MICHAEL COLE MANLEY, the artist on the Judge Parker strip, is the new guy on the Phantom dailies. Deadlines are unforgiving, so even though it may seem callous, it’s entirely necessary that we’re all quickly replaced when we’re gone. Within 72 hours of Paul Ryan’s sudden death at 66, King Features Syndicate had Mike lined up to carry on.
An excellent call by our editor, Brendan Burford. Mike and I will be a good team. He lives about a mile from where I grew up in West Philly, so whenever I motor down there to visit family I’ll drop in on Mike as well.
Here’s today’s Judge Parker strip, to give you an idea of his style.
It’s a hell of a thing about Paul. So unexpected. I’m the one who’s always 5 seconds away from getting wiped out on the motorcycle, but it was Paul whose time ran out. The Mystery, right? The fates, destiny, divine plan, random chance, lost in space, you tell me.
We did some fun things on our watch. For one, we broke the gender barrier in the Jungle Patrol! As a father of daughters, I was eager to do that. It happened in 2008, almost 72 years after Lee Falk created the classic strip read by millions around the world.
So now there are women in the Jungle Patrol, Hawa Aguda and Kay Molloy. Both are Bangallan by birth, Hawa of the indigenous peoples, Kay of European colonists. I gave Kay an Irish surname because Paul was Irish. Figured he’d like that! Which he did.
The story began publication on January 7, 2008. Kay’s a waitress at a Mawitaan lunch counter, Hawa’s a Mawitaan cop, bored out of her mind. She’s stuck writing parking tickets and jaywalking citations.
The Diana is Diana Palmer Walker, wife of the 21st Phantom. Not that Kay and Hawa are aware of that.
Diana’s not so crazy about the answer. She knows the Jungle Patrol. It was founded by the 6th Phantom, one of her husband’s ancestors. The 21st Phantom runs the outfit as the Unknown Commander; “unknown” because no one ever sees him in the flesh. He runs the JP through his second-in-command, Colonel Worubu. Written orders mysteriously appear in the safe, Worubu hears a voice from the shadows, etc.
Colonel Worubu is the old-fashioned type, strictly by the book. He gives Hawa and Kay a tough time, doesn’t want to break tradition, men only, blah blah…
Worubu agrees to leave the mystery man a note.
Various adventures ensue and…
So anyway, Kay and Hawa are admitted as new recruits. Kay becomes a medic, Hawa, a helicopter pilot. They keep popping up in other stories as we go along.
They keep trying to find out who they really work for.
Well, a little stroll down Amnesia Lane… Paul and I had some fun on our watch. Absolutely we did. There are so many examples, this one happened to spring to mind.
The challenge, as always, is to keep what Falk would have kept and change what Falk would have changed, and pass on the Phantom universe to whoever comes after us. I like that Falk wasn’t stuck in the past; he kept moving things along on his remarkable six-decade run, 1936 to 1999.
If you want to see this 19-week story online, or any other, here’s a link to a free 7-day subscription to Comics Kingdom Royal, the ad-free version. If you want to stick with it beyond a week, it’s cheap, $2 a month, $19 a year, something like that. Every King Features strip is there, plus a ton of other stuff I’ve never bothered to check out. Probably should, given that I’ve been scribbling for KFS for, huh? wha? 17 years? How did that happen?
I said to Daughter #3 recently, How old are you now, 30? In eight years you’ll be 50. Three years after that you’ll be 60! Don’t miss a minute. Carpe diem.
Tony DePaul, March 21, 2016, Cranston, Rhode Island, USA