The team at ChronicleChamber have been privileged to be able to interview Martin Thomas Dahlström - creator of the McCoy Swedish Exhibition. We find out about the process, how his love was birthed and the joy he had in getting in contact with Wilson McCoy's grandson Bruce, who came over for the opening and shared his own stories about Wilson and his family.
The exhibit was created and developed by Swedish culture journalist, filmer and artist Martin Thomas Dahlström, which he expanded out of his previous Wilson McCoy exhibition. He's pictured here alongside (in order) Niklas Dahlström (Martin's brother), Airi Goldbeck-Löwe (Martin's wife), Martin Thomas Dahlström and Bruce McCoy. The Wilson McCoy's Fantomen exhibit will be on display until May 21, 2017.
As you may be aware there where some programs, postcards and posters available for purchase for the exhibition. The team at ChronicleChamber are working through some hurdles to hopefully help you get some if you want them. When the final hurdle has been jumped, we'll let you know how you can add them to your Phantom collection.
You can view some of the photos of the Exhibition here. Now onto the questions...
CC: Tell us about yourself, Martin.
I was raised with an art gallery. I loved comic strips as a kid. Later I have worked as a culture journalist and an artist in different fields including writing. I made some films for Swedish television and I have made plenty of multi sound reviews about all kind of movies in Sveriges Radio.
What you see in the exhibitions was at first just a relaxing hobby of mine: to catch the wonderful essence of McCoy’s entire work by choosing single pictures, cleaning them from dust and carefully tint them.
CC: How did you become a Phantom phan?
As a kid I felt a strong connection to Wilson McCoy´s The Phantom. Many did. Sweden´s Bob Dylan – Cornelis Vreeswijk - did. Some of Sweden´s today biggest names in art did. Three of them contributed to the exhibition with McCoy inspired art including Jan Håfström, Jan Lööf and Jan Stenmark.
In those days The Phantom started out every Sunday page with a smile. And it was the sublime humour, the warmth and the obviously very special art that kept on capturing me.
CC: And how did you become a Wilson McCoy fan? Was there a certain story that hooked you with the Phantom, and of course Wilson McCoy?
There is a strong both inner and outer beauty in the McCoy´s comics. He loved his work every day, an important – and unfortunately rare quality for a comic strip drawer, since it is such hard work. One of the first McCoy stories I read and loved was “A Lesson for Prince Orq”. Another one was “The 50th Wife”.
CC: Can you tell us a bit about your collection? Does it feature any original artwork of Wilson McCoy or other artists?
I am a lazy collector. But whatever is printed by Wilson that I came across, ends up on the bookshelf. Important was the huge French magazines printings of the daily strip in colour in the 60-ies. There you got more than a hint about his comics getting better the larger it got! Later explained by Wilson´s early career as a creator of pictures for huge billboard signs. They had to be clear and perfect and fully understandable from a long distance!
CC: What made you decide to first create an exhibition for The Phantom in 2016, and now a bigger better focusing on Wilson McCoy?
Also my exhibition 2016 was, as a matter of fact, again exclusively about McCoy. Lasse Åberg showed some extra Phantom items together with it. That was all.
The exhibition is about a fat jigsaw piece of our cultural history that does not seem to have been told before, as strange as it seems. Therefor the exhibition is a sensation. Many sensitive persons though, as I mentioned, have felt McCoy´s The Phantom is very important in different ways.
CC: Where you in touch with any of Wilson's relatives for your research?
I finally - three weeks before the vernissage - and with great help from a Norweigan McCoy fan - got in touch with grandson Bruce McCoy. It was fantastic then that he enjoyed contributing in such a full hearted way, and even chose to take part of the opening where he shared some memories of his grandmother and Phantom co-creator Dorothy McCoy, who had been very close to him. Bruce seemed to appreciate a lot the enlightens by which I show Wilson´s work. Which aims are only to reveal as much as possible of the qualities.
CC: Can you explain to us why Wilson is the grandfather of pop?
He reduced gracefully the line in the art into what was just absolutely needed. An impressive effort. A graphic beauty that then was praised by the pop artists. They could for example enlarge a simple apple enormously and get a fundamental but strong effect of beauty. THAT is essentially already Wilson McCoy´s working method.
CC: What do you hope to get out of this exhibition?
I have no idea to be honest. But I think it contains fantastic stories: how the first super hero was born in the world political darkest hour - it must be the story of how art itself came through. Wilson´s moving background from help supporting his mother and his six siblings as an eleven year old ”newsie”, into being the creator of what he made the world´s largest adventure comic strip in a time when comics was THE big thing. Beside the spectacular hard-headed unique art work he did, clearly breaking way for the eternally famous pop art.
So if there are any more museums out there looking for a profound story about our world told through art, they would of course be welcomed.
CC: Have you been surprised at the level of interest from Phantom phans and outside the Phantom Phamily community?
Except for a good group at the vernissage and some more, I don´t know anything about the level of interest from Phantom phans in or outside the Phantom community.
I know the head of Borås Museum Pontus Hammarén was very enthusiastic and that Lasse Åberg who showed them in Bålsta outside Stockholm was. And the audiences that have watched it. But I have just been busy working with these wonderful pictures and the human experience that´s behind them. It is all.
CC: Tell us about why you chose the images for the postcards and posters?
I guess there was a lack of time and I had to pick what felt best among the pictures I could remember at the moment. There are so many pictures – it is impossible to get an overview.
But I don´t complain. That´s the kind of confusion I like!
CC: Thank you for your time Martin and we from around the world thank you and wish you the best in doing a great job showing off the character and artist we all love and respect.