The Phantom, together with his creator Lee Falk, has always had great reverence and respect for females.
This is evident through the femme fatale gangs like the Sky Band and the Golden Circle, or via the characterisation of Diana as someone who has always been ahead of her time as an explorer, an Olympian, a nurse, a Human Rights officer for the United Nations, or even filling in as The Phantom wearing the famous costume to save the day.
However, we have sadly seen all too few female influencers in the creation of The Phantom stories over the past 80+ years. Legend has it that Dorothy McCoy lettered Wilson's stories at times. Elizabeth Falk is credited as an author for two stories as her famous husband passed away in 1999. Elin Jonsson's 2015 Egmont cover won best cover for Sweden and Norway. There is also Diane Alfredhsson (Dai Darell), who wrote 15+ stories for Egmont in the 1980's, and of course Pat Fortunato who wrote for King Comics back in 1967.
However, to the best of our knowledge there has never been a female artist working regularly on The Phantom newspaper strip - until about one year ago!
Today we have the pleasure and honour of interviewing Mimi Simon, who we first got to learn a little about when we interviewed current Daily artist Mike Manley for Episode 91 of X-Band: The Phantom Podcast.
Chronicle Chamber: When did you first know that you had talent as an artist, and want to study the skill?
Mimi Simon: I've always drawn for as long as I can remember, and I think I always considered myself to have talent and said I was going to be an artist. But I didn't start thinking seriously about going to art school and what type of art exactly I wanted to do until I was in high school.
CC: Have you always/ever been a comic book/strip fan? How did you first become aware of The Phantom?
MS: I was always aware of comic strips since my parents get the paper, but though my older sister used to read them, I never really got into it. I started reading comic books in high school after my friend lent me some of his, but I never actually heard of The Phantom before I met Mike because it's not carried in my local paper.
CC: So how did you first meet Mike Manley then?
MS: I met Mike because my best friend in art school used to go to the after school high school art classes which our school offers. Mike teaches the class on illustration, so she had known him for several years. We ran into him at a show at school and she introduced me. Mike told us to come to his class and he would teach us even though we were already in college, so I got to know him that way.
CC: How did you come be working as an assistant to him?
MS: Mike just asked me one time if I'd like to do art filing for him. He'd asked my friend the same thing previously but she didn't want to. So I did that all last spring and then started working on the strips as an assistant during the summer.
CC: What do you about recall the first Phantom strip you contributed to?
MS: I started working in the beginning of June ... I think the first day I worked on was June 28th 2017, since Mike is a few weeks ahead. It was where Mozz tells the Phantom of his vision that he's going to get killed.
CC: A pretty powerful strip to cut your teeth on!! The Daily Phantom strip is credited as a Mike Manley illustration. What would you say is your contribution to his success?
MS: I just ink the backgrounds and occasionally some people. My help does save Mike a good bit of time but I don't expect to ever be credited.
CC: How much do you consider the fact that, in its 80+ year history, you are the first ever known female artist assisting with the syndicated Phantom comic strip? What effect do you think this has on yourself, on the comic industry, or on aspiring female comic artists?
MS: I think the fact that I'm the first female to work on The Phantom reflects how the art world/ comics world is changing. At my art school and most others female students are in the majority, and there are many more female professionals working in comics now than there ever used to be.
CC: What are your long term ambitions as an artist? Do you think you will stay in the field of comics / comic strips? Will you take over from Mike?
MS: I like comics a lot and I think it's a good way to practice a wide variety of skills, but doing comics long term is not really my main goal. My main goal professionally is to do visual development for animation, though I do want to make my own comics too. However I wouldn't want to work on a newspaper strip which already exists and is written by someone I don't know. I'd rather do comics based of my own ideas or work with a friend.
CC: Do you take commissions?
MS: I do take commissions, though I can't work on anything like that for a couple of weeks until finals are over.