Sunday, 18 October 2015

POP! Heroes -- The Phantom

Company: Heroes
Series: POP! Heroes
Year: 2015

Though he hasn’t enjoyed the same popularity as many of his contemporaries in recent years, The Phantom is one of the very first superheroes, first being published as a newspaper strip in 1936. He still enjoys considerable popularity in Australia and much of Europe. Though his star has waned in his native USA somewhat, he’s still a daily presence in many newspapers over there.  

The Phantom has many of the qualities you need to have a successful superhero – exotic scenery, high adventure and interesting backstory. But attempts at updates and modernisation have not tended to fare as well for The Phantom as they have for say, Batman or Superman. There are probably a few elements contributing here; some might find the portrayal of the African and other foreign scenery and characters a little on the “questionable” side. He also doesn’t have an iconic rogue’s gallery; though the Singh Brotherhood shows up a lot, individual villains tend to come and go, nameless thugs, cronies and interchangeable crime bosses. He lacks a Lex Luthor or Joker-style character

to serve as a main antagonist.

But I think the main issue is that costume…well, it was well ahead of its time, but now it just looks a little on the weird side, like some kind of fetish gear. Attempts to modernise it have ranged from the pretty cool to the not great. There’s probably a way to do it, but then you still have the purple colour issue – it’s just not camouflage-friendly or intimidating, no matter which way you look at it. Nonetheless, The Phantom remains one of my favourite comic characters, so I was over the moon when this POP got announced. Now that he’s finally here, how does he fare?  

Pretty darn good! I’ve been disappointed by a couple of POPs I was really looking forward to recently – most notably White Lantern Wonder Woman – so it was great that this one turned out well. There are a few nitpicks I have; as might be expected, there’s a couple of minor paint errors, and the pieces could be assembled a little more tightly, but he is very-well executed. All the necessary details (like his distinctive rings) are present and accounted for, but there’s not so much detail that it overwhelms the simplistic POP aesthetic.   

There are two variants available – red costume and dark blue costume. Why, you ask? Well, although in Australia and the USA we best know him for having a purple costume, other publishers around the world took a bit more license. In France, Italy, Spain, Turkey and Brazil, he’s better known for having a red costume, while in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland he’s known for having a dark blue one. So though these colourways may look odd to us, the purple one looks just as odd to many other readers worldwide. Given that The Phantom is not the draw he used to be, I suspect this will be the last time he gets a POP, but if they were going to do one more they should make a grey one, as this was his originally planned colour in the comics. Who knows – maybe we’ll see it as a convention exclusive next year! 

In the meantime, this is an essential purchase for Phantom fans.

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