Reader Daniel Best has recently been in touch with ChronicleChamber regarding The Phantom art produced by American artist Norm Breyfogle (best known for his DC work) and Joe Rubinstein (inker of The Official Guide to the Marvel Universe). Daniel is concerned with the artwork produced for a The Phantom style guide commissioned by King Features Syndicate in 2004.
Daniel got in touch with ChronicleChamber after we posted a few of those images on our social media platforms (you can see them here). He has a fresh perspective to add to the story.
We have also contacted Joe for comment, but at this stage we have not had any reply.
The purpose of writing to you is to hopefully clear up any confusion surrounding the existence of the Phantom images drawn by the late Norm Breyfogle. It was original reported that only three images existed and not 17 as you will soon find out about.
It’s difficult to summarise Norm’s lengthy career into a short article. Suffice to say that he broke into the comic book industry in the late 1980s and, during a career that lasted over thirty years, he worked for Marvel, DC and a host of smaller publishers.
Norm is best known for his ground-breaking work on both Batman and Detective Comics, where he developed a style that was unlike anything that had been seen previously. I’ve written more words about Norm than pretty much anyone. He was a very close friend, and full disclosure, I was one of four people named in Norm’s Will and have 'been given the privilege of protecting his Estate and Legacy. This means helping to clear out any misrepresentations.
I became aware of Norm's Phantom images when the pieces of the art that were submitted to King Features were originally made available to be purchased around 2006. At that time they were claimed to have been penciled by Norm and inked by Joe Rubinstein.
I initially became suspicious as the signature on the art wasn’t Norm's; it was written ‘Breyfogle’ instead of the signature he had placed on his artwork throughout his career. I contacted Norm who verified the existence of the Phantom images. He initially thought that King Features had finally returned the art. Joe the inker was contacted who confirmed the pieces that were sold were his inks over the top of photocopies using a lightbox. Unfortunately none of the images feature Norm’s original pencils.
According to previous discussions with Joe Rubinstein, the story goes that he had been approached in 2004 to contribute to a Phantom style guide. Joe needed a reliable penciller to draw the images. Enter Norm Breyfogle. Norm was asked by Joe if he would pencil the images for the Phantom style guide. It seems there is some confusion as to whether the work was for a style guide or something else.
[Editors Note: Paul Ryan's first Daily story appeared in January 2005. Perhaps the art was a submission for the newspaper Daily strip role that Paul ended up with?]
Norm penciled seventeen preliminary images. These pieces of art are A5 size; he would do two preliminaries per A4 piece of paper. From there Norm chose the best twelve images and did full blown, A4 size, full pencil illustrations. These twelve images were cherry picked by Joe who inked them and sent them off to King Features.
[Ed: We have only included 16, as the 17th Phantom drawing was not included in the email]
King Features not only passed on the duo, they chose not to return the artwork to either Norm or Joe. When Norm asked why, he was told by King Features that they always kept such submissions and that was that. Norm shrugged his shoulders and went back to work.
As I have said, I had been friends with Norm for years, loved his work and love the Phantom so I of course asked him about the potential of him doing the Phantom. Norm wished he had a chance to draw even a single issue. “I'd love to do it if I could, sure,” he told me in an email in 2006. “I'd love to draw the jungle scenes with all the animals and the rest." Sadly, it wasn’t to be. Norm passed away in late September 2018.
For some reason three of his images have been resold a few times. Norm wasn’t overly happy about the situation, but he let it go. What he did do was to sell me all of the penciled preliminaries and his own photocopies of the twelve pieces of art that he sent to Joe to be inked. Up until now the full suite of the 17 images have not been shared publicly before.
[Ed: To ensure there are no copying of the images for fake artwork to be sold, we have added a watermark to the images in the gallery below]
I have Norm’s Phantom art in my possession. I have all 17 of the original preliminaries and I have Norm’s personal photocopies of the twelve full pencils.
Joe and myself have individually contacted several publishers and had lengthy conversations about using them. Sadly, no deals was never able to be finalised. The offer is still open.
So, there you have it. The art that has been sold by several parties does not feature any original Breyfogle pencils. They were not signed by Norm. They do, however, feature Joe’s inks.
Thank you Daniel Best for your input and helping to clear up any misunderstanding.