Friday, June 22, 2007

The Dreaded... Bob Phantom!

So I'm doing some research on Kardak the Mystic for my dad. He was a more-or-less typical magician-type character from the 1940s who appeared almost exclusively in Top-Notch Comics. The main question of my research was, simply, did Kardak appear in Top-Notch Comics #3?

Seems a simple enough question, but I was running into problems. Mainly because I had several sources noting that Kardak appeared from #1 until #27 continuously, and I had another source citing that he did NOT appear in #3. Now, if that one source were anyone else, I would've dismissed it as an error or an oversight, but that source was the Grand Comics Database which I've come to trust over the years as an excellent source of data and an invaluable research tool.

Well, I managed to find an electronic copy of Top-Notch #3 (a legal copy, thankyouverymuch) and would then be able to check it for myself. Sure enough, Kardak is entirely absent from that one issue for no explained reason. In his place, however, I found...
They had to be kidding. "Bob Phantom"? What the hell kind of superhero name is "Bob Phantom" even in the 1940s? So I look it up.

Sure enough, "Bob Phantom" was a legitimate superhero character throughout the 1940s and has seen modern appearances as recently as 1992. (I'm not kidding! Mark Waid put him in The Comet #7 in a story entitled, "The Name Is Phantom... Bob Phantom!") I counted over 40 appearances in different comics!

Okay, granted, publishers were requesting new superheroes on a daily basis back then. Every artist, even one as talented as Irv Novick, is going to crank out some duds. I can further grant that "The Phantom" was already taken by then. But how about some kind adjective modifier? The Green Phantom? The Dark Phantom? The Lone Phantom? The Caped Phantom?

Geez, even if you want to just pick a regular first name, how about something just a little more dramatic than "Bob"? Ulysses Phantom? Jacob Phantom? Ray Phantom? Heck, Bruce Phantom sounds cooler than Bob Phantom!

From what I can tell, it's actually a decent character for the 1940s. Certainly an interesting visual design, but that name is just abysmal for a superhero! Nothing against the Bobs of the world, mind you -- it's a decent name and remains fairly popular for a reason. But it doesn't exactly convey "Scourge of the Underworld", does it? I mean, how can any reader take the following panel seriously...


Let me end on a request. If anyone reading this happens to have a time machine handy, could you please go back to 1940 and ask Novick what in the name of anything that's holy was going through his head?

"Bob Phantom," indeed! Phaugh!

4 comments:

Steve Flanagan said...

You could try this with other scary names.

"Phil Spectre". That would put the wind up me.

Sean Kleefeld said...

Oh, I get it. Like "Marv Wolfman." Yeah, that is pretty spooky!

plok said...

Hahahahahaha!

...I can't think of one.

Mitchell LeVine said...

A character named Bob Phantom appears in the February, 1937, issue of Star Comics, published by Ultem (Harry 'A' Chessler), who is a magician, not the MLJ character. This is his only appearance, though he seems to have two stories in sequence in that comic book. Somewhere I remember reading an article or even a blog about stage magicians where the name is mentioned in series with magicians such as Houdini, Blackstone, and Bob Phantom, but I have been unsuccessful in finding any information about a Bob Phantom. If anybody happens to own that issue of Star Comics, I would sure like to see a picture of that character posted here.