On April 15 back in 2013 one of the biggest influencers of The Phantom sadly passed away in Jim Shepherd.
Jim Shepherd hardly needs any introduction but for those who came in late, he started working as an external consultant in 1987 for Frew Publications. This was because Jim Richardson had passed away and Ron Forsyth was winding down and heading into semi retirement. It turned out to be a master stroke.
In 1988 with Ron fully stepping down from the company he had started, Jim was the main publisher and by 1995 he had sole ownership rights to the company. He sadly passed away in 2013 after 25 years in the service of The Phantom.
In my opinion this is the first of the Frenaissance's and Jim Shepherd has left a huge legacy on The Phantom and phans from around the world but also the comics scene in Australia.
Jim's legacy as publisher includes Frew creating their own stories which was never previously done, establishing the Swedish stories as a regular staple with Frew readers, modernising the comic and much more.
However if I was to only focus and choose one thing as his biggest legacy it would have to be how he attempted to bring back the unedited and uncensored newspaper Daily and Sunday strips in their original state. So much so that even now 20+ years later, the work of what he uncovered is still being used today by publishers around the world.
Up until that stage there was no effort world wide by either of Frew, Semic, Fratelli Spada, Bastei and many other publishers to produce the newspaper stories in their unedited and uncensored format. It is also fair to say that publishers today still struggle to produce Lee Falk's works unedited.
To find these unedited stories was not an easy task. King Features did not have copies, much of the original art was gone and this was before the Internet, which has seen original art and newspaper clippings being more readily available now than perhaps ever before.
Publishers including Frew had chopped, edited and poorly presented the newspaper stories for many years. For decades Frew had simply photocopied a previous issue which saw the stories cut to fit the 32 page structure, panels were cut and stretched to supposedly give the phan a better comic.
Jim Shepherd was so adamant with his goal that he traveled to Europe, South America and of course to the United States several times to try and find unedited copies of the stories he could use. Remember all this was lost and King Features did not even have them in storage. Jim personally visited and contacted libraries, collections and publishers to find what he could.
While Jim Shepherd was able to find many unedited copies of Lee Falk's works perhaps fittingly he was unable to achieve this overall goal with several stories still published with edited panels. Interestingly Jim was then wanting to collect and produce these stories in a chronological book format much like what Hermes Press are doing currently.
Even today the goal of publishing every Lee Falk story unedited and uncensored has still not been achieved and is waiting for someone to take up their skull and swear an oath to fulfill his legacy he started 30 odd years ago.