The Phantom is an American adventure comic strip created by Lee Falk, also creator of Mandrake the Magician. A popular feature adapted into many media, including television, film and video games, it stars a costumed crimefighter operating from the fictional African country Bangalla.
The Phantom is the 21st in a line of crimefighters that originated in 1536, when the father of British sailor Christopher Walker was killed during a pirate attack. Swearing an oath to fight evil on the skull of his father's murderer, Christopher started the legacy of the Phantom that would be passed from father to son, leaving people to give the mysterious figure nicknames such as "The Ghost Who Walks", "The Man Who Cannot Die" and "Guardian of the Eastern Dark", believing him to be immortal.
Unlike many fictional costumed heroes, the Phantom does not have any supernatural powers, but instead relies on his strength, intelligence, and fearsome reputation of being an immortal ghost to defeat his foes. The 21st Phantom is married to Diana Palmer, whom he met while studying in the United States; they have two children, Kit and Heloise. Like all previous Phantoms, he lives in the ancient Skull Cave, and has a trained wolf, Devil, and a horse named Hero.
The series began with a daily newspaper strip on February 17, 1936, followed by a color Sunday strip on May 28, 1939; both are still running as of 2013. At the peak of its popularity, the strip was read by over 100 million people each day.
Lee Falk continued work on The Phantom until his death in 1999. Today the comic strip is produced by writer Tony DePaul and artists Paul Ryan (Monday-Saturday) and Terry Beatty (Sunday). Previous artists on the newspaper strip include Ray Moore, Wilson McCoy, Bill Lignante, Sy Barry, George Olesen, Keith Williams, Fred Fredericks, Graham Nolan and Eduardo Barreto.
New Phantom stories are also published in comic books in different parts of the world, among them by Dynamite Entertainment in USA, Egmont in Sweden, Norway and Finland, and Frew Publications in Australia.
The Phantom was the first fictional hero to wear the skintight costume that has now become a hallmark of comic book superheroes, and was also the first shown wearing a mask with no visible pupils, another superhero standard.