Journal article Open Access

Phantom's Burden: Reading the Politics of Colonial Discourse in Phantom Comics

Rita Sarkar

Comics, the word usually brings to mind something entertaining but ephemeral, something not worthy of
much critical deliberation. But such an approach to comics is not just faulty but grossly erroneous because
comics as a medium has never been entertainment shorn off politics. The mass reach and consumption it
has always had as a medium make comics important cultural texts which in significant ways both reflect
and affect the social, political and theoretical tenets of a time. As a popular medium far from being
detached it is enmeshed in ideologies and discourses either by functioning as a viable apparatus for
disseminating dominant ideas/ideologies or by becoming a platform of challenge and critique of grand
narratives. This paper seeks to study the politics of the Phantom comics as one that tries to peddle the
grand narrative of reason that has been the primary thrust of the colonial discourse. The avowed duty of
all the Phantoms through four centuries to ensure law and order in an otherwise savage land is in fact an
embodiment and championing of the white man’s burden that tries to justify the conquest of a land in the
name of progress and civilisation. Also for a comic series that is propelled by this politics of justifying the
control of a land, its resources and native people by the white settler by disguising it as an enterprise to
bring the modern, rational, civilised to the superstitious, irrational, savage colonies, it becomes interesting
to interrogate the popularity it enjoyed among its India readers. The paper seeks to also understand and
theorise about the possible reasons for the same by seeing it through the larger discourse of colonisation
at work.

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