The Flirtatious Princess 25 April - 20 Aug 1949 dailies
1 May - 21 Aug 1949 Sundays

A comparison of the daily and Sunday versions,

by Stephen Baggs

The Flirtatious Princess was the second of four stories which ran simultaneously in both the daily and Sunday newspapers in 1949/50. This was apparently an experiment by Lee Falk attempting to reduce the heavy workload of writing two different Phantom strip continuities. The results were interesting but proved to be unsatisfactory, and Falk soon returned to individual continuities for each format. This practice did not reoccur again until the Wedding of the Phantom story in 1977. In this article, Stephen Baggs gives a brief description of the story plot and then compares the content of the daily and Sunday versions of the stories, as they have appeared in Frew Phantom comics.

Princess Gwena of Pathia does not have enough to do. In fact her only concern seems to be choosing between two handsome, wealthy and powerful suitors. Baron Gant of the Barony of Gant and Duke Jorge of the Duchy of Jorge. Still, it is fun being the centre of attention. Gwena seems to delight in playing the Duke and the Baron off against each other. Gwena's ageing father, King of Pathia, and the surrounding jungle tribes face impending civil war. Who will win Gwena's hand in marriage?

The Flirtatious Princess was the 43rd Phantom story published by Frew and made its first outing in Australia in two parts, in issues #57 and #58 in 1953. Published as it appeared in the daily newspapers (any editing by Frew aside), parts 1 and 2 were combined when reprinted in issue #158 in 1959, and the story has been reprinted in this format in subsequent editions (#262 in 1964, #403 in 1969, #563 in 1975), and in its last appearance in #753 in 1982. It was the 20th example of artist Wilson McCoy's work to be published by Frew. According to the news provided by Jim Shepherd in a recent Phantom comic, this version of the story is due to be reprinted in complete unedited form later in 1997.

In 1991 Frew issued #986. It contained four "new" stories, the Falk/McCoy classic The Blue Gang, Falk/Barry offerings The Phantom's Vacation and Kit and the Little People and a previously unpublished (by Frew) Sunday version of The Flirtatious Princess. The Sunday version appears to have been completely redrawn by McCoy although the story is very close to the previously published daily version.

The daily story as it appears in #158, #262, #403, #563 and #753 runs to 348 frames. It is anticipated that the story was heavily edited to make it fit within the 32 page format. Even so, the Sunday format story ran for only 120 frames, and was complete and unedited in #986. This points to an obvious difference between the daily and Sunday strip formats. A daily story appearing six times a week could go into far more detail and incorporate more involved subplots without losing the reader, whereas appearing only once a week with an average of seven frames, the Sunday story needed to be more streamlined and direct. Of course, a 348 frame story published in a Sunday paper at seven frames a week would take almost a year to complete!

In order to fit the reduced number of panels available each week, the Sunday format was a "cut down" version of the daily strip with its script reading like a synopsis of the daily story, except for a few changes and some reordering of plot events. One instance can be seen at the beginning of the daily story when the village chiefs go to the Deep Woods to warn the Phantom of Duke Jorge and Baron Gant's gathering armies (click here to view). When they arrive they discover the Phantom is in the United States seeking Diana and they have to await his return. In the Sunday story this seemingly pointless subplot has been deleted and the Phantom receives the chiefs as soon as they arrive. Perhaps this subplot carries over from the previous daily strip or is due to Frew's editing of the daily story. Until this classic is presented in its original condition I won't know for sure. This point aside, the script of the daily story is well written, entertaining, and thanks to close attention to continuity, has a plausible feel. My only criticism is that the story ends too suddenly.

The first four frames of the Sunday strip clearly reflect the condensed style of the story, replacing the first eighteen frames of the daily version (as presented by Frew). As a consequence of this editing the Sunday story moves along at a greater pace. One point that caught my attention was that there seemed to be a far greater number of narrative boxes rather than voice or thought balloons, directing the action in the Sunday version. When I counted up the number of times these narrative boxes appeared in both stories I was surprised to find that they were present in 20% of the frames in the daily story and 45% of the frames in the Sunday strip. The Sunday story relies heavily on the narrative boxes to inform the reader of important plot details no longer supported by art work in this version. A good example of this is the single frame from the Sunday version, (shown on the right), where the Phantom stops Princess Gwena and Major Carl, the King's emissary, escaping from the Deep Woods. It replaces eleven frames in the daily version (click here to view). The narrative boxes in the daily strip set the scene in the early part of the story. In the second half of the comic very few appear and the action is left to speak for itself. The same pattern is followed in the Sunday format except that several narrative boxes are needed to tidy up loose ends at the end of the story to cover more missing artwork.

The look of the two versions is also quite different. Wilson McCoy's artwork in the daily story looks simple and makes great use of shading. Perhaps this is due to the smaller panel size of the daily newspaper strips, not allowing for as much fine detail, or perhaps he was forced to produce this work on a tighter schedule. It is obviously a very different style to the Sunday artwork. This format is well laid out, beautifully detailed and must surely rank as some of his finest work! The carefully laid out frames have to accommodate the extra narrative boxes, jamming in as much story in seven frames as is humanly possible. It must capture the readers imagination ensuring they tune in again next Sunday. (No problem for the Ghost Who Walks!) Put simply, the Sunday story is a visual treat.

Frew must be congratulated for their efforts to restore and print many classics and oddities like the Sunday format Flirtatious Princess over recent years. I am sure you will find a thorough reading and comparing of the two stories educational and rewarding and you will learn a great deal about the different styles used to create both newspaper formats. The stories contain dozens of other slight differences such as seeing the same scenes from another angle or changes to the end of the stories.

Remember, "Read your Phantom comics carefully" ... Old Jungle Saying.

Stephen Baggs
PO Box 864
Bairnsdale VIC 3875
Ph. 03 5152 1063 (H) 03 5152 6503 (W)


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Bryan Shedden /
Last updated 30 August 1997