[Editorial Note: This article recently featured in Fantomen 25&26/2021. You can watch a review of the issue here. This article has been translated and published on ChronicleChamber.com with permission from Egmont. You can read the press release about the 1000th Team Fantomen stories here.]
The very first Team Fantomen story was produced in 1963 and very few would think nearly sixty years later that there would be more Phantom stories produced in the nordics than newspaper stories.
When licensing a famous IP like the Phantom, the licensed product seldom holds up to the original. However the Team Fantomens stories are truly loved by its readers. Majority of the winners of the yearly best story competitions are won by Team Fantomen stories and many elements from them have found their way to the newspaper stories.
[Editors Note: Click here for a list of elements that have found their way into the newspaper stories.]
In the beginning, the stories were made because the comic book Fantomen was close to publishing all the newspaper stories and they needed new content.
These early Team Fantomen stories were usually reworks of Lee Falk's scripts with new art or filler stories that did not change anything in the world of the Phantom. For example "The Mysterious Passenger" by Bertil Wilhelmsson (phantomwiki link).
During the 1960's there was a moral panic in Sweden over its comic books and The Phantom got quite a bad reputation for being imperialistic and out of touch with reality. The writers wanted to change this, Falk changed Bangalla to a Republic with a black president and changed The Phantom from ruler of the Jungle to friend to the jungle chiefs and this was just the start.
The stories written in Sweden from this time had a huge focus on social justice and more realistic. In one story The Phantom fights side by side with Fidel Castro himself ("Fatal Dose" written by Anders Eklund, with art by Bertil Wilhelmsson and Özcan Eralp - phantomwiki link).
During this time the fictitious countries Carpatia and Rhodia were introduced that are still featured to this day.
When Ulf Granberg came in as editor the changes between the Newspaper stories and the Team Fantomen stories grew. The editorial staff created timelines for the different ancestors; when they were born, when they took over as acting Phantom and when they ultimately died. The aim was for the Phantom world to be neat and no more contradictions.
The Singh Pirates that was used very sparingly by Lee Falk, got a strong leader, Dogai Singh that must count as one of the hardest villains any Phantom has ever had to battle with.
The problem was that Lee Falk did not care about timelines, or what happened. So in spite of all effort from Team Fantomen to combat contradictions, they kept on coming.
In 1994 the biggest change from the newspaper stories and the Team Fantomen was introduced, Luaga lost the election to Lubanga (phantomwiki link) and for 25 years the president of Bangalla was different in Team Fantomen stories compared to the newspaper stories.
This meant that a lot of work had to be done to edit the newspaper stories that were published in Fantomen to make sure that the Team Fantomen president was shown.
[Editors Note: A historical look at the Presidents of Bengalla]
After the "Election in Bengali" storyline Team Fantomen tried out some exciting arcs that really pushes the envelope of what can be considered a Phantom story. A few examples are:
"In a Strange Land" About what could have happened if the first Phantom washed ashore in Japan instead of Bengalla.
"Year 1" Adventures that takes place when the current Phantom took over the reigns from the 20th Phantom.
"The 22nd Phantom Saga" Stories from the future when Kit and Heloise are all grown up and take on the role of the Phantom.
"The Phantom Crusader" about a medieval Phantom
"The Phantom in Cyberspace" there are even stories about the Phantom stuck in cyberspace!
Tony DePaul, who writes the scripts for both the Sunday and the Daily strip, started out as a writer in Team Fantomen. He has through the years taken many elements from the Team Fantomen stories and added them to the newspaper stories making the “worlds” more aligned than ever.
At the same time collaborations between editors and creators from Frew, Team Fantomen and the Newspaper strips makes the universe less and less contradictory and more streamlined.
During the years Team Fantomen have created a great gallery of recurring characters. Some featured quite seldom as: The Iron Hand, Black Carnation, Bahamot, Nelson N'Dela and Vasti Riba. Some featured more like Dogai Singh, Lubanga, Sarah Cartwright and Sandal Singh.
After this deepdive into the history of Team Fantomen I can barely wait to see what lies in store!
I got word from a mole inside the editorial staff that we will get to read more about the future adventure of Kit and Heloise. More than that I am not allowed to disclose.
Within Team Fantomen we will see some familiar creators, but also get to know a few new ones.
The project leader Jacob Habinc and the editor Andreas Eriksson have a special project that will make every phan lose their mind. So stay tuned because a great Phantom year is just around the corner!
If you want to learn more about Andreas Eriksson, watch his X-Band: The Phantom Podcast interview with the Chronicle Chamber crew.