Fact Check-A 1957 comic strip did not predict the COVID-19 pandemic 

Update Nov. 29, 2021: Adding paragraph 8 to include comment from comic printing company.

A digitally altered version of a 1957 comic cartoon is making rounds on social media, with some users claiming the image is evidence that the adventure comic strip The Phantom predicted the COVID-19 pandemic.

Users are sharing a scene from a story “The Valley of No Return” (here), depicting the Phantom telling another character to tie a piece of clothing around his mouth. The image, however, has been digitally altered to include the words “China Virus” in the dialogue.

Iterations of the digitally altered version can be seen here , here , here , here , here , and here.

The unedited version shows the main character is actually telling a person to cover his mouth to be protected against “the ‘sleep death’ in the Valley”.

The original art of the cartoon strip is viewable in an auction website here.

Newspaper the Courier Post featured it on its Aug. 24, 1957 edition. The snippet in the New Jersey’s outlet archive also shows the comic strip was about the “sleep death” in the Valley (see slide 1 here).

The Phantom, “a fictional costumed crime-fighter who operates from the fictional African country of Bangalla,” was created in 1936 by Lee Falk with artwork by Ray Moore and initially featured in a daily newspaper strip, followed by a Sunday color version (here) (here).

Troy Musguirem, Production Manager at Hermes Press Inc, which produces reprints of The Phantom comic strips ( here ) confirmed to Reuters the image making rounds online is altered. He said “there is no mention of a virus or the country China at all in 'The Valley of No Return,'" and that the masks worn by the characters "are to prevent them from inhaling a powerful sleeping powder made from dried mushrooms found in a cave and used as a means to render victims unconscious so they can be robbed."

Reuters has debunked numerous unfounded claims of alleged predictions of the virus outbreak (here, here , here , here , here ).


False. A 1957 comic strip of The Phantom did not mention a “China virus.” A version circulating online has been altered to include these words.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts here .