Bane Kerac is a name many Phantom phans may not know but is a giant throughout many European countries including his homeland of Serbia. Bane only has one full Team Fantomen Phantom story to his credit along with a trading card in the recent Phanfare 2019 gallery card series.
However as you will read, in a sliding doors moment, he could easily have been a house hold name for us Phantom phans.
Chronicle Chamber: Can you tell us about yourself? I believe you originally studied to become a dentist but dropped out to become an artist?
Bane Kerac: Born 67 years ago in Novi Sad, north part of Serbia. I have been a friend with comics since I wore nappies, I grew up on Prince Valiant, Flash Gordon, Phantom, Kit Carson, Larrigan, Kansas Kid, Dan Dare, Daredevil and Blueberry.
After a professional job in comics (Lt. Tara, 1975), yes, I left the dentist faculty with no regrets. I have worked on my own created characters such as Tara, Kobra, Cat Claw, Billy The Speed and licensed comics as Tarzan, Blek and Zagor.
I also drew adventures for Americans comics industry including DC for Ghost and Black Pearl and the French comics industry Lignes de front, which featured adventures about Desert Soldiers and perhaps interesting for the Australians an adventure about the Kokoda campaign.
Today, I am part of the Zagor editorial staff for Sergio Bonelli Editore in Milan.
CC: Was drawing and writing comics always a passion of yours?
BK: Always. My mom gave me paper and pencil when she wanted me to be quiet.
Yugoslavia at that time had a very strong comics scene and we read worldwide comics parallel with their origin countries. I always remember drawing these characters as I read their adventures since I was young.
CC: The Phantom was very popular among other characters in former Yugoslavia and surrounding countries. Did you ever read the comic?
BK: Naturally. The Phantom was published in Yugoslavia before WWII, just a few months after debuting in USA. Tradition continued in Magazines and comics after the war. I was much in love with Ray Moore, very unsatisfied with Wilson McCoy and impressed with Dan & Sy Barry.
One of the adventures I remember fondly was the Hanta the Witch story (Editors Note: 91st Daily Newspaper story published in newspapers in 1965).
CC: What did you like about the Phantom and his adventures?
BK: Simple narration, lot of action, mystery, his 1911 Colts and Diana Palmer in swim suite.
I was amazed with Barry's clean and clear lines, the perfect balance between black and white and economic usage of the dot raster. My favourite scene even today has to the the scene when the Phantom shoots in the air on Hero jumping the downed tree.
CC: I believe you are also a musician.
BK: Music is my second love. I was a drummer in metal bands for years. Today, I am less loud with my drumming and play for pleasure. Today I play for a Creedence Clearwater Revival tribute band.
One of my albums from 1996 was an album titled "Cat Claw" for a brand I played in called GeroMetaL. You can view the Youtube click here.
CC: Cat Claw may be relatively unknown in Australia but for our other readers it was a huge success. Can you tell us about your influences on this character?
BK: Cat Claw was created as parody to Spiderman for Yugoslav publisher Decje Novine.
The similarities are fairly obvious - bite of spider compared to a cat scratch, proportionally multiplied power, sight in dark, in-out claws, enemy sense etc. But, we left that clone concept very soon and went on our own way.
Catty was very popular in Scandinavia. Her episodes are printed in many countries such as USA, France, Germany, Holland, Hungary, Romania and Turkey.
The most important influences on my work on Cat Claw would be John Romita Sr with his Daredevil, John Buscemass and his Spiderman, Don Heck with his Avengers and Dick Giordano / Irv Novick on Batman.
CC: How did you get the Egmont job to draw the Phantom?
BK: Via Cat Claw. I sent sample work to my friend and editor in Magnum. When Egmont took over Semic (Editors Note: You can learn more about this in our Podcast interview with Ulf Granberg) Magnum retired and his successor found my work and samples in his desk and contacted me.
CC: This story was called “Day of the Dead” and published by Australia (Frew #1685 - 2014), Sweden (Fantomen 1/2014) and Norway (Fantomet 3-4/2014). Can you tell us about the story?
BK: The story is classic mobster / drug thriller situated in Mexico. A young police woman, linked to the Phantom, investigates the murder of a journalist. The Elvis-like gang boss massacres all in a police station to find evidence against him hidden in a teddy bunny. As this happens, people celebrate the Day of the dead which does not impact the story in anyway.
CC: Can we ask why only the one adventure for Egmont?
BK: I was disappointed with many situations including the first story I drawed. When originally I talked with the team, I was promised "classic" Phantom stories with jungle's, hunters, bandits, beasts etc. To me that is what I grew up on and I wanted to draw my hero in his natural element.
Instead, I get a boring story with the unnecessary mass scenes of the "Day of the Dead" celebration. Perhaps the most disappointing was the very small part the Phantom played in this adventure - he features less than a quarter of the whole story.
I also had some concerns with the story including the inaccuracy with a ship's window unable to be broken by a wooden chair. The Phantom was able to slip through a boats window was also a bit unbelievable. Also the unnecessary "Day of the Dead" celebration element to the overall story, it works on the big screen but can be a waste of resources in a comic.
I was then offered a better role with a French publisher and sadly left Team Fantomen.
CC: Apart from that you also worked on the team for Stripoteka magazine for a decade and half which has a strong history with the Phantom. I believe you were the cover artist for issue 1000 which featured the Phantom?
BK: Sort off. The Phantoms panel was Sy Barry. I compiled the elements and retouched were needed.
CC: Can you tell us your process for drawing? Do you use original means by ink and paper or do you use the computer?
BK: As a classic artist, I prefer classic tools as fabriano paper, brause 513 pens as well as ink and marker brushes. However, in this modern time, a computer is necessary with it helping on deadlines. After finishing the classic drawings, the pages go to the scanner and I use Photoshop to add frames, effects and digital colours. For lettering and other pre press work, InDesign is very useful.
Click the above images to see the process between pencils and inks and then finished on the computer adding the effects in Photoshop. You can also see final changes - see the second panel with the Phantoms face.
CC: For most Australian phans, we would know your name because you have an artwork from the new Phantom Trading Card set. Could you tell us about that piece?
BK: The piece was originally done as cover for my Team Fantomen story however as this image of the Phantom in his natural element had no connections with the story. It remained unpublished. When Glenn Ford and the Frew publishers asked me to contribute with the card series, I finished the cover and am happy it has now seen the light of day.
I have another cover I had started with the Phantom battling pirates which you can see attached.
CC: Would you like to draw more Phantom?
BK: Yes I would love to, as long as I have a better story and experience. The Phantom is too big a character for a minor role as he had in "The Day Of The Dead".
I would love to work on adventures with the Phantom in his natural element, the jungle fighting bad guys.