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Phantom to the Rescue

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Phantom scribe Mike Bullock has written a special series of issues – Phantom #17, 18, and 19 – to bring attention to the cruel abuse of children perpetrated by Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony.  Publisher Moonstone Books has brought its full support to the project, promising to use part of the proceeds of the sale to help Kony’s victims.  You can help, too, not only by purchasing “B” cover issues of this very special Phantom story (details  here), but in other ways too, as Bullock explained in this interview with Broken Frontier.

BROKEN FRONTIER:  How did the problem of the Ugandan children come to your attention?  Why this particular problem, over and above all the others? (Darfur, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Congo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Colombia, etc.)

MIKE BULLOCK:  My Mother & Father-in-law belong to Compassion International, an organization that helps underprivileged children in third world countries. Through CI, they became sponsors of a child in Uganda. About a year ago, my Mother-in-law and a small group of other CI women journeyed to Uganda to meet the children, bring them gifts and spend some time with getting to know them in person. They helped with the daily lives of the families and took the children to some rather neat places they'd never seen before. 

When the women returned, my wife, Father-in-law and I had lunch with a woman who has also made the trip. She told us all about the interesting places and faces they'd seen. 

Towards the end of the conversation, a shadow seemed to fall over her soul as she began telling us about the Invisible Children, or Night Commuters, as they're often known. Hearing these stories of children terrorized by a Warlord, who was essentially a real life Beastie, upset me to no end. My first reaction was a desire to go there myself and confront this man and bring an end to his truly evil behavior. However, since I'd have little chance of doing anything about this physically, it struck me that The Phantom would. With the Phantom based in Bangalla, a fictitious African nation near Uganda, I knew this sort of thing would come to his attention and he'd act accordingly. All these thoughts came in a matter of milliseconds and my mental wheels started turning at breakneck speed. 

I know Lee Falk, the genius who created the Phantom, often wrote dramatized versions of real life events where he would have the Phantom intercede on behalf of the downtrodden. This situation is no different. 

With that in mind, I immediately started plotting a story, whilst I excused myself from the table, went outside and called Moonstone Publisher, Joe Gentile and told him what I wanted to do. Joe vehemently embraced the idea and everything snowballed from there. 

BF:  Why do you think the Phantom is the best hero for the job? 

MB:  The Phantom is the only true hero based in Africa. His exploits have been interwoven in African politics for over seventy years and I don't see why that trend would stop now. 

BF:  Is Joseph Kony an unusual villain in the Phantom's history? What makes him different? 

MB:  The villain in the story is known only as HIM, a fictional character based on Kony. It seems Kony has taken some chapter from the Hebrew Bible and perverted it to the point that he believes himself a prophet of God Almighty. While a villain gripped in some sort of maddened religious fervor isn't unique, the fact that Kony conscripts children into his armies and as his labor force really just blew my mind. Normally, the real world is full of shades of grey, rarely is anything black and white. However, Kony's Lord's Resistance Army is the exception to the shades-of-grey rule of thumb. The fact that no one in a position of political power on this Earth seems to care makes it that much more tragic. 

To me, fighting over oil and land is ridiculous if the nations of the world are going to turn a blind eye to the most precious resource we have: children. That is Kony's capital crime, the mental, spiritual and physical abuse of children. It's something that has to stop and it's something The Phantom would stop, were he able to do so. 

The story in the pages of Phantom #17, 18 & 19 is obviously not a factual account of anything currently happening in Uganda. It is, however, a dramatized story based on real world events, told solely with the hope that it will raise awareness of this horrific conflict and the children Kony's war machine is crushing beneath its wheels. 

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BF:  Do you have any advice for other writers who might aspire to tell stories that could help people who are suffering from violence and oppression? 

MB:  Since I'm the writer on the Phantom series, the effort required was nothing more than pitching the idea to Moonstone, then having the final scripts approved by King Features, the owners of the Phantom. 

But any writer can create any story that speaks to their heart. If there's a story such as this that speaks to your heart, don't waste any time, get it on paper and get it out there. The pen is mightier than the sword, or so I've been told. 

BF:  What difference do you think comics can make to real world problems?

MB:  Every new person who learns of this atrocity is one more person who can affect change in that region. With the comics, Moonstone is donating a portion of the proceeds from this story arc directly to www.invisiblechildren.com, an organization that helps the children of Uganda and strives to heighten the awareness of this travesty. The story only needs to hit one person for something good to happen and every good deed, no matter how small, is another step in the right direction. 

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BF:  What hopes do you have for what your Phantom story can do for Uganda?

MB:  I really hope it brings more attention to the situation. If every Phantom Phan, and everyone who picks up a Phantom book for the first time with this arc, were to give up one comic book a month and donate that money directly to the cause, the good that could be done would be immeasurable.

For more information on the Phantom and other Moonstone publications, visit www.moonstonebooks.com.

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