Sydney-based comics creator Julie Ditrich has just officially become the first Australian woman comic book writer on The Phantom with the release of her 44-page comic book story The Adventure of the Dragon’s Leg, which has just been published in The Treasures of Drakon: The Red Dragon Saga trade paperback by Frew Publications. Julie is also historically the sixth credited woman comic book writer in the world1 to write for The Phantom. The story, which is illustrated by Brazillian artist Wendell Cavalcanti, is a sequel to three comic book stories, originally published in the 1970s, that focus on The Phantom’s battle with a deadly and obsessive female villain, driven not only to possess him but also to exact revenge on him in the most horrific manner.
The Phantom was originally created by US writer Lee Falk and first published in 1936 as a daily newspaper comic strip series. It is still being published to this day in that particular format, albeit with new writer and artist teams who came on board both before and after Falk’s death in 1999. The Phantom is also published in comic books, graphic novels and prose anthologies, and has also been adapted into other media—namely film, television and video games.
The Phantom is a masked and costumed crime-fighter who lives with his family in the Skull Cave in the Deep Woods of a fictional African country called Bangalla. Unlike other superheroes, The Phantom does not rely on magic or a superpower. Rather, he depends on his intelligence and ingenuity, strength, boxing and wrestling prowess, and the myth of his immortality as “The Ghost Who Walks” to fight his adversaries.
The origins of The Phantom legend lies 485 years in the past when in 1536 the young Christopher ‘Kit’ Walker witnessed his father’s murder at the hands of a pirate. Later on, Christopher swore an oath on the skull of his father’s killer to fight pirates and other evil doers around the world, thus becoming the first Phantom. That legacy was then passed from father to son in the lineage (and also included one female – Julie Walker – born in 1852 who occasionally took on the mantle of The Phantom when her twin brother, the 17th Phantom, was injured or missing). The current Kit Walker is the 21st Phantom.
Julie Ditrich, who has a BA Degree in Professional Writing from the University of Canberra, and who has sold over 270,000 copies of her comics books internationally, found that the comics medium completely suited her storytelling style. Julie has worked predominantly in the fantasy genre but now embraces action-adventure with The Phantom.
I used to read Phantom comic books and the daily newspaper strip when I was growing up, and truly feel I was creatively geared to write these stories. I’m excited and appreciative beyond measure to be writing such a complex and fascinating character as The Phantom for Frew Publications.
I really want to honour the legacy of The Phantom not only as a character but also as a universe, including the pioneering writers and artists who have come before me. I’d also love the story to connect with the dedicated “Phans”, especially the Australian readers, who are amongst the most passionate consumers of The Phantom in the world.
To prepare herself for this newly minted role as The Phantom comic book writer, Julie immersed herself for several months in Phantom lore by reading vintage and modern graphic novel collections. Her other literacy influences that have impacted on writing these stories include works such as King Solomon’s Mines by Sir H Rider Haggard and the Willard Price Adventure Series for children, which she read when she was a kid.
Julie has also recently completed a four-part series of The Phantom called Return of the Golden Circle, which will be published in 2022, and has been commissioned to write an additional two series after that.
The Phantom is owned by King Features in the USA and is licensed locally by Frew Publications, which was has been publishing The Phantom in Australia since its inception in 1948.
The Treasures of Drakon: The Red Dragon Saga is available on the Frew Publications website from 15 February 2021: https://www.phantomcomic.com.au/
A comic book trailer of The Adventure of the Dragon’s Leg can be viewed on YouTube at: https://youtu.be/CH2_Rvbu5VY
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1 There may have been some uncredited women comic book writers who supported male creators, and there are several credited women prose writers of The Phantom stories. There are also some women who worked as translators of overseas stories and in an editorial capacity on the Phantom in earlier years.
Julie wishes to thank Dr Christian Kenfield, Trauma Surgeon and Chair of the Trauma Committee (Vic), Royal Australasian College of Surgeons; Chris Boyce, Chief Flight Instructor at the Sydney Hang Gliding Centre; and Alex Jewson, Stunt Actor, for their generosity and time in helping her research The Adventure of the Dragon’s Leg.