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Book Review: Jean Yves Mitton – Le Fantôme by Black & White Éditions / France (Published 2022)

This is one of the best Phantom reprints in recent years. The only other book that is comparable and comes to mind is the Hermes Press Phantom Archive book published in 2015. This is a proper homage to a superhero that dates from 1936 indeed.



Le Fantôme by Mitton stands out in terms of production quality. The book is hardbound, has an embossed cover with an insert of the Phantom’s origin story – a reprint which was originally published in 1964 in a French comic (Journal du Spirou). The book comes in a customized cardboard box with a sketch of the Phantom by the artist Jean Yves Mitton.


The first 400 copies come with a hand signed Jean Yves Mitton Phantom sketch print. The key uniqueness is that the comic pages that appear in the stories are reproductions of the original art. Unlike most recent reprint publications, they were not reprinted from production proofs or tear sheets. The book might be considered a hybrid mix of an artist’s edition and an artefact edition (definitions below) and contains a bonus section with a substantial number of original art scans at 84% of the actual size.


Readers will find anecdotal facts in the introduction written by Jean Yves Mitton where he tells us about Scott Goodall whom he never had the opportunity to meet. Goodall was a writer from England who lived a secluded life in a forest in France (In the Pyrénées in Ariège) and only corresponded with the artist via letters. Jean Yves also tells us about his fond memories of having a meal of frog legs and Chardonnay white wine with Ulf Granberg his Swedish editor in France.


The text was translated mainly from the English reprint versions published by Frew, which according to the French translator Thierry Mornet wasn’t the best. Thierry had previously published a Phantom Special Zembla comic and had written a two-page introduction on the Phantom character. (attached below).


Among the eight stories drawn by Jean Yves Mitton, two are set in historical contexts, in Europe, and the rest in the jungle. Jean Yves masters the art of jungle details with the smooth intertwining of flora and fauna as background detail in the panels.


While his Phantom is clearly inspired by Sy Barry, we also see influences of Marvel & DC type superheroes and that of Tarzan - especially in the jungle sequences. Arguably, the stories were written in the genre of graphic novels than as pulps - as was originally conceived by KFS.



"Mort à Bruges", is a tale where the Phantom has his portrait drawn by Rembrandt. In the corner of the painting, the artist draws the face of the Phantom without the eye mask which was the probable cause of the death of those who saw the painting and looked at the artwork detail. Interestingly, this aspect in the story brings to mind the supernatural theme of “The Portrait of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde. We also get a glimpse of Rembrandt’s atelier (workshop) where a wounded Phantom finds refuge after a street fight in Belgium. Historically, there is no information on Rembrandts travel or stay in Belgium, but in this Phantom comic the writer Donne Avenell takes him to Bruges.


The second historical story ("The Cathedral Mystery") is set in Paris, France where The Phantom has a hidden room in the South tower of the Notre Dame Cathedral that can be accessed by a secret door found behind a 15th Century statue inside a chapel on the ground floor.





References are made to two sites – le “Bol d’Or” Tavern on “Rue de la Triche”. Those two names do exist today, but the former is in a town near the French riviera called Le Castellet and the latter in Bressuire – a town in the west of France.


The protagonist of the story was Le Marquis de Fabras (Favras) who did exist and was a royalist during the French revolution. He was found guilty of financial treason and was executed by the revolutionaries. In the story by Goodall, however, the Phantom helps him escape on a Montgolfier balloon.



painting of Le Marquis de Fabras arrested by the revolutionaries.


A special mention must be made of the story “Nectar of Gods” with its otherworldly esoteric charm. The leitmotif of the tale, set in the dark and mysterious jungle, is the magic potion called the nectar of Gods that carry telekinetic powers.



“The Valley Of the 1000 echoes is indeed a strange place! That’s where the golden sunbeam grows… the most beautiful and spectacular of all the orchids in the whole of Bengali, from its flower-cup runs a sweet and fragrant liquid… known as the nectar of Gods” as quoted by Old Man Mozz.


A well written script that helps set the tone and atmosphere for the narrative.



Scans of the article that Thierry Mornet written in a previously published a Phantom Special Zembla comic.




Definition:

An artist’s edition presents complete stories with each page scanned from the actual original art.


Like an Artist’s Edition, an Artifact Edition presents pages scanned from the actual original art. While the Artist’s Edition range produces only complete stories, Artifact Editions present books even if all the original art cannot be obtained, and will include extras such as advertisements, portfolio pieces, colour guides, and more.


External links:


 

Thank you to Ohm for his indepth review of this amazing book. All reviews are included in our monthly X-Band: The Phantom Podcast's. You can subscribe to them via your favourite podcast player or our YouTube channel. We are still chasing a reviewer from Brazil who can review the new O Fantasma comics for us, please contact us if you can.

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