Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, December 1, 2023


 What do you get when you combine Lee Falks' The Phantom with Fran Striker's The Lone Ranger?  The Indians call him Kin but most others call him the Phantom Ranger, a man who for over 200 years "has fought for peace and justice, both on the side of the Indian and the white man."  It's time to throw another shrimp on the barbie as we take a look into this popular Australian comic book from 1952 as the Phantom Ranger comes face to face with "The Ghost of Willow Creek."

Storekeeper Will Rankin goes over the store's books one evening when he is confronted with a ghost -- well, actually, some dude in a white sheet, but Rankin's is a pretty suggestable sort.  Rankin collapse in horror as the ghost escapes, mounting a horse and disappearing into the night, the only witness:  Loco Mike, the town drunk.   The next morning, Rankin is found in his office, dead of a supposed heart attack.  As Rex Barton (the Phantom Ranger's junior deputy) and the sheriff aer kineeling over the corpse, word comes that Harry Coffin, Rankin's close friend and the owner of the town's funeral parlor, has also died, also of a supposed heart attack.  Both men had had physical checkups only the month before and both were found to have healthy hearts.  And then there are the strange wounds found on each victim's neck...The following, Loco Mike is found dead, also of a heart attack and also with a wound on his throat.

Rex figures it's time for the Phantom Ranger to investigate, but the sheriff laughs at the idea because "He ain't no mortal...he's only a legend."  Ten years before, five people met at the Willow Creek Gold Mine.  They killed Clem Starr, who had discovered the mine,, buried him in an old mine shaft, and stole the deeds to the property.  Two of the five were Will Rankin and Harry Coffin.  Now the surviving three are fearful that authorities will check out the mine and find Starr's body.  Two of them commence to dig up Starr's body while the third, Todd Martin, goes off to prepare a new grave.  Meanwhile, Indian smoke signeals alert the Phantom Rider that he is needed in Willow Creek.  Racing toward town on his mighty stted, Silver Ghost, the Phantom Ranger hears a cry for help in the distance.  He arrives to see the figure of the ghost over the just murdered body of Todd Martin, but the ghost manages to get away.  Using his trailing skiils taught to him by the Navajo,  the Phanton Ranger comes across the old mine where the ghost has pulled a gun on the two surviving murderers.  The ghost claims to be Clem Starr, returned from the dead.  But the Phantom Rider knows that the ghost cannot be Clem Starr because its freet are too small -- in fact, the ghost is a woman! 

Yep, the ghost is Clem Starr's daughter, and she killed the others using darts "dipped in a deadly poison, which is used by many Indians in hunting...It causes the heart muscles to collapse.  Death is instantaneous."  As the Phantom Ranger tells Joan Starr that he is bringing her to the sheriff, the other two try make their excape.  In the ensuing fight, the Phantom ranger is knocked down a deep mine shaft and presumably killed.  Just make sure the two baddies drop an elevator car on him.  With the Phantom Ranger out of the picture, the two can go to Willow Creek and say that Joan Starr killed the other three men, as well as her own father.  Who's going to argue other wise?

The Phantom Ranger has been around for a couple of hundred years.  You think a fall down a shaft and an elevator dropped on him would do any damage?  The Phanto Ranger races to tow and confronts the bad men and justice is served.  But what about Joan Strarr?  You have to finish the story to find out.

You can read it here:

The Phantom Ranger was originally created by British-artist Jeff Wilkinson.  The early issues were written by French writer Eddie Brooker.  With issue #20, Peter Chapman took over the writing and artwork of the book for Australia's Frew Publications.  The Phantom Ranger was a hit in Australia.  The stories were reprinted in England and it comic book was the basis of an Australian radio show.   Five series of the comic book were published:

  • #1-13, from Frew Publications (1949-1950)
  • #14-28, from Western Promotions (1950-1952)
  • #29-109, from Frew Publications (1952-1958)
  • #100-14?, from Tricho Publications (1958-1967)
  • #15?-209, from Page Publications (1969-1973)
That's a total run of nearly a quarter of century.  Not too shabby for a small Australian comic book.

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