Some very exciting news to begin the New Year! In 2017, Frew Publications will be publishing a new, Australian-made The Phantom series!
Written by Sydney-based author Christopher Sequeira with art by fellow New South Wales resident Jason Paulos, the series will be advertised inside the rear cover of the new Frew issue (#1773) due in newsagents later this week.
Believe it or not, Sequeira actually made the announcement on his Facebook page in November last year!
FREW PUBLICATIONS TO PUBLISH 'THE PHANTOM BY GASLIGHT' By Christopher Sequeira and Jason Paulos
Coming in 2017 from Frew Publications will be a new serial lifting the lid on the greatest threat the lineage of the Phantom faced in the Victorian age: tensions from both within as well as without the trusted inner circle of the Ghost Who Walks!
Christopher Sequeira will be writing this history-making, graphic-novel length saga, and Jason Paulos will provide the masterful, creepingly moody art as only he can!
More details to come in first quarter 2017! Sworn to secrecy on the first Phantom's oath-skull, we can say no more!
This announcement was met with congratulations and excitement from members of the Australian comic book industry, but was largely missed by Phantom phans (including the ChronicleChamber team).
However, with Paulos' release of the final artwork for the Frew advertisement this morning, the cat was well and truly out of the bag!
Sequeira immediately re-posted the image, adding the following information:
Awesome! Yes, this is the stuff, folks! Jason Paulos and I are doing THE PHANTOM for Frew Publishing! A graphic novel length series that will appear in regular installments in 2017! Chapter 1: 'A STUDY IN VIOLET' as the Phantom legacy grapples with a dark conspiracy in Victorian era London, that reaches across even to the homeland of the Phantom in Bangalla! And DON'T think for a minute this is simply going to be 'The Phantom Vs The Whitechapel Murderer'! OH, NO, no, no, the entire tradition of the Phantom is going to be at stake here, with repercussions that will reverberate even to today, and the forces of evil are much, much more vast and powerful than just Saucy Jack's predations! There are many a famous and infamous gaslight-era character that will grace the pages of this epic, as well as some startling debuts, so please, come and join us!
It would seem we are about to have access to a new story from the Chronicle Room of the Phantom, perhaps the 18th or 19th Phantom, given the references to Jack the Ripper who was active in 1888. The title of the first chapter A Study in Violet also harkens to stories of Sherlock Holmes, another famous Victorian era character.
While relatively unknown in the Phantom world, Sequeira is a very accomplished producer of Victorian material. Since 2003, Christopher Sequeira has had many essays and articles published on Sherlock Holmes, as well as a number of Sherlockian prose fiction stories. One of these was nominated for a WSFA Small Press Award in 2009, while another two were include in the 2012 Moonstone Publishing release Sherlock Holmes: The Crossover Casebook.
Meanwhile, Jason Paulos has been writing, drawing and publishing comics since 1989. His biography lists his professional credits include Green Lantern, Australian Mad and Judge Dredd Megazine. As the creator of Hairbutt The Hippo and The Harlequin, Paulos will be familiar with taking on new and exciting comic ideas. As a quick scroll through his portfolio of work suggests, he will also be very competent in drawing the dark and moody era that Sequeira writes in. Some of his other preliminary sketches have also started appearing on Facebook (below). You can read a 2011 interview with Paulos here.
Interestingly, Sequeira and Paulos both contributed stories for the Australian comic book and graphic novel publisher Black House Comics (2008-2014).
Immediate reaction to the news on Facebook has been overwhelmingly positive, with this seemingly the answer to phan requests for Australian produced The Phantom stories.
However, some doubts have been cast as to the title of the series with ChronicleChamber's Joe Douglas suggesting it may be too close to the 1989 DC one-shot Gotham by Gaslight: "We've seen the Phantom in that time period plenty of times before so why make such a blatant reference to a pre-existing, well known story? I can guarantee you anyone who knows comics is gonna see that title and roll their eyes."
As to how this will roll out? It's a wait and see. ChronicleChamber's Jermayn Parker suggests: "I reckon it's going to be like Heart of Darkness," i.e. a few pages back-filling a 22-page Egmont story periodically throughout the year.
However, it's also entirely possible that this will be a series completely removed from Frew's normal issue numbering and a standalone of its own, comparable to Hermes Press' Danger in The Forbidden City series.
Over 50 years ago Frew had a history of publishing "other" Phantom stories, as well as a range of other characters too. Taken together with the news of the Giant Size printings, perhaps this is another representation that Frew is returning to their golden age.
Either way, it is clear that we the readers are in for a treat!