2002 was a year of changes for Frew. Over the last decade, Frew's publishing schedule has become increasingly reliant on the supply of new stories from Egmont in Scandinavia. There once was a time when the policy at Frew was to select only the best that Egmont had to offer. Now they print virtually everything, except for the odd aberration, such that about 50% of Frew's Phantom stories come from Scandinavia. When Egmont recently decided to cut back on the number of new stories they would create for Fantomen (from 26 to ~20 per year), Frew obviously had some decisions to make. Would they simply use the old Fantomen stories that Egmont were reprinting, or would they try something different? Initially Frew bought themselves a little time by simply reprinting three old Frew editions including the cover art from the original editions -- the first time this has ever been done at Frew and surely a sign of desperation! Clearly this was not a satisfactory solution for Australian Phans but it was only an emergency measure while Jim & Judith Shepherd were in the USA for their annual business trip to King Features. Upon their return, there were still no immediate changes. Frew's on sale dates had typically been about 4 weeks behind Egmont, but they crept closer and closer. Frew soon reached the ludicrous situation where The Eye of Merlin (#1338) was published two weeks before it appeared in Sweden! Fortunately the solution followed with the next issue when Frew commenced a new series of previously unpublished Semic Classics. The continuation of this new series will surely depend on reader feedback, but early indications have been very positive and about a dozen more stories have been scheduled to appear in 2003.
Frew published 31 editions of The Phantom in 2002, with a total count of 1684 pages - slightly down on last year and again the lowest page-count since 1992. The Annual Special published on 11 January contained only 260 pages, surpassing #1280 as the thinnest of the 12 Annual Specials since they began in 1991. The size of the Annual Special has been in continual decline since 1997, but this has enabled Frew to maintain the cover price at $11 despite rising paper costs. There were also a total of 25 regular 36-page editions this year, which matches 2001 as the highest tally since 1992. The remaining 5 issues were 100-page specials. Meanwhile, the net cover price for an annual supply of Frew Phantom comics has continued to rise, reflecting the full impact of last year's price rises for the regular 36-page issues. The average price per page remains unchanged from last year, and still well below the CPI-adjusted levels of 1987-90.
Frew published a total of 53 stories in 2002 (including the replica edition). Unfortunately, it was a very lean year for fans of Lee Falk's old newspaper strip stories. Reconstructed Falk classics accounted for only 16 of the stories (see table below), confined to only 5 issues (Annual Special and four 100-page specials). At only 31% of the total story count, this year had the fourth lowest representation of Falk Classics in Frew's 54 year history -- only 1990 (18%), 1993 (27%) and 1996 (26%) had fewer stories. To make matters worse, two of these stories, The Precious Cargo of Colonel Winn and The Phantom's Engagement, were printed in complete form for the second time even though another two dozen stories are yet to be reconstructed. Frew certainly remain committed to publishing a balance of Falk classics and new stories from Egmont and newspaper strips. Hopefully this year was only a glitch and 2003 will return to the more typical level of at least 40%.
Lee Falk classics reconstructed by Frew in 2002
Year Code Story Title Artist Issue # 1939/40 S2 The Precious Cargo of Colonel Winn Moore 1317 1943 D18 The Phantom's Engagement McCoy 1340 1953 S34 The Chain McCoy 1312 1957 D66 The White Princess McCoy 1335 1961/62 D82 The Slave Market of Mucar Barry 1312 1965 D91 The Hanta Witch Barry 1312 1966 D95 The Sea God Barry 1312 1969/70 S78 The Golden People Barry 1335 1970/71 D111 Yes Barry 1335 1971 D112 The Fence Barry 1312 1971 S83 The Trophy Bearer Barry 1317 1971/72 D115 The Lost City of Pheenix Barry 1312 1978/79 D140 The Heirs Barry 1312 1984 D155 The Embassy Siege Barry 1340 1985 D157 Drug Busters Barry 1340 1987 D161 The Snake Goddess Barry 1329
Frew presented us with the latest 5 newspaper strip stories written by Claes Reimerthi (Sundays) and Tony De Paul (dailies), and drawn by George Olesen & Keith Williams (dailies) and Graham Nolan (Sundays). The Singh Brotherhood made their return to the daily strip in The Ghost Pirates, elements of old Semic stories were incorporated in The Animal Collector, and the immortality of the Phantom was put to the test in The Immortal Man. On the Sundays, Graham Nolan continued to experiment and adapt his art style to suit the strip. The "covenant of the golden ox" was central to The War Mongers, while Phantom Phans Pete Klaus and Ed Rhoades made a cameo appearance in The Briefcase. But perhaps the highlight of the year was Frew's exclusive publication of the first full Mandrake-Phantom crossover Shadows on Devil Road -- which also happened to be the first Mandrake story ever published in Frew's Phantom comic.
Frew printed 21 new comic book stories created in the last year by Egmont, Scandinavia. Three of these were 2-part stories (The Search for El Dorado, The Bank Robbers, In A Strange Land), and all others were single-part stories. All of Egmont's new feature stories from issue Nr.26/2001 through to Nr.26/2002 were reproduced in Frew's Phantom comic, excluding The Bengali Triangle (Nr.13/2002). These new stories were supplemented by 9 old stories that were originally created by Team Fantomen from Semic (now known as Egmont). Most were simply reprints of stories that Frew had already published, and in three cases they even included the cover art from that previous edition (#1324, #1325, #1326). However, The Ghost Pirate (#1330) had not been published before by Frew, and this was followed by the first two stories in the new series of previously unpublished Semic Classics. Full details of the publishing schedule are available here.
The 30 Semic/Egmont stories printed by Frew, were created by no fewer than 13 writers and 12 artists - surely, a new record for variety! Claes Reimerthi was once again the most prolific of the Egmont writers, with 7 stories in addition to his two stories for the Sundays. Positioned a distant second with 4 stories, was Lennart Moberg. The new writer featured this year was David Bishop from New Zealand (living in Scotland), in addition to recent newcomers Per-Erik Hedman and Dag R. Frognes. Swede Hans Lindahl equalled Italian Romano Felmang as the most prolific Egmont artist this year. Egmont continued to experiment with veterans of the American comic book industry, producing stories by the likes of Dick Giordano and Paul Ryan. Dag R.Frognes made his art debut. A summary of the contributions this year for all Egmont writers and artists is shown below.
Last but not least ... the covers. Jim Shepherd produced far fewer covers compared with last year. As all of Jim's covers are simply paste-ups of comic book panels, the lion's share of credit belongs to the Egmont artists for each issue. Antonio Lemos was commissioned to produce a dozen original covers including his excellent painted art for the 100-page Christmas Special.
Writers Artists Claes Reimerthi 7 Hans Lindahl 5 Lennart Moberg 4 Romano Felmang 5 Dag R. Frognes 3 César Spadari 4 David Bishop 3 Heiner Bade 4 Ulf Granberg 2 Joan Boix 2 Terrence Longstreet 2 Dag R. Frognes 2 Hans Lindahl 2 Carlos Cruz 2 Norman Worker 2 Paul Ryan 2 Donne Avenell 1 Dick Giordano 1 Tony De Paul 1 Özcan Eralp / Bertil Wilhelmsson 1 Per-Erik Hedman 1 Jean-Yves Mitton 1 Scott Goodall 1 Jaime Vallvé 1 Dai Darell 1
Cover Artists Jim Shepherd 15 Antonio Lemos 12 Glenn Ford 3 Keith Chatto 1
The Phantom Poll 2002
Between 23 December 2002 and 31 January 2003, visitors to The Deep Woods were asked to vote for the Best Phantom Story, Best Frew Cover and Best Fantomen Cover for the year 2002. The full results of the poll can be found HERE, and a summary is shown below:
Best Phantom Story 2002
Outright Winner: The Slave Market of Mucar by Lee Falk and Sy Barry (#1312)
Best New Egmont: The Long Bow of Little John by David Bishop and Paul Ryan (#1329)
Best Semic Classic: The Ring by Ulf Granberg and Jaime Vallvé (#1341)
Best New Strip: Shadows on Devil Road by Fred Fredericks (#1340)
Best Frew Cover 2002 Best Fantomen Cover 2002 #1340 by Antonio Lemos Nr.15 by Paul Ryan & Tom Smith
Nr.17 by Hans Lindahl
More Frew stuff ...