Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Girl Phantom by Bil Lignante

In 1962, something new happened for Phantom fans. Western Publishing presented Lee Falk's already popular newspaper strip adventures in an entirely different format. For this series, the art was created for the comic book, not the comic strip. Comic strips which had been originally drawn by the late Wilson McCoy were redrawn by Bill Lignante adding color and new perspectives. While McCoy made tight drawings using photographic reference, Lignante gradually added instances of dramatic angles and foreshortening and capitalized on the wider parameters of design offered by the shape of the comic book page.

A graduate of the Pratt Institute, Bill Lignante first became associated with The Phantom when he was asked to finish a strip which had been uncompleted at the time of Wilson McCoy's death in 1961. He then went on to draw the Sunday strip from August, 1961 to May 1962. He was hired to draw The Phantom for the comic books which were licensed by King Features Syndicate to Gold Key and King Comics.

He also did something controversial - showing the Phantom's eyes and putting bulges in his cowl where each ear would be. There was an unfounded rumor that Lee Falk had fired Lignante for showing the Phantom's eyes. In response to the rumor, he explained, "I am a realist and thought that if you were proposed to by a 400 year-old gorgeous queen, your eyes would pop out, and I showed them for that reason only. Other than that, it was easier not to draw eyes." Lignante said he never heard from Falk about his work and they only crossed paths at National Cartoonists Association functions.

Lignante's participation as an illustrator for "The Phantom" began in 1961 when Wilson McCoy died unexpectedly. Initially, Lignante used an occasional swipe from McCoy like the hero sitting on a skull throne with Devil at his side. After the obligatory transition period where the change of style was more gradual, keeping a sense of continuity, Lignante's easily identifiable style emerged. His ability to envision a scene from different vantage points served him well in his layouts for comics and was a useful ability for his career as an illustrator.

Lignante left comics to become a court room artist for ABC covering some high profile cases like the 'Charles Manson' case and the 'Sirhan B. Sirhan' trial. His ability to envision a scene from different angles and his quickly rendered pastel drawings showed a good likeness of courtroom events ina time when cameras were banned.

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In a story frame, The Phantom tells Diana of how one of his ancestors became ill. Fearing that the Phantom's absence would threaten jungle peace, his twin sister Julie took his place very successfully, but at last crooks discovered that she was "only" a girl. They tracked her to the Deep Woods and made away with some of the Phantom treasure. She recovers the treasure, but the crooks lose their lives in a waterfall through rejecting her instructions. Her brother never realizes her ruse.

Script: Dick Wood
Pencils: Bill Lignante
Inks: Bill Lignante 
Letters: Ray Holloway 

The Girl Phantom
 (Size: 12 MB)

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