Aug 2, 2011

Let's review Phantom #1607

In Australia Phantom has been published continuously since 1947 in a comic book format by Frew Publications. Frew's version of the Phantom comic is the longest running comic book based on the character in the world. Almost all the material in it is reprints of either newspaper strips or comic stories from the Scandanavian comic Fantomen.
I've be workin' on the... circus.

I've only recently gotten back into buying Frew Phantoms and I basically pick-and-choose, buying pretty much only the issues which have 'Phantom Classic' on the cover, because that usually means it's a reprint of a Lee Falk newspaper strip.

This comic isn't. It's a reprint of an old Team Fantomen story.

I'm not a fan of Team Fantomen stories. They don't capture the brilliant pacing and characterisation of the newspaper strips. They're very true to the source material in most ways... but the fire isn't there.

This issue is a very standard modern Frew Phantom package. It's got a glossy cover, and newsprint black-and-white interior pages. This means it's also incredibly cheap compared to other comics on the market, undercutting them by about $2 to $4 AU.
I love this shot. Really rich and interesting.

The cover is... actually pretty good. It's got the same flatness most Frew covers have, but it's not as atrocious as some of them can be. Trust me -- Frew covers can be awful.

The best part about the issue is the editorial at the start. Every modern Phantom issue has an editorial by publisher Jim Shepherd, has since the 1990s, or so. These editorials are fantastic. They talk directly to the fans... actually it's hard not to learn about the history of the Phantom if you're collecting Frew issues for any length of time.

The editorials talk about the history of the stories, the characters, the publication history, etc. In this editorial they talk about the artist "Felmang", and that the art may have actually been done by one of his assistants. They also talk about the minor edits to the cover that make it different to the original printing of this story by Frew. What the editorial doesn't talk about very much (and this is unusual) is the story itself.

Why not? Well... because it's kinda crummy.

The basic story is a drug bust story. The Phantom comes to Morristown and he has to destroy a drug ring. That's fine, I guess. The drug ring is linked to Torsen Circus, and the drug exchanges are done in a kind of enjoyably absurd way. The clowns give the drugs to their contacts during the audience participation section of the performance.

Now that's an efficient way to distribute your
drugs! I can see why Morristown is overrun!
This link to the circus leads to what I think is the reason that this was a highly requested reprint for Frew. The Phantom dresses up as a clown himself, and fights the evil drug clowns, beating them up as part of an in-the-ring performance. It's actually a pretty awesome sequence, and definitely the hi-light of the issue.

The real problem with the story is that the main thrust is supposed to be the deep dark mystery about who the boss of the drug ring is. Only it's not a freaking mystery. You'd have to be brain dead not to guess who the culrpit is. They only give you one suspect, and he's insanely freakin' obvious about it.

Here... check out his debut in the book. There's three cops in these two panels. See if you can guess who is the evil dude linked to the Torsen Circus drug crimes:

Now that's some subtle writing!!

I can't really recommend this comic, especially if you're looking for an entry point to the Phantom's adventures. It's a pretty crappy outing, with only one really memorable moment.

So okay, if I don't like Team Fantomen stories, and this is a pretty crap one at that, why did I even pick up the issue at all? Oh c'mon now, do you really have to ask? This is the reason I bought this issue:
Somehow he even makes window shopping creepy.

Team Fantomen stories don't tend to have these little scenes in them. In fact, this was the first time I'd ever seen one in a Team Fantomen story! It gives me hope that we will find more... and expand the grand gallery of Phantom's peeping. Admittedly, this one is a little bit of a stretch, since he's not looking in on criminals or anything, just on some dolls.

However, to my delight this wasn't the only Phantom Peeping panel in the issue! Not only is this the first Team Fantomen story I've found with a Phantom-in-the-window scene... it's actually got two in it! The second one is also suitably hilarious:
He's not the only one, Mr. Walker! *

So that means we get to add to our Phantom-at-the-window collage! Huzzah:

This thing is gunna get enormous.

--Andrew S.
(*For the Ghost Who Walks.)

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