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The Phantom Used for Anarchist Political Posters

In 1978 and again in 1984, Without Authority and Sydney's anarchist bookstore Jura Books used the Phantom to advertise their displeasure on the Australian governments decision to mine uranium in the Northern Territory. These posters are examples of radical political poster art from the late 1970s and 1980's, and further evidence of the Phantom's cultural appeal & recognition in Australia during this period of time.


Without Authority was established by Joanne Horniman and Tony Chinnery. From what we understand Tony Chinnery is the artist behind the borrowing of the Phantom.


The 1978 poster says "I swear on the skull of my anti-uranium badge to devote myself to the overthrow of Frazer [sic] and to spend my life in the destruction of capitalism and the state." The 1984 poster replaces "Frazer" [sic] with "Hawke", a reference to Bob Hawke, who succeeded Malcom Fraser as Australia's 23rd Prime Minister in 1983.




Phantom historian Kevin Patrick wrote about these prints and posters in the book Graphic Indigeneity: Comics in the Americas and Australasia. However most phans have probably never seen these before. You can buy them at various art gallery websites online but the cheapest we have seen was one listed on eBay for $750 +postage.


Eagle eyed phans would recognise the image as being re purposed from a Frew advertising advert on the back of their comics and in posters displayed throughout Australia and overseas like Papua New Guinea. The below photo is an example from James Lee's collection of the different uses of the design to promote the comics being sold.



The story doesn't end here with Without Authority creating Phantom themed posters. During the research of the Fraser / Hawke prints we found a third print which is very likely to also been designed by Tony Chinnery.


As you can see the main image of the Phantom is also repurposed from another source. This image of Diana dressed up as the Phantom is from the 32nd Sunday Phantom story titled "The Female Phantom".



The Chronicle Chamber team have always been familiar with barcodes on everyday products, so we asked Kevin Patrick to provide us with some historical context to understand the significance of this poster.


The Australian Product Number System was introduced in the late 1970s to facilitate the application of barcodes to a wide variety of retail products, a few years after they became commonplace in the US.”


“I think the Without Authority poster is addressing concerns that individual grocery items would no longer have a price sticker, other than the barcode price label affixed to the supermarket shelf. This means that customers wouldn’t be able to tell at first glance how much an item cost and make it difficult for them to calculate their grocery bill before they reached the check-out.”


“Furthermore, retailers could simply increase the price of any given product via their computerised inventory database, rather than manually putting a new price sticker over the older (cheaper) price, making it difficult for shoppers to keep track of price increases.”


This video from ABC's Friday Focus TV show in 1980s highlights both the commercial benefits and public concerns about the introduction of barcodes in Australia.


“I’m guessing that Without Authority used the image of the ‘Girl Phantom’ for this poster because they felt that housewives and working mothers would bear the brunt of potential retail price gouging made possible by this new system. I doubt very few men took sole responsibility for grocery shopping back in the day!”


“The bigger question for me, however, is who was the intended audience for these posters? The ‘Girl Phantom’ poster is especially puzzling – how widely did it circulate? Was it plastered over public spaces – especially near supermarkets – where people would see it?”


“Also, there’s no ‘call to action’, or indication of how or where concerned people could educate themselves about the hidden costs of barcode-based pricing systems.”


“Given this poster was produced long before the advent of websites or QR codes, how were people supposed to get further information about this topic? Was the poster simply designed to raise public awareness about the issue? Or was it just intended to be a broad swipe at the exploitative nature of capitalism?”


“It’s a great piece of ‘guerilla art’, but its message seems muddled. At least the Condoman poster told people to ‘use Frenchies’ [condoms] to avoid contracting sexually transmitted diseases!”


We are still uncovering so much about the Phantom's cultural legacy in Australia.


Thanks must go to Kevin Patrick for a lot of the information and also to James Lee for the use of his photo of pieces from his collection. If you ever spot oddity items like this, please contact us at ChronicleChamber.com or one of our social media platforms.

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