Frew in 2005: The Year in Review

Frew published 31 editions of The Phantom in 2005 (as usual), with a total count of 1652 pages - slightly up on the 12 year record low of last year. The Annual Special published on 14 January contained 292 pages, and still sold for only $11 - the same price (GST adjusted) as the first one in 1991! I wouldn't be too surprised if there's a price hike soon. There were 26 regular-sized editions this year (36 pages), and their cover price increased from $2.20 to $2.50 in March, which means that it has now increased 67% in only 6 years (they were $1.50 in February 1999). This is quite an amazing change considering it is even higher than the 50% price increase for petrol over the same period. The remaining 4 issues were 100-page specials, also still selling for $5.50 - released in time for the holiday periods of Easter, Winter, Spring and Christmas. With this pricing change, the net cover price for an annual supply of Frew Phantom comics increased to $96.80 (7.3%). The average price per page also increased slightly, but remained well below the inflation-adjusted levels of 1987-90.

Frew published a total of 54 stories in 2005 (including the replica edition). Apart from the Annual Special, it was another fairly disappointing year for fans of Lee Falk's old newspaper strip stories. Reconstructed Falk classics accounted for only 19 of the stories (see table below), confined to only 4 issues (Annual Special in January and 100-page specials in April, June and August). Frustratingly, 6 of these stories were last printed less than 6 years ago and it seems that poor record keeping is at fault because there was no acknowledgement of those recent reprints. Considering the large stock of old Falk stories (345 dailies/Sundays) and the practice of reprinting around 20 Falk stories each year, Frew's average reprint cycle is normally around 17 years (once every new generation!). Thankfully, Frew this year passed the unique milestone of having published every Lee Falk story in complete form (there is some debate over the "completeness" of several stories). No other comic book publisher in the world can match this claim, and Frew deserve hearty applause for their commitment to Falk's stories. Sadly, the point seems to have been missed by the Frew staff who are yet to publicly recognise their achievement.

Lee Falk classics reconstructed by Frew in 2005
YearCodeStory TitleArtistIssue #
1946S15King of BeastsMoore1423
1946/47S17The 12 TasksMoore/McCoy1405
1963S62Old BaldyBarry1405
1965S65The Great Web of SpideraBarry1405
1968S73The Little OnesBarry1418
1970S79The DolphinsBarry1405
1972S87The MassacreBarry1405
1972D116The WitchmanBarry1423
1972/73D119The Giant of KalugaBarry1405
1972/73S89The Hawk MasterBarry1405
1973D121The ThingsBarry1405
1975S97The Golden BeachBarry1405
1976/77S101The Swamp DragonBarry1413
1977D133The ProposalBarry1405
1977S102The HuntersBarry1413
1980S112The Uninvited VisitorsBarry1423
1987/88S130The Irrondi and the Great OnesBarry1405
1989S133Death from the SkyBarry1405
1990S135The Eastern Dark at JanorraBarry1405
Note: those stories highlighted with a blue background were last printed less than 6 years ago

Frew printed 24 new Team Fantomen stories created in the last year by Egmont, Scandinavia (including the slightly modified Gullique and the Double Rainbow story from 1995). All of Egmont's new feature stories from Fantomen Nr.26/2004 through to Nr.25/2005 were reproduced in Frew's Phantom comic. Egmont's 2005 could be described as the "Year of the Colon" on account of the number of multi-part, multi-titled stories. Firstly, the Phantom Year One series concluded with an unsatisfying whimper after the final three parts of the extended series (#1404, #1406, #1407). Then the Phantom drifted through a near-death experience for five issues (#1408-1412). Upon returning to health, the Phantom was submitted to the melodrama of Diana going missing over four episodes with a fifth yet to be published (#1414, #1415, #1425, #1428). Minerva Brooks returned to the scene in two stories (#1420, #1431). The quota of multi-part historical adventure was filled by the Son of the Pirate Queen (Kate Somerset) in a three issue series (#1422, #1426, #1427) and the first part of two about Jonathon Wild (#1433). And then for added absurdity, Kigali Lubanga (the former President of Bengali) returned for a three-part series called The Redeemer in which he created a fake religious order to further his schemes (#1424, #1429, #1430). That leaves 3 stand-alone stories to make up the remaining production for the year. As you can see, there were lots of multi-part stories in 2005, and looking ahead to 2006 it seems there will be more of the same. Unfortunately, both then and now, each thread has been interwoven with the others with some parts several months apart, instead of running together in sequence. This makes it difficult to follow all the different threads, and has been the cause of considerable criticism by Phans. These new stories were supplemented by 5 old stories that were created up to 22 years ago by Team Fantomen at Semic (now known as Egmont). None of these had ever 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 10 writers and 10 artists. Claes Reimerthi was by far the most prolific of the Egmont writers, once again, and he was followed by David Bishop. Two writers debuted on the Phantom this year (Nils Norberg and Magnus Steer) but contributed only one story each. It is becoming more apparent each year that Team Fantomen are in need of one or two reliable and prolific writers to help share the load and contribute fresh ideas, thus filling the gap left by recently deceased Norman Worker and Donne Avenell. Finland's Kari Leppänen was just ahead of Sweden's Hans Lindahl as the most prolific Semic/Egmont artist this year. There were no new artists on the Phantom this year. A summary of the contributions this year for all Semic/Egmont writers and artists is shown below.

Writers Artists
Claes Reimerthi 13    Kari Leppänen 6
David Bishop 6    Hans Lindahl 5
Tony De Paul 3    César Spadari 4
Sverre Årnes 1    Romano Felmang 4
Donne Avenell 1    Bob McLeod 2.5
Dai Darell 1    Heiner Bade 2
Falk/Granberg 1    Joan Boix 2
Magnus Knutsson 1    Paul Ryan 1.5
Nils Norberg 1    Carlos Cruz 1
Magnus Seter 1    Alex Saviuk 1

Frew also presented us with the latest 5 newspaper strip stories. All were written by Tony De Paul. The big news for the year was the retirement of George Olesen from the daily strip in January. He was replaced by Paul Ryan who is now responsible for pencils, inks and lettering of the daily strip (Keith Williams was no longer required for inking duty and has also left the strip). Graham Nolan continues to do a great job with the Sunday strip. The Phantom in the daily strip travelled to New York to return his pet tiger from a zoo (Stripes), and then discovered a secret temple on Eden with the aid of German adventuress (The U-Boat Mystery and The Secret Temple on Eden). In his Sunday adventures, the Phantom destroyed a train used for illegal dumping of toxic waste in The Iron Python (a rehash of a Fantomen story from 1997), and saved Rex from attempted assassination in The Prince Rex Conspiracy.

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. Accordingly, I've begun to list the credit for these covers as "by the photocopier" on the New@Frew page. Antonio Lemos was commissioned to produce 8 original covers, and Terry Welsby returned with half a dozen after an absence of four years. A rarity this year was the commissioning of a foreign artist for one cover (Alex Saviuk from the USA, Frew #1420).

Cover Artists
Jim Shepherd 16
Antonio Lemos 8
Terry Welsby (Tessa) 6
Alex Saviuk 1

More Frew stuff ...

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Bryan Shedden /
Last updated 3 February 2006