Ughland (story)

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Ughland
Champagne.jpg
Start date: February 14th, 1983
End date: July 2nd, 1983
# of strips: 120 (20 weeks)
Writer: Lee Falk
Artist: Sy Barry
Original colorist: N/A
Preceded by: "Queen Karola of Kula-Ku"
Followed by: "Visit to Baronkhan"

"Ughland" is the 151st Phantom daily story. The story was written by Lee Falk and drawn by Sy Barry.

"Ughland" is a 1983 story in Falk's "dictator" series that details the UN-offending exploits of a maniacial money-mad despot named General Kon.

Diana sets out to expose Kon's torturing and looting operations in his home country of Ughland, only to be kidnapped by the dictator's henchmen and held hostage for a huge ransom.

Plot Summary

As the story starts, General Kon is on the verge of going bankrupt (yet again) and his people, finally tired of keeping the monster in caviar, are primed for revolt. Kon is well aware of his possibly grim future, but not overly concerned: he has a plan, a fool-proof escape hatch, or so he thinks. He plans to take out a $10 million dollar loan from the World Bank presumably under some pretense of a national project that he has no intention of completing, and flee the country in his private jet. What he doesn’t count on is the appearance of one of his particularly brutalized countrymen at the UN office of Diana Palmer-Walker, on the verge of collapse from days of body-breaking torture in one of Kon’s well-equipped interrogation chambers (which the tyrant smirkingly refers to as his “playrooms”).

Diana rushes the former prisoner to the hospital where he is attended to and, at the man’s bedside, listens as he pleads with her to do something --- anything --- to save his people from the vicious dictator. After a short while, the man dies, as the doctor on duty observes: “He lived only long enough to bring you a message, Mrs. Palmer-Walker.” “I received it,” Diana replies solemnly, both touched and angered at witnessing the fruits of the general’s fiendish hand personally.

She consults with her and the Phantom’s old friend Dr. Lamanda Luaga, as to what her next move should be, and quickly decides to organize a worldwide boycott of UN nations against Ughland --- which would quickly upend the tyrant’s designs on any financial aid he might be seeking, like his pending loan.

When Kon gets word of this, he wastes no time in enlisting the help of his ambassador, a suave, middle-aged, slightly smarmy unnamed man dressed in the formal cutaway coat of a dignitary. The ambassador summons Diana to his sumptuous Mawitaan office and first tries to bribe her by adding her to Kon’s already extensive, if dwindling, payroll. When that option fails, he threatens her (“The leader does not like people who try to injure him….”), then thrusts a diamond necklace into her hand, hoping she will get the not-so-subtle hint and drop her plans of boycott. Diana informs him that, after witnessing his bribery and extortion attempt, she now has more than enough evidence to take down the general, the ambassador, and their goons. She stalks off, vowing retribution for the dead man and others like him. The ambassador watches her depart wistfully, and then summons a sunglassed thug. “Such a beauty. What a pity,” he declares, sealing her fate and launching his boss’ dastardly multi-phased plan to secure his loan: Operation Shut Mouth!

In phase one of the plan, Diana’s jeep, bound for the Deep Woods, Kit and Heloise, and Rex, is ambushed. Having much experience with uniformed barbarians like Kon, she’s prepared, drawing a pistol on the turbaned lackeys who block her path. She fights with the thugs, battling them hand-to-hand with her black belt skills, but is unprepared for Mr. Sunglasses, who appears from nowhere and draws a gun of his own. Diana struggles with him, but is quickly out-numbered. A well-aimed bottle of chloroform finally does her in. She is hauled away to Kon’s waiting helicopter as her jeep is set on fire as a decoy for the authorities.

As the hours tick by with no sign of Diana, the Ghost gets more and more worried. His radar for danger piqued, he sets off down Phantom Trail and discovers the burned jeep, but no accompanying body. Utilizing his many sources for information in the Woods, and after consulting with Luaga, who he knows Diana saw before departing on her journey, he pieces together his wife’s potential peril at the general’s hands. He sets off for the Ughland embassy to confront the ambassador and to do a little coercing of his own.

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Meanwhile, Diana is being wheeled from Kon’s private plane, straight into the fat man’s vile clutches. He has her taken to his palace, then waits impatiently there as the sleeping drug she has been injected with dissipates. When she comes to, he smugly welcomes her into his elegantly-appointed mansion with a flute of chilled Champagne, urging her to be reasonable and to drop the “unfounded” charges she has prepared against him. He assures her that her plans of boycott are useless. With Diana under his "care," he chortles, the only loose threads remaining are the copious amounts of UN files detailing his atrocities, and these, he purrs, have been “taken care of” as phase two of his master plan. “We have destroyed all your ‘proof,’” the madman gloats. “You have nothing...but I have you!”

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Feeling quite full of himself by his time, the dictator makes a pass at Diana and, when she disdainfully snubs him, he decides a bit of force might be more enjoyable and necessary on such a beautiful woman (“You will learn to like me, Mrs. Palmer-Walker,” he teases threateningly. “As much as you like garlic?” the Phantom’s wife shoots back, quickly retreating from his advances). Not to be denied, Kon grips her and kisses her flush on the mouth, propelling the repulsed Diana to send him flying ala the same judo move she executed on General Tara, only five years before.

With Kon flat on his back, Diana flings open the door, only to be confronted by the bully’s henchmen, who grip both her arms, offering her up to their sovereign. Kon snatches a large sabre from the wall and advances toward the captive Diana, eagerly stroking the edge of the sharp blade in anticipation of the harm he plans to inflict upon her. “My enemies call me monster…” he fumes, “now you will see why!” We never know exactly what Kon’s devious intentions are for Diana (death? torture?), but before he can fulfill either of these nasty notions, the phone rings! It’s the ambassador.

After breaking into the embassy and tossing the diplomat around his office, the Phantom has directed the man to call his “great leader” and offer a gold ransom of $30 million in exchange for Diana’s safe return. Kon is overjoyed at the news, but his malevolent greed soon gets the better of him (“$30 million is not enough for this…woman,” he growls). In minutes, the ransom is driven up to $100 million.

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Kon tells his ambassador he wants the ransom loaded onto his private jet. The ambassador and Kit will come to the palace for Diana. “If you deceive me,” he threatens the ambassador, “you know what I will do!” Kon hangs up the phone and proceeds to boast about his guaranteed fortune, as well as the hopeless predicament he has placed our heroine and her savior in, and she understands just how crazy he really is for the first time. “First, this Mr. Walker brings the enormous gold ransom. Then, he comes for you. Then you both die…by my hand!” he cackles madly, brandishing his sword in the air. Still irritated at Diana’s attack, the dictator decides to show her exactly who she is dealing with, and how she will die, to give her something to mull over while waiting for her seemingly doomed rescuers. He thrusts Diana into the arms of his thugs and orders “Show her my playroom…then lock her up!”

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As Diana is escorted to Kon’s torture room, she blanches at the sight of the horrific instruments lying in wait for her. “It’s one thing to read about such things, another to see them in person,” she shudders, thinking of Kon’s former victim and how he was perhaps tormented in this very room. “Be thankful the leader is sending you here, rather than there,” a guard grimly tells Diana, locking her in a prison cell. As Diana breaks down (odd for Diana, but we can only assume it’s due to the stress she’s already been through --- it’s certainly not the first time she’s seen a torture chamber), she wishes frantically for the Phantom’s arrival.

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Meanwhile Kon unhurriedly prepares for his escape, ordering his valet to pack his things for an “extended holiday.” A true blue sadist at heart, he can’t resist stopping by Diana’s cell one last time to gloat over her helplessness. “I’ve changed my mind, Mrs. Palmer-Walker. I’m taking you with me!” he preens, deciding that a leisurely death at his tentacles is much more fitting for his lovely hostage --- a session of agony at a private hideaway, for example, where they will not be disturbed.
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When the ambassador and the Phantom arrive at Kon’s palace, the dictator is lazily reclining on a large throne chair, confident he is minutes from boarding his jet with the fair Diana. After he confirms the ransom (actually a trunk of old books) has been loaded on his plane, he tells the Phantom that his guards will take him to his wife, obviously intending his capture. Kit balks, saying he prefers Diana be brought to him. This highly amuses Kon, who can’t stop laughing. “You think I let you come here to take her away? You think any of you will live to tell the world about this ransom? No!” he chuckles. Mouth watering, the fiend decrees: “I wish to enjoy this! Take them to the playroom!” The ambassador appears ready to pass out from fear at the prospect of facing the ghoulish torture machines that he himself has helped to sustain, and pleads for his life. The dictator spitefully giggles in response to his begging. He has no more use for the ambassador. “You won’t last five minutes in the playroom,” he smirks hatefully.

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The Phantom says nothing, not moving an inch, still wearing his Walker disguise with cape. “What are you waiting for?” Kon screeches at his thugs. “I thought I told you to take Mr. Walker away!” The guards try, but can’t budge him. “This will move him!” Kon screams, rushing at Walker with his sabre. The Phantom’s cloak falls and guns begin to blaze. The Ghost decimates Kon’s henchmen with fists and bullets as the general bellows: “Kill him!”

In only scant minutes, Kon is left alone in the throne room with the bodies of his thugs. Panicked, he flees down into the bowels of his palace to retrieve Diana, his only hope for safety. Before arriving at Diana’s cell, Kon looks longingly into his torture room (he obviously has a special place in his black heart for the hideous chamber) and drools: “He’ll [the Phantom] finish here, with her!” As the dictator is ready to seize Diana, intending to force the Phantom into his clutches by threatening her life, a large shape descends from somewhere above. “Mind if I join you?” Kit asks merrily, tackling the dictator.

Kit hauls Kon to Diana’s cell and demands he release her. When Kon refuses, lamely asserting he has no key, the Phantom attempts to open the cell door…with the plump general’s bald head! After several crushing cranial blows, the dictator relents, freeing Diana.

Upstairs, the palace is in an uproar. Guards are everywhere, searching for Kon. “Here he is,” grins the Phantom, hauling the overfed general effortlessly by the collar into the room, his jackbooted feet not even touching the ground.

As the ambassador explains Kon’s nefarious plan to bilk the country dry and flee, the Ughland "royal" guard becomes incensed. The dictator’s men are prepared to execute their leader, when Diana intervenes, imploring them to give the monster a trial rather than immediately execute the man, contrary to what the despot has done to hundreds of others. The story closes with Kon in custody and Diana and the Phantom in each other’s arms.

Appearances

Recurring characters

One-time characters

  • Ambassador of Ughland

Locations

Tribes

Organizations



Trivia

As the ambassador and Kit fly to Ughland, the Phantom questions him as to why a man such as he would deliver an innocent woman into the hands of such a monster. Here, the story breaks down somewhat on a logical level.

The ambassador reveals that the dictator is holding his wife and children under house arrest, to ensure the ambassador’s obedience. He shows the Phantom a picture of them. However, earlier, the ambassador is seen having a candlelit dinner with a beautiful woman (not the wife!) prior to the Ghost’s arrival at the embassy. From the drawings, it looks pretty cozy. If the ambassador is a married man with a family held hostage, why would he be engaging in such a tryst?

Also, prior to this confession of a family held hostage, the ambassador seemed quite content to execute Kon’s plans, as when he sent Mr. Sunglasses, a paid assassin, after Diana. The ambassador seemingly switches from evil to good in the course of the story, quite abruptly.

If the woman dining with him was supposed to be the wife, she looked to be having a pretty good time herself, with her children under armed guard! And if she wasn't his wife, we have a somewhat flawed hero. Not a huge discrepancy, but something interesting, nonetheless!

Reprints

This story has been published in the following publications:

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  • "Le stratagème et le chantage", Akim #747, "L'enlèvement de Diane", #748 and "Histoire d'une rançon", #749 (1990; in part 3 edited together with "Visit to Baronkhan")
  • "Le stratagème et le chantage", Akim #17, "L'enlèvement de Diane", #18#19 and "Histoire d'une rançon", #20 (1995)

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