Some funny timing: Yesterday was the 20th anniversary of the release of The Phantom, the adaptation of the old comic strip hero created by Lee Falk. Falk was a prodigious talent who also worked as a theater director and novelist; as a comic-strip creator he also founded the long-running strip Mandrake the Magician, about a guy who used his magic powers (like hypnosis, invisibility, levitation) to fight crime. Created in 1934, Mandrake is sometimes billed as the first superhero. (He arrived about four years before Superman’s debut in Action Comics #1.) And 20 years after The Phantom movie, Mandrake will follow his colleague to the screen.
Cartoonist Lee Falk debuted costumed hero The Phantom in his own newspaper strip on this day in 1936, two full years before Superman debuted in Action Comics #1. He isn't considered the first superhero, but Falk's pulp creation would establish quite a few tropes that would become hallmarks of the genre for decades to come. And like Superman, The Phantom has endured, with comic stories and re-imaginings continuing to this day.
June 11 marks the anniversary of the first appearance of comics' first superhero. Nah, not that lantern-jawed fellow in the red cape. The guy in the black cape and top hat who debuted a full four years earlier. Yeah, that guy. Mandrake the Magician.