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No, This 1957 Comic Strip Didn't Talk About the 'China Virus'

In the original comics, The Phantom shows people how to protect themselves from 'sleep death', not 'China Virus'.

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WebQoof
3 min read
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Edited By :Padmashree Pande

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.

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CLAIM

The photo is being widely shared with the text, "Would you believe this was published in 1957?"

In the original comics, The Phantom shows people how to protect themselves from 'sleep death', not 'China Virus'.

An archive of this tweet can be seen here.

(Source: Twitter/Screenshot)

The claim was shared by author and former bureaucrat Anil Swarup, who noted the that the 'China Virus' "continues to torment us even today."

Several iterations of the claim were shared across platforms and an archived version can be seen here, here, here and here.

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'.

In the original comics, The Phantom shows people how to protect themselves from 'sleep death', not 'China Virus'.

The user noted that the panel was fro The Phantom's 'Valley of no return.'

(Source: Twitter/Screenshot)

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'.

In the original comics, The Phantom shows people how to protect themselves from 'sleep death', not 'China Virus'.

The original panel reads 'sleep death'.

(Source: Heritage Auctions/Screenshot)

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.

An article on the fact-checking website Snopes noted that the original version of the comic was published in “The Pocono Record,” a newspaper in Pennsylvania, USA on 24 August, 1957.

In the original comics, The Phantom shows people how to protect themselves from 'sleep death', not 'China Virus'.

The panel first appeared in a newspaper in 1958.

(Source: Newspapers.com/Altered by The Quint)

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.

(Not convinced of a post or information you came across online and want it verified? Send us the details on WhatsApp at 9643651818, or e-mail it to us at webqoof@thequint.com and we'll fact-check it for you. You can also read all our fact-checked stories here.)

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Edited By :Padmashree Pande
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