Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of B.C. Boyer’s neglected 1980s superhero the Masked Man. For Part One click HERE
ECLIPSE MONTHLY Vol 1 #8 (May 1984)
Title: Phantom Man
Villains: The Architectural Terrorists
Synopsis: With Barney McAllister having withdrawn himself from his partnership with the Masked Man, our hero is instead out on patrol with reporter Dan Drekston as they search for the Architectural Terrorists who are plaguing the city.
Barney is back at the offices of the Daily Horn newspaper, where his boss J Judah Johnson (a pastiche of J Jonah Jameson) orders him to do an interview with Lenny Winchester (Denny Colt) aka the Phantom Man (The Spirit).
We’re told that Phantom Man was a famous superhero in the 1940s who fought crime in Middle City (Central City). Unlike the Spirit, who does not age thanks to Dr Cobra’s chemicals, Boyer’s homage figure Phantom Man is old and grey-haired now. His selfish son and daughter plan to send him to an old folks home if his interview with Barney doesn’t generate enough interest for a lucrative biographical book deal.
As if the Masked Man himself wasn’t already enough of a Will Eisner/ Spirit shoutout, B.C. Boyer lays on the pastiches with a trowel in this issue. Phantom Man’s late wife was Helen Doyle (Ellen Dolan), the daughter of Festus Doyle (Commissioner Dolan). His former sidekick was Blackie (Ebony).
As the story continues we learn that this hat, suit and tie wearing masked hero’s archenemy was the Cephalopod (The Octopus) and two other members of his Rogues Gallery were called Mr Maggoty (Mr Carrion) and Swyn’ll (P’Gell).
He spent a long period in Bengal having a fling with Taffeta Twill (Silk Satin), one of the many sexy femmes fatale he faced. Ellen Dolan devotees may be a bit miffed that Boyer presents Taffeta/ Silk Satin as the TRUE love of the hero’s life and the only person who ever really understood him.
Barney learns that the last time Phantom Man saw action was the day before his marriage to Helen Doyle, who made him retire from superheroics. (Oddly, we’re supposed to believe that none of his many foes ever came looking for revenge.) From that point on, Lenny Winchester lived as a “regular guy” making a living at assorted jobs so he could raise his children alongside his wife.
Though Lenny glumly feels that this made him a quitter and a loser, Barney points out to Winchester the unsung heroics involved in a working life and raising a family. This is a novel approach compared to 21st Century comic books.
It also puts me in mind of that Brisco County episode where Brisco explains to a hero-worshiping little boy that his workaday father is just as much of a heroic figure as Brisco himself or any other action heroes that the boy idolizes.
Suddenly the Architectural Terrorists strike, raiding the Daily Horn offices as they plan to plant enough explosives to bring down the entire building. Bucked up by Barney’s view that he isn’t a quitter, Phantom Man puts on his mask and takes on the terrorists single-handed.
The battle is going badly against him when the Masked Man and Dan Drekston arrive on the scene. The Masked Man rushes to help the elderly Phantom Man against the villains. Ultimately the much older hero winds up having to save our title character by carrying him to safety when the cops unleash a flood of tear gas on the battling good guys and bad guys.
This event makes Phantom Man the flavor of the month again in the eyes of the media, so his memoirs will get the big-money deal needed to keep him out of an old folks home. His son and daughter find a new respect for him after what they just witnessed.
It’s becoming clear why the Masked Man stories are so little remembered. Between last issue and this one the title might as well be “The Adventures of Barney McAllister.” B.C. Boyer has been treating Barney as too much of a self-insert in these last two stories.
The villains AND the Masked Man were virtual afterthoughts here. +++
I’LL REVIEW THE NEXT MASKED MAN STORY SOON. KEEP CHECKING BACK FOR UPDATES.
FOR MY LOOK AT HOMBRE, SPAIN’S POST-APOCALYPTIC COMIC BOOK FROM THE 1980s, CLICK HERE .
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