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.
Chapman 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).