The year 2004 was a somewhat disappointing time for Phans of Lee Falk's stories, but refreshingly rewarding for devotees of the Egmont stories. As Frew neared completion of their grand project to reconstruct all of Lee Falk's Phantom stories in complete form (started in 1988), the number of such stories printed dwindled to record lows. Meanwhile, Team Fantomen produced some highly entertaining stories about the historical saga of Kate Somerset and the new series called Phantom Year One.
Frew published 31 editions of The Phantom in 2004 (as usual), with a total count of 1636 pages - the lowest count in 12 years. The Annual Special published on 9 January contained 276 pages, which was the same size as last year. 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 26 regular-sized editions this year (36 pages), which is the highest tally since 1988 (has been steadily increasing since 1995); they remain at a cover price of $2.20. The remaining 4 issues were 100-page specials, also still selling for $5.50. With no changes in cover price and one fewer 100-page specials than usual, the net cover price for an annual supply of Frew Phantom comics decreased slightly to $90.20, absorbing Australia's 2.4% inflation figure. The average price per page remains unchanged from last year, and still well below the inflation-adjusted levels of 1986-93.
Frew published a total of 50 stories in 2004 (including the replica edition). Unfortunately, it was another lean year for fans of Lee Falk's old newspaper strip stories. Reconstructed Falk classics accounted for only 14 of the stories (see table below), confined to only 3 issues (Annual Special in January and 100-page specials in March and August). At 29% of the total story count, this year was the worst in 8 years for Falk classics, well below the typical level of at least 40%. Thankfully, Frew will soon achieve the goal of having published every Lee Falk story in complete form, with the publication of the 2005 Annual Special. This is a milestone that no other comic book publisher in the world can lay claim too, and Frew deserve hearty applause for their commitment to Falk's stories.
Lee Falk classics reconstructed by Frew in 2004
Year Code Story Title Artist Issue # 1948/49 S21 The Haunted Castle Moore/McCoy 1393 1957 S47 Danglor, International Bank Thief McCoy 1378 1958/59 S52 Conley's Good Mark McCoy 1373 1966/67 D96 The Satchel Barry 1373 1972 S88 The Bike Gang Barry 1393 1979 D141 Jungle Gold Barry 1373 1982 S116 The Terrorists Barry 1373 1984 S121 The Deadliest Animals in the Jungle Barry 1373 1986 S126 Sunken Treasure Barry 1373 1986 S127 The Escaped Convicts Barry 1378 1986/87 D160 The Tarashima Terrorists Barry 1373 1986/87 S128 Queen Amaza's Mate Barry 1373 1988 D164 Great Raptor of Rhua Barry 1393 1988/89 D165 Chasamba Barry 1393
Frew printed 24 new Team Fantomen stories created in the last year by Egmont, Scandinavia (including the slightly modified Johnny Hotwire story from 1996). All of Egmont's new feature stories from issue Nr.26/2003 through to Nr.25/2004 were reproduced in Frew's Phantom comic. Most were single-part stories, but the highlight was four stories concluding the Kate Somerset saga by David Bishop and César Spadari (#1374, #1389, #1399, #1400), and the first 7 stories in the new Phantom Year One series penned mainly by Claes Reimerthi (#1390-92, #1394-96, #1402). Other outstanding stories for the year were Dogai Singh's Treasure by Reimerthi and Ryan (#1380) and The Mysterious Commander by Moberg & McLeod (#1385). These new stories were supplemented by 6 old stories that were created up to 26 years ago by Team Fantomen at Semic (now known as Egmont). All but one of these had never before been published in Australia, and it was a real treat to see some of these Scandinavian classics, especially Norman Worker's Avenger from the Sea (#1403) and The Message (#1373). Full details of the publishing schedule are available here.
The 30 Semic/Egmont stories printed by Frew this year were created by 10 writers and 13 artists. Claes Reimerthi was once again the most prolific of the Egmont writers, with 8 stories plus his one for the dailies. Positioned not too far behind was David Bishop, who continued to impress. The new writer featured this year was the veteran American comic book writer Roger Stern, who is best known for his work on Spider-Man. Finland's Kari Leppänen was just ahead of Argentina's César Spadari as the most prolific Semic/Egmont artist this year. Egmont added another American comic book artist, with Alex Saviuk joining the team - he had previously pencilled the Phantom in Marvel's Defenders of the Earth miniseries. 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. Following his recovery from a motorcycle accident in May 2003, Tony De Paul has now settled in as the sole writer of daily and Sunday stories. While he was recovering, writing duties were shared by Claes Reimerthi (The Connoisseurs, D209) and Graham Nolan (The Sinbad Stone, S159). The artwork continues to be done by George Olesen & Keith Williams (dailies) and Graham Nolan (Sundays). The Phantom in the daily strip put an end to the hunting of endangered animals in The Connoisseurs, solved a series of bloody murders at a New York museum in The Viper God, and brought justice to some elusive criminals at Walker's Table in The Locust God. In his Sunday adventures, the Phantom's vacation with Diana was interrupted in The Sinbad Stone, and he discovered a strange hereditary link to ancient vikings in The Viking Fortress Mystery.
Writers Artists Claes Reimerthi 8 Kari Leppänen 6 David Bishop 6 César Spadari 5 Norman Worker 5 Hans Lindahl 4 Hans Lindahl 3 Paul Ryan 4 Tony De Paul 2 Dick Giordano 3 Lennart Moberg 2 Heiner Bade 1 Donne Avenell 1 Georges Bess 1 Ulf Granberg 1 Joan Boix 1 Terrence Longstreet 1 Carlos Cruz 1 Roger Stern 1 Romano Felmang 1 Bob McLeod 1 Alex Saviuk 1 Jaime Vallvé 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 14 original covers.
Cover Artists Jim Shepherd 17 Antonio Lemos 14
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