Friday, May 6, 2016

Gold Key The Phantom #03

After taking a look at the Phantom in "Defenders of the Earth" the last couple months, I figured it was a good time to head back to the beginning...or at least back to where I started with the blog. From writer Bill Harris and artist Bill Ligante we once again get not one, but two tales of the Phantom, "The Diamond Cup" and "The Cry Baby"...and another beautiful painted cover by George Wilson in Gold Key's "The Phantom" #03!

In the Deep Woods, David Wells, jungle explorer, finds himself in danger. Separated from his guides, and suffering from jungle fever, he manages to gun down an attacking tiger before passing out by a watering hole. The guy doesn't get a break either. A leopard and a pack of hyenas move on his unconscious body...until the Bandar pygmies arrive and rescue him. They take him back to Skull Cave, where the Phantom allows Wells to rest for the night, and the feverish man is about to witness something very few have seen. 

From deep within the vaults of his ancestors, the Phantom produces a diamond cup and drinks a toast to those who came before him. Though delirious from fever, Wells manages to ask the Ghost Who Walks about the cup, and we learn it once belonged to Alexander the Great! It eventually found its self in the hands a Moorish king who gave it to the First Phantom as reward for the hero saving his life. The next day the Bandar take an unconscious Wells to the hospital. Months later, after he's recovered, Wells tells his story at the Bengali Explorer's Club. 

The members doubt his story, and the existence of the Phantom, and one man, Mr. Lorgen, even bets him half a million dollars he can't produce the cup as proof. It seems Lorgen has ulterior motives though. He actually believes the cup is real, he's read about it and he wants it, or the half a million dollars, so he makes sure Wells' guide is on his payroll! No sooner are they in the jungle then Wells and Trigger, his guide, find themselves surrounded by the Bandar and on their way to see the Phantom. When the hero finds out why Wells has returned, he's disappointed. 

Not approving of their bet, and not willing to let the cup leave the Skull Cave, the Phantom does agree to let the explorers stay the night, which actually gives Trigger the opportunity to steal the cup. The next day when he realizes it's missing, the Phantom has the pygmy people bring Wells back, mistakenly believing it was him, not Trigger, who stole the cup. The Ghost Who Walks hears Wells' side, and then sets off in search of Trigger. Trigger meanwhile has already delivered the cup to Lorgen then, feeling cheated, steals it back from Lorgen along with the contents of his safe before making his escape to the airport. The Phantom is close behind, and manages to board the same plane

And then, in rapid succession (seriously what I'm about to say takes place in about 1 page) the Phantom gets the cup from Trigger and turns the thief over to the pilot with direction to turn him over to the police, sneaks into Lorgen's home and agrees not to press charges as long as he donates the half million dollars to a native hospital, releases Wells and returns the cup to the vaults of the Skull Cave! 

The second story begins with Cecil, crying on the ground as a bully taunts him. In the process Cecil breaks his glasses, which his mother is not too happy about. Their family doesn't have much, and she works hard to provide. She asks him to help by delivering laundry to a neighbor, but Mike, the bully, trips him causing the freshly washed clothing to end up in the dirt. 

In desperation Cecil runs into the jungle to avoid any more torment, but quickly finds himself lost and stalked by a tiger. Lucky for him, the Phantom just so happens to be out on a tiger hunt and saves the boy in the nick of time. After dispatching the big cat, the Ghost Who Walks asks why Cecil is in the jungle, alone, at night. Cecil eventually tells the Phantom his sad tale, and mentions he's afraid to go home. In an odd plot twist the Phantom offers to pretend to be Cecil's dad and let him stay in the jungle on vacation...provided they let his mother know first.

The very next day Cecil begins his vacation adventure, playing with the Bandar boys, swimming, and climbing trees. 

The Phantom even teaches the youngster archery and boxing before being pulled away to deal with a situation in the nearby Wambesi village. While the men have gone off on a hunt, Zork, an exiled ruffian, sees an opportunity to harass and steal from the women and elders. The Phantom arrives, and to prove a point to Cecil, challenges the larger Zork to an unarmed fight. Zork doesn't believe in fair play though, and grabs an iron pipe...but it doesn't do any good. 

The Phantom fights like an angry hornet. With that Cecil has learned a lesson about bullies is ready to head home. When he arrives back in his own village he finds Mike has found other kids to pick on, so Cecil like his hero the Phantom, challenges and defeats the young thug.

Well, that's a Silver Age story if I ever read one! Maybe even more than the "Diamond Cup". I mean at what other time, other than the Silver Age, would a young boy be adopted (temporarily) by a masked man in the jungle and it not end up going very badly? Simpler times, I guess. A couple of great, fun, stories, and a nice return to some of the more "classic" Phantom adventures.  Let me know what you thought in the comments, and I'll see you next month!

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