Comic book superhero The Phantom will leap off local artist Shane Foley’s sketchbook and onto the walls of the Bundaberg Regional Art Gallery, when a new exhibition on the legendary masked man opens Saturday 18 November.
Phantom: Off the Drawing Board will celebrate the almost 90-year history of Lee Falk’s iconic creation and showcase the Australian illustrators who have helped keep the character so popular in Australia.
Shane was working as an ambulance officer in Bundaberg when he reached out to The Phantom’s Australian publisher, Frew Publications, and began drawing covers for them in 2016.
“They offered me a cover job, and pretty soon I was doing whole stories as well,” he said.
“I've done well over 500 pages for them now.”
Some of these pages, and all 11 of Shane’s covers, will feature in Phantom: Off the Drawing Board, which will also present an insight into Shane’s work practice and the process of creating comics that require Australian and American publishing approvals.
“A lot of people are really surprised there's a Phantom artist living in Bundy,” Shane said.
“I was remote-working well pre-COVID.
“There will be a section in the show which simulates how I do it.
“I'm going to put a script page, a lightbox to try and show that developing comic pages isn't magic, there's skill and time to get it done.”
Created in 1936 by American cartoonist Lee Falk, The Phantom is the longest continually published comic book in Australia, approaching 2,000 issues.
Shane said that The Phantom was the first comic he read as a child, and he liked that the character had retained a wholesome, good guy persona.
“The Phantom's sort of like the transition between the Zorro, Scarlet Pimpernel type characters and the costumed superheroes,” he said.
“He's the one in the middle…he reads more like the old-fashioned type one but has the skintight suit.
“The idea of the good guy being a really wholesome sort of person has gone, and The Phantom is one of the few that's kept that.
“I wouldn't like to do a strip where the goody is every bit as bad as the baddies.
“I'm happy with The Phantom because I'm able to do it in my old-fashioned way.”
Shane said he has always had a love of drawing and cartooning, and that The Phantom’s long history gave him plenty to work with when developing stories.
“Australia is one of the places where The Phantom's really popular and for years they've reprinted and reprinted and reprinted the stories.
“And fans now often know the stories from even the 1950s and that because they've been reprinted so often.
“In some of my stories, I'm dredging up characters from the fifties, which have never been reused and giving them a second story, I love it.
“There's a lot of history for me to draw.”
Exhibition visitors will enter the exhibition through a Skull Cave entrance created and painted onsite by Shane.
In addition to Shane’s original artwork, the exhibition, curated by Gallery Director Rebecca McDuff, will feature never-before-seen original artworks from iconic illustrators like Sy Barry, Wilson McCoy, and Ray Moore, vintage comic covers, and rare collectables, collated with the support of Frew Publications and collector, Paul Moloney.
Phantom: Off the Drawing Board will open at Bundaberg Regional Art Gallery from Saturday 18 November.
For more information about the exhibition and opening events, see the Gallery program here.