Announced at Comic-Con, Lee Falk's classic comic strip hero The Phantom is being developed as a TV movie and potential series for the Sci-Fi Channel by Carnivale's Daniel Knauf and his son, Charlie. But what is it about "the Ghost Who Walks" that makes him especially science fiction-y? We run down what to expect from the new version, and also look at just why he belongs on that particular channel.Pre-dating even Superman by a couple of years, The Phantom isn't just the first comic strip character to favor skin-tight clothing as the crime-fighting fashion of choice, he's also the first character to realize that masks can make your eyeballs disappear. But, like Batman, he has no superpowers, and even his rogues gallery tends towards the more mundane. So, besides the outfit, what makes him a good fit for the Sci-Fi Channel? Charles Knauf thinks that the key may be in the approach that the new version will take:
We upgraded everything so that it's a modern-day Phantom. In the tradition of the Phantom, it's going to be a great adventure story. It's going to be action and car chases. He's still got a purple costume, but we upgraded it. We made it tougher... we're updating everything to make it more modern.
Said upgrading also includes DNA-tracking technology, which almost brings it into the SF arena, but until we see robots and flying motorbikes, we're not buying it. And how likely is it that we'd see either in a Phantom story?
Okay, apparently it's not that unlikely at all. Even though the new Sci-Fi Channel version of the character doesn't sound that far removed from the original, entirely non-SF, version, the Phantom has actually had two different incarnations that are very, very clearly science fiction. There's Phantom 2040, as seen above, and also fondly-remembered-but-ultimately-shit Defenders Of The Earth:
This is the kind of Phantom that we need to see on the Sci-Fi Channel: A crimefighter who may have come from the jungle but now ignores elephants and smugglers in favor of zapping alien overlords with his newly magic ray-ring. Don't get me wrong; the Phantom is an interesting character and definitely one with enough Batman-esque qualities to earn interest in these post-Dark Knight times. But going back and "updating" the original take on the character shouldn't earn him a place on the Sci-Fi Channel; instead, bring in the more ridiculous parts of his history (like teaming up with Flash Gordon to fight Ming the Merciless, for example) and make those work. Give us a Phantom worthy of the channel he's on.