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Identifying Frew's Censoring Artists

Frew Publications, home to the world's oldest edition of "The Phantom" comic magazine since 1948, has on more than a few occasions opted to redraw selected episodes of its flagship title.

Sometimes this was due to local censorship - in the mid-1950s, Frew Publications either deleted or redrew segments from stories which were considered too violent amidst the anti-comics outcry at the time. Gordon & Gotch, then Australia's largest magazine and comics distributor, required publishers to submit forthcoming issues ahead of publication, so Gotch's staff could review them for potentially controversial content, and ask for it be removed or altered. This was because, in some states, Gordon & Gotch as the distributor could be held legally liable for the sale & distribution of objectionable comics and other "offensive" periodicals.

On occasion, these redrawn sections were handled by the late Peter Chapman, who was drawing "The Shadow" and "The Phantom Ranger" for Frew, and working as an in-house editor and artist for them as well.

When Chapman was responsible for such work, the altered sections looked good, and made good visual-narrative sense, and compared favorably with the unaltered sections of the Phantom stories concerned. On most occasions, however, the results were very "rough and ready", and looked atrocious.

Thankfully, such was the popularity of The Phantom that most readers clearly didn't care - or, at least not in large enough numbers for Frew Publications to take their complaints seriously.

However, there is one issue of The Phantom (no.355), published towards the end of 1967, where sections of the original story ("Diana, Aviatrix Lost", by Lee Falk & Ray Moore) were clearly it is redrawn by a local artist.

(Editors Note: The first two images are the redrawn art examples, the following four are the original by Ray Moore. Click the images to view a larger version)

I suspect the reason for this modification had less to do with censorship, and may be due to the fact the original artwork was damaged or misplaced, and therefore unusable. Or Frew Publications couldn't reprint the entire story within a single issue, and opted to have an in-house artist redraw and condense the story to ensure it would fit within the allotted 28 pages - excluding four pages for the covers.

Personally, I find these redrawn pages thoroughly charming and enjoyable, and quite skillful in their own way, not least because I think they're a considerable improvement on Ray Moore's original artwork. And they capture the old-fashioned "look & feel" of the early Phantom stories which I loved so much as kid.

But the question remains - who the devil drew this?

Their style is completely unrecognizable to me, which is why I've included two examples of the redrawn pages, in case anyone out there can "spot" the artist.

No guess is too wild, no conjecture is too fanciful - let the nominations begin!

To get us started, I thought these pages might have been drawn by Fred Cul Cullen, who drew the "Jolly Swagman" comics in the 1970's, but I've since discarded that idea.


(Editors note) This article was originally posted on the "Australian Comics History - 1960-2010" Facebook page and has been published here with Kevin Patrick's permission. If you would like to learn more about Kevin, you can listen to a podcast with him here. I

f the interest is there, we will bring some more local edited / censored / redrawn examples of past Lee Falk and Ray Moore / Wilson McCoy stories. Please let us know.


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