Thursday, October 29, 2015


This game of ding-dong-ditch just got REAL

It seems like ever golden age comic book company had to have one resurrected Egyptian mystic on the roster and, for Harvey Comics, it was The Phantom Sphinx (a.k.a. "The Sphynx, Master Ghost Magician!" a name which is much cooler but a little too long to fit on the "World's Best ..." coffee mug or accompanying trucker hat).

"Revived from a 6000 year hypnotic sleep as a mummy," explains the opening caption of his debut appearance in Pocket Comics No.1, "The great Amron uses the magic of ancient Egypt for the good of all mankind!" That barely scratches the surface of Amron's complicated backstory and additionally muddled motivation, but let's take it in pieces.

Discovered by Dr.Salle, leader of an archaeological expedition, in his tomb, the Phantom Sphinx is discovered insensate and wrapped from head to toe, but otherwise looking particularly beefy, like a well-muscled roll of toilet paper. Dr.Salle also happens to find instructions to revive Amron, left by his father ... who also happens to be the man who put Amron into a timeless sleep in the first place.

"Ick, girls."
The complicated relationship between Amron and his old man will drive much of the Sphinx's heroic efforts, in fact, but they have to wait a little while. Unfortunately, Dr.Salle never gets around to trying out the magic instructions to revive the titanic mummy. That honor falls to Red Norton, notorious desert raider, violent psychopath, and a guy in search of a hobby. Having murdered everyone (or nearly everyone) so as to leave the tombs undefended and ripe for robbing, Norton finds the directions for instant piping hot mummy.

It's not an easy spell, as it requires some assorted artifacts, some careful placement and a bit of patience, but Red's got nothing better to do. It's this or Alphabear, I guess.

For a mass-murdering tomb-thief, Red's pretty good at following instructions, and Amron is reborn! And then he vanishes from sight right away - psych! Unseen by Norton or his gang, Amron appears on the head of the actual Sphinx, where his father's disembodied voice grants him his charge:

"The time has come," explains a booming voice from an invisible being, "When you must be of service to mankind by using your ancient knowledge of magic against all evil -- hereafter thou shalt be known and feared as The Sphinx!" Yeah, tell his copywriter, someone tried to saddle him with "Master Ghost Magician."

Dad promptly sets Sphinx up with a nice girl - Nancy Taylor, an American reporter who obliquely participates in the Sphinx's few adventures, but mostly to get threatened by supernatural nogoodniks - and sends him off to do some good in the world.

Kali runs like a doof.
The Sphinx has a lot going for him. Among his powers include flight, teleportation, the ability to control sandstorms, to change men into camels, and to turn the desert sands into an "invisible flying carpet," whatever that means. He can also create lucid, realistic hallucinations, cause springs to burst forth from the land, turn water to fire, turn food to fire, cause fire to leap out of rocks, basically burn all kindsa shit, and then taunt the burn victims with visions of how much better life would have been if they hadn't been burned alive. Then there's his ability to walk on smoke, part great bodies of water, and flip dudes in a basic jiu-jitsu throw. Gotta keep your assets diversified, you know?

The one thing the Sphinx can't do is "abide being touched" - he genuinely seems to hate it, and is constantly advising people not to do it, although it's clearly not fatal to him (see: Jiu Jitsu). Maybe he's a bit of a germaphobe.

As for bad guys, he has a few; besides Red Norton, he saves Baghdad (which the creative team obviously believes is in Egypt) from the bloodless grip of the Viper, defeats the Genii of Death (my favorite Bowie song), and even backhands the death-god Kali when the gender-flipped destroyer hops over from India.

Whatever dad's long-term plans for young Amron - I mean, 6,000 years young, after all - is up in the air. The Phantom Sphinx didn't become one of Harvey's admittedly few blockbuster heroes, so his adventures ended after a brief few. Supposedly, he's probably still standing on top of some desert landmark with his invisible dad barking down his snorkel and telling passers-by not to touch him.

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