Frew Publications hold the record for producing the world’s longest unbroken run of Phantom comics. The first issue was released on the 9th of September 1948, and in 2018 Frew celebrated their 70th year of continuous publication of the Phantom. There have been in excess of 1900 individual Phantom comic books published under the Frew banner and is still going strong today.
Frew Publications began in 1948 with four men contributing 500 Australian pounds each to funding and open their own publication house. They were Ron Forsyth, Jim Richardson, Jack Eisen and Peter Watson. The first letter of each man’s surname was used to create the company name, FREW. Unfortunately, before the very first comic was produced, Jack Eisen and Peter Watson withdrew from the company. For the next 40 years, Ron Forsyth and Jim Richardson continued working at Frew.
The first comic title picked up by Frew was the Phantom. Phantom comic’s were published on a monthly basis, and were not concurrent with the comic strip scheduling of The Australian Woman’s Mirror. The first 2 Phantom comics (Enter The Phantom and In The Tiger’s Lair) were unnumbered, a possible indication of the uncertain success of the comic book being produced by Frew.
‘Enter The Phantom’, issue 1, went on sale on the 9th of September 1948, containing the Phantom story ‘The Slave Traders’ at a price of sixpence. Issue number 2, titled ‘In The Tiger’s Lair’, contained the story ‘Queen Asta of Trondelay’, also at a price of sixpence. It’s believed that the titles on the comic covers were different/changed to the titles of the comic strips to making the story sound more exciting and appealing to the comic book buying public. These 2 comics were printed in landscape format (which was unique at the time) with color printed only on the front covers and 2 staples holding the pages together on the left side of the comic.
Issue number 3 then changed format (to what we see today) to portrait style, with a comic number suddenly appearing on the cover. We see a change again from issue number 7, with Frew returning to the landscape format and stapled on the short edge of margin.
Super Yank Comics – 1950
Super Yank is a series released in November 1950 and was published on a monthly basis, running from issue 1 to 19 (however issue 7 was never printed or released). Each issue contains 24 pages, and features both Catman and the Phantom with 7 to 13 pages dedicated to the Phantom.
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The Phantom Adventures – 1955
Released in December 1955 with each edition containing approximately 28 pages. The series ran for 3 editions and is printed in black and white internal pages and color on the cover. These softcover issues contained Phantom stories adapted from comic strips as opposed to Phantom comic strips that Frew were printing at the time. An issue was released per month.
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Frew Logo – 1956
The Frew logo was designed by Tommy Hughes, a Sydney based artist in 1956. Tommy was well known at the time for drawing a large amount of Phantom comic covers.
We first see the logo in use on a Phantom comic cover on issue 105, however not as we see it today. The logo has additional text and reads ‘Frew – Publishers Of The Phantom’. The logo then changes on issue 114
Throughout the course of the series, the logo is dropped, then reintroduced again. We see it vanish from issue 489 (printed in 1972), then discreetly reappears again on issue 917 (printed in 1988).
We see the style and colors of the logo adapt with the cover art of the time from issue 917, however the text changes from issue 1045 (printed in 1993). Subtle changes are made again from issue 1747 (printed in 2016), which is the logo we continue to see today.
Issue number 1763, the 80th anniversary edition (printed in 2016), saw the logo take a modern ‘digital’ design.
Giantsize Phantom Comics – 1957
Giantsize Phantom comics were first published in April 1957 and contained a compilation of four or five complete stories about various characters in each issue. These 92 page comics were published about every two months, and had a cover price of two shillings, running for 26 editions
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Trade Paper Back
In 2017, Frew commenced with the publication of Trade Paper Back Phantom editions, a new product line for Frew. Since then, Frew has periodically released these editions, printed on gloss pages in full color, with each edition generally running for just over 200 pages within a soft cover. As seen below, each edition is themes to contain stories with a common thread.
Kid Phantom – 2017
Aimed at a younger audience, this series chronicles the early years of our current Phantom, the 21st. The comic is printed in full color with gloss pages and is printed in a smaller size to other Frew comics. Edition #1 contained a set of stickers in the center fold, then a coloring competition ran in edition #2, then from numbers 3 to 8, an enamel pin was included with each edition. A trade paper back book has also been produced, reprinting the first 6 stories in the series.
Phantom’s World – 2017
Phantom’s World is a series of comics which commenced in 2017 and continues to be printed to present day. Each edition brings us Phantom stories which have been printed overseas in a foreign language. This series translates those stories into English for the first time, with each edition running for 100 pages in black and white, containing 3 stories per comic.
Sketch Comic Covers – 2017 & 2018
2 versions of a blank sketch comic cover have been released by Frew, in both 2017 and 2018. They’re specifically designed to have a custom piece of art drawn on the cover by an artist of your choosing.
70th Anniversary Hard Cover – 2018
With the 70th anniversary of the Phantoms creation, a limited edition hard cover book with a dust jacket was released. This edition is limited to just 100, printed in full color on gloss pages. 50 of the books are hand signed by all creative artists who took part in its creation, including Sy Barry, Freddie Williams II, Romano Felmang, Massimo Gamberi, Andrew Constant, Jason Paulos, Dale Maccanti, Pidde Andersson and Shane Foley. Also within is a hand signed picture by Sy Barry (see below).
Legacy Series – 2019
The Legacy Series hard cover book contains reprints of the Phantom Adventures series printed in 1955 (see above for more information). Internal pages are gloss and a mix of color and black and white, running for 100 pages. A unique feature is added to this hard cover book on the front and back cover, with a ‘velvet’ texture added to the pink areas.
Sword of the Caliph – 2019
This edition is the first time Frew has released a graphic novel, released in full color on gloss pages, running for 92 pages.