It was a case of steady-as-she-goes for Frew in 2003. There were no major surprises along the way, continuing to publish a blend of new Swedish stories from Egmont, Lee Falk classics, some old Semic classics, and the new daily and Sunday stories.
Frew published 31 editions of The Phantom in 2003 (as usual), with a total count of 1700 pages - slightly up on the previous two years. The Annual Special published on 10 January contained 276 pages, which was slightly larger than the previous two Annuals. The size of the Annual Special has been in steady decline since 1997, but this has enabled Frew to maintain the cover price at $11 (inc.GST) despite rising paper costs. There were 25 regular-sized editions this year (36 pages), which matches 2001 and 2002 as the highest tally since 1992; they remain at a cover price of $2.20. The remaining 5 issues were 100-page specials, also still selling for $5.50. With no changes in cover price this year, the net cover price for an annual supply of Frew Phantom comics remained constant at $93.50, absorbing Australia's 3% inflation figure. The average price per page remains unchanged from last year, and still well below the inflation-adjusted levels of 1986-92.
Frew published a total of 55 stories in 2003 (including the replica edition). Unfortunately, it was another fairly lean year for fans of Lee Falk's old newspaper strip stories. Reconstructed Falk classics accounted for only 20 of the stories (see table below), confined to only 6 issues (Annual Special, four 100-page specials, and one 36-page regular edition). At 37% of the total story count, this year was a notable improvement on 2002 for Falk classics, but not quite up to the typical level of at least 40%. Three of these stories, The Goggle-Eye Pirates, The Masked Marvel and The Monkey Mail were mistakenly printed in complete form for the second time. Thankfully, Frew are now very close to achieving the milestone of having published every Lee Falk story in complete form, with only a handful of stories yet to be reconstructed. With luck, all of the remaining stories will be published in 2004. Perhaps the highlight of the Falk classics for this year, was the long-awaited reconstruction of three 1940-41 Sunday stories, that had last appeared in #1032 (1993) in complete form but with poor quality artwork. The black and white proof sheets for these stories no longer exist, and this time around Frew managed to reconstruct the stories via the painstaking process of digitally de-colouring scans of original newspaper comics. The end results were quite stunning, worthy of the Annual Special cover price for these 3 stories alone!
Lee Falk classics reconstructed by Frew in 2003
Year Code Story Title Artist Issue # 1940 S3 The Fire Goddess Moore 1343 1940 S4 The Beachcomber Moore 1343 1941 S5 The Saboteurs Moore 1343 1948/49 D33 The Masked Marvel McCoy 1372 1950 D39 The White Monkey McCoy 1354 1960 D77 The Monkey Mail McCoy 1372 1960/61 S56 The Goggle-Eye Pirates McCoy 1365 1965 S66 Mystery of Wamba Falls Inn Barry 1365 1965/66 D92 Prince Hali and the White Stallion Barry 1343 1970 S79 The Dolphins Barry 1343 1970 S80 The Beach (The Gold Prospectors) Barry 1343 1972 S86 The Smugglers Barry 1354 1976 S100 The Stolen Ring Barry 1343 1984 D154 The Kimberly Diamonds Barry 1343 1984/85 D156 The Presidents Barry 1343 1984/85 S122 Alexander's Diamond Cup Barry 1343 1985 S123 The Whispering Grove Barry 1343 1985/86 S124 The Forest Giants Barry 1356 1987/88 D162 Zabadabah Barry 1359 1988 D163 The Man-Thing Barry 1365
Frew printed 18 new Team Fantomen stories created in the last year by Egmont, Scandinavia. This included one 3-part story Secret of the Skulls, and all others were single-part stories. All of Egmont's new feature stories from issue Nr.1/2003 through to Nr.25/2003 were reproduced in Frew's Phantom comic. These new stories were supplemented by 11 old stories that were created up to 27 years ago by Team Fantomen at Semic (now known as Egmont). All but three of the stories had never before been published in Australia, and it was a real treat to see some of these Scandinavian classics. Full details of the publishing schedule are available here.
The 29 Semic/Egmont stories printed by Frew this year were created by 12 writers and 12 artists. Claes Reimerthi was once again the most prolific of the Egmont writers, with 9 stories in addition to his one story for the Sundays. Positioned a distant second with 4 stories, was Norman Worker. The new writer featured this year was Ingebjörg Berg Holm from Norway, who gave us the controversial story Giovanna. Sweden's Hans Lindahl was just ahead of Spain/Denmark's Jaime Vallvé as the most prolific Semic/Egmont artist this year. Egmont continued their experiment with American comic book artists, with several stories from Dick Giordano, Paul Ryan, and debutante Bob McLeod. A summary of the contributions this year for all Semic/Egmont writers and artists is shown below.
Frew also presented us with the latest 5 newspaper strip stories written by Tony De Paul and Claes Reimerthi, and drawn by George Olesen & Keith Williams (dailies) and Graham Nolan (Sundays). The Phantom in the daily strip battled modern day knights in The Crusader's Treasure, halted the activities of the Rhodian military in Jungle Mystery, and saved the life of a young girl in The Hit Men. In his Sunday adventures, the Phantom was embroiled in the mystery of The Snake Goddess's Island, and was almost mortally wounded in Terror in Mawitaan.
Writers Artists Claes Reimerthi 9 Hans Lindahl 6 Norman Worker 4 Jaime Vallvé 5 Donne Avenell 3 Paul Ryan 3 Ulf Granberg 3 Joan Boix 2 David Bishop 2 Carlos Cruz 2 Ben Raab 2 Romano Felmang 2 Ingebjörg Berg Holm 1 Dick Giordano 2 Tony De Paul 1 Kari Leppänen 2 Per-Erik Hedman 1 César Spadari 2 Hans Lindahl 1 Heiner Bade 1 Janne Lundström 1 Georges Bess 1 Graham Nolan 1 Bob McLeod 1
Last but not least ... the covers. Jim Shepherd produced most of them once again. As all of Jim's covers are simply paste-ups of comic book panels, the lion's share of credit belongs to the corresponding Egmont artist for each issue. Antonio Lemos was commissioned to produce 13 original covers including the painted art for the Annual Special. Jason Frazer made his debut producing one Phantom cover for Frew.
Cover Artists Jim Shepherd 17 Antonio Lemos 13 Jason Frazer 1
More Frew stuff ...