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Recoverers of the Lost Art (From the Archives of FotP Newsletter 18)

[Editors note: This article was originally released in the amazing Friends of the Phantom Newsletter #18 released by the late Ed Rhoades and Pete Klaus in the USA Fall of 1998. This article was republished with permission. Access to all Friends of the Phantom newsletters and much more can be found at our Phantom Preservation Project.]

Longtime Phantom penciler George Olesen spent his summer seasons in Denmark. As a result, the Phantom strips make quite a trek, beginning as a script from Lee Falk's typewriter, to George Olesen's studio where he pencils the art, to Milt Snappin who lettered the work, then to Keith Williams or Fred Fredericks who ink the final panels.

All in all, they travel from Massachusetts to Denmark to New York to Massachusetts / New York Wow!

What happens if they get lost? We now know because it happened last summer (Editors Note: June-July-August 1997).

The penciled art from Denmark was delivered to the wrong address. The kids there were so happy to receive the package, they kept it!

But thanks to George Olesen's meticulous, methodical recordkeeping, all was saved. Fortunately, before sending his work he photocopies it for safekeeping, so he was able to return to his files to provide new copies. Keith and Fred then had to work with a light box instead of inking over the usual bristol board to create inked art.

Deadlines pushed them to work feverishly to make up for lost time, and their diligent efforts saved the day. The public enjoyed the stories without realizing the difficulties the artists went through to make publication happen.

Keith gave me (Ed Rhoades) the photocopies of the pencils he used. When he received it, the masking tape Keith applied to the borders for accurate tracing was still in place. The photocopies gave me yet another look at the creative process that underlies the finished product.

In fact, I shared these with the students in the art classes I teach, posting on a bulletin board a peek of a few days ahead, so they could check the newspaper to see how the inker would interpret the pencils.

Some time later George Olesen recovered the "lost" penciled art, this is a rarity since inks are applied on top of almost all of his work. He was kind enough to provide samples of these treasures, and they make for a fascinating study. They are evidence of his great creativity as the one who makes the first link from prose to visual.

When reading, one visualizes images from a story-but George must crystalize images on paper in a way that is interesting and exciting-and fit them into the tiny format of today's newspaper strips.

We hope you enjoy these samples.


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