On this day in 1984, Raymond Stephen(s) Moore passed away after complications with his ongoing health problems.
Better known as Ray Moore, he was the very first Phantom artist but not much is known about him. In the last few years we have been lucky to have seen some new photos and information about him released by Gina Moore Reiners, a niece of the great man.
Prior to that one of the only other sources was a fantastic interview with his late wife Claire Moore, conducted by Ed Rhoades and published in issue 24 in the Friends of the Phantom newsletters (available to view in our Phantom Preservation Project).
To celebrate his life, ChronicleChamber has opted to collect some of his work, share some photos and information about the man you may not know, and also gather some insights, memories and thoughts from phans from around the world.
One fascinating piece of information that we have learnt was it was likely Ray who introduced Devil as a companion based on his love of wolves. He named his home and acreage "Phantom Forest" which was donated to the conservation department in 1994 by his widow Claire. Plus much more which can be found at other great online sources like the Phantom Wiki, Ray Moore Blog, The Comiclopedia and of course the Ray Moore Fan Club Facebook page.
Pete Klaus talked about Ed's interview with Claire in our podcast chat with him and in the interview Claire raised several interesting points. She divulged that Ray was only a short-term assistant on the Mandrake strip, and also that he only had one or two assistants. These assistants, who included the man who would ultimately succeed him in Wilson McCoy, completed the lettering and backgrounds rather than any of the main characters.
However, among the most interesting elements of the interview with Claire (who also modeled for Diana) was her statement that Lee Falk never drew the first few weeks and that it was ALL Ray Moore. Some quotes are included:
“Ray and Lee may have worked together but Ray always drew it for publishing ... Ray had a lot to do with it, Lee had an idea and together they worked it out ... Ray had his own meetings with four or five St. Louis artists who met a few times a week. Lee came occasionally. They discussed it and helped Lee work it out.”
This is extremely enlightening, as common Phantom lore has Lee Falk as the artist for the first two weeks. It is very hard to prove anything different than what we all know 80+ years down the track. In one 1989 interview with Raymond Elman (published in the Lee Falk Storyteller Book p234), Falk mentions that he only drew the original ideas but in almost every other interview available has Lee Falk drawing the first week or two.
While this area on history may be fuzzy, Lee Falk's praise of Ray Moore is not. While Lee admitted to being frustrated with Moore not always sticking to deadlines, the way he drew vehicles, and his messy approach to his work area, he was always effusive in his praise for the way Moore drew the Phantom and his ‘marvellous’ ladies. These apparently always stuck with Falk and were consistent factors in his praise of the artist. Perhaps this was the reason Lee Falk created so many stories of all-girl gangs, which gave Moore the ability to showcase his talent.
To follow on from Lee Falk’s praise of the great man, many Phantom phans contacted for this article agreed. Following is a short list of some comments of their memories, thoughts and where they rate Ray Moore as an artist of the Phantom.
Pistol Pete Klaus, a true Phantom phriend and co creator of 'Friends of the Phantom':
When I first met Lee Falk in the late 1980s I asked him , which Phantom artist was his favorite — he answered — Ray Moore . I followed with another question — why Moore? Lee replied, I just loved the way he drew the women in the strip . As for me — I felt Moore drew all of his characters with a simple elegance. He used a little background , but the main characters stood out in each panel. In addition, he illustrated the Phantom as a real person , not some over muscular “super hero “ . However , the mask he drew for the “Ghost Who Walks “ was too small for his face . Personally I much prefer the mask Sy Barry designed for the character as it is wider, and has a better flow to the Phantom’s face. I love Ray Moore’s art, but Sy Barry's realistic look to the comic strip is my all time favorite.
Glenn Lumsden, an Australian phan and creator:
Ray Moore - the original Phantom artist! - from the days of the weekly cliffhanger serial at the cinema, and the newspapers full of Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon and Prince Valiant. Moore’s depiction of the Phantom was lithe, often quite realistic, often accompanied with dramatic mood lighting and shadows - he cut quite a romantic figure! And in the early days, when Mr Walker was just getting to know Miss Palmer, the storylines had as much romantic suspense as they had good old biffo. Moore’s Diana was svelte and lovely, in glamorous slinky gowns like a brunette Jean Harlow. A lot of Moore’s style reminds me of pre-comic book and magazine illustration - old school ink pen drawings, with a sketchy quality, something you’d be just as likely to see in a copy of Collier’s or Punch from the early 20th century. All the Phantom artists I grew up with - Moore, McCoy, Lignante and Barry - evoke specific feelings in me, so I can’t bring myself to assign ranking to any of them… but having said that, Moore must hold a special space for being the first to set the tone for what came after, as well as being an excellent draughtsman and an evocative inker of shadows.
Øyvind Bjugan, a Norwegian phan:
He is right at the top as the best artist of the Phantom. There's something about his use of shadows that appeals to me. It fits The Phantom perfectly. He was a master at faces and posing and conveying motion and emotions.
Andreas Eriksson, a Sweden phan and Editor/ Historian of Fantomen:
Ray Moore's dark and mysterious style set the tone for the early years of the Phantom, and I can't think of an artist of that era who was better suited for the task of Phantom artist. When I first saw Moore's art, I was definitely not a fan. A combination of poor reproduction and a style that was too different from what I was used to caused me to barely look at the Moore stories when I came across them. But in later years I came to appreciate Moore's style and the newspaper strips in general. I now rank Moore - especially his work in the 1930s - as some of the best Phantom art ever produced.
Shane Foley, an Australian phan and creator:
Moore's earlier Phantoms - where he was able to use the grey tones and not leave it open for colour - are some of the moodiest, evocative comic art ever! Those strips had the half-light atmosphere of many old B&W movie serials that conjure a wonderful feeling of adventure and dread - something I didn't like as a small kid (too scary!) but love now! His jungle and its peoples were depicted brilliantly as alien and dangerous - a world I would be terrified in - which perfectly suited the tone of Falk's strip at the time. For backgrounds, he was a master of 'less is more'! And he got the Phantom's physique down perfectly - not that of a body builder, but more like an Olympic swimmer! (Whenever I see photos of swimmers running, head-cap and goggles on, broad shouldered and near perfect physique, I always think 'Ray Moore Phantom!'). And I loved how his Phantom put on a robe when he was sitting still. Falk's Phantom in the early days was both a mystery man and a ruffian at the same time - Moore drew him to perfection!
Guy Poissant, a Canadian phan and colourist:
I like the way Moore drew the Phantom in the early adventures, the character is an imposing figure and the shadows in some of his drawings are simply brilliant... it represents well what the Phantom is supposed to be, a man of mystery. Some panels are very artistic… just take the one where Diana is abandoned in the desert in "The Slave Traders" as example; no words in the panel, just a powerful image… it's panels like this that have prompted me to create my postcards. And what about the romance between Diana and the Phantom during the Moore years... when The Phantom kisses Diana, for me it's as if I was watching old movies from the 30s! It's really romantic and we believe it! I don't have that same feeling with McCoy…
Mikael Lyck, Swedish phan and contributor to Chronicle Chamber:
Ray Moore had a unique and distinct style of drawing the Phantom that no other artist has. The realistic style the comic strip had those first years of publication set the tone and feel for all later artists in one way or another. Had Lee hired some other artist it is not sure by any means that the Phantom would be as successful as it was and are still today. The reprints that have come out have become better throughout the years and not until recent years have I gotten a good look at how the art really should look like, and I for one think it is really beautiful.
Sean Bassett, an Australian phan:
I have always enjoyed the way he used darkness in his drawing particularly in the early stories. In my opinion his work is at it's best in black and white. I also like his athletic depiction of the Phantom and his depiction of Diana (and women in general). He also drew Devil as a wolf. I have him as number 1 or 2 in my list of favourite strip artists.
Pidde Andersson, A Sweden phan and creator:
When I was a kid in the 1970s, I read very few Ray Moore stories – mainly because most classics reprinted after I started buying Fantomen in 1976 were by Wilson McCoy. I always saved the old classics till last – when I had nothing else to read. McCoy’s Phantom wasn’t ”my” Phantom, the character I loved. I liked the dark, mysterious, fascinating, historical adventures produced by Team Fantomen, and I liked some of Sy Barry’s modern day stories. The McCoy stories were very far from dark and mysterious. However, I remember reading a couple of Ray Moore stories as a kid, and thinking they were pretty good; much better than I thought they would be – the stories were cool and so was the art. The adventures weren’t as silly as the ones by McCoy. As an adult I really appreciate Ray Moore (and Wilson McCoy). Lee Falk was an inspired writer in the 1930s, and the Phantom, as a character, had a fun personality – he was sarcastic and threw one-liners left and right. And – Ray Moore knew how draw a mysterious world. His art was atmospheric, moody, the shadows were dark and heavy, the women were sexy, and the Phantom … wore a smoking jacket in the Skull Cave. The Phantom by Ray Moore was a strip in the tradition of old pulp fiction and movie serials. When Moore left, the daily strip turned into something else.
What is obvious is that many a phan loves his work and he played a very vital part of the Phantom lore.
Thank you to everyone who contributed their thoughts on Ray Moore, Gina Moore Reiners for the photos she has shared on social media and Guy Poissant for the colours he has done on the images and photos in this article.