The story reported on ChronicleChamber earlier this month has been verified: Frew Publications has commissioned a new The Phantom series, produced by the all-Australian creative team of Christopher Sequeira and Jason Paulos.
Frew confirmed the news on their Facebook page tonight with an extensive statement accompanied by some teaser artwork (shown below).
As part of their determination to fill the 6-8 page gap left by Egmont's decision to move to 22-page stories, Frew have "come up with our own continuing series, broken up into 8-page episodes, which would combine to make a full story after 10-12 episodes. ... Some of these episodes can be self-contained standalone stories, but they will, by and large, be a part of an overall, ongoing series with continuing themes, recurring characters and overlapping subplots."
The first of these series will be the Phantom by Gaslight stories. According to Frew's post:
"The Phantom by Gaslight will be set in the Victorian era, a time when the ’sun never set on the British Empire’ and African colonial expansion was at its peak.
The Phantom, the 17th in line, along with his twin sister, Julie, the ‘Girl Phantom’, will operate out of London - the same London populated by famous 19th century literary characters, such as Sherlock Holmes and the Baker Street Irregulars, Inspector Dupin, Allan Quatermain and van Helsing, and famous villains and creatures of Gothic horror like Frankenstein’s Monster, Count Dracula, the Invisible Man, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Captain Nemo and the Murderer of the Rue Morgue…and these are just the tip of the iceberg.
Wait until you see what writer, Christopher Sequeira and artist, Jason Paulos have in store for you. Real life figures and personalities, such as the Elephant Man, Sigmund Freud, Sir Richard Burton, Nikola Tesla, Jack the Ripper and Harry Houdini could also feature.
Look for other surprising new and familiar characters from the world of the Phantom. Christopher Sequeira has crafted an epic Phantom adventure, A Study in Violet, for our inaugural tale and Jason Paulos has simply knocked it out of the park, with some astounding art."
Pleasingly, it seems that some major hurdles have been overcome, with King Features Syndicate having already approved the concept, story outline and character designs. "The first story is sitting with them now, waiting for their stamp. As soon as we hear from them, [release] dates will be announced."
The excitement at Frew is palpable. "It's some if the most exciting material. ... this heralds a major event for FREW as a comic producer. It's so good to work with serious home grown talent. Let's hope we won't keep you hanging too long before publication!!! Jason and Chris are nailing it!"
Frew also hints at further news regarding a second series or beyond, once the Gaslight stories are finished.
There is further wonderful news for all phans, whether casual readers or serious collectors. It seems that this also represents a resolute step from Frew towards breaking away from their traditional avenue of only selling in newsagents, and adding bookstores to their marketplace as well. Clear in the statement is plans to publish the complete series as trade paperback collections that would seemingly be retailed in local comic bookstores and the like.
While this would seem to mean that the on-going Heart of Darkness story will feature even less regularly than it currently does, we suspect that most phans would get over this pretty quickly. Frew has definitely committed to Egmont's 1990's Claes Reimerthi / Joan Boix production: "Heart of Darkness will continue for some time to come ... We started with Heart of Darkness and we will we see it through."
You can read Frew's full statement here.