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An Interview with the Italian Master - Felmang (Part 2)

In the conclusion of this extensive interview with the renowned Italian Phantom artist Felmang, we ask about his favourite stories, his penchant for drawing beautiful women, and creating new stories for Frew.

If you haven't read Part 1 yet, do yourself a favour and check it out first!


ChronicleChamber: What are some of The Phantom stories that you're most proud of?

Felmang: The Lee Falk reprints including Queen Samaris (Fantomen 25/1993 & Frew #1070, #1712), The Mermaids of Melo Straits (Fantomen 26/1995 & Frew #1139, #1795), The Tiger Girl (Fantomen 1/2000 & Frew #1252, #1789) as well as the Kingdom of Amazons (Fantomen 10/1991 & Frew #993, #1651) and The Parrot (Thief on Board) (Fantomen 6/1992 & Frew #1110).

CC: Many phans love those! Was it your idea to redo these stories with your twist? Did you refer to the original stories at all, or work from the script for these? What was your process?

Felmang: The Semic art director Ulf Granberg, the most competent man in his role I have ever met and worked with, had the idea to do Lee Falk remakes, we started with Queen Samaris XII. He rewrote the scripts and furnished me a modern version of them. I drew these remake episodes, along with the help of my inker, and the results were excellent.

Even Lee Falk was very satisfied of these remake stories, and wrote some beautiful notes in support (see below).

CC: You are renowned for your beautiful imagery, especially when it comes to drawing the female form. It seems that you particularly enjoy drawing female characters?

Felmang: I love all beauty and in my comic strip I try to include my professionalism but also the beauty including: beautiful landscape, animals, jungle, and why not, gorgeous women? Please consider too that I am Christian and the woman is a creature of God. I think, it is right to respect the woman and portray her as beautiful is possible.

Unfortunately not all the Phantom artists are able to depict beautiful women as Sy Barry and Wilson McCoy did. I have seen some Phantom artists who do not have the ability to draw beautiful women including Diana - it is a real pity.

I enjoy putting female characters in my stories, and this is an added value to the comic. A Phantom episode without a woman is (for me) like a day without sun. Sometimes I try to add a little bit of sensuality to the female beauty also and believe me, this is not always easy to achieve.

I believe adding romance to my stories also adds appeal to the female readers who love these situations.

CC: Do you use models or photographic sources for your art?

Felmang: Yes, I have used models throughout the years. I started using models and photographic sources from 1970 onwards. Below are a few examples including one of my Thai friends who became Glowing Lotus for The Triads saga back in the 1990's (Fantomen 19/1994 - Fantomen 23/1994. & Frew #1096 - #1100).

CC: Have you ever had any of your work censored?

Felmang: Just the once I am aware of.

I submitted an image (right) to be used for Frew's 2017 Girl Phantom Annual. Unfortunately, for reasons unknown to me, it was censored and not included. I am led to believe it was originally going to the back cover.

CC: Interesting. So, tell us about your ideal style of the Phantom.

Felmang: The Phantom must be handsome, smiling and not look like a sack of potatoes in action or an a ugly Phantom without a neck. In my opinion he is not a superhero, he is not Hulk, and his mask must be well done to have the right expression on his face.

In my opinion, not all the artists are able to draw The Phantom in the right way. I agree with Joe Giella (assistant of Sy Barry for many years) who said that The Phantom is a very difficult strip to illustrate.

CC: Do you collect art yourself? Phantom or other art?

Felmang: I am a collector of original art, mainly comic covers, painted or not, and also original movie posters. This is my favourite hobby, I'm doing it with great passion - or is it an illness?

For me collecting comic art was a natural step after collecting comics. This phenomena is very different in Europe (especially in France). In my collection I have many Phantom covers and also complete Phantom episodes drawn by other artists.

CC: Hahaha, yes it's an illness that we also suffer from! Tell us about the importance of covers.

Felmang: The cover is a very important product. It is not just an enlarged picture of a panel inside or a good illustration full of many and many detailed elements. When I have done a cover, I always try to do it in a “pulp style”. Covers are able to capture the attention of our eyes in the kiosks and in the comic book shop. A good cover really helps the magazines to sell more copies.

CC: Australian phans were delighted when Frew announced that you would be drawing complete Phantom stories for Frew, and your issues have been very well received by readers. Can you tell us how that happened?

Felmang: It starts all the way back in May 1994 when Jim Shepherd and his wife Judith visited Rome and met me on their travels. The same Jim put me in contact with various American and Australian phans.

After this visit I received a phone call from Glenn Ford who was looking for illustrations for Phantom cards. I also had a visit from Rene White in 2000, who came to Rome and visited me in my studio with his daughter. Rene is a great Phantom fan and a great collector of comics. He has large collection of original Phantom artwork including Sunday pages, penciled pages, pin-up in colours, etc.

Thanks to The Phantom, I'm in contact with many phans in Europe, Australia, Brasil, India and United States too, this is a real pleasure for me.

When Glenn and Rene got together and the new Frew Crew was born, I was working on the most famous Italian comic-character Tex. They approached me to draw stories for them. I knew that while Frew was not a multinational comic, but knowing the two new owners as honest people, I accepted and finished my Tex stories, and started with the Phantom and the rest is history.

CC: One of the stories you have worked on with Frew is the origin of the Phantom Ranger (along with the associated Pholio poster). Did you have a background with the character beforehand? And also how do you see the Phantom Ranger with his similarities with the Phantom? Are you enjoying working on this character?

Felmang: When Glenn proposed to me to draw Phantom Ranger, I had not heard of him before. I studied this character thanks to some very old magazines Glenn sent me, .

As with the Phantom, he has a mask and is 400 years old. He leaves a small silver arrow at the stage of his actions. The problem was that he was immortal and the reasons of this was not very clear for me. I studied Kina carefully and decided to reboot him, give him a fantastic, but logic explanation about his immortality.

When I was in the pencil stage of the first episode of the Ranger my old friend (and ex assistant/student) Max Fish, asked if there was the possibility to ink this story. I said yes, and he did excellent work.

I am enjoying writing and drawing the Phantom Ranger, and the results seems good. Episode 5 of the Phantom Ranger will end his first cycle of adventures and hopefully they will be reprinted in a trade paperback. Hopefully from there on the episodes will be short standalone stories and not connected.

CC: With many of your Frew Phantom stories, you are also the writer. Do you prefer having full artistic freedom and drawing your own stories? How is it different from receiving scripts from a writer?

Felmang: I have worked with many of the best Phantom scriptwriters from all over the world and enjoyed their work, including writers like Scott Goodall, Norman Worker, Tony DePaul, Ulf Granberg, Claes Reimerthi, Donne Avenell, Janne Lundstrom and David Bishop. They all wrote phantastic Phantom adventures.

I am able to draw everything they write about, and have no problem following a script of any writer. However I do prefer to have full freedom and write scripts for myself. In this way I can draw and write what is better for my taste.

I don't love stories of war or politics, or stories connected with all the problems of everyday life. We all have problems and if I want to relax reading a comic book, I don't want to read about other people's problems and other troubles. I prefer heroic-fantasy stories where all seems coherently impossible. In fewer words focusing on the adventure!

In my episodes I try to do drawings as clearly as possible so as not to bore the reader, and it should also be possible to understand the story without reading the balloons. For this reason I try to do the dialogues as interesting as possible with sentences, words, names and many references to stimulate the curiosity of the young readers who can go to the Internet to learn more about these references.

For example in the episode The Fez Man from the The Phantom & Saba Saga (Phantom's World #5, 6 & 7) I injected names such as Rommel, Alan Freed, The Platter's vocals, the song My Dream, as well as Prassitele, Rodin, the moon eclipse etc. Unfortunately, sometimes these Easter Eggs get lost in translation, which is a real pity.

CC: Where do you get your inspiration from?

Felmang: From everywhere. A couple of years ago on Youtube I saw an old Italian movie from 1952: The Queen of Saba. The actress was a very young and beautiful Eleonora Ruffo, only 16 or 17 years old at the time (pictured below).

The director Francisci was in charge of similar very popular movies in the late 50's early 60's. His movie Hercules (Le Fatiche di Ercole) was a great success and was immediately imitated by many other directors and producers in all the world, a real phenomena. I liked this movie with that beautiful actress and born in me was the idea for a Phantom saga - you saw it in Phantom's World #5, 6 and 7.

Saba and the Phantom are not from the same era, and doing the story I imagined a sort of temporal paradox, mixed with a mirage, a nightmare, a spell and a dream. I tried to put in this saga all the ingredients of adventure and human weakness.

CC: Can you tell us about any future Phantom project stories you are working on?

Felmang: Regarding the Phantom, at the end of the last summer, I wrote a new long and very detailed plot for a new saga inspired by The Lost World of Sir A. Conan Doyle. I have completed layouts of various pages and inked a dozen pages showing the various characters as examples and proposed it all to the Frew Crew. As soon as Frew decides to produce this new project and give me the OK, I will start with it. You can see here some sample pages (work in progress).

[Editors Note: Felmang was nice enough to share an advanced look of the art; see below a gallery of some of the pages. Click to view the pages in all their glory.]

I have several other Phantom stories I hope you will be able to see in a Frew comic soon including another classic Lee Falk remake like I did for Queen Samaris, Lady Luck etc, some more Fratelli Spada stories from the late 1960's, and hopefully also some new stories.

While I wait for my next Frew or other Phantom project, I will continue other work.

CC: Wow, we have always enjoyed your art. We appreciate you taking the time in answering our questions. Finally, do you accept commissions?

Felmang: From time to time I do get asked by phans for commissions. I always accept even if sometimes I don't have the spare time to do it! I do prefer to however sell my originals to the phans. I don't charge an arm and a leg, however I do only sell complete Phantom stories and not single pages. Very soon I am aiming to put up for sale some short Phantom stories in Death from the Sky (Phantoms World #5) and The Revenge of Lubanga (Fantomen 6/2000 & Frew #1257) at a very friendly price.

In case some readers of ChronicleChamber are interested, they can contact me at :

CC: Where can phans check out your other art?

Felmang: Sometimes I do painted covers for the Italian magazines Lanciostory and Skorpio, and it is possible to also see these covers and many more on the Roy Mann Gallery at Comic Art Fans.

CC: Thank you Felmang for your time and your great work and the legacy you have created for us to enjoy over your huge career.

Felmang: It was my pleasure, I had fun going back over it with you and please keep up the great work.