Speculation is awash in the ChronicleChamber offices that we may be about to see the long-awaited return of a female Phantom.
Regular readers of Frew will have seen the extensive Message from the Publisher by Dudley Hogarth in issue #1770 Expedition in the Jungle - Part 1.
What some may have missed (among the revelations of Frew's future plans involving Italian artist Romano Felmang's career) was Dudley's carefully considered throwaway line: "Look for the Felmang cover and a couple of stories in our 'Girl Phantom' Special in the 2017 Annual!" If that's not a teaser, I don't know what is.
There has been a great deal of curiosity about what Frew will do for the 2017 Annual, given that this will be the first Annual entirely conceived and created under the new management of Glenn Ford and Rene White. Could it be that the entire publication will be devoted to stories of a female Phantom?
For those who came in late, Julie Walker was introduced as the first female to don the cowl and mask by Lee Falk and Wilson McCoy in the 1952 story The Female Phantom. Sadly, Julie then became just another one of the litany of characters that were arguably underutilised by Falk as he continued to write his Phantom stories.
However she has certainly spawned a significant number of stories, published by Indrajal, Egmont, Moonstone and early American publishers such as Gold Key, King and Charlton. Many artists and authors have delighted in featuring a female in the role. The theme has even continued as recently as this year, with Jen Harris being trained by Lothar as The Phantom in the controversial Kings Quest series.
Fair to say that the Frew Crew would be spoiled for choice should they decide to assemble a collection of female Phantom stories...
Then over the weekend, the following image appeared on The Phantom / The Ghost Who Walks Facebook page:
First published on Instagram by artist Caanan White, the highly detailed image is captioned "Finished commission.#ThePhantom #phantom #adventure #comicillustration #artlife #anime #manga #nextlevel #artexplosion#comicgeek #comicbooks #fineart #likes #follow #valiantentertainment#imagecomics #dcu #dccomics #marvelu #marvelcomics #comicnews#comicreader #comicbooks #comicart #comicsillustration #comics#comicillustration #IDW #dcrebirth #dccomics #conceptart"
No information is given as to who commissioned the work. Perusing the avalanche of hashtags, we see a range of publishers, but no Frew.
However, just a few mouseclicks and we see that Caanan White is Facebook friends with Glenn Ford. This, together with White's use of the iconic Frew Phantom title, raises the question:
Could this be the cover for the 2017 Annual, possibly an anthology of female Phantom stories?