The Phantom:
A Publishing History in the U.S.A.

by Bob and John Griffin

Big Little Books / Better Little Books (1936-1947)

(Whitman Publishing Company)







The first ever reprint of the Phantom comic strip was in a Big Little Book. The term designated a series of prose adaptation books published by Whitman Publishing Company of Racine, Wisconsin, beginning in the early 1930's. Further information about Big Little Books is available at the official Big Little Books Club Web Site.

The first Phantom edition in this series was published before the end of the first story, The Singh Brotherhood, and only covered the first 16 weeks out of a final total of 38. Each book was approximately 4 1/2" by 3 1/2" and generally thick (352 or 432 pages) with many illustrations, usually one illustration opposing each page of text. In 1938, Whitman changed the term to Better Little Books. There were a total of six Phantom titles reprinting the daily adventures in black and white. Only three of books contained complete stories - the others finishing or starting midway through the continuity (refer table below). Books #1421 and #1489 each had an animated picture in the top-right corner which was viewed by flipping the pages quickly with your thumb.

For the scanned book covers shown above, note that the Phantom's costume is red for the first two books. These were published before the Sunday strip was started, and consequently there was some indecision about the colour of the costume. Refer to A Purple Phantom? for further details.

NumberYearBook TitlePagesCode"Official" Story TitleWeeks
11001936The Phantom432D1The Singh Brotherhoodfirst 16 of 38
14741939The Phantom & the Sign of the Skull432D3The Diamond Huntersfirst 11 of 23
14211941The Phantom & Desert Justice432D9The Slave Tradersall 14
14891942The Return of the Phantom432D8Fishers of Pearlsall 12
14681945The Phantom & the Sky Pirates352D2The Sky Bandlast 10 of 22
14161947The Phantom & the Girl of Mystery352D10The Mysterious Girlall 17


Return to The Phantom in the USA

Bryan Shedden /
Last updated 5 December 1999