A panel of a comic strip showing classic superhero the Phantom, instructing other characters on how to cover their faces with a mask is being widely shared on social media platforms.
In the posts which are shared online, the Phantom is seen saying "Tie as I do. This will protect you from the 'China Virus' in the valley."
The panel is being shared to push the oft-repeated conspiracy theory that the COVID-19 pandemic was pre-planned. The virus, whose first cases were reported in China's Wuhan, has been at the centre of several such unproven theories.
However, we found that the original comic strip reads 'Sleep Death' and not 'China Virus' as claimed. In the comic, the Phantom helps people around him protect themselves by using a face mask from a powdered mushroom compound which puts people to sleep on inhalation.
The photo is being widely shared with the text, "Would you believe this was published in 1957?"
WHAT WE FOUND OUT
We ran a reverse search on the comic strip which led us to a tweet by one Balaji Sankara Saravanan.
The user mentioned that the comic strip made no mention of 'China virus' and it was from a comic titled 'Valley of no return'.
We then looked the name up and found that 'Valley of No Return' was first published in 1958. It was written by Lee Falk and illustrated by Wilson McCoy.
Using 'McCoy's name and The Phantom Comics' as the keyword, we looked for the original strip and came across it on an auction website called 'Heritage Auctions'.
The original panel shows that The Phantom instructs those around him to tie a covering around their faces after dipping it in water, to protect them from 'Sleep Death' in the valley.
Clearly, a panel from an old comic strip from 1957 was altered to include the words 'China Virus', while the original comic strip makes no such reference.