The All New Flash, The Same Old Phantom

There is a big difference in the fan reaction to two of King Features’ Big Name adventure strips.

Dan Schkade‘s take on Flash Gordon continues to garner praise and excitement.

Flash Gordon is one of those pop culture names everyone’s heard of, although most would be at a bit of a loss as to why exactly they recognize that name. Dan Schkade is … not one of those people. As the man behind the King Features reboot of Flash Gordon in newspapers, Schkade has wowed readers of the usually lumbering industry with a fast-paced, action heavy style that works surprisingly well in the comic a day format. Dan Schkade was gracious enough to agree to an interview with theComics Journal.

The Comics Journal posted a new interview with cartoonist Dan Schkade today and even the interviewer can’t hide his enthusiasm about the all new Flash Gordon and Dan’s take on the characters.

Let’s talk about the literal beginning, which was what first raised eyebrows about the project. Instead of retelling the classic story of how Flash arrives through outer space reaching Ming and eventually helping to topple his empire, you condense that part to just a week’s worth of strips and then start immediately thereafter. Why didn’t you retell the original story in full?

Starting from scratch would’ve been a totally valid way to go, especially when you’re doing a new continuity. I imagine King saw other pitches that took that route. But when I thought of fresh takes on long running properties that I personally responded to, it’s things like Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s All-Star Superman, David Yates’ Legend of Tarzan, Matt Reeves’ The Batman to a degree — comics and films that sort of speed run through a general understanding of the canon and then tell a new story from there. The idea of jumping right into the fall of Ming, the place where most Flash Gordon adaptations end, had an energy to that I found really compelling. All the toys are already unboxed. We get to do with them what we like, and there’s no way for the audience to know for sure what that’s going to be. It’s all fresh ground.

On the other hand the extended story lines in The Phantom are fraying fans’ nerves.

Tony DePaul can’t seem to get away from his Wrack and Ruin magnum opus.

May 24, 2021

From earlier this year:

… the dual-timeline Wrack and Ruin series came to a close last Saturday, after seven chapters and 32 months.

So naturally he couldn’t resist tying his adaptation of Lee Falk’s The Chain into the Wrack and Ruin continuity. Which itself had a prelude and connections to earlier adventures. A convoluted tale that Tony himself felt he had to annotate all the twists and turns on his blog.

… condensing the Wrack and Ruin series, 465 pages of script, more than 1,500 images, packaging that in a way a non-Phantom fan (most readers here) might appreciate, that’s a heavy lift. It would easily take a week of daily posts, a chapter per day, an introduction, a continuity primer, nine posts…?

That is The Daily Phantom. For The Sunday Phantom there has been a nearly year-long tale of The Ghost Who Walks hiring an interior decorator to reorganize his Unknown Commander office … or something.

It is understandable that Phantom Phans are wanting to move on.

The newest Sunday story did start on July 23, 2023, and is still running. These stories have, IMO, become to long for their own good lately. Nothing happened on a Sunday with three strips.

It is a bit strange that fans do not react more on these new installments and unnecessary changes in the Phantom strip. Gone are the poison well and the safe where the colonel got his messages, and the Secret Commander is no secret anymore. From being an unknown force who control and guide the force, he is now an ordinary man behind a desk.

I Fully agree with you on three points, unnecessary long story without a story, upcoming changes in dress of phantom and most importantly doing away with the poison well, and the secret box. There was no need of it. I guess TDP was watching charlies Angels recap last year.

Phans have actually gone numb and less caring since last few years because their voices goes to deaf ears of TDP and KFS. Be it showing eyes of Phantom, showing Mozz fully literate, changing the characteristics of Phantom to a self doubting ordinary person, dragging a story arc for 5 years, doing away with major Falk character like Rex, trench coat replaced by leather jacket, and not sure what else….

We’ve had this discussion earlier as well…it’s a difference of opinion between the traditionalists and those who prefer a change…but if the changes are not getting any new Phans aboard and also upsetting the existing old Phans then someone need to have a relook at the changes..more than the changes I would like the stories to be crisper and fast paced.

And the conversation continues at The Phantom News Facebook page.

feature image by Jim Keefe from Comic Revue Presents

3 thoughts on “The All New Flash, The Same Old Phantom

  1. The problem with Phantom is that there are storylines that literally go nowhere. The whole affair of Mozz’s prophecy dragged on, wearily, for months, without a resolution. And every time the prophecy about Phantom’s son is dragged out for dozens of strips, and then abandoned. Flash Gordon is, however, a fresh, modern strip, which manages to build excellent stories with few, but fair, references to the strip’s classic past.

  2. Why the attack on The Phantom now, when Mike Manley is back and a new adventure has started? There have been visually splendid panels, plus a very funny satire on Elon Musk.

  3. I won’t fault people not liking the changes in how the Unknown Commander will communicate with the Jungle Patrol; no arguing taste. But I do understand and approve taking so much time on this. The secret vault of mystery orders has been part of Phantom lore forever. Replacing it needs to be done with something of great magnitude, so the new way looks like it could be as important as the old. Last thing you want is for the change to land like the multicolored Daleks did.

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