Vale – Lindsay Walker, Phantom cover artist

b871ed_594903f4a6324e8789769408225e9505-mv2Lindsay C. Walker, an Australian artist who, in recent years worked on several Phantom comic-book projects, took her own life on 27 September, 2016. This sad news came just as her first-ever cover for the Australian edition of The Phantom comic book went on sale last month.

Walker, a transgender woman, first came to the attention of Phantom “phans” when she produced two covers for Moonstone Graphics‘ relaunched version of The Phantom: Ghost Who Walks comic book in 2009-2010. These early works are attributed to the name Mick Collins. She was subsequently commissioned by online retailer The Phantom’s Vault to illustrate the Australian variant cover for Hermes Press’ newest edition of The Phantom (Issue #3B).

frew_1764

Walker, who named herself after The Phantom’s alter ego, “Kit Walker”, was a popular artist among Australian “phans”, and produced several private and commissioned pieces depicting The Phantom.

Lindsay spoke frequently about her work, and her experience transitioning. You can download her interview with Joe Douglas from the first-ever ChroncicleChamber/X-Band podcast in 2013, along with her appearance on the Geek Girl podcast from 2014.You can also read a transcript of her interview for Monica Kowalska’s Heroines of My Life blog.

Fans of The Phantom who wish to make donations to Lindsay’s partner, Kim, and their three children, Ariel, Eloise and Evelyn, may do so here.

(This blog post draws on material previously published at ChronicleChamber.com)

Vale – Peter Chapman, Australian Comic-Book Artist (1925-2016)

chapman_fotoPeter Chapman, a veteran Australian comic-book artist, died on June 22, 2016, in his  hometown of Narrabri, New South Wales, where he had lived and taught art since 1971. He was 91 years old.

Chapman’s career spanned the “golden age” of Australian comics, first working as a comic-book writer and artist for Frank Johnson Publications (Sydney) in the mid-1940s. In time, he became one of the most prolific comic-book artists of the post-war era, but he is best known for his enduring association with Frew Publications, which has published the Australian edition of The Phantom since 1948, making it the oldest, longest-running Phantom comic magazine in the world.

In the early 1950s, Chapman took over as writer and illustrator of The Phantom Ranger and The Shadow, both of which were originally created for Frew Publications by expatriate British artist, Jeff Wilkinson, in 1949-1950. Chapman’s work on The Phantom Ranger was reprinted under license in the United Kingdom in the 1950s, while his version of The Shadow – no relation to the famous American pulp-magazine hero of the same name – was translated into Portuguese for the Brazilian market during this period as well.

sir-falcon-9-frewChapman also created, wrote and illustrated Sir Falcon, another popular superhero title for Frew Publications, which was heavily modelled on The Phantom, which still remained the company’s best-selling title. Chapman also drew occasional covers for the regular series of The Phantom comic magazine, along with cover illustrations for Giant Size Phantom Comic in the late 1950s.

Chapman remained as writer-artist on Sir Falcon, The Phantom Ranger, and The Shadow, until the early 1960s, when Frew Publications began scaling back its range of Australian-drawn comics to focus on their best-selling title, The Phantom, and other licensed reprints of American comics. The Phantom Ranger and The Shadow remained in publication until the early 1970s, albeit comprised of reprints of earlier editions, many of which were originally drawn by Chapman.

Following the collapse of Australia’s comic-book industry in the early 1960s, Chapman turned to commercial illustration, initially working as  greeting card illustrator for John Sands, and producing book illustrations for selected Australian publishers. After relocating to Narrabri, New South Wales, in 1971, Chapman took up art instruction at regional TAFE (Technical and Further Education) colleges, and toured regional New South Wales as a self-employed art teacher.

Peter Chapman received a Ledger of Honour, in recognition of his lifetime contribution to Australian comics, at the Ledger Awards held in Melbourne, Australia, on April 15, 2016. You can read my 2007 interview with Peter Chapman at ChronicleChamber.com. Chapman was interviewed on film by curator Dr Peter Doyle (Macquarie University) for the Pulp Confidential exhibition held at the State Library of New South Wales in 2015 (Peter Chapman photo courtesy of Lambiek. Sir Falcon cover image courtesy of AusReprints).

See me @ Supanova – Melbourne, 17 April 2016

supanova-logoI’ll be appearing at Supanova Pop Culture Expo being held in Melbourne (Australia) on Sunday, 17 April, 2016, as part of the Popular Arts Researchers Australia (PARA) panel on popular culture and Australian fandom.

I’ll be talking about The Phantom (of course), and look at the reasons why “The Ghost Who Walks” continues to be popular with Australian “phans”, 80 years after his debut in The Australian Woman’s Mirror magazine, back in September 1936.

I’ll be joined on-stage by Angela Ndalianis (University of Melbourne), and Jason Bainbridge (Swinburne University), who’ll be sharing insights from their research into superhero fandom and the role of super-villains in the superhero genre.

Our session, titled “Phans, Fans, and Supervillains”, will be held on-stage at the Imagineers’ Playground at the Supanova Pop Culture Expo, from 3.10pm-4.00pm, Sunday, 17 April, 2016. For further details, visit: http://www.supanova.com.au/activities/imagineers-playground/

Vale – Paul Ryan, Artist of “The Phantom” (1950-2016)

PaulryanReaders of this blog will no doubt be aware that Paul Ryan, who had illustrated the daily episodes of “The Phantom” newspaper comic strip since 2005, died unexpectedly at his home on March 7. 2016. His untimely death was reported by several comics and entertainment websites, such as Newsarama and Bleeding Cool News, and King Features Syndicate published an obituary on its website. While Ryan was arguably best-known to American comic-book readers for his work on The Fantastic Four for Marvel Comics (US), he was better known outside America for his work on “The Phantom” newspaper strip. However, Ryan’s first involvement with the character occurred several years before he took over as artist on the daily newspaper strip for King Features Syndicate. He drew his first Phantom story, titled “The Invisible Phantom” (written by Ben Raab), which was published in the Swedish Fantomen comic magazine, back in November 2001. He succeeded George Olesen and Keith Williams as resident illustrator for the daily episodes of “The Phantom” comic strip in 2005, and subsequently illustrated the Sunday/weekend episode of “The Phantom” comic strip from 2007 to 2012 (For a complete listing of Ryan’s daily & Sunday episodes of “The Phantom”, click here). Ryan, through working in collaboration with author Tony De Paul (who has written “The Phantom” comic strip since 1999), has helped reinvigorate The Phantom comic strip, thanks to his bold and forceful artwork, complemented by De Paul’s complex and compelling stories. As of this writing, there has been no indication as to when Ryan’s last completed episodes of “The Phantom” comic strip will see print, or who will succeed him on this long-running series.

Changing of the Guard at Frew Publications

Article%20Lead%20-%20narrow1005217542gmqde6image_related_articleLeadNarrow_353x0_gmhati_png1455374121725_jpg-300x0The last few months of 2015 proved to be tumultuous for Frew Publications, the Australian publisher of The Phantom comic magazine. Dudley Hogarth had only recently taken over the reigns as editor from Steve Shepherd (son of the late Jim Shepherd), when Judith Shepherd announced she would standing down as Managing Director of Frew Publications in December 2015. This announcement was published in The Phantom, #1744 – the 2015 Christmas Special, which went on sale in Australia and New Zealand on 17 December, 2015.

And then…nothing. Weeks passed, and no further issues of The Phantom were to be seen in newsagents or comic-book stores anywhere. Frew Publications posted an announcement on their website, indicating that publication had been temporarily delayed, but assured readers that production would resume in the very near future. With no further details forthcoming, the rumour mill went into overdrive. Had Frew Publications gone out of business? Was this the end of The Phantom comic book in Australia? What would happen to readers’ outstanding subscriptions?

ChronicleChamber.com released an episode of its X-Band podcast on 22 January, 2016, where the announcers disclosed that changes were underway at Frew Publications, and assured listeners that Frew Publications had not closed its doors. But still rumours about the company’s – and The Phantom’s – future continued to circulate on Facebook pages dedicated to The Phantom.

Readers’ concerns appeared to be laid to rest yesterday (Tuesday, 16 February 2016), when Glenn Ford – a frequent cover artist on The Phantom comic book – posted an announcement on Frew Publications’ Facebook page. The full text is reproduced here:

I can FINALLY announce that Rene White and I are the new owners of Frew.

Our apologies to everyone who has been ‘curious’ about the state of the company and thank you all for your patience. The last month has been quite a ‘journey’.

By way of a quick explanation, I can say the following: As I’m sure most of you are aware, the business of printing the Frew Phantom comic involves two things, there’s the business owned by Frew, the company, and there is the Phantom licence, granted by King Features Syndicate. One is not much good without the other.

We were approached last year, by Frew’s proprietor and asked if we were interested in buying the business and taking over the licence. There were other interested parties, but we threw our collective hat into the ring, as well. Unfortunately for us, early last December, we were told that one of the other interested parties had been granted the licence. We were disappointed, of course, but went on with our lives.

We were then contacted by KFS in mid-January and asked if we were still interested as the other party had changed his mind and had backed out. We then went into negotiations with KFS, who wanted the contract revised. This took a month of to-ing and fro-ing, but we have all reached an agreement. We are all happy and the licence is now signed.

We were not able to make an announcement of any sort, until after we had successfully completed negotiations with KFS, as well as the proprietor of Frew.

Dudley’s original message still applies: Issue #1745 will be available on February 25. We have just pushed the GO button at the printer’s. The printing will be finished this Wednesday. The pick-up and delivery by Gordon and Gotch, however, takes a week. It is taken to a central warehouse and then distributed, from there, throughout Australia and New Zealand.

The 2016 Annual (issue #1746) will follow pretty quickly – and yes, there will be an 80th Anniversary Special. We are working on this now and we are hoping to knock your socks off with it! Other announcements and publishing schedule information will be made available as soon as it’s confirmed.

Now to the ‘punch line’: We are delighted that Dudley is staying. Between the three of us, we are confident that we can not only maintain the quality that Jim and Judith Shepherd established, many years ago, but also continue the legacy for many, many years to come. We have a lot of ideas, some of which, we hope, will surprise you and some we feel are expected and perhaps long overdue.

The most important aspect of all of this, though, is that YOU now have an opportunity to get your voice heard. If we are to grow this business, we need to hear from you. To this end, we intend to make our website and Facebook page a bit more reactive and responsive. Letters, emails, faxes, smoke signals, etc, are not only welcome but encouraged – we need the feedback. Do we need a forum – and if so, in what form? This may even lead to polls, surveys, competitions – anything which will give us an idea of what you want – and constructive contributions will be rewarded with prizes. We are still formulating a lot of this – it’s early days – but we are excited.

It’s going to be a good year for the Phantom!!!

The announcement coincided with the 80th anniversary of The Phantom comic strip, which was widely covered by Australian newspapers, including The Sydney Morning Herald, and The Advertiser (South Australia). Frew Publications will resume production of The Phantom later this month (commencing with issue #1745), and will release a special 80th anniversary edition of The Phantom (see accompanying image) shortly thereafter.

While Australian “phans” are no doubt relieved by this news, this announcement points to intriguing new creative possibilities for The Phantom and Frew Publications – not least because we now have a former Australian artist on The Phantom comic book appointed a co-owner of the company which has produced this magazine since 1948. Glenn Ford has been an active figure in Australian comics fandom since the mid-to-late 1970s, and launched The Phantom Zone chain of comic book/pop culture retail stores in 1989. It will be interesting to see whether Glenn Ford and his team (Dudley Hogarth has been retained as editor) can successfully chart new directions for Frew Publications and The Phantom comic magazine in a challenging (digital) media environment.

Phantom Logic @ Hopscotch Friday

adventures_3Following Nat Karmichael’s recent comments about Frew Publications and The Phantom, and their place in Australian comics culture, comic-book writer and pop culture observer Emmet O’Cuana has posted a timely rebuttal on the Hopscotch Friday website/blog (You can read this piece, titled “Phantom Logic”, here). While this debate will most likely be of greatest interest to Australian comic books, I think it’s also a good example of how The Phantom – who is, after all, an American-created hero – has come to assume far greater cultural significance beyond the United States. There have been very few countries in Europe, Latin America and Asia which have not, at various times, published localised editions of The Phantom since the end of World War Two. However, it could be argued that The Phantom has enjoyed greater popularity, and wielded far greater commercial& cultural influence, in Australia, Sweden and (to a lesser extent) India, than any other country (or group of countries). Read, learn, and enjoy, Phantom “phans”! (Image courtesy of The Deep Woods website).

“My Phantom Thoughts” – Nat Karmichael

s127889837681023_p16_i9_w756Nat Karmichael is undeniably passionate about Australian comics. For decades now, he’s endeavoured to provide outlets for Australian writers and illustrators, in order to showcase the best contemporary – and “classic” – Australian comics, and introduce their work to the wider public whose main exposure to comics comes from overseas. Nat’s latest project is a comic-book anthology, titled “Oi, Oi, Oi”, which has just gone on sale through newsagents across Australia with its sixth issue. Like most people who are deeply interested in Australian comics (whether they’re writers, artists, readers and/or collectors), Nat is all too aware of how the Australian edition of The Phantom – produced by Frew Publications (Sydney, New South Wales) –  continues to dominate the Australian comics landscape, as it has done so for several decades now. Indeed, as I’ve discovered in the course of my own research, many Australians used to believe that The Phantom was an Australian-drawn comic book! But Nat wants to challenge that perception, and has written an interesting essay about The Phantom, and its contribution to Australian comics on his Comicoz website, which can be read here. It’s fascinating, provocative reading, and bound to generate debate amongst Phantom “phans” throughout Australia.