PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Fantom, Yu Pren Tru Bilong Mi

A comic strip becomes a hot issue in the jungle

The spear-carrying tribesmen of Papua New Guinea—homeland of the cargo cults and of islanders who once regarded L.B.J. as a demigod—have a new Western hero to worship. No, not the Fonz or Jimmy Carter, but the masked comic-strip marvel who lives in the Skull Cave of Bangalla—namely, the Phantom.

Every Friday thousands of natives stream out of the jungle to buy copies of Wantok (literally, "One Talk," but meaning people who speak the same language), a weekly publication in pidgin distributed by...

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