Please note that we will be touching upon adult themes in this article.
Censoring in comics is such a negative word that tends to leave a bad aftertaste in everyone's mouth. However, is it always a bad thing?
Frew and the Phantom have had a history of censoring. Some of the earliest Ray Moore stories, notably The Phantom Goes to War, were altered prior to publication as a comic book for Australian audiences.
For instance, Diana being tied up in front of a cannon on a ship's deck to being threatened with a fist instead of being kicked or punched by a Japanese solider. Some of the recent ones from memory was a man's hand being erased so it didn't look like he was relieving himself against a wall to the latest comic that has received the censoring treatment in Frew 1817.
In his Message from the Publisher in Frew #1817, Dudley Hogarth openly states that he has edited scenes and dark plot themes from the two stories in this issue. As it happens, both Shadows over Spyglass and Heart of Darkness Chapter 4 Episode 7 were written by Claes Remerthi and illustrated by Joan Boix. Dudley's admission of editing is a bold move, and I am sure many a phan then spent the whole issue trying to find the edited panels.
The editing in the Heart of Darkness chapter is very easy to identify, with women in an erotic scene having clothes added to their originally naked depictions. However the alterations in Shadows over Spyglass were a lot harder to identify. One interesting point to note is that on the first page of Spyglass a stray breast did actually escape the censorship brush.
No, the censorship wasn't Minerva Brooks or her colleagues bathing topless or showing too much skin as one CC phriend thought, but rather a plot point instead: the reason why the children where held on the island.
In the panels below the Phantom says in the original Swedish "To be child prostitutes... helpless victims used in filthy brothels! Doesn’t it bother you in the least?" which was edited by the Australian publisher to read to "to be exploited... and sold as though they were livestock! Doesn’t it bother you in the least?" The preceding panel was also changed to be kidnapped kids, and the island as a collection point for them to be smuggled into Europe.
Dudley makes a good point that with their big push with Kid Phantom, Frew is trying to change the comic from a middle aged man's comic to something that can be enjoyed by all ages. If they kept naked bodies on show and published stories featuring child sex exploitation, would it put parents off allowing the comic to be read by a child who are also reading Kid Phantom?
As a parent myself I am more comfortable in allowing my child read this comic than the original uncensored version. This topic has been discussed on X-Band: The Phantom Podcast countless times and this a good example that the nudity and adult themes being censored does not take away from the story.
It's a brave move firstly censoring and secondarily being up front about it, but I think Frew did the right thing. What are your thoughts and opinions?
Thank you to Andreas for the photos of the original panels and help with the translations