heroic choices will wield the best rewards. Going after the ship that attacked the university will net you the Mine weapon; giving the panther to the merchant will give you the Invisibility Belt and the Damage x2 multiplier.