The Zulian Maletarians are a race that can multiply by possessing people. They originated from a dark planet at the edge of the Rao system and were forced to flee for unknown reasons. After that, they plotted to take over planets until the Kryptonians banished them to the Phantom Zone. The Zone somehow prevented the Zulian Maletarians from multiplying, though they retained their ability to psychically inspire fear and misery, causing them to attack other Phantom Zone inmates indiscriminately and leading to the realm being aptly named after them as its prison-guards and the most dominant species therein.
After the Anti-Monitor Crisis, the Phantom Zone was split into numerous dimensional planes; going from being a single dimension to many, so the Phantoms spread into the new "archipelago" of dimensions. In late 2020, Supergirl was sent to the Phantom Zone, attracting the attention of the phantoms. Disconcerted, she was going to be attacked by the Phantoms but was saved by Zor-El.
When the Superfriends opened a portal in the tower to the Phantom Zone to rescue Kara, the Phantoms left. Eventually, the heroes managed to arrest some of them back but several had already escaped, including Prime Phantom. Secretly, they possessed Silas and a few more citizens of National City. Then, they faced the Superfriends again, but the heroes banished almost all of them to their original universe; but Prime Phantom managed to escape again.
Lex Luthor summoned several Phantoms from the Phantom Zone to defeat the Superfriends. However, since the Phantoms feed on fear, they attacked him and Nyxlygsptlnz and imprisoned them in the Phantom Zone instead.
Known individuals infected by phantoms
Powers and abilities
- "When the phantoms attack, first they do so psychically; paralyzing their prey with misery. Then they strike using their venomous talons. After a short incubation period, the victim's life-force leaves the body, and migrates to the phantom's nest."
- —Querl Dox[src]
- Fear projection: According to Brainy, phantoms initially attack their victims through psychological means; mentally tormenting them. Next, they attack their victims physically. Within the Phantom Zone, this ability is amplified to the degree that a phantom doesn't even need to be in close proximity of its victims; and unless the phantoms' targets are somehow protected or if the influence is somehow mitigated, their recipients will become trapped in a catatonic state through something J'onn described as "fear visions".
- Infection: Phantoms are capable of infecting others when they attack if they get close enough to cut their target(s), which later leads to the afflicted becoming another phantom. Once infected, after a short period of incubation, the soul of the infected individual leaves the body (which is the point when the victim's transformation occurs) and becomes trapped in a chrysalis at the phantom's nest. If the cocoon isn't shattered before it fully hardens, the souls of the infected within the chrysalis will be lost forever. However, if the souls are released from the cocoon, this will free all infected individuals; restoring them to their normal selves.
- Cryokinesis: Phantoms are capable of generating extreme coldness and ice.
- Teleportation: The Prime Phantom was somehow able to open a portal that engulfed him in order to escape from the containment chamber built by the Superfriends.
- Accelerated healing factor: Phantoms have the power to heal much faster than humans, as seen when they were hit several times by Brainy's blaster and Alex Danvers' gun and were able to heal quickly without any injury.
- Flight: The Phantoms can fly.
- Life-Force Detection: Phantoms are capable of honing in on the life-forces of other creatures. M'gann M'orzz developed this ability while a portion of her soul was trapped in the Phantoms' chrysalis.