The Ghost Who Walks to SCI FI - 'The Phantom' Movie a Go

Moonstone Still Has Phantom

It's official. The Phantom is coming to SCI FI.

Newsarama broke the story at San Diego Comic-Con that Daniel Knauf (of HBO's Carnivale) and his son, Charles Knauf, were writing a pilot for SCI FI about The Phantom, one of the oldest comic heroes, for a possible series on the network.

Now, the Knaufs have confirmed that the Phantom pilot has been greenlit and is close to starting production.

"Right now, it's green for a two-hour movie," Charles Knauf told Newsarama. "SCI FI is in pre-production for the shoot and well on its way to filming in a week or two."

While Knauf couldn't talk about the cast yet, he said the hope is that the movie generates enough interest for a series. "We'll just have to wait and see what kind of response we get," he said.

The Phantom, which has been published in various comic formats since it was created by Lee Falk in 1936, is the story of the legendary "Ghost Who Walks," the hero who protects the innocent with the help of his Jungle Patrol in the fictional country of Bangalla. A character who has been the subject of TV shows and movies in the past, the Phantom is believed to be immortal by the people of Bangalla because the mantle has been passed down through generations of the Walker family since the 16th Century, with each son replacing his father.

"The greatest advantage that the Phantom has is the massive amount of knowledge that is passed from father to son, so essentially the Phantom never dies," Charles Knauf said. "That's why he's called 'The Ghost Who Walks.' It's an interesting dynamic that really puts the Phantom ahead of the curve of other superheroes."

Because of the Walker legacy, the Knaufs didn't have to "reboot" the franchise like so many other superhero movies do. They just created a new Phantom to take over the mantle from his father – and in this case it's Kit, the 22nd Phantom.

"Our Kit Walker was found in an orphanage as a very young boy, therefore he had no idea that he was supposed to be a hero," Knauf explained, "so we're following our Kit though his journey from typical twenty-something into the role of the Phantom. He really never knew his heritage as a Walker, therefore this is all new to him. Yes, he has all the natural abilities that are found in the Walker family, such as athletic abilities, smarts, and great aim. He also brings the franchise into the 21st century."

While this is their first co-venture into television, the Knaufs have been co-writing costumed heroes for Marvel Comics for the last three years, including Iron Man and the Eternals. So in the case of the Phantom, they wanted to keep as much from the tradition of the comics as possible.

"[We kept] most of it, actually – his overall attitude towards heroics, his low-tech approach, the rings, the family history... the list goes on," Charles Knauf said. "And of course the purple and black. You just don't mess with the purple and black."

Yet Knauf admitted the look of the Phantom's purple and black costume had to be updated to make it a more modern-day Phantom.

"We had to take into consideration that some things just don't look cool on film like they do in the books, so we tweaked the suit around a bit and beefed it up for a more tactile approach to crime fighting," he said.

Besides the costume upgrade, the only other difference in this Phantom is that he's a new guy in the role, Knauf said.

"It was important for us to have our Kit Walker, the 22nd Phantom, continue the cool, unwavering and generally likable spirit that all the Walkers before him had," he said. "The only difference between the 22nd and the many before him is that he's a little unsure of himself. He wasn't raised on Skull Island. He wasn't taught how to shoot or fight. He never knew about his family lineage. His legs are a little shaky when he first gets out there."

And just like in the comics, the hero's journey means lots of "butt-kicking action," Knauf said, and pits the hero against the villainous Singh Brotherhood – although this version of the evil organization has a modern twist.

"The Brotherhood is now more of a major corporation with a massive underground network of illegitimate business that deal with prostitution, assassination, drugs, weapons and of course, piracy with a legitimate front," Knauf explained. "At its head is the CEO Raatab Singh, the latest in the lineage of Singhs to lead the Brotherhood."

Knauf said he and his father were pleased with the reaction from SCI FI to their script for the pilot as they embraced the concept of the Phantom.

"Oh, they love him!" he said. "SCI FI gets the character that is the Phantom. They understood he isn't really your brooding 'Batman' type or your overcompensating 'Spider-Man' type. He's a guy who is the best at what he does, believes in helping people to the best of his abilities and has a little fun as he does it."

The younger Knauf said this break into writing television with his dad doesn't mean he'll stop writing comics. "We just finished up with most of our commitment to the Phantom, so I would love to get back into comics," he said. "I don't think I'll ever really get out of comics, actually. I love the medium and the great people I meet in the business every day."

However, that return will not be to Eternals, which Marvel canceled with this month's issue. "The Eternals is a difficult pitch as it is, and in today's market, we think that it's hard to hold onto those books that just don't make the monthly numbers," Knauf said. "It was a fun little book and we had some wonderful times doing it, but business is business, and at the end of the day if it's not making the money that it needs to stay alive then it's time to move on.

"But the series is open ended and Marvel is very interested in the characters, so never say die with the Eternals!" the writer said.

For now, Charles Knauf said he's in talks with a few other companies about writing comics – and this time he he's going to try it without dad. "I'm excited to spread my wings and do some solo work," he said.

In the meantime, Knauf is hoping the Phantom movie on SCI FI has enough appeal to modern audiences to merit an ongoing series.

"We think it's kind of simple – he's a very cool guy who has a great sense of right and wrong and will fight 'til his dying breath for what he believes in," he said. "Kit Walker is the classic good guy."


The Phantom Still Rides at Moonstone

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