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Unmasking "The Phantom Unmasked"

Coming soon to a book seller near you: a literary and academic tome that explores the history of The Phantom in a depth that has never been seen before.

Kevin Patrick's The Phantom Unmasked: America's First Superhero is a 262 page non-fiction book that began life as a thesis he researched and wrote when completing his PhD at Monash University.

The blurb of the book on states: "By tracing the publication history of The Phantom in magazines and comic books across international markets since the mid-1930s, author Kevin Patrick delves into the largely unexplored prehistory of modern media licensing industries. He also explores the interconnections between the cultural, political, economic, and historical factors that fueled the character’s international popularity.

"The Phantom Unmasked offers readers a nuanced study of the complex cultural flow of American comic books around the world. Equally important, to provide a rare glimpse of international comics fandom, Patrick surveyed the Phantom’s “phans”—as they call themselves—and lets them explain how and why they came to love the world’s first masked superhero."

The book is slated for release by University Of Iowa Press on 15 November this year - just in time to be the perfect Christmas wishlist item.

However, The Phantom Unmasked is also available for pre-order now from your preferred on-line book seller - simply search for the title and author.

Of particular interest will be the preview available on the QBD website. By going to this site and clicking on the book's cover image, you can actually read the first 50 pages of the book, including the Introduction, all of Chapter 1 and about half of Chapter 2.

Having spent half an hour absorbed in the reading of this preview, ChronicleChamber can confirm that this is going to be a fascinating read for Phantom phans keen to know more about the publishing history and global spread of the character, whether through newspaper strips or comic books.

The contents page (right), together with descriptions on various book-selling sites, serve to whet the appetite for phans keen to understand how The Phantom reached their corner of the globe.

The way Kevin has regularly drawn on his "phan survey" results through the text will make many of us feel very much a part of the journey. Just as importantly he also quotes many creators, artists and authors, and has picked the brains of some of the greatest Phantom minds of our time in compiling this volume. Throughout the book, Kevin speaks with a justifiably authoritative tone that can only come from extensive legitimate research.

Obviously as comic book readers, most of us also like to look at the pictures, and this is perhaps the only area missing from The Phantom Unmasked. It is very much an academic and literary text, and some readers may be disappointed that there are not more images of the character, or reproductions of the strip.

The reason for this will be one familiar to Phantom phans. As Kevin explained to ChronicleChamber, "Sadly, there are no images reproduced in the book. I had prepared a selection of about a dozen or so images for inclusion in the book, which would have been reproduced as grey scale images. King Features Syndicate requested a licensing fee for having these images included in the book, which was simply beyond my financial means at the time.

"While I'm disappointed I couldn't include any images in the book, I should stress that all of the images I'd originally selected were ones that most Phantom "phans" would have seen elsewhere in comic books, or through other online outlets, such as Phantom-"phan" websites, blogs, and Facebook pages. So, in that sense, "phans" won't be missing out any images intended for exclusive use or reproduction in the book".

We certainly hope that this minor detail does not dissuade potential buyers and readers of the book. The depth of information contained, facilitated by Kevin's obvious phandom tempered by an even-handed detachment, is well and truly worthwhile in and of itself.

We're very much looking forward to picking up our own copies, and are excited about the plans in place to speak to Kevin for an episode of X-Band: The Phantom Podcast closer to the time of release.

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