From 1992 - 2016, Frew Publications produced 31 issues of the Phantom every year. When the new Frew Crew of Glenn Ford and Rene White took over in January 2016, they implemented an annual publishing schedule of 28 regular issues regular issues, but also started bringing in new titles like Phantom's World, Kid Phantom and also reprised Giantsize Phantom. As we head into 2020, we have become aware that the number of regular issues per year will drop again, down to 26.
Not announced with any fanfare, rather the reduced production schedule appeared via subscription renewal notices letter going out to subscribers. While not specifically stated, eagle-eyed phans noted the issue numbers slated for the year.
It must be noted that the regular subscription price dropped accordingly from $190 to $185, with a commensurate drop in the cost of a Signature Series subscription.
Initially this may seem like a shock to the system with readers getting fewer comics, but that would be an unfair appraisal. Since 2017, Frew have released those extra special issues Giantsize, Kid Phantom and Phantom's World, as well as broadening their scope into Trade Paperbacks, The Phantom Adventures and the graphic novel Sword of the Caliph. These have been successfully received by the Phantom public and look set to continue into the future.
If you include all comics and books from the last three years, it averages out that roughly once a week something new is being released by the crew at Frew. Not in the almost 85-year history of The Phantom have readers been this blessed and spoiled for choice.
Naturally we contacted Frew for comment. Publisher Dudley Hogarth had this to say:
"Yes, the annual subscriptions has been reduced to 26 per year which includes the Annual. We (Frew) have found during our research that the market has been oversupplied with Phantom's and the staff has been stretched way too thin. If we can keep it at one regular approx a fortnight then we will have time to get Trade Paperbacks and Graphic Novels onto the shelf. Fear not, there will still be Phantom aplenty!
We don't see a reduction from 28 to 26 in the regular sub as a big deal. It is plainly stated in the renewal notices and the price has reduce from $190 to $185 despite a rise in postal costs; this reflects the drop of 2 x 36 page comics which will be offset by additional surprises."
Some may take this as a sign of the company failing and struggling and we did ask this of Frew. Interestingly, they replied that some phans have been commenting to them that there is too much Phantom available to buy with a special issue released almost every month along with a regular Frew comic every 1-2 weeks.
Common wisdom has it that the average Phantom Frew buyer would be over 50 years old. While Frew comics are still cheaper than most, a recent price raise would add to the fact that some may not be able to afford to buy everything.
The team at Chronicle Chamber do not see this is a problem and if anything, may even be a positive as Frew continue to make hard decisions to streamline and make the business prosperous into the new decade.
We would love to hear what your thoughts are of this recent development. You can comment either on our social media accounts or feel free to drop us an email. We do want to take this time to say that if anyone has a problem with this, they should contact Frew themselves instead of taking to social media with their angst.
We will be commenting on this in our next Comics & News podcast, and will include any comments made by the phans.
Thanks to Frew for replying to our questions regarding this and to those Frew subscribers who helped confirm the change of numbers with a copy of their subscription letters.