Phantasmo in space. Artist: E.C. Stoner.


Medium: Comic books
Published by: Dell Comics
First Appeared: 1940
Creator: E.C, Stoner
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Western Printing was one of the first companies to get into comic books, shortly after they assumed their modern form with the publication of Famous Funnies in 1934. It did so through its publishing partner, Dell, by licensing newspaper comics like Smilin' Jack, animated cartoon stars like Mickey Mouse and other popular properties, for use in the new medium, as early as 1936. After a couple of years, their anthology titles, such as Crackajack Funnies, Popular Comics and Super Comics (no relation) began sporting original material, like most of the other comic books around, and eventually that came …

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… to include representatives of the nascent superhero genre, popularized by comic books' first breakout hit, Superman. By the end of 1939, original material in Western/Dell's anthology The Funnies included Sky Ranger and Rex, King of the Deep. To this they added their first full-fledged superhero, Phantasmo, whose introductory appearance was in the 45th issue, dated July, 1940. Phantasmo was created by cartoonist E.C. Stoner (Speed Saunders).

Phantasmo spent a quarter-century in Tibet, where The Flame, Amazing-Man, The Green Lama and many other '40s heroes got their super powers. After mastering the mystic secrets of the grand high lamas who taught him, he returned to America and took up superheroing just like any other super-powered individual in comic books of the time. As a secret identity, he chose the name Phil Anson.

The abilities Phantasmo brought to his evil-bashing activities started with being able to roam outside his body as easily as Doctor Strange. In this form, he was as solid as he'd been inside his corporeal shell, with super strength, flight power, the ability to grow to enormous size, and whatever else the story required. Only trouble was, his inert body was vulnerable to harm while he wasn't in it. To keep an eye on it while he was away, he employed Whizzer (no relation) McGee, a bellhop in the hotel where he stayed.

Phantasmo was the cover feature on each issue of The Funnies for the next year, relinquishing it to radio aviation adventurer Captain Midnight with #58 (August, 1941). He continued in the back pages (with one more foray onto the cover, an inset on #61) until #63 (March, 1942). After that, the format was changed to emphasize the characters of Walter Lantz, licensed from Universal Studios, and the new stars were Oswald the Rabbit, Li'l Eight Ball and Andy Panda. Phantastmo was also the cover-featured star of Large Feature Comic #18 (1941, otherwise undated), one of the few original characters to have an issue there, in a field that included mostly newspaper comics such as Dick Tracy and Smitty.

Of the few superheroes Western did in the '40s, only The Owl was ever revived by his owner, who published two issues of him through its later imprint, Gold Key Comics. However, Phantasmo was seen again, briefly, at least, in Dynamite Entertainment's (Red Sonja) Project Superpowers.


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Text ©2009-11 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Western Printing.