Dan Herman is the owner and publisher at Hermes Press, the world’s leading producer of The Phantom books and comic strip reprints focusing on the art and artists. We’ve been lucky enough to have a chance to chat with Dan and ask him six quick questions about the current publications that Hermes Press have available.
ChronicleChamber: Thanks so much for agreeing to join us Dan - we are big fans of your work! Your Phantom books are widely recognised as setting the bar in terms of print quality and workmanship... Are you a Phantom phan yourself, and what made you choose to include The Phantom in the list of titles produced by Hermes Press?
Dan Herman: Of course I'm a fan of The Ghost Who Walks! Back in the old days, when comic books were sold on spinners in drug stores I first saw those great George Wilson covers on the Gold Key Phantom and I was hooked (great covers always draw you to a book). The stories never disappointed and I became a long term phan. I sought out the strips, read the King version of the Phantom, which replaced the Gold Key series, and I've loved the character and his world ever since (going on over fifty years now).
As to the second part of your question, Hermes Press had been doing archival reprints for some time before we were lucky enough to get our license for The Phantom. Getting a license to reprint the strip from the beginning was at the top of my list and we were fortunate to get the ability to preserve these great stories.
CC: Around December last year there seemed to be some concern about the reproduction of the Avon novels, and whether Hermes Press would be able to complete the 15 book series. With four more books published since then, it appears that these concerns have been put to bed and the whole 15 books will be now produced (hopefully with the slipcase to conclude the set)? Can we ask about the timeframe for these?
DH: You are correct that I was extremely concerned as our sales fell off after we came out with issue #1. We were lucky that phans are supporting the project because sales picked up so we're able to regularly come out with our reprints — so far we have 8 books in print, but, we need the continued support of Phantom phans everywhere to keep up the project. So far, so good.
Also, we ARE going to create a fantastic, huge, box/slipcase for all 15 books when we are finished with the set. I really want to be able to see all 15 books in a great looking slipcase sitting in my library.
CC: The President Kennedy’s Mission comic series seems to have been beset by problems after the release of issue #1 last year. We’ve heard that the planned five comic series has been reduced to three, but there has still been no sign of issue #2. Can you provide a little more detail for phans about the delays for this book, and let us know how the is series going?
DH: First I loved the idea of using President Kennedy and the Phantom in a story. Add in Russian spies, American astronauts, espionage and mystery and you've got a great story.
We signed a great new artist, Sean Joyce to draw the book and veteran Phantom writer Ron Goulart worked on the script. After we got the sales numbers for issue #1, I was surprised. The sale on the book was, to put it mildly, not satisfactory. Doing a quality comic book, using great people is not an inexpensive proposition and we had to rethink the project.
The sale on issue #2 was far less than #1 (which is always expected) but the sale has to, at a minimum support the creation and printing of the comic. I made the decision to “fold” issues 3, 4, and 5 into one longer issue. The story was condensed and issue #3 is finished and much longer page-wise than a standard comic story. Instead of printing issues #2 and #3 as separate issues, we are going to issue all three as a graphic novel which will be solicited in Previews next month.
Also, everyone who bought issues #2 and #3 from us (with the variants) will receive at no charge the graphic novel instead of the separate issues. I would note that the graphic novel will have a lot of extras and will only be printed as a limited edition hardcover, so our direct customers will be getting a great book. It's my way of saying we appreciate your business and we're always going to make things “right” for people who buy from us.
CC: A few phans who have placed (and paid for) pre-orders of The Phantom: The Art of the Ghost Who Walks are beginning to become impatient about the delivery of this book... can you explain your pre-order process and perhaps give an indication of when it will be available for delivery / purchase?
DH: First if you pre-order you get it first and if it sells out, as with many of our titles, you are guaranteed getting the book. This book is a very involved project and we went to a number of collectors and scanned the art in their collections. We have original Ray Moore Sundays and dailies, original Wilson McCoy dailies and Sundays, original art by George Wilson, Bill Lignante, Sy Barry, Jim Aparo, Don Newton, and that's just a start.
We have covers, splashes, dailies, specialty pieces and illustrations by artists from all around the world who worked and are working on The Phantom. The hold up has been my pursuit of the complete original art for Charlton Phantom #67. I have 13 of the 23 pages: I need pages 1, 2, 3, 8, 9, 13, 14, 20, 22 and 23. I've been quietly pursuing these pages from a number of collectors and have put the word out but at this point, I'm just going to send the book to print with the 13 pages we have.
We have literally hundreds and hundreds of examples of art including all the Gold Key, King, and Charlton covers in a special gallery in the book. The book will go to press in August and be available in December of this year.
CC: In the spiel for The Art of the Ghost Who Walks, it promises to include chapters on all of the artists who have worked on the strip from its beginning in 1936 to the present - we take it to mean that artists up to and including Mike Manley and Jeff Weigel will be featured?
DH: The book has chapters divided chronologically and then focuses on the artists during each period. Mike Manley and Jeff Weigel are in the last chapter.
CC: We’d love to have a much longer chat with you about your process of collecting and printing the Daily and Sunday Phantom stories, the Charlton, Gold Key and King reprints, and all the challenges that come with the various elements of Phantoming that you do. Can we ask you to join us for an interview on X-Band: The Phantom Podcast sometime in the near future?
DH: Of course! I would love to spend as much time as you have talking about my favorite character in comic-dom: the Phantom! SO, hopefully that answers your questions — I'm always ready for more!
Thanks so much to Dan for his time in responding to our questions, and to the whole team at Hermes Press for the great work they do. We're really looking forward to a podcast interview in the not too distant future!