So, you’ve probably heard by now that The Phantom himself, Billy Zane, is heading to our shores for Supanova this November. However, did you know that The Ghost Who Walks actually has strong Aussie connections?
THE COMIC CONNECTIONS
Let’s go way back to 1936 when the comic strip was first created by Lee Falk and published in the United States. The comic very quickly gained syndication internationally that year, first appearing in, of all places, in The Australian Woman’s Mirror — a rival magazine to The Australian Women’s Weekly. The mag had been motivated to obtain The Phantom’s publication rights, as rival Women’s Weekly already held rights to Falk’s other popular comic, Mandrake the Magician.
The Phantom comic strip was an overnight success and Australian-isms were added to create local ownership of the hero. “New York” was replaced with “Sydney” and character Diana Palmer was now an Aussie. And it’s clear now that children had no problem accessing the comic from their mothers.
This continued until the Woman’s Mirror finished up in 1961. From 1948, Frew Publications began releasing fortnightly editions and continues to do so to this day. Frew has previously and continues to showcase Phantom stories created by Australian writers and artists, such as Kid Phantom, a stand-alone quarterly comic by Supa-Star artist Paul Mason and Supa-Star writer Andrew Constant.
THE FILM CONNECTIONS
Jumping forward in time to the 1990s, the Billy Zane film eventually landed in the lap of Australian director, Simon Wincer. The production was originally headed for Hawaii to shoot; but this plan was ditched for Los Angeles, Australia and Thailand to help reduce budget costs. The film also had a large number of Australian crew members including cinematographer, David Burr.
The Phantom’s Australian filming locations can still be visited today. Filming was across eight soundstages at Village Roadshow Studios on the Gold Coast, most notably the Singh Pirates Cave at Stage 5 and Drax’s offices at Stage 6. Brisbane City Hall became the ‘Museum of World History’ and Manor Apartment Hotel’s exterior was used to imitate a New York building.
You can still fly like Sala (Catherine Zeta-Jones) onboard her seaplane — the planes featured in the film are owned and operated by Red Baron Seaplanes. The planes were previously rideable in Townsville for a number of years after the production concluded filming, but are still flying over Perth.
The Phantom’s Australian film history also goes back to as recently as December 2008, where Australian production company Sherlock Symington Productions obtained the film rights with the script The Phantom: Legacy, written by Australian Tim Boyle. The reboot had been planned to shoot as an all-Australian production in 2009 but never materialised. Little is known publicly as to why the newer production didn’t happen. Meanwhile, Syfy in the US made their own attempt around this time, with a modernised TV series that wasn’t successful enough to greenlight a second season.
So, it seems The Ghost Who Walks is still in spirit amongst us and is ingrained into part of Australian’s present culture and everyday life.
To celebrate Supa-Star Billy Zane appearing in November, the team at Frew Publications are offering a special collectors’ edition of The Phantom comic, ‘The Sky Band‘ (the basis for the movie), at our Adelaide and Brisbane shows! Numbers are limited, so be sure to head to the Supanova Store to pick up your copy for only $12.50!
You can catch Supa-Stars Billy Zane and Andrew Constant at Supanova Comic Con & Gaming Adelaide (November 2-3) and Brisbane (November 8-10), while Paul Mason and fellow Phantom artist Jamie Johnson will be attending Supanova Comic Con & Gaming Brisbane (November 8-10) only.