"The Last Phantom" moves full speed ahead this February, hitting its seventh issue and launching a brand new story arc. Entitled "Jungle Rules," the next chapter in Dynamite Entertainment's generational saga follows Kit Walker to Bengali where he has unfinished business – both in his civilian identity and as the reluctant Phantom. Accompanying Kit on his next adventure is series writer Scott Beatty, who has a few surprises in store for The Ghost Who Walks and intends to give him a trip to remember by the time his business is concluded.
CBR News caught up with Beatty to get the full details on The Phantom's newest adventure and picked his brain on the characterization of a reluctant Kit Walker, how he sees heroism as a concept in the series, the appeal of this version of The Phantom from a writer's standpoint and the potential in a possible crossover between The Phantom, Buck Rogers and Sherlock Holmes.
CBR News: Scott, "The Last Phantom" will be hitting its seventh issue in February, a testament to your new take on this character and concept. Tell us where this new story arc finds The Ghost Who Walks and where you plan on taking him.
Scott Beatty: The second arc is called "Jungle Rules" and focuses primarily on Kit's realization that he has unfinished business in Bengali, which sort of fell apart as a result of the hostile takeover of his philanthropy and the murders of Kit's family and Bengali's democratically elected president. Of course, getting there is merely half the battle. Now that The Ghost Who Walks has resurfaced, even more enemies - both new and old - are materializing.
How do you feel Kit Walker is handling his destiny as The Phantom? He's obviously struggling with it, but how will this story arc help ease him further into his role or make him shy away from it?
Kit realized early on that his entire reason for existence was to take over one day for his father. That's a heavy burden. At some point, he fought his destiny and opted out of the program, but circumstances beyond his control - or perhaps set into motion by his decisions - brought him back to the fold. Kit believed in choice over destiny and it's a hard pill to swallow for him to realize that there's a certain amount of predestination in the Walker lineage. Right now, he's The Phantom, but it's more a means to an end. Our title - "The Last Phantom" - is still quite important.
The solicitations describe the coming storyline as "a tale uniting father and son as heroes for the first and last time." That sounds rather ominous - how much more can you elaborate on that tagline?
Two Phantoms in a tale that begins to show why Kit Jr. walked away from the family business. There's more to the story, and readers will see another very large chunk of the puzzle in "The Last Phantom Annual #1." As early as the first flashback to young Kit's training in the "Ghostwalk" arc, readers began to see some of the reasons why Kit decided to walk away.
At the beginning of the series, you set the stage where, in the 21st century, evil is not only around, but may even be winning. How will this arc help Kit to fight that dynamic, if at all?
The bad guys have gotten smarter, and Evil (capital 'E') isn't merely a concept definable by black and white terms or by a Skull Mark or Good Mark. Kit grew up with that dichotomy, but the 21st century reality is that Evil exists in the gray spaces and has gotten quite adept at making the system work for it. The motivations remain timeless - greed, lust, the quest for power, et cetera - but the mechanisms have been upgraded. The Last Phantom is already learning that to remain relevant, he must change also.
In our previous interview about "The Last Phantom," you mentioned you were "trying very hard to to explore what it means to be The Phantom, not just what he does… or what his predecessors did for more than 400 years." How do you think the current Kit Walker is feeling the force of this goal?
Let's just say this: The specters of all those other Phantoms loom large in his life. Literally.
How do you feel your handle on the character has evolved since you began writing "The Last Phantom?"
I think Kit's a work-in-progress. Every issue, I learn something new about him, and at the same time I think Kit's realizing that he's been thrust into a white-hot crucible. He's being forcibly remade and he's not necessarily part of the decision-making process with regards to his final form. Beyond the fourth wall, I like to be surprised by the characters' decisions. Kit already veered from the fated path. I wouldn't be so sure he might not try again.
Why do you believe The Phantom continues to remain a timeless hero, even during a time of self-doubt such as the one you're presenting in the series?
I think heroism is a choice. We may think it's innate and that heroic figures act when others don't, or wait, or mull over the consequences. For heroes, I think the duration between thought and deed just works a bit faster. Maybe the synaptic gap in the heroic is smaller by leaps and bounds. Kit chose to be a hero in other ways. Let me revise that: Kit chose to be a good man in other ways. Now he's trying to be a hero, and it's especially hard for him given the circumstances that brought him back to Bengali, as well as some "un-heroic" things he's done since while seeking retribution, which isn't the same as justice.
Now that you've had a chance to explore this version of Kit Walker for a few issues, what appeals to you most about him as a writer?
Kit Walker, like Bruce Wayne and a few other ordinary average Joes steered towards vigilantism, is unique because he has no fantastic powers. Despite his superhero sobriquet, he's quite mortal. I've always been fascinated with the raison d'etre for any hero who puts on a domino mask and skintight suit in order to balance the scales of justice. It's invariably a thankless and lonely job. But they just keep on keeping on, and we remain entranced by their exploits. I've been reading comics since I was 5. I've been writing about comic book heroes for nearly half my life now. I'm still working on the answers to those questions.
Scott, you've also had a hand in writing Buck Rogers and Sherlock Holmes, both for Dynamite - how would you feel about a trifecta team-up? How would you go about writing that story?
Oh, this one would simply write itself: While attempting to get back to his own time, Buck overshoots by a century-and-a-half. Considering his previous 500-year quantum leap, he's getting better at time-travel. Unfortunately, a few opportunistic 25th century extraterrestrials follow Buck's gravity-drive signature to splashdown in the Thames. Enter Herbert George Wells, who takes in the time-lost Buck and introduces him to his good friends Dr. John Watson and Kit Walker (members of an exclusive "Adventurer's Fraternity"). Together, they join forces to extricate Sherlock Holmes from the aliens' clutches. Seems that the aliens have plugged Sherlock into a brain-draining apparatus in order to use his deductive genius for strategizing and implementing a foolproof invasion plan! Cue nefarious laughter! If Dynamite head honcho Nick Barucci and my editor Joseph Rybandt want it, I can flesh out the rest of the plot lickety-split! :)
And if you readers want to read it... well, make your voices heard!