Saturday, May 24, 2008

Pizza Doodletime - The Phantom

Eddie and I got to talking about why Mike hated superheroes, and I said it was a great American tradition that should be ever preserved, but in its more innocent purer state.

Then we tried to figure out who invented the first superhero and we guessed it was Lee Falk, creator of the Phantom.

I remember reading The phantom in the funny papers in the 60s and knew it had been around forever. I don't think he actually had any superpowers, but he had the more important thing that defines superheroes: he went around in public in his underwear. I don't know how that was ever invented, or whether it evolved out of something else. I would like to think that it just occurred to Falk or somebody as an inspiration. Imagine thinking to yourself: "I've got it! I will create a crime fighter who goes around in his underwear beating people up! And no one will question it!"

Then I tried to remember what he looked like. He had a pretty bland costume I recalled. But Eddie, who's more conscious of silky man-fashions than me reminded me that he had purple striped briefs as an accent over his leotards.
Eddie and I spent some time debating which side of your hand the thumb went on.
The first Superheroes were pretty sedentary. The artists hadn't discovered action poses yet.
It took Jack Kirby to invent the idea of drawing fighters in action poses.
Eddie said he remembered the Phantom couldn't fly, so he rode a horse instead. And the poor criminals only had mere cars and bullets.

Then I took to doodling some more superhero types.

We wondered whatever happened to the Cheerios Kid? I imagine he grew up and still gets his go powers from dried stale starch rings.
What's great about superheroes is that they are as preposterous as talking funny animals but are meant to be taken seriously. As if there were dramatic stories starring the 3 Stooges. Even stranger is that I've met people who take comic book writers seriously and I've witnessed people arguing over whose stories make more dramatic sense.

I wonder if Falk was outraged when Siegel and Shuster came along and gave a man in underwear magical powers, destroying the believability of a crime fighting man in underpants on a horse. Can he have imagined that one day there would be hordes of undergarment crime fighting heroes and the whole world would totally accept the concept as normal?

It must be a great job though to get up every day and think up new adventures for underpants. I'd like to do that in my retirement and see if I can get a horde of fans to take me seriously.

Superheroes are a great American tradition and I kind of wish they would go back to being more mainstream in cheap throwaway comics on newsprint so every little kid could grow up normal, instead of just a few super nerdy kids (and adults!) who have to go out of their way to specialty comic stores for blurry photoshopped angry superheroes with pointy anatomy on expensive slick paper.

Bring back Mort Weisinger!