The Phantom

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Lee Falk's The Phantom is said to be the first costumed hero to appear in comic strip form, a masked adventurer patterned after Zorro and The Scarlet Pimpernel. Originally conceived in 1936, the title character has changed very little during the intervening seven decades. Despite the purple tights and domino mask, The Phantom was depicted as the stereotype male of the interwar period - tall, dark and ruggedly handsome, a man of few words who never failed to deliver the goods, no matter how extreme the circumstances.

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[edit] Queen Pera's spanking

Armed with a pair of semi-automatics and his unerring sense of justice, Kit Walker blazed a trail across the dark continent, subduing smugglers, pirates, slave-traders and similar undesirables. Kit normally dealt with his enemies with a devistating right hook; but what could he do with the femme fatales he occasionally met up with? Being a true gentleman, he couldn't use his iron fists on a woman, no matter how much she might deserve it.

In an early episode, The Phantom runs afoul of Queen Pera, the beautiful young ruler of an African Kingom. Spoilt, capricious, and rather vindictive, Pera is little more than a malicious child playing house with her subject's lives. In real life, a coup d'etat normally requires the absolute removal (ie execution) of the offending despot, but such crude methods were out of the question for Falk's hero.

The solution was deceptively simple: seating himself squarely on the thone, Kit turned the spoilt little tyrant over his knee and paddled her royal bottom - right in front of her entire court ("Hey - you can't do that to the Queen!"). Readers of the era would have found the scene both comical and gratifying. At the end of the day, the brattish young princess was only getting what she deserved, and Kit Walker was precisely the man to give it to her.

The sequence offers some interesting symbolism, such as the crown toppling from Pera's head as the Phantom stretches her across his lap (a motif Falk would recycle in later episodes). Moreover, the scenario contains all the basic elements of a classic spanking. Pera's discipline is embarrassingly public, reinforcing her juvenile status. Her bottom is presented to the court in anticipation of the main event, the cheeks outlined by a layer of clinging silk. In the climactic third panel, the haughty African Empress kicks her feet in pain - a sure sign of a satisfyingly thorough spanking.

A closer examination reveals some fascinating details. Pera's gossamer robe looks suspiciously like a contemporary evening gown, while her waist is so tiny that a man could practically encircle it with one hand. Her jewellery suggests the wealth and affluence commonly associated with desirable women. She wears seamed stockings, high heels, despite the centuries-long isolation of her jungle stronghold. Perhaps the most telling factor is that Pera is blond - not just rich young, and pretty, but a platinum blond straight out of a Jean Harlow romantic comedy. Even back in the thirties, blonds were considered infinitely more spankworthy than brunettes, which made Pera a prime candidate for a paddling.

[edit] Aftermath

While spanking had been a recurrent device in newspaper strips, The Phantom was probably the first costumed hero series to feature recurring spanking imagery. Within a few years, the new medium of the comic book would gain increasing popularity, leading to a plethora of titles and genres; from superheroes to saddle operas to 'true crime' fiction. All of them would feature spanking imagery at one time or another. And many of them, to varying degrees, would trace their descent from Falk's two fisted mystery-man, a stern, intractible male who never hesitated to teach a spoilt little girl a most valuable lesson.

But he was, above all else, and at all times, a gentleman. He spanks in the righteous manner of a correcting teacher, never for the sake of revenge. He never spanks in an unseemly rage; he does not manhandle the women - let alone molest them - and while he scolds them, he does not abuse them. And in the end, he forgives them and sets them free. These spankers were not cads or thugs. They felt the natural gratification one should feel upon administering correction to those who had been so utterly deserving of it for so long, but this sense of satisfaction was never sullied by prurience. The woman may have been momentarily humiliated, but her honour was never stained.

[edit] See also

[edit] Links

Links from the Chicago Spanking Review:

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