The cancellation of a comic book publication that has been running for over five decades was always going to be big news, and in the world of the Phantom the ramifications are beginning to sink in. Fantomet is dead.
The iconic Norwegian Fantomet magazine, running for 54 years, has been cancelled. The Phantom is iconic in Norway; according to legend, a resistance password during the WWII occupation by Nazi Germany was 'Fantomet'.
The population of Norway may only be 5.25 million, but a surprisingly high proportion of them were phans. To get a feeling about the impact of Egmont's decision, we got in touch with several Fantomet phans from different walks of life. We asked them some questions and for their opinions and thoughts.
Kjell Steen (aka Sjefen) has been a long time fan and member of the editorial team of Fantomet Magazine. He was the leader of the Fantomet Club which boasted 135,000+ members.
ChronicleChamber: How long have you been working with the magazine? Can you tell us about your role with the magazine?
Kjell Steen: I have been working for the Fantomet since 1984, until 1994 as assistant in editorial work, from 1994 as Sjefen. That means the leader, the boss, for Fantomet klubben with 135,000 members, and contacting readers and writing of all editorial material, articles and such. Many readers bought Fantomet to read the leader first, and the pages with "Sjefen svarer", "Fantomet fakta", articles about comics and " Fantomet klubben", then they went to read the comic itself.
As a member of Fantomet klubben, you went from novise to bronze, then silver and gold member, to become a grandmaster and got your name in the magazine. Real "Fantomologists" (Fantomet Experts), continued to Stormester with star, then two stars and beyond. We also had Norway Championship, no later than 2017 in Bergen (Norwegian city), where the Norwegian champion 2017 was won, with great prizes for the champion, and also for the second and third place.
I have also written forewords and articles in several Egmont comic books, cartoon releases and of course in other Fantomet releases, such as albums, chronicles, this chronology that is ongoing now and much more. I have also written a lot in the Swedish Fantomen and other Swedish releases, as well as in English, Danish, Belgian magazines about fiction figures.
I have also published books with comics, most recently with 3 books in 2016 and 2017. I often perform at festivals about comics with lecture and talk on comics. I have written many articles and such about James Bond, about the movies, the books and the comics. And of course, written articles in the Agent X9 magazine for many years.
CC: Is there any way this could just be hiatus? I am lead to believe Agent X9 was renewed. Could it happen with Fantomet?
KS:: An old jungle saying says: It's hard to predict, especially about the future.... What can happen in the future, nobody knows, but I'd assume that Fantomet as a regular edition is is over and done.
CC: What about the quarterly reprint magazine Fantomet Kronologisk? Will that keep going?
KS: Four editions of Fantomet Kronologisk are planned in 2019. What will happen next knows nobody
CC: Why is the magazine being cancelled? Is it because of low sales?
KS: Understanding, or figuring out why the magazine had to end, requires insight into what is happening in closed rooms at the top. And, such insight, I do not have. Number 13-2018 was sent to the printing company when the order came for closure. So this came like lightning from clear sky
CC: Was the number of issues produced annually being reduced 26 to 13 a sign this cancellation of the series was a possibility?
KS: Going over to 13 thirty issues a year was an advantage for both sales and readers. Today's society requires thick releases, therefore, such 13 issues were a success. Thin issues of 32-36 pages belong to the past, at least in Norway.
CC: How do you feel to see this magazine end after 54 years?
KS: Of course, it is sad for all that such a well-known and loved magazine ends.
Thomas Askjellerud: A 25+ year regular reader and subscriber of the Fantomet Magazine, and administrator of a Scandinavian based Phantom Facebook page.
I am not surprised at all with this decision. I am really glad Fantomet lasted so long. Comics do not sell anymore, and trending has been downhill for many years. I will follow Frew and Fantomen, and have been subscribed for Fantomen for last two years.
I've been reading and interacting with Fantomet for 25 years, through letters, drawings and discussions, so it will be weird to not have it in the mail any longer. Although the Fantomet Kronologisk will still come out, along with planned thick softcover books (TPB), it will never replace the issue we all loved.
Paul Andreas: Most famously known for winning a Moonstone competition that saw him feature in a story. Has written articles for CC in the past and will be a future podcast guest discussing one of his articles.
Fantomet is dead. Long live Fantomet.
Last weeks cancellation felt almost like learning about the death of a dear friend. While I can’t say it was completely unexpected (the signs have been there for years for any reader to see, with reduced number of issues, reduced number of story pages, and so on), it was still a shock to me.
For every year that has gone by since the mid-00s or so I have been delighted that we had a Fantomet-comic at all, considering the state of the Norwegian comic book market, where even the flagship Donald Duck comics seems to have dropped dramatically in sales in recent years. I have read Fantomet religiously for twenty years, and have collected everything I can afford related to the character for just as long.
The Fantomet-comic has been the main part of my collection, obviously, and this really leaves a hole in my life that it will be hard to fill. I will follow the character of the Phantom as long as somebody publishes him, so off course I will buy a subscription to the Swedish comic now. I already subscribe to Frew through the IP Comics online shop. Reading the Phantom in Swedish will be very hard to get used to, but I am glad that Fantomen is still going for now. Hopefully they will be able to continue a few more years with the loss of their sister comic and whatever that means for their income.
The Fantomet comic was in my opinion the best Phantom comic published anywhere in the world. Its editorial content (for many years every issue had 8 pages of articles and fan-letters!) was outstanding, and in recent years the backup comics, primarily French (and Belgian perhaps?) album stories, were better than ever before.
My dream would be that the planned softcover books that Egmont are mentioning will include all the new Phantom stories instead of classics I already have several editions of. I am crossing my fingers that these books will be bought by enough people so that there is some life in Fantomet yet, albeit in a new incarnation.
Glenn Folkvord: A journalist who currently lives in Sweden but has read Fantomet and Fantomen casually for the past 30 years and seriously for the past 5 years.
ChronicleChamber: How you feel with your childhood magazine being cancelled?
Glenn Folkvord: The Norwegian Phantom - Fantomet - was among the first few comics I read as a child, due to reading whatever my uncles had bought and stored. I casually read Fantomet for 30 years, and because I am a nostalgic person, and because I like long traditions, I am a bit saddened by the cancellation of Fantomet. It has been a staple for 54 years, a classic, a reference point, one of the survivors after many comics closed in the 1970s, 80s and 90s.
There are very few action-adventure comics left in Scandinavia and it's a pity there aren't enough readers for this genre. However, the character will live on in paperbacks, the publisher says, and because I live in Sweden now, I subscribe to the Swedish Fantomen which is essentially the same comic book, so it's not a complete disaster for me personally nor for my Norwegian Phantom phriends.
CC: Did the cancellation surprise you?
GF: Not really. The market for weekly and monthly small comic books has been in decline for decades, with the last few years being a struggle even for established titles. Frankly, it's more of a surprise that Fantomet made it this long and that another monthly title, Tex Willer (which is even more strange that it lives on because it's a Wild West comic) is still being published.
Better known franchises such as James Bond, Tarzan, Conan, Star Wars have not had regular monthlies for a long time. Fantomet was one of the last species of a dying breed. I believe competition from other media, the internet, digital TV, mobile phones, computer games and what have you is the reason behind the hard times, but we can't expect anything to last forever and the world moves on, as it should do. Digital comics are not for me, but ultimately I am not pessimistic because the world of comics will probably see other breeds when the old ones die.
Bengt Arild Riise: who has grown up with Fantomet from the 'hey days' of the 1970's until present.
It was with sadness that I received the information that the Fantomet magazine was cancelled and that no 13 this year would be the last issue.
My first memory and introduction to the Phantom, was when I got issue 1/1979 as a 6-year old in the late 70's.
Since then I have had great memories with the Phantom. Nothing could describe the feeling of reading a new number each fortnight. Opening a new issue was always great.
Even if I have read many comics during the years - Spider-Man, Superman, Batman, Donald Duck etc, Fantomet has always been a favorite. My favorite artist when I started reading was Jaime Vallve, but as I have grown older and reading more stories, Ray Moore and Sy Barry are among my personal favorites.
None could draw women like Moore :)
I have also enjoyed the Wilson McCoy era, but I always found that McCoy drew the Phantom too tame. Not enough muscles and always the same face, and Devil looked more like a tame dog than a fierce wolf!
Over the years I have also enjoyed Fantomet-klubben (The Phantom club). Great fun, sending in letters, drawings and answering competitions. My favorite moment was when I completed the grading in the club from bronze to silver and gold, and finally was awarded the title of "Stormester". I always voted for best story and cover, but I never won a T-shirt with the cover on. Now I will never get the chance, so I feel sad.
When the final issue is on sale, it will be a day to remember. The Fantomet magazine might be dead, but it will live forever in the hearts of the fans.
I am looking forward to still reading Fantomet Kronologisk and the TPB's that are promised. And I will of course get a subscription to Swedish Fantomen.
Øyvind Bjugan: Another 25+ year regular reader and subscriber of the Fantomet Magazine who once claimed a prize with a trophy and a Krønikebok collection for answering all the questions right in a competition back in 2001 for 'Grand Masters' in the Fantomet Club.
I'm not surprised at all by this decision. In fact only a short period of time ago I posted something about it being a miracle the magazine has lasted this long in response to someone.
So I'm not shocked or saddened by the news.
The Phantom isn't dead in Norway though, as we will get new releases, but it's quite telling that a series of nostalgic reprints has stronger sales than the main magazine.
I have been thinking about a FREW subscription, and now my decision may be made for me.
Peder Bjørkmann: Who learnt to read via comics. How many future generations will now miss out due to this decision?
When I was a little boy there were many different comic books in the stores, Tarzan, Supermann, Batman, Donald Duck, etc. I actually learned to read myself when I was 5-6 years old by slowly spelling my way through the text bubbles in comic books.
The first Fantomet magazine I remember that I bought was #7/1969, and The Phantom quickly became a big favorite. I started buying the Fantomet magazine regularly in 1971 and still have the books I bought from 1972 and onwards in my collection.
When the magazine changed from black and white to color, I stopped buying the magazine regularly. Time and my interests changed, and I focused more on Mandrake the Magician and various graphic novels. However, I continued to buy all albums and special editions with Fantomet. (I have just bought almost all the Fantomet magazines in color, but have not been able to read through all yet)
I have noticed that the young people do not read comics anymore and that it was a question of time before the Fantomet magazine had to give up due to declining circulation figures. Regretfully that now the time has come.
I will of course continue to buy special issues and series published in Norway. A subscription to the Swedish or/and Australian magazines may be an alternative in the future. Else, I would love hardcover books with articles dedicated to various artists, Wilhelmsson, Eralp, Vallvé, Bess, Bade, and on. Perhaps also books dedicated to Italian, German and Brazilian artist -with English text.
We thank everyone who took the time to answer some questions for us and we hope to continue to see the Fantomet flourish in Norway. If you're a phan, please share your thoughts in the comments field below or on one of our social media platforms.