Very interesting topic, and good points raised so far that I agree with. I have a brother-in-law who talks about the "strength of ten tigers" (from the DOTE animated series that aired in India years back) as soon as I mention the Phantom... he mentions it genuinely as he actually enjoyed that Phantom but I get irritated anyways as I know the DOTE animated Phantom is not a true representation.
I have another question though: I was lucky to be exposed to original Falk stories by Diamond Comics, and later, through exchanges of Frew reprints with other Phans. However I am out of touch with the newer Phantom stories: only limited Egmont stories got published in India, Frew is not readily available in India (except for Phan exchanges), and the US publications don't make it here either. So am I a true Phan if I know the original Phantom stories but do not keep in touch with the newer stuff?
I think it comes down to what Ivan mentioned: if a person tries to figure out, with whatever means available to him or her, "what is the Phantom?" or what he has stood for in all these years, it's a good hint that the person truly appreciates the character.