The Lee Falk Memorial Bengali Explorers Club (commonly abbreviated to LFMBEC) was established by Tony Di Dio and Richard Fry in Sydney, Australia in April, 1999 following the death of the Phantom’s creator, Lee Falk.
The name of the club derives from the Bengali Explorers Club, first seen in the Lee Falk/Ray Moore Phantom comic strip, The Phantom’s Trophy (first appearing in newspapers in May, 1948). The fictional explorers club is based in Morristown, Bengali.
Since this first reference by Lee Falk, the Bengali Explorers Club has appeared in various other Phantom comic strips, including in the Lee Falk/Sy Barry comic strip, The Moxley Awards, as seen below.
On a yearly basis (and on some occasions more often), fans of the Phantom gather at a chosen restaurant or event venue over dinner, to discuss all things Phantom. The first such event was held at The Waterfront Restaurant in Sydney, Australia on the 30th of April, 1999. Jim Shepherd, Frew Publications editor at the time and Phantom artist Glenn Ford were both in attendance.
At each LFMBEC event, it’s common place for guest speakers/notaries who have made their mark on the Phantom in some capacity to be invited, such as artists, writers or collectors. Both domestic and international guests have attended events, not only allowing fans to gain access to them and ask questions as required, but they will often present a speech or demonstrate their artistic style in front of Phantom fans. Such guests include Tim McEwen, Paul Ryan, Terry Beatty, Dave Gibbons, Jeff Weigel, Alex Saviuk and many more.
As the gatherings progressed throughout the years, fans and creators were invited to donate Phantom collectables to either be raffled, sold or auctioned off at the LFMBEC dinners, raising funds for charitable organisations. At time of writing, the charity of choice is the Westmead Children’s Hospital, Australia.
The LFMBEC dinners are currently held on the same weekend to coincide with the Sydney comic convention, Supanova. This allows Phantom fans to not only attend both events whilst in Sydney, but also for special guests/artists of Supanova to also attend the LFMBEC dinner.
In 2000, we see the Scandinavian chapter of the Lee Falk Memorial Bengali Explorers Club being formed, with the same motivations as the one established in Australia. The Scandinavian chapter allows Phantom fans from countries such as Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland to gather and celebrate all things Phantom.
The LFMBEC dinner events are still held to this day, and continue to grow in popularity as the years go on.