There are currently no active Phantom Fan Clubs operating in Australia. Until a brave entrepeneur decides to purchase the licensing rights from KFS, you will have to be satisfied with reading about the "glory days". Although not a "fan club", there are regular informal gatherings of Phantom Phans in the Sydney region, going by the title The Lee Falk Memorial Bengali Explorers Club.
The Phantom Club, as it was originally called, was established in 1981 by John Henderson and his friends, who believed it was about time that Phantom people had their own special club. The appearance of Phantom Club newsletters on the back cover of Frew Phantom comics was a regular event throughout the 1980s. During this period, the Club was extremely active and promoted the Phantom on radio, TV, newspapers, and magazines. Much of the public awareness of The Phantom that currently exists in Australia, probably owes to the activities of The Phantom Club during those years.
Click here to read Phantom PhreaksIn 1988, KFS withdrew the Club's license on the grounds of copyright infringement, and then pursued the matter in the Australian courts. Advertisements for the Club ceased to appear in the Frew Phantom comic in early 1989 -- the last was in #926. Thereafter, the name The Independent Phantom Club of Australia was adopted, and it went underground. The court battle finally ended in 1996 after KFS decided to cease proceedings. However, John Henderson has now devoted his spare time to University studies, and although the Club exists, there has been almost no activity since 1995.
(A magazine article from 1985 about members of the Phantom Club)
In past times of activity, The Independent Phantom Club of Australia provided lots of interesting Phantom facts and fiction via the quarterly club publication, Jungle Beat (41 issues published so far), and still offers a wide range of Phantom products. A special service to buy, sell or swap Phantom comics is available to members. The Phantom Club operates with a system of ranks similar to The Phantom's own Jungle Patrol. In this way the higher ranking Members help run the Club in their own areas under the supervision and guidance of Headquarters. All new Members start with the rank of Patrolman in The Club, and thereafter gain promotion based upon seniority and performance. New Members receive a Membership Kit consisting of a Certificate of Membership, Identification Card, Club Member sticker, a copy of the latest Jungle Beat newsletter, and a Product Catalogue. Memberships are still accepted, but given their record since 1995, I cannot recommend joining.
The Independent Phantom Club of Australia
PO Box 95
Ph. & Fax. (07) 5448 2355 (International +61-7-5448-2355)
Description Adult $30 pa (the usual membership for working adults) Concession $20 pa (for pensioners, the unemployed and disadvantaged) Student $20 pa (for full-time tertiary students) Junior $20 pa (for children and school students) Life Membership $100 (a once-only fee for special VIP membership)
This Phantom Club was born with the release of Frew's 1000th Phantom comic in January 1991, and finally closed in 1999 after their license was not renewed.
The Official Phantom Fan Club Australia
The Club was managed by Neville Kent, Anthony Poloso and Aaron Littlejohn, who specialised in running fan clubs as a means of promoting their novelty/gift store called Famous Faces in Melbourne, VIC. They also maintained fan clubs for Elvis Presley, James Dean and Marilyn Monroe among others. Grand claims were made with the launch of this Phantom Club that they would be providing "quite a deal of historical information about the world-famous character and the men behind the scenes (Lee Falk, Ray Moore, Wilson McCoy, Bill Lignante, Sy Barry et al)," but very little of this ever appeared. There was a trickle of good information during the first year or two thanks to the contributions of Jim Shepherd from Frew Publications, but this gradually faded to virtually nothing.
A newsletter was distributed to all members of the Club. It was meant to be issued quarterly, but no more than 3 issues per year were ever distributed. A total of 14 newsletters were produced, the last of which was sent out in January 1998. The majority of the newsletter content came from member contributions (letters, classifieds, reader artwork, etc.), and much of the "news" was several months old by the time each issue was sent out.
Regardless of the infrequent issue of the newsletters, each year of membership entitled members to 4 newsletters. New members were sent a Club membership kit containing an identification card, Phantom product offers, and a Phantom sticker.
Universities in Australia have a strong tradition of Society life. These are groups of like-minded University students, who receive some small amount of funding from the Student Union to sponsor their activities. In 1983, Phantom fans at the Australian National University (ANU) gathered for the first Annual General Meeting of The ANU Phantom Society. The principal purpose of the AGM was to elect members to the dignatory positions (President, Secretary, etc). The challenge for the position of President was fought out by a Phantom trivia challenge between two candidates. Phil Johnston won the challenge on 2 questions. His competitor's last question was a deliberate trick -- "What is the name of the Phantom's dog", to which Phil correctly replied "He's not a dog, he's a mountain wolf and his name is Devil." Much respectful applause ensued as did curses from Phil's rival. Phil's last question was the stumper -- "What is the Phantom's HAM Radio call sign?" The rival was perplexed and conceded defeat -- the correct answer in fact varies from issue to issue but it generally is "KIT###" (with the ### being varying numbers). At the end of that first meeting it was suggested that the title of President be made a position for life and the meeting agreed without argument. Phil Johnston acted as President of the ANU Phantom Society until finishing his studies in 1986, after which time the Society faded away. Of course, Phil is still the "President for Life"!
The ANU Phantom Society
The Phantom Society was not just about getting money from the Union for wine and food (although that wasn't strictly true for everyone who was a member). One of the tasks they undertook was to update the Bangalla Law Reports. These were a set of lever-arch folders held by the ANU Law Library, containing issues of the Phantom going back to the early sixties. Each issue was annotated with legal briefs which were a mix between legitimate legalese and tongue-in-cheek humour. For example:
Phantom vs Skyband before Justice DevilThe Bangalla Law Reports still exist but are now apparently difficult to access.
re. Forced delay of scheduled commercial airline flight, removal of private property without consent
Charges dismissed, confession inadmissable, excessive force used in obtaining confession.
Students from the ANU who're interested in reviving The Phantom Society should contact Phil Johnston for more information.
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