Phans of The Phantom may have noticed a different art style slipping into the Daily story over the past week or so. Your eyes are not deceiving you – there has indeed been a temporary change in the creative team for the Daily comic strip.
Regular artist Mike Manley has been in charge of the Daily since April 2016. Sadly, he has recently encountered some health issues and while we wish him a speedy recovery, adjustments have been made by King Features Syndicate to ensure that the Phantom's adventures continue uninterrupted.
From the beginning of November, we'll be treated to several weeks of art by Bret Blevins, with lettering by Scott Cohn. These two talented individuals have again stepped in to maintain the continuity of Daily 264 “The Journey Home”, with their contributions keeping we readers engaged and entertained.
As best as our untrained eyes can tell, it seems that Mike’s last strip was Saturday 28 October, with Bret taking the reins from Monday 30 October. As we trust you can see from the images below, certainly from Wednesday 1 November the style is unmistakably Bret’s.
As alluded to above, Bret is by no means a newcomer to The Phantom strip. He worked as an uncredited inking assistant for Mike Manley in 2020 and 2021, and has even previously filled in for a few weeks when Mike was ill in 2022, during Daily 261 “Phantom’s End” - check out our post introducing Bret at the time.
Scott Cohn has also helped out previously and indeed is actually a credited artist, as we explained in this post from 2022.
Unfortunately, it seems that Mike’s absence from the strip will be an extended one. We have been made aware that from Monday November 20, the Daily strip will be passed on and entrusted to Jeff Weigel, who is already highly regarded as the artist for the Phantom's Sunday adventures. Jeff's creative talent is well-known to phans, and he's set to guide us through to the finale of Tony DePaul's extended ‘Wrack and Ruin’ series.
We now have a good clue as to an end date for this long-running tale, with Mike letting us know that Jeff oversees the "last eight weeks of the story", which would see Daily 265 kicking off on Monday 15 January 2024. Whether or not that timing is exactly right, it is clear that we are approaching the conclusion of the epic 'Wrack and Ruin' adventure which began in mid-2021 and has run for an extraordinary two and a half years (albeit over six chapters).
Jeff Weigel's artistic prowess is bound to bring a fresh and dynamic perspective to The Phantom's Daily escapades. We expect his unique style to add depth and excitement to the narrative.
It is worth noting that this move sees Jeff join a very short list of The Phantom luminaries. Across the strip's 87-year history, he follows only Ray Moore, Wilson McCoy, Sy Barry, George Olesen, Fred Fredericks, and Paul Ryan in being responsible for both the Dailys and the Sundays simultaneously.
While we look forward to experiencing the artistry of Bret Blevins, Scott Cohn, and then Jeff Weigel for the foreseeable future, our hearts and well wishes go out to Mike Manley during his recovery.
It is wonderful to see Mike on the mend via his Facebook page, where he shared the following information with family, friends and phans on the evening of Friday 3 November: "Jeff Weigel has stepped in to finish the last eight weeks of the story, since I was unable to keep up the pace, but I will be returning to the [The Phantom] with a brand new story with Tony, which should start towards the end of the year."
On behalf of all phans we at Chronicle Chamber look forward to Mike returning to full health and back on the strip for the next story beginning in late 2023/early 2024.