Because Kit Walker is The Phantom’s civilian name (not a CIDU)


I’m imagining a lot of newspaper comics readers, whose papers, don’t carry The Phantom, thinking “I wish there were a place where they explained these things.”

I wonder whether younger comics readers can even comprehend a time when, if your local paper didn’t carry a particular comic strip, you had no opportunity to read it and might not have even heard of it. Back in the day, newspapers bought exclusive regional rights to a comic: so if you lived just outside of New York City like I did, the News had dibs on almost all the good stuff and the Post had the rest. We got… what was left. I won’t mention the names, because that would sound disrespectful to the creators, but it wasn’t pretty.

Fortunately, we did buy the News on Sunday. The big color comics section was a particular treat for kids who never saw first- (or even second-) tier comics during the week.


  1. Does the “exclusive rights” thing still apply? I’m about an hour outside of NYC, and our paper carries only the dregs.

    It’s also possible they’re just cheap.

    Oh, and congratulations getting the site back up!

  2. So, this thread seems to be perfect for a book recommendation I’ve been wanting to post here. I read the book while the site was down and in limbo, and I wanted to wait until it was back, and most people were back, before posting the recommendation. So this thread seems heaven-sent.

    The book is Cartoon County: My Father and his Friends in the Golden Age of Make-believe by Cullen Murphy.

    It’s a recollection of growing up in Connecticut in the 50s and 60s, when a whole slew of cartoonists lived in that area. The author’s father, John Cullen Murphy, illustrated a strip called “Big Ben Bolt”, and then later took over the illustrating duties of “Prince Valiant” from Hal Foster, and later the author actually was writing the strip while his father illustrated. The book is a delightful homage to his father, and to the general culture of cartoonist from this time, who populated this corner of Connecticut and the author’s life from childhood. It is richly illustrated, and the prose is delightful. (It starts just a little too abruptly for me, but after two pages, I was over any problems, and it was just a joy.) The stars of the area are Mort Walker and Dik Browne, but the real hero is of course the author’s father, and you learn about his life, his illustrating skills, how he fit into the cartoon culture of the time, about growing up immersed in this culture, and wistfully about its decline. There is also a chapter on his father’s wartime experience, which was really a generational common theme amount all the cartoonists of that time.

    Highly, highly recommended!

  3. When I was a kid, my uncle went away to be in the US Navy. There was a serialized comic strip he missed, as it was local to our area. It was my job to find it in the paper every day, and carefully cut it out to save it to send to him. It was called Rick O’Shay as I recall, about a frontier (sheriff? cowboy?) person. It was in a paper from Billings, MT that we received in Cody Wy.

  4. Mona said, “Ah yes, the joy of sitting on the floor with the big Sunday color comics spread out to read!”

    Ah yes, the pain of having to wait for your mom, your dad, your sister and your brother to finish reading the comics, and then reading them yourself, only to find your dad had already read you the best parts.

    Yes, he read the comics out loud, and *nothing* you could do or say could stop him. My mother would sometimes just leave the room.

    Decades later I asked my stepmom if she read the comics, and she said, “No, dear. With your father I don’t need to.”

  5. It’s a CIDU for me. I understand that Kit Walker = Phantom Limb, but why does syndrome = keeps raking the yard?

  6. This is still a CIDU for me. I get (now) that Kit Walker is the Phantom. And I guess you use your limbs to rake? (Or rake up tree limbs?) But I still don’t see the joke.

  7. I remember being a copy clerk at the San Jose Mercury News in the late 70s; it was a big deal when we started running Peanuts (previously an San Francisco Chronicle exclusive). We likewise had to wait a few years to get Doonesbury.

    When I was a kid, our household got the morning Mercury delivered and we’d buy the Sunday Chronicle from a rack. Comparatively little overlap that I could recall. Aside from Prince Valiant and I think The Phantom, the adventure and soap strips had the the same story running seven days a week, which was a bit of a frustration with the Chronicle funnies. .

  8. Trish’s comment reminded me … in 1969 when I was stationed in Korea one of the things I missed most was reading Pogo – so every 2 weeks my wife would bundle up the comic pages of the Arizona Republic and send them to me. I still have a couple of the packages – most of them have gone the way of all newsprint.

  9. So my story: the second half of the 80s, our college newspaper had Bloom County, and I was syndications editor, so I would get the next two weeks of Bloom Counties about a week before they were to be published. Don’t tell anyone, but I would photocopy those and mail them off to friends of mine. Sometimes I would even run ahead in our weekly paper, printing Bloom Counties before we were supposed to…

    When Bloom County ended, we were looking for a replacement strip. The local paper had an exclusivity deal for Calvin & Hobbes, a comic we would have loved to have. We we approached them about it, they suddenly realized we had been printing Bloom County all this time, and complained to the syndicate that they were supposed to have an exclusivity deal on that, too. So no, we didn’t get C&H…

  10. I don’t remember the daily paper my parents took or if they did while we lived in Brooklyn (left when I was 5)m but they were strictly the New York TImes on Sundays which did not have comics. Luckily my grandparents who lived a block away took the Daily News which had comics and would sometimes keep it for me.

    Out here (Long Island) afterwards they took Newsday, the local paper which only published Monday through Saturday. There were comics. Then there was a new local paper – the Long Island Press – with Sunday comics. They took it for a while as the boy next door was delivering it. It went out of business as “everyone” took Newsday. (It is now back as a weekly free paper.) They still read the Sunday New York Times. Dad would drive south two communities on very late Saturday night to a store that was open all night (I am guessing a deli or something from what I remember) to buy the Sunday times. I loved going there with him to get the Times – something exciting about being out so late at night in the car to a business that was open all night to get the paper – hey, I was a kid. (When we went to Rockaway Beach for the summer – we walked to the bagel store on Sunday morning for the bagels and the Times.)

    Eventually Newsday added a Sunday paper and along with it came the comics section – but dad and I still went sometimes to get the Sunday Times.

    Oddly, the comics section – daily and Sunday – is the only section that Newsday still gives as much space to as it used to. Some sections are 8 pages (2 pieces of paper) long.

  11. When a boy, only comic in the newspaper (Ouest France) was Hagar the Horrible (in French “Hagar du Nord”, pun on “La gare du nord”= North station). There were special publications for comics (weekly or monthly): Spirou, Tintin, Mickey or Pif for kids, Fluide glacial or A suivre for teens. Plus a host of other publications for youngsters of all ages including comics.

  12. Joining the throngs in thanking you for the effort to rise again; I missed my daily treat. Also a child of a similar age whose parents lived in the ‘burbs but grandparents lived in the city. They never had to watch me during family visits, as I was always sitting through the months of the funnies they saved up for me. Online comics don’t hold the ineffable essence of life on those pages.

  13. I’ve always been a comic lover, but I had no idea who the Phantom was until the Internet, because he was never carried in ANY of the local newspaper. I’m sort of stunned that I grew up no knowing that such a classic and important character even existed.

  14. You know, I learnt about the Phantom when I was 20 because I introduced friends of mine to “Le concombre masqué”.
    Being avid comics readers, they showed me that panel 4 is a reference to the Phantom ; until then, the odd coloring of the cucumber’s mask had just puzzled me. “Le concombre qui marche”=the cucumber who walks, being a pun on “L’ombre qui marche”=the ghost who walks.

  15. There are fewer and fewer metro areas that have competing papers anymore. In St. Louis, it was the Globe-Democrat and the Post-Dispatch, morning and evening respectively. When the Globe folded up, the Post expanded the comic section and picked a lot of the ones that used to run in the Globe.

  16. In a similar vein to what happened in St. Louis, one of the few positives of the sudden, shocking, and (frankly) ugly takeover of the Houston Post by the Houston Chronicle back in 1995 was that the Chronicle wound up taking on the entire Post comics section, a move championed by thousands of letters and comic-loving Chronicle editor Jack Loftis. The Chronicle printed 3.5 to 4 pages of daily comics into the mid-2000s. Oh, it was great. Now the comics page is down to just under 2 pages, but that isn’t bad compared to other papers, as I understand it.

  17. For a time, “The Chron” had a configurable web page where you could make a personalized set of comics to read each day. That was very handy.

  18. One cool follow-up: my uncle was a typesetter at the News. Since the Sunday comics were printed up two or three weeks ahead (I never did find out why), he always had copies of the next two or three Sunday comic sections lying around (I never did find out whether he was allowed to take them). What a treat!

    Yeah, it put a bit of a damper on the next few Sundays, since I wouldn’t have new comics to read… but three at once? Who can pass that up?

  19. In my youth, Portland had a morning paper (the Oregonian) and an evening paper (The Oregon Journal). Very early on (for me) the Journal closed up but many of the features (including sports writers and yes, the comics) were absorbed by the surviving paper. They gave college students a VERY attractive subscription rate so I got a daily paper while I failed to pay anywhere NEAR enough attention to my education.

    So, after a largely wasted year of university, I enlisted. No time for newspapers in basic training, but in tech school, in Denver, there were STILL two newspapers and they competed actively, meaning both had extensive comics pages… not just the ones I was already familiar with but also this new one about a kid and a stuffed tiger (I got C&H starting on the third day it was syndicated.)

    Then I went back to school, motivated this time, and graduated. I moved to Seattle, which still had, at the time, both a morning and an evening paper although they published a combined Sunday edition.

    Nowadays, I don’t even get the one paper that still survives in Portland, because subscribers don’t even get one every day. They only distribute 5 issues a week to subscribers. And a sunday is the same as every other day, except the comics are in color and there’s 5 pounds of ads I’m not interested in bundled in.

  20. A “Phantom limb” is one that is no longer there. (Ouch, right?) Google tells me: “A phantom limb is the sensation that an amputated or missing limb is still attached. Approximately 60 to 80% of individuals with an amputation experience phantom sensations in their amputated limb, and the majority of the sensations are painful.” This was a bit distasteful if you deconstruct it. The joke I mean, not the limb.

  21. “In my youth, Portland had a morning paper (the Oregonian)”

    A high school friend of mine, and fellow staff member on the newspaper there, went to work for the Oregonian. It appears that he is still there.

    Two people I worked with on the paper went on to careers in journalism.

  22. Our local (Islandwide) newspaper has been having problems even beyond other papers due to a scandal some years ago about inflated circulation figures (and even after that they were padding their figures when they combined with the local cable co and delivered papers to the cable customers whether they wanted it or not).

    Today the paper is terribly small – most articles are pulled off of “wire” services. Their journalism, grammar, etc is terrible. Some of their later ideas to make money – if one asks for a temporary stop of delivery (such as for vacation), they stop delivering but keep charging you for the paper (official state policy) and they charge more for “special issues – what are same? Any paper with extra ads – Thanksgiving day, their “Fun books” with things to do over the summer – mostly paid ads,,,

    I called and canceled when these two policies went into effect – head of customer service called back and asked why I canceled. I told her. I can put on a vacation stop – and get credit for same and do not pay the extra for the special issues. They have raised the price at least 4 times since all of this – I call, she lowers it back for me. I am not sure why I rate these special services – but I am not complaining.

    Yesterday’s paper (Monday) was 52 pages including all sections and ads – I looked as husband always insists it only 8 pages – he does not read the paper.

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