An entire generation of Phantom phans have grown up on the art of Roy Felmang. Many of us have devoured every beautifully crafted panel, figure and story drawn by the Italian Master who, despite his many pen-names, we most simply know as Felmang.
He is credited as the story artist on seven Fratelli Spada stories (published 1967-1970), one hundred Team Fantomen stories (1987-2014) and most recently has started writing and illustrating original stories for Frew Publications in Australia (2016-present). Add Comics Revue into the mix, and he's also had over fifty covers published by those companies worldwide.
Today, ChronicleChamber is lucky enough to sit down with Felmang and find out a little more about this legendary artist. He has a great sense of fun and modesty, and it really is a pleasure getting to know him.
Such was the generosity of his time and answers, this will be a two-part post, with Part 2 to follow later this week.
ChronicleChamber: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Roy Felmang: First of all dear friend, I want say thank you to all the phans who followed and appreciated my modest job. I have always tried to do it with great passion and professionalism.
I'm Roy Felmang, I was born in a town aka Caput Mundi years ago, (not many) I don't remember when, but it was Sunday... for this reason I'm a little bit lazy!
I was and still am mainly a collector of comics, particularly our favourite hero The Phantom. In my collection I have all the comics published in my country since the beginning until today, as well as many others from Scandinavian countries since the late 80's, USA comics from the 50's to the 70's, and many examples from everywhere (India, Brasil, Turkey, England, Hungary, France, Germany, etc).
I am now living in the Deep Woods with Guran renting me a hut in his Bandar village. I'm working here to have better inspiration (I confess, time by time, when nobody see me, I go into the chronicle room to swipe something). Haha!
CC: Were you trained in art at school, or largely self-taught? What is your background in art?
Felmang: I NEVER studied art. At university I studied to work in the industry field, but I did not love that kind of job. I became a comic artist (self-taught) due to my great passion for the comic field; as I said, I was an avid reader of comics.
I learned to read from comic books, and until I was 15/16 I read and collected many weekly comics as Il Piccolo Sceriffo, Sciuscià, Nat del Santa Cruz, Pantera Bionda, Cpt Miki, but, first of all, the magazine Intrepido!
At one point of my life , I discovered another passion - the girls around me who were more interesting than comics. After four or five years, my nostalgia for the comics was so strong that I decided that was possible to follow both: girls and comics. I restarted reading and collecting comics, and bought all that I lost in the previous 4 or 5 years.
CC: Somehow we're not surprised to hear that! So among all those magazines, was The Phantom something you had access to and could read?
Felmang: Oh yes - I met The Phantom for the first time when I was five. I was in my bed with a flu and a teenage boy, living in my same building gifted me a pile of his comics, among these I found Little Toma and Queen Pera the Perfect, two great Phantom adventures. Because I loved to draw, I copied part of the covers of these comics. I found those early poor drawings many years later, inside a book of my fathers (below).
My real passion for The Phantom started when Fratelli Spada published the Phantom in chronological order since the beginning, I loved Raymond Moore more than Wilson McCoy.
CC: Amazing! So could you describe for us how an avid collector and self-taught comic artist managed to go from simply reading Fratelli Spada to drawing stories and covers for them?
Felmang: Soon after my twentieth birthday, I was waiting for a girlfriend near a news stand (or kiosk) and was having a look at the comic books. I saw a comic book of Mandrake and purchased it. The title was Un mondo perduto (below, left), but the fantastic thing was when I realised that the book was printed in my town, near were I was living.
I started to think of the work I would love to do and could it be a comic artist? A few days after, I went to Fratelli Spada and introduced myself, as a comic artist with zero experience.
A kind and beautiful girl, named Daniela (the niece of the owner G.Spada) received me, and gave me a recent printed comic book of The Phantom: Le mani sull'Isola (The Isle of the Dogs, above right) saying:
“This is a recent story produced in the States by King Features Syndicate. The artwork, very beautiful and modern, is done by the artist Sy Barry. Because the quantity of syndicate material is not sufficient to cover our weekly production, we need artists able to imitate this style. Please prepare some comic pages with this style and bring them to me.”
Arriving at home I tried drawing in the Sy Barry style, but I wasn't able to achieve a good result. The Phantom head was like an egg and very difficult to do, the brush of Sy was not easy to imitate... it was a real disaster.
All this seems like it happened yesterday! I was trying to draw the Phantom while I was listening to a tune performed by my favourite instrumental group, the Shadows. At the end, after a lot of so so drawings, I made a decision that I would not bring my average art sample pages to Spada.
Some months later I had another opportunity. I read an advert in the best selling daily journal of my town that the publishing house Cofedit was searching for comic artists! The next day I lined up with a big crowd, all of us hoping to get the gig. At the end of the morning, the director of the publisher, a Mr Luigi Cocheo, picked two artists: myself and a man called Morrone who never I met again.
I drew a couple of episodes of the character named Fantax. The body of this masked hero reminded me of the Phantom.
Afterwards I wrote and drew stories for a western character, for the prestigious magazine Colt 45 with covers by well known American illustrators Frank McCarthy and Carl Hantman.
After my military service, I went again to the Fratelli Spada publishers. This time I got a gig to draw comics, including some Phantom episodes and various covers for the Italian and the French market. I also worked for many Italian and European publishers including pocket books like Kriminal, Silman, Belfagor, Johnny Beat, Makabar, Nanette, Sylvie, Loana, Sabata and more.
(Below: Felmang holding one of the Nanette comics with his work)
In my career I have worked for over 50 publishing houses, from the big publishers to the smaller publishers, and I count myself lucky to have worked with such amazing people over the years.
For another publisher, I drew over 500 one-shot episodes (12 to 15 pages each) for the very popular Italian weekly magazines of Intrepido, Monello, Lanciostory, Skorpio, Albi dell'Intrepido, Blitz, and Thrilling. Each issue sold between 250, 000 and 900, 000 copies a week.
CC: Wow! 900, 000 copies is unheard of in today's world!
Felmang: The people of today do not spend their free time on comics, instead mainly computers and iPhones.
CC: A curiosity for many Phantom phans has been your pen name: Felmang. Where did that name come from?
Felmang: It is an acronym formed by part of one of my names and family names - it was a winning idea. Felmang is a one and only name - completely unique! Recently I discovered on the internet a Mexican girl named M. Felmang, no relation of course.
CC: So then later in life you moved into drawing for Semic (which was later acquired by Egmont). How did you come to be working for the Scandinavian publisher?
Felmang: Back in the early 1980's, I wrote and drew a short mini-series of eight episodes called Moon & Luan (right) which was sold to an Italian publisher. It was my intention to sell the same series abroad, so I started to visit various Comic & Book Fairs in the hope to find prospective interested publishers.
It was at one of these fairs (I can not even remember the country, it could have been Frankfurt, London or maybe even Bologna) that I met Ulf Granberg, who looked carefully at my story. It so happened that among these pages there was a photocopy of a Phantom page I had done years before, taken from one of my past Spada stories.
To conclude, Ulf didn't buy Moon & Luan, but he asked me if I would be interested to draw the Phantom for Semic - I moved faster than lightning and the Phantom to say: Yes!
My first episode, The Curse of Carpatia was published in Fantomen 23/1987. Many phans showed great enthusiasm for my artwork and Ulf called me to tell me all this. It filled me with great satisfaction and I was very proud to receive compliments, this encouraged me to do always keep working hard to improve my drawing.
After a few episodes, the Semic editor Ulf asked me if I could produce more stories. I had to contact another artist from the Fratelli Spada era to help me, my good friend Germano Ferri. Thanks to Ferri and some other great friends and artists I was able to create many good Phantom episodes. I am told that to many phans, a lot of my work was considered the best they had seen.
CC: In your time working for Semic/Egmont, which of the Fantomen artists did you particularly like?
Felmang: I was part of "Team Fantomen", an excellent group of artists who produced Phantom episodes to a high level. My favourite artists of this group were Cesar Spadari and Carlos Cruz.
CC: We have heard that you had an art studio / school and some of your students helped with the inks and colours for Egmont and other stories. Is this correct? Can you tell us about this?
Felmang: This is not exactly right. I was always approached by young inspiring artists to work under me. However, from the early 1970's onward, I was receiving more requests of work by publishers and to keep the quantity and quality of work I was able to do, I allowed the occasional young artist and close friends from the industry to work with me and from that I accidentally created an art studio.
At one point, I even closed the studio, because my twins arrived and my spare time was very much reduced. I even considered at the same time doing another job.
This is just the first half of our chat with Felmang. Make sure you check back with ChronicleChamber in the next day or two for the second installment, in which we ask him about his favourite stories, his penchant for drawing beautiful women, and creating new stories for Frew.