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Amateur Radio Keeps “Phantom” in Touch with the Outside World from the Skull Cave


The venerable comic strip “The Phantom,” originally inked by Lee Falk starting in the 1930s, has recently resurrected Amateur Radio as a plot device. “The Ghost Who Walks” has resorted to ham radio in the past, dating to the early days of the strip, when the Phantom needed to get a vital message through — on one occasion using a phone patch.

In the current story thread, the Phantom goes into a rather retro-looking ham shack in the ancient Skull Cave, the jungle hideaway he shares with his wife, Diana Palmer. They’re now empty nesters, and the Phantom wants to assuage his wife’s fears that their now college-age son, Kit, indeed has arrived at his monastic school in an unspecified Himalayan country (a daughter, Heloise, is away at college in the US).

His son’s teacher breaks away from tutoring Kit to quietly keep an on-the-air schedule with the Phantom, in order to let him know that the young man got there safely. Their conversation in Morse code is displayed, in a fashion, across the panels of the strip. Only some of it actually seems to make sense.

“Darling, Morse code!? Isn’t that obsolete?” asks Mrs. Phantom, as the masked crime fighter sits at a hand key (with no apparent lead wires running from it) in front of what looks like a National NC-300-series receiver and assorted other boat anchors.

“Not at all,” the Phantom replies. “And certainly not in the Himalayas.”

Apparently not in the fictional African country of Bangalla either, which the Phantom Family calls home. A past strip once showed the Phantom setting up a microwave dish with a handheld connected to a solar panel.

Appearing in more than 500 newspapers around the world, “The Phantom” now is penned by Mike Manley, written by Tony DePaul, and distributed by King Features.




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