We all know of the Defenders of the Earth and the Phantom 2040 animated television series, but did you know we almost saw not one but two other animation TV shows depicting The Phantom during the 1980's?
Two different TV show animation companies, Filmation Studios and Ruby-Spears Productions, both conceived of shows but failed to get them to our screens. Apart from the odd mention in a blog from a past writer, hidden Jack Kirby artwork being found, or the odd eBay listing popping up, not much is known about either.
However the team at ChronicleChamber and a few other phellow researchers have found some information which is too exciting not to share. Some of this information comes from a currently available eBay item which, I'm sure you'll understand, I won't be sharing the link to ;)
In 1979, Flash Gordon was licensed to Filmation Studios who released a TV series of 32 episodes before the series was canned in 1982. They re-released the episodes into a 95 minute animated film later that year. Both the movie and TV series have been widely accepted as true to the character by fans and critics alike, scoring almost 8 on the IMBD website.
In the early to mid 1980's, Filmation hit more gold with other similar characters like Tarzan, Lone Ranger, Batman and Zorro. However, they were perhaps most famously known for their He-Man, She-Ra: Princess of Power and Ghostbusters TV series.
What I have learned is that sometime between 1982 and 1985 Filmstudio Studios had a go at the Phantom, as you can see in the concept art above. All I know for certain is that they had this Cartoon Art Display made up which was used to generate interest and promotion which obviously did not work.
Further information on the writers, animators, plot and even the artist on this Cartoon Art Display by Filmation Studios has not been found yet but rest assured we are on the job and if and when we find anything else out, ChronicleChamber readers will be the first to find out (keep your fingers crossed I win the auction!).
Before all this we had another failed attempt with Ruby-Spears, who in the late 1970's had contracted Mark Evanier to produce a doomed TV pilot for an animated series. In his blog he talks about how 2-3 years running he wrote scripts that never eventuated for Ruby-Spears. Talk about depressing.
When Mark did the original TV pilot script, no artist was allocated to it. However, in 1980 Ruby-Spears contracted none other than legendary artist Jack Kirby (Fantastic Four, X-Men & Hulk creator) to do artwork for a The Phantom TV animated series, along with other known and newly created characters.
Above you can see a presentation board that Jack Kirby did for The Phantom. Alas it also never saw daylight. In fact, this image was only recently shown to the public in 2000 which you can read here. It was placed into archive along with 600 other pieces that either made it to TV and or failed to. Ruby-Spears tried twice with their Phantom TV series - but not even the legendary Jack Kirby could keep their failed attempt alive.
To date the original scripts written by Mark are also still locked up in Ruby-Spears Warehouse. In an alternative world Mark Evanier could have been a household name among phans, as he also was originally contracted for the DC comic book series until cruel fate again conspired against him with Mark Verheiden eventually writing the series so many phans love to this day.
Did anything ever get animated and created? I do not know... All I know is that this art exists and then after these failed attempts Marvel Productions hit gold with their Defenders of the Earth TV series that aired for 65 glorious episodes.
In our first podcast interview with Glenn Ford, he briefly mentions another TV series that almost got started in the late 1990's by a local Brisbane company. Alas that also failed... Will we ever see the Phantom back in animation?
Thanks to Andreas Eriksson who helped with the Ruby-Spears production information.