Fantomen Christmas Comic 2019 Review

By Pidde Andersson – 30th December 2019

I was a little disappointed when this year’s Christmas album with the Phantom finally rolled in. When I was a kid in the 1970s, I got on the morning of Christmas Eve the Phantom’s Christmas album, which contained American Sunday adventures by Lee Falk and Sy Barry, published in black and white. I didn’t complain, that was the Phantom, and I loved these Christmas albums. When the 70’s sifted to the 80’s, I stopped getting Christmas albums, and I rarely bought them myself.

A decade or two ago, they went on to fill the Fantomen’s Christmas album with reprints of Team Fantomen’s Swedish adventure, a move I appreciated. Large format and color might not always be to the benefit of the series, but the adventure was better than the American ones. As a bonus, they also started adding old Christmas albums in their entirety.

But then came the Christmas album of the year, and it contains no Team Fantomen stories, but a two-part daystrip adventure from 2005, previously published in Swedish in Fantomen 2005 and 2006 – “The Temple of the Gods”. As for the script by Tony DePaul, while the first strippers; the first six pages of the album, signed by George Olesen and Keith Williams, before Paul Ryan took over.

The plot itself is okay – a German woman with brutal handguns is on the hunt for something very mysterious hidden on the Phantom’s secret island of Eden, it’s a little Indiana Jones or Tomb Raider. In terms of storytelling, however, it is a bit stylised. It takes an eternity for the adventure to get going, several pages in the beginning are devoted to depicting how villains and the Phantom dive into the water outside of Eden without much happening.

Olesen and Williams were probably the worst team working on the daily newspaper series. It honestly looks bad. Paul Ryan, who passed away in 2016, was better.

The “Temple of the Gods” follows the Phantom Christmas album from 1969, “The Sea Monster”, with script by Bill Harris and drawn by Bill Lignante. This is a charming, jerky and confused adventure – which is because it is not an adventure, but four adventures which have been edited together into 31 pages. The comics are taken from the American King Comics’ comic, and are “Delilah” (originally 24 pages in The Phantom number 23, which came out in 1967), “The Terror Tiger” (11 pages in The Phantom 21, 1967), “Diana’s Deadly Tour” (15 pages in The Phantom 28, 1967), and “The Treasure of Bengali Bay” (13 pages in The Phantom 21, 1967). The Swedish version has more boxes per page than the American comic book, and it is reproduced in lingonberry jam, ie black, white and red, and not in color.

At the end of the 2019 Christmas album we find a brand new series that is being published for the first time, the six-page long “Eye of Bengal”. It’s by the new Phantom cartoonist Anthony Spay who wrote and drew the strip, he got some help on the script by Phantom’s Swedish editor Mikael Sol. There’s not really much to say about the series, it’s a short and simple story. 

However, Spay is a nice acquaintance. He has already had a longer series in the Phantom Magazine, and soon – I hope – a bold, three-part adventure will be published in Australian newspapers. I know that with certainty, because I wrote the script for the series. I have seen the first two parts, and the pages are very nice. For those who enjoy Vråkarna work, you hopefully won’t be disappointed!

Read the original review HERE