The Phantom:
A Publishing History in Australia

by Bryan Shedden

Australian Newspapers (1957-present)

(various publishers)

The Phantom daily strip began appearing in Australian newspapers long before the Sundays. The first was the Central Western Daily at Orange (published by Rural Press), which began running The Phantom dailies on 11 August 1957 - and is still carrying it today! It appears that this paper holds the record for the longest unbroken run of The Phantom dailies in Australia.

A few other provincial newspapers started the strip in 1957, one of these being the Illawarra Mercury (established in 1855, and published by John Fairfax Ltd). The Illawarra Mercury commenced running The Phantom on 16 December 1957 after expanding the comics page from two to four strips only a couple years earlier. The Phantom initially appeared alongside Elsworth, Dr Guy Bennett and Judge Parker, which in subsequent years were replaced at various times by BC, Smidgeons, James Bond, Flash Gordon, Crock, Spiderman, Swamp, Chadwick, High Tide, and several others. The Phantom dailies are still appearing in the Illawarra Mercury today alongside Ginger Meggs, Zits, Garfield, Insanity Streak, Calvin & Hobbes (reprints), Pooch Cafe and Hagar the Horrible. This means that The Phantom is the longest surviving strip for this newspaper and the 50th anniversary is not very far away! A complete list of the Phantom stories published in the Illawarra Mercury during the first 14 years is shown below (to be expanded after further research). This includes the publication date for the start of each story in the magazine, the story title and code (as per the daily story list), the original US newspaper starting date for each story, and the number of days of "lag" (ie. Mercury date minus US newspaper date)

Illawarra Mercury

Start Date
Story TitleCodeOriginal
Start Date
Days Lag
16 Dec 1957Wambo the GamblerD6514 Jan 1957336
25 Feb 1958The White PrincessD661 Apr 1957330
27 May 1958The Valley of No ReturnD671 Jul 1957330
18 Aug 1958The Heavyweight ChampionD6419 Nov 1956637
11 Oct 1958Captain Kidder's TreasureD5723 May 19551237
23 Dec 1958Dr Axel and the WitchmenD581 Aug 19551240
3 Mar 1959Queen Sansamor and the Sixth ManD5910 Oct 19551240
18 Jun 1959U-TownD6127 Feb 19561207
10 Sep 1959The Crown Jewels of CorbaD6823 Sep 1957717
10 Dec 1959The ScorpiaD6923 Dec 1957717
23 Apr 1960The Carlyle's Good MarkD705 May 1958719
13 Aug 1960The CrybabyD7125 Aug 1958719
22 Oct 1960The Underwater Diamond ThievesD723 Nov 1958719
27 Feb 1961The BetrothalD739 Mar 1959721
7 Jun 1961The Swamp RatsD7415 Jun 1959723
23 Sep 1961Oogooru and the WitchmenD755 Oct 1959719
23 Dec 1961The ReporterD7618 Jan 1960705
13 Mar 1962The 50th WifeD7931 Oct 1960498
11 Jul 1962The Iron DragonD8027 Feb 1961499
26 Sep 1962The EpidemicD8312 Feb 1962226
1 Feb 1963The Wharf RatsD8418 Jun 1962228
2 Jun 1963The Mysterious AmbassadorD8515 Oct 1962230
20 Jan 1964The Mystery of the Island of DogsD863 Jun 1963231
4 Aug 1964The Drummer of TimpenniD8716 Dec 1963232
5 Nov 1964The ReefD8826 Mar 1964224
9 Feb 1965The Adventures of Lucy CaryD8929 Jun 1964225
28 Jul 1965The Bad OnesD9014 Dec 1964226
3 Dec 1965The Hanta WitchD9119 Apr 1965228
19 Feb 1966Prince Hali and the White StallionD922 Aug 1965201
25 Jul 1966Bullets' TownD933 Jan 1966203
19 Dec 1966The KillerD9430 May 1966203
5 Apr 1967The Sea GodD9512 Sep 1966205
19 Jul 1967The SatchelD9626 Dec 1966205
11 Oct 1967The Crime SchoolD9720 Mar 1967205
11 Jan 1968Deadman's PointD9826 Jun 1967199
15 Apr 1968The Rogue ElephantD992 Oct 1967196
5 Aug 1968Rex and the Trophy ThievesD10022 Jan 1968196
19 Nov 1968The Frame-UpD1016 May 1968197
28 Jan 1969The HydraD1028 Jul 1968204
7 May 1969The Art ThievesD10314 Oct 1968205
3 Sep 1969The Masked BallD10410 Feb 1969205
15 Oct 1969The Jungle HomeD10524 Mar 1969205
14 Jan 1970Rex, The Missing HeirD10623 Jun 1969205
1 May 1970The GladiatorD1076 Oct 1969207
14 Aug 1970The Missing DaddyD10819 Jan 1970207
10 Nov 1970Luaga's Undercover TourD10920 Apr 1970204
17 Feb 1971The MissionD11027 Jul 1970205
1 Jul 1971The HeirD1117 Dec 1970206
9 Sep 1971The FenceD11215 Feb 1971206
3 Dec 1971The Mysterious PassengerD11310 May 1971207
... to be continued

Note: The Illawarra Mercury did not publish The Wisdom of Solomon (D60), The Grove of the Sleeping Giant (D62) or The Shoplifters (D63) during the first few years of mixed up stories. Later they also skipped over The Monkey Mail (D77), The Gurk Twins (D78), The Werewolf (D81) and The Slave Market of Mucar (D82).

The Townsville Bulletin was running the dailies by 1978 (not sure when it commenced), and the new Brisbane Daily Sun started in about 1984. The Townsville Bulletin dropped the Phantom strip at the end of 1985; this provoked a minor uproar by fans, and the Phantom returned in early 1986, but with vintage Phantom strips starting with The Prisoner of the Himalayas through to The Phantom Goes to War. The war story proved too much for readers and it was dropped in favour of a return to the current stories.

With the demise of Everybody's Magazine, The Phantom Sundays started to appear in Australian newspapers around 1971 at the latest. Brisbane's Sunday Sun is known to have started carrying the Phantom Sunday strips in about August 1971, while The Canberra Times added the Phantom Sundays on 22 Apr 1979 when they launched their new comics liftout (but never ran the daily strip). It is possible that the Phantom Sundays may have been picked up by newspapers a few years earlier than 1971.

The history of The Phantom in Australian newspapers requires further research.

Thanks to Barry Stubberfield for sharing his research on Queensland's newspapers.


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Bryan Shedden /
Last updated 30 March 2006