Fantomen (Originally Serietidningen Fantomen and since #20/1990 the formal full name is Lee Falk's Fantomen) is the name of the Swedish comic book dedicated to "The Phantom", published regularly since 1950.
With its premiere issue released in October 1950, Fantomen was one of the earliest Swedish regularly published comics books, and, as of 2015, the second oldest still being published (beaten by two years by the weekly Donald Duck magazine Kalle Anka & C:o).
The popularity of the comic has led the publishers to create new stories exclusively for Fantomen since 1963 - the so called "Team Fantomen". For detailed information on the history and evolution of the Team Fantomen stories, see the Team Fantomen article.
Aside from "The Phantom" comics, the magazine has also introduced many secondary, or back-up, comics. Originally focusing on American productions, several Swedish comics have also appeared, especially since the nineties. The sixties saw several Spanish comics, while many British comics were published during the seventies, and since the eighies, many of the magazine's most popular comics are Franco-Belgian.
Fantomen has also been the template for many similar publications in other countries, for example in Norway, Finland, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Estonia and Russia, with the Norweigan edition - Fantomet - being the most enduring.
Since 2002 a series of hardcover books with chronological reprints of the oldest issues of Fantomen is published as Fantomen - Den inbundna årgången ("Fantomen - year's issues in hardcover").
The first Fantomen issue was printed in full color, included 36 pages, and started off with the first part of "The Maharajah's Daughter". It was published fortnightly, and, as was the case with most Swedish comic books of the early 1950's, the readers were invited to join a club - in the case of Fantomen, it was called Fantomenklubben.
For most of the 1950's the original concept of Fantomen remained unchanged. Although the Phantom was the title character, the Phantom strip itself - both dailies and Sundays, by Ray Moore as well as Wilson McCoy - was merely one comic amongst others. The covers featured other characters from the magazine, as well as sport stars and general action/adventure scenes, as often as it featured the Phantom himself, and some issues even put the "back-up stories" ahead of The Phantom. The vast majority of the comics during these first years were American, and, generally, comics from the newspaper strips (including The Phantom) were published serialized, while comics book stories remained intact.
The first major change came with issue 22/1955, the first issue to be printed in black & white, and a second overhaul was made in 1958, when the magazine turned weekly. However, halfway through the year, the magazine returned back to a fortnightly schedule.
With issue 21/1959, Fantomen was put through it's biggest change so far; each issue was expanded to 68 pages, and a complete Phantom story now appeared in every issue. Additionally, reprints of individual Phantom stories began to appear, and every cover featured the Phantom himself, as Rolf Gohs became the sole cover artist.
American back-up comics from Fantomen's first decade include adventure/action comic strips "Curly Kayoe", "King of the Royal Mounted", "Joe Palooka", "Jet Scott", and "Johnny Hazard", as well as comics from various comic books, mostly Western themed: "Hopalong Cassidy", "Blackhawk" (a war comic), "Clint Curtis" (a motor sports comic), "Tommy Hawk", "Tom Mix", "Lash LaRue", "American Eagle", "Cheyenne Kid", "Kid Montana", "Bill Boyd", and "Fargo Kid". Additionally, some Swedish comics also appeared: "Texas Jim", "Kapten Våghals", "Buster Perk", "Varg-Olle och blå monarkerna", and "Frank Horn", and several comedy strips was also included, most notably the American "Louie" and "Nancy", and the Swedish "Acke och Benke", "Toto", and "Alfredo" as well as gags by Einar Lagerwall. From 1958 to 1961 the magazine added several one-shots from Franco-Belgian publisher Le Lombard, spanning a wide range of genres, including adventure, sports, documentary, and Western - most notably, a couple of episodes of long running motor racing comic "Michel Vaillant" appeared.
Going into a new decade, Fantomen was still getting used to its new format. With the Swedish Golden Age of comic books now in the past, Fantomen, like most other comics, was facing economic setbacks, and, starting in 1960, it became a monthly magazine. Hoping to gain momentum from the hype caused by Western movies, most of the back-up comics from the fifties were shelved (although many would return later), and during the first half of the 1960's, each issue included a Phantom story (either new or reprint) filling half of the pages, with Western comics - of which a great portion were one-shot stories - filling the other half.
In 1963, the first Phantom stories created by Swedish Bertil Wilhelmsson were published, and in the following year Sy Barry modernized version premiered. Also beginning in 1964, the magazine gradually increased the number of issues, and by 1968 it was back to a fortnightly schedule.
In 1967, Wilhelmsson's stories ceased production, and in 1968 the reprints of pre-Barry stories were also dropped. While new dailies and Sundays stories continued to appear as often as possible, the majority of Phantom stories appearing in the magazine in 1968 and 1969 were imported from Italian publishing house Fratelli Spada, although often edited and provided with additional art by Bertil Wilhelmsson, Özcan Eralp, and Anders Thorell.
In issue 14/1969, the soon-to-be immensely popular letter column Fantomen Talar ("The Phantom Speaks") was introduced, offering readers answers to their questions about the magazine, it's back-up comics, and the Phantom mythos.
A great deal of the back-up comics of the sixties were comic book one-shot stories from United States, United Kingdom, and Spanish studios producing comics for the international market (Selecciones Ilustradas and Bardon Art), and the majority was Western comics. However, aside from the one-shots, there were also several other back-up comics (although many only appeared in a handfull of issues, and some only in one): the Western genre was represented by the American "Wild Bill Hickok and Jingles", "Ringo Kid", "Bat Masterson", "Billy the Kid", "Rocky Lane's Black Jack", "Bob Steele", "Jeff Baker", "Apache Hunter", "Two-Gun Kid", "Wyatt Earp", "Kid Slade", "Rawhide Kid", "Kid Cowboy", "Kid Colt", "Western Kid", "The Hawk", "The Singing Cowboy", "Firehair", "Maverick Marshal", "Idaho", and "The Big Valley"; the Spanish "The Sheriff", "The Pony Express", "The Carter Brothers", "Lonely Rock", and "Vance Flanagan"; and the British "Kansas Kid", "Wells Fargo", and "Blackbow the Cheyenne". During the latter half of the decade the Western craze began to fade, and other genres started to appear more frequently, represented by the Swedish "Skogspatrullen"; the American "Jan of the Jungle", "Scorchy Smith", "Space Man", "Espionage", "The Twilight Zone" and "T.H.E. Cat"; the British "Dan Dare"; and the Spanish "Johnny Galaxy and the Space Patrol", and "Grand Prix".
The Swedish production of original Phantom stories was re-introduced in 1970 (although the majority were remade, pre-Barry, Falk stories), joining the new dailies and Sunday stories and the edited Fratelli Spada stories. In 1971, reprints of the earliest stories by Team Fantomen and Sy Barry started to appear, and in 1972 a series of one-pagers detailing the Phantom myth was introduced - The Phantom Legends.
Following Ulf Granberg being installed as editor in issue 1/1973, the Fratelli Spada stories, the remade Falk stories, and reprinted Team Fantomen stories, were scrapped from the lineup, and the Team Fantomen production increased, with several new creators added during the following years. Headed by Granberg, the magazine started to put more effort into the editorial pages, the lineup of back-up comics transformed, and the creators of the comics began to recieve credits, after years of being mostly anonymous.
In order to celebrate Fantomen's 25th anniversary in 1975 (the first anniversary to be recogniced by the magazine) several stories by Wilson McCoy were published in the magazine for the first time, as were some Charlton stories by Jim Aparo. The squarebond, 100 pages, issue 20/1975 (the biggest Fantomen thus far) was marketed as the anniversary issue, and included the first Ray Moore story to be printed in the magazine for 13 years. For the rest of the decade, though, the magazine focused on new stories by Falk & Barry and Team Fantomen (the production of the later continuing to grow), alongside reprints of Falk/Barry stories.
In 1976 the first cover by Team Fantomen member Jaime Vallve was published, putting weight off the work load of long time cover artist Rolf Gohs who had produced every Fantomen cover but 6, since 1959. During the following years, several more Team Fantomen members started creating covers. Also in 1976, the magazine announced a writing competition, and the winning script, by Peter Andersson, was made into story published the following year.
The first annual scheduling poster was included in issue 1/1977, in 1978 the first Best Cover poster was included (the actual annual poll started in 1972 though), and in 1979 the first Best Story poll was announced - all three of these traditions continue today (2021). Additionally, the amount of supplements such as posters and postcards increased throughout the decade, and the magazine introduced "Fantomen Shop", selling Phantom memorabilia.
As the 1970's drew to its close, Lee Falk changed the personal life of The Phantom forever, resulting in the two best selling Fantomen issues of all times: 6/1978 ("The Wedding Issue") and 20/1979 ("The Birth Issue"), each including a poster to celebrate the wedding of the Phantom and Diana Palmer, and the birth of their twins, Kit and Heloise, respectively.
During the 1970's, the back-up comics changed from being mostly a mix of American, British, and Spanish one-shot stories, to include some of the world's best known comics. Most notably, the magazine added American comic strips "Mandrake the Magician", "Flash Gordon", and "Rick O'Shay", with other American additions included "Shankar the Shikari", "Track Hunter", "King, Queen, and Jack", "Mark Trail", "Jet Dream", "Secret Agent X-9", "Terry and the Pirates", "Dan Brand & Tipi", "Impossible - But True!", "Ripley's Believe It or Not", "Kevin the Bold", "Prince Valiant", "Vigilante", "Mr. Holmes of Baker Street", and "Silent Knight", as well as several stories from Marvel Comics' horror anthology titles, typically printed under the title "Fantomenrysaren". Also introduced were the British "Tom Taylor", "The Gauntlet of Fate", "Kraken", "Simon Test", "Louis Bernard", "The Boy Bandit", "Flame o'the Forest", "The Boy in the Velvet Mask", "Gorilla Island", "Home of the Wanderers", and "Spy Between the Sticks"; the Spanish "Delta 99", "Gringo", "Hacia el Zambesi", and "Treasure Island"; the Franco-Belgian "Bernard Prince", the Australian "Mike Steel"; and the Swedish "Teknikens under", "Mystiska 2:an" and Tumac".
During the 1980's the Team Fantomen stories grew to become the magazine's main feature, as opposed to the stories of Lee Falk. However, in 1980 the magazine celebrated its 30th anniversary by publishing several Moore and McCoy stories that had been either unpublished or suffering from severe editing in its prior Swedish reprints, and more such stories continued to appear until 1983.
Issue 17/1984 included a "secret pages" supplement and 26/1984 included a Bangalla map as a poster. Other notable suppliments during the decade were a collector's boklet in 5/1985, and 3-D comics and glasses in 16/1987 and 17/1989. Several more issues included various posters, post cards, or stickers.
The Phantom strip's 50th anniversary in 1986 was celebrated by reprinting highlights from the Team Fantomen production, while issue 4/1986, the main anniversary issue, became the second 100 pages Fantomen issue ever.
In 1987 a new writing competition was announced, and the winner, Per G. Olsen, was revealed the following year - the story based on his script would not be finnished until issue 8/1992 though. 1987 also saw long-time editor Ulf Granberg stepping down as editor, initially replaced by Mats Jönsson. Granberg did however remain a core part of the magazine, styling himself "Gammelredax" - "The Old Editor" - until his final retirement in 2012.
Fantomenklubben had been alive since the 1950's, and in 1989 it was drastically reworked. Now it was made possible to rise within the ranks of the club by answering quizzes about The Phantom, evolving from Novice, to Aspirant, Candidate, Knight, Master, and finally Grand Master. The first Grand Masters were announced in 1991.
The early 1980's introduced several Franco-Belgian comics which only appeared in a couple of issues: "Jason Drum", "Lady Black", "Léo Gwenn" and "Paul Foran". More longlived Franco-Belgian comics from the decade include "Bruce J. Hawker", "Blueberry", "Jeremiah", and "Arlequin". Also making their premiere Fantomen appearance during the 80's were the American "Latigo", "The Spirit", "Rocketeer", and the DC Comics version of "Robin Hood" (who also appeared in a Spanish take); the British "Jeff Hawke"; the Italian "Dedicato a Hitchcock" and "Gli Aristocratici"; and the Swedish "Bacon & Egg", "Herman Hedning & C:o", and "Johan Vilde", as well as new episodes of the British "The Gauntlet of Fate" produced for Fantomen, and various one-shots by Team Fantomen members.
The magazine's 40th anniversary was celebrated with the first Fantomen issue in color since 1955, issue 20/1990, which also included a replica of the very first issue. In 1991, Fantomen returned to color permanently, and the 17th issue of that year marked the 1000th issue of the magazine, an occasion celebrated by including a supplement of 8 pages, "Phan-Toom", a mockumentary report of the supposed real-life African background to the Phantom character.
In 1993, Fantomen and Finnish Mustanaamio became co-produced, i.e. the contents of the issues were identical, except for editorial pages. Soon Norway's Fantomet (in 1996) and Denmark's Fantomet (in 1998) joined as well.
Beginning with the first issue of 1994 the magazine turned from 68 to 84 pages/issue, and a long serialized back-up story starring The Phantom, The Heart of Darkness commenced, while the main Phantom stories introduced new themes and characters, in an attempt to make the magazine more appealing to modern readers. Due to the focus on Team Fantomen stories, new dailies and Sundays, as well as reprints, ceased to appear in the magazine.
By 1996 the "new" Fantomen had proven not to be the success the publisher had hoped for, and plans to return to the roots was initiated. Also being the year of the 60th anniversary of The Phantom, The Heart of Darkness was temporary put on hold, and replaced by the earliest Sunday pages, unedited and serialized. By the end of the year, the world of the Phantom was back to normal, and The Heart of Darkness reached its conclusion after 352 pages. In the following year, the number of pages/issue was back to 68, and the earliest dailies from Sy Barry began to be reprinted chronologically. Two years later, in 1999, chronological reprints of Barry's Sunday stories were also added.
Also in 1997, the long time publisher of Fantomen, Semic Press, Sweden's biggest comic book publisher at the time, was sold to the Danish media company Egmont, which since then has gained more-or-less monopoly on the Swedish comic magazine market. The new ownership did however not cause much difference in terms of Fantomen's content or appeal though, as it's staff and creative team remained the same.
New back-up comics from 1990's include several comics created for Fantomen by established Team Fantomen writers and/or artists: "Albatross", "Tybalt", "Herman Storm", "Achilles Wiggen", '"Det okända - myter och mysterier", "Dödsspelet" "Jonathan Struppy", "Skatten i Rennes-Le-Château", "White Fang" and "Xellana", while other Swedish additions include "James Hund","Jeff Hund", "The Vanishers", "Vi å pappa", "Berts dagbok", "Chief Sly Fox", "Stig & Grieg" and "Cordon Bleu". Also introduced were familiar Team Fantomen artist Jean-Yves Mitton's French comics "L'Archer Blanc" and "Demain... Les Monstres" and fellow Franco-Belgian comic "Thorgal". Several American comics were also introduced, both late 20th century ones, and Silver Age comics "classics". The newer ones include the Dark Horse Comics take on "Indiana Jones", the Marvel Comics version of "Flash Gordon", the indepentent comics "Xenozoic Tales" and "Monster Island", and the graphic novel adaptions of 90's movies "Mary Shelly's Frankenstein" and "The Mask of Zorro", while the older ones include several stories from "House of Mystery" and other DC's horror anthologies (printed under the "Det okända - myter och mysterier" monicle), as well as "Thun'da", "Johnny Peril", "Ghost Breaker", and "Johnny Thunder".
The magazine's 50th anniversary was most notably celebrated with issue 21/2000. With its 204 pages, it remains the biggest Fantomen issue ever published, and included a "what if"-story taking place in the year 2050, a reprint of the first story to be published in Fantomen: "The Maharajah's Daughter", and several of the most profilic back-up comics from over the years.
In 2003, the new dailies (now written by Tony DePaul, following Falk's death) returned to the magazine, initially re-inked by Kari Leppänen, and in 2004 Graham Nolan's Sundays began to appear. Then, in 2005, after Paul Ryan had succeeded Keith Williams on the dailies, they became more frequent, often paired with original covers provided by Ryan himself.
During 2004 and 2005, a long series of new stories detailing the first year of the 21st Phantom following his father's death was published, starting a chain of events attempting to reinspire the Team Fantomen stories, albeit in a more moderate way than the 1994 attempt. At the same time several pre-Barry Sundays appeared, temporary replacing the chronological reprint of Barry's Sundays.
The Phantom strip's 70th anniversery was celebrated in issue 14/2006 of 164 pages, including the last two unpublished Falk stories from the pre-Barry era, alongside examples from other Phantom publishers: Fratelli Spada, Charlton Comics and DC Comics, and a supplement celebrating Lee Falk: "Lee Falk - Seriemagiker".
In 2007, "double issues" were introduced. These issues have double numbering (e.g. Fantomen 10-11/2007), they are on sale for four weeks (compared to two weeks for regular issues), and have twice as many pages as a regular issue. Due to the double issues, the number of actual issues published in a year slowly decreased over the following years.
The back-up comics introduced during the decade include "Bad Bob" and "Dom oskyldiga", both created for Fantomen; the American "Camelot 3000", "Tarzan", "Tom Strong", and "The Dark Tower"; the Franco-Belgian "Valérian", "Jerome K. Jerome Bloche", "Scared to Death", "Spirou", and "Captain Biceps"; an extract from Bryan Talbot's British graphic novel "Alice in Sunderland", and gags from Italian cartoonist Benito Jacovitti.
2010 marked the 60th anniversary of Fantomen, an occasion which was celebrated by a cavalcade of returning back-up comics throughout the year. In 2012 Ulf Granberg retired as editor/editor-in-chief after 40 years and 1001 issues, and was succeded by 31-year-old Mikael Sol. During Granberg's final year, several 1930's and 1940's Phantom daily stories, which had previously only appeared heavily edited, appeared in the magazine.
With Sol as new editor, the chronological reprints of Lee Falk's stories, which had been an ongoing feature sine the mid-1990's, and had reached the second half of the eightees, ceased to appear, and Rolf Gohs, who had been the main cover artist since the 1950's, was retired and replaced by younger artists inspired by contemporary American comic books. The back-up comics were also given a facelift, as the magazine focused on modern Franco-Belgian comics and new Swedish comics, while discountinuing the tradition of reprinting American, often older, comics.
With the magazine market continuing to face economic difficulties, the number of "double issues" continued to grow, while the number of pages of a standard issue went down from 68 to 52 (beginning with issue 1/2014), and the standard length of new Phantom stories was cut from 32 to 22 in 2015. Meanwhile, shorter Phantom stories of 1-6 pages ("The World of the Phantom") began to occur as back-up stories in 2014, alongside the first episodes of "Phantom Kids" in 2015, and a series of character dossiers ("The Phantom's Universe") was added to appear in just about every issue. Also in 2015, Dynamite Entertainment's "Kings Watch" was included as supplements to the main magazine.
New back-up comics during the decade include the Franco-Belgian "Long John Silver", "Le Scorpion", and "Undertaker", as well as several Thorgal spin-offs, and the Swedish "De utvalda", "The Norseman", "Sagor från Mirakelstaden", "Mildh & Fromm", and "Prasselsork".