Frew 1755 saw Gary Chaloner finally get his chance to become a Phantom Phan after a near miss back in the early 1990’s and the team at Chronicle Chamber interviewed him about his long journey to become a Frew Phantom artist.
Chronicle Chamber: Were you always a Phantom phan?
Gary Chaloner: The Phantom has always been a constant presence on the news stands, in show bags, at second hand bookstores. Frew’s editions have always been there. It’s a large part of growing up in Australia. I’ve got more than my fair share of Phantom comics in my collection. So I think the answer is pretty much… yeah!
CC: What comics do you read now? and as a kid?
GC: As a kid? I soaked up comics like Tintin by Hérge; Conan the Barbarian by Barry Windsor Smith and Roy Thomas; Master of Kung Fu by Doug Moench, Paul Gulacy, Mike Zeck and Gene Day; Tomb of Dracula by Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan; Werewolf By Night by Doug Moench, Mike Ploog and Don Perlin. I’m a big fan of the old school monster and adventure comics. Now? I get to read lots of amazing Australian comics of all shapes and sizes due to my involvement in the Ledger Awards.
CC: Do you have a day job or are you a full time artist?
GC: I’ve spent the most of my life as a freelancer. Comic books and design. But currently I’m working part time for MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) down in Hobart. The rest of the time is still comics.
CC: What made you initially submit your art to Frew?
GC: For this cover, they approached me.
CC: What was the process like submitting your art to Frew?
GC: Well, after Frew contacted me and I agreed to work on a cover, they suggested I send a few ideas to them to look at first. I sent them an initial idea which they liked straight away. They only suggesting one addition — the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge, seem as how it was going to be a Phantom Down Under special issue – then they gave it the green light.
CC: What directions, if any, do Frew give you for a cover?
GC Absolutely none. I think they wanted to see what I’d come up with. Of course, they sent through a copy of the story that I was doing the cover for. So I gave that a good read and came up with an idea that I thought would make an eye-catching cover design. Being my first Frew cover, I also wanted to make a bit of a splash by drawing the iconic Phantom with his arms crossed. It was great fun!
CC: What is your background in art? School? Self Learned?
GC: Totally self taught.
CC: What are your artistic inspirations?
GC: As an artist, I studied Will Eisner’s work, Roy Crane, Jack Kirby, Dave Sim, Mike Mignola, José Luis Garcia-Lopez, the list is never ending! The older you get, the more you look backwards at the masters who have come before you.
CC: Do you look to other Phantom artists?
GC: I’ve always loved the Ray Moore material. I’m a sucker for the older stuff. I’d love to do a Phantom story set in the 1930s. “The Phantom in New York”, or something like that.
CC: When doing initial research on you I found a mention on the Deepwoods website about your initial work on the Rumble in the Jungle Australian created story. Could you tell us about that?
GC: At that time, Jim Shepherd was thinking about doing an original Phantom story set in Australia, written by him and drawn by a local artist. I had an office a few floors above Frew’s office in Sydney. I bumped in to Jim a few times and we got along fine. He told me about his plans and asked me to draw up a few sample pages based on the script that was “Rumble in the Jungle”. I was pretty excited that I might have a chance to draw my version of the Phantom, so started on a few pages.
I didn’t get very far though, as Jim contacted me a few weeks later saying that Keith Chatto had recently dropped by and things had progressed to the stage where Keith was given the job. Probably the right choice, too, as Keith was a direct link to the golden age of Australian comic art, having worked on a lot of great stuff over his long career. It seemed kind of right for him to do the first original story for Frew.
Interesting side note: around that time, Keith had popped in to the Cyclone Comics office (as I said, in the same building as Frew) in the hope that we might publish some of his new material he was working on. We had to pass on that, but it was probably around that same visit that he popped his head in to the Frew office to chat to Jim. The rest is history.
But now, I’ve finally had a Phantom cover published by Frew! It may not have been a full adventure, but it still counts! I’m a Phantom artist… at last!