Ed Catto: Branding The Phantom at 80 – in Dublin!
Geek Culture is both spontaneously youthful and historically well heeled. New brands emerge frequently, like BOOM! Studios Lumberjanes and The Backstagers, just written up in the New York Times. But brands like Batman and Captain America are more than 75 years old and provide a rich history for storytellers and collectors alike.
In this, my second of three articles exploring Geek Culture’s fascination with The Phantom, an 80 year old brand, I’m taking our conversation to Ireland.
Eoin McAuley is an ambitious professional who helped launch the Dublin Comic Con. And this year, there’s a charity overlay at this convention spotlighting The Phantom. Here’s my recent interview with Eoin.
Ed Catto: I’m anxious to hear about the Dublin Comic Con, Eoin. Can you please tell me about your convention?
Eoin McAuley: Dublin Comic Convention was first launched in 2013 by two friends, Karl Walsh and Derek Cosgrave, who wanted to bring a small bit of the New York Comic Con to Ireland. These friends had props and costumes from films and also made their own. They wanted to give the Irish a chance to see these props and sets and also to meet the stars of film, TV and comics. With a dedicated team behind them, Dublin Comic Con (DCC) was held in the National Show Centre in Swords in August 2013. Over the two days more than 7,000 members of the public came through the doors. We had sold out both days and had to close the doors to more people entering by lunchtime on both days.
The same was true for the second year. So last year, 2015, we moved to the Convention Centre in the IFSC. This, too, sold out with a capacity of over 15,000 people over the two days coming through the doors.
DCC is very much a family affair and is very family oriented. Our age group is from a week old baby to people in the late 60s early 70s. The majority of our guests would be people between the ages of 25 and 40. We also have a very even distribution between males and females. No longer is the comic world just the playground for boys. You will also find a lot of women in the comic world and quite a large female following.
This year (at our DCC) we will be hosting Kevin Eastman (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), Jim Beaver (Supernatural), Scott Wilson (The Walking Dead) and Robert Maschio (Scrubs), and others yet to be announced.
DCC is a fun family event and is the biggest Irish owned Comic Con in Ireland. While it is may still seem a relatively young event it is well established as a corner stone for the growing interest in the Comic Con scene in Ireland.
While there are many smaller Cons throughout Ireland during the year, this is the only Irish Con to cater to families and be all-inclusive for attendees.
EM: Last year DCC, in partnership with Lightning Strike Comics, produced a special one-shot comic featuring Sherlock Holmes with the kind permission and consent of the Arthur Conan Doyle Estate. The comic was produced to raise money for charity and this year the show’s organisers wanted to produce another special comic but this time use it to help promote unpublished talent and give local artists the opportunity to showcase their work.
This year marks the 80th Anniversary of The Phantom. The character’s rich history provided the perfect forum for creators to express their story telling capabilities while working on a licensed character. Also, the opportunity to work on such a character who served as the template for so many later costumed characters proved to be a chance of the lifetime.
The Phantom as a character (or should that be characters given his legacy tradition) is so rich featuring high pulp action, mysticism and at the centre of it all, the beating heart of a family. There’s a reason why the character has continued to have so many stories told through a multitude of different mediums for nearly a century, and everyone working on this project feels honoured to leave their contribution to the story.
EC: I’m impressed by your charity efforts. Can you tell me a little about the charity comic?
EM: In celebration of Lee Falk’s Phantom turning 80 this year, Dublin Comic Con have been granted special permission by King Features Syndicate to produce an exclusive comic of the character to celebrate his anniversary. The comic will be available for sale only at Dublin Comic Con, taking place in the Convention Centre in Dublin on August 6th and 7th.
All proceeds from sales of the comic will be donated in full to Tallaght Hospital’s Children Ward, Temple Street Children’s Hospital and Crumlin Children’s Hospital in Dublin.
The comic itself will feature previously published comic strips, including The Phantom’s origin strip from May 1939, material on the history of The Phantom, his creator Lee Falk and an article on King Features Syndicate.
There will also be original comic strips created by local artists featuring the work of: Cian Tormey, Johnny McMonagle, Arif Iqbal, David McDonagh, Karl Orowe, Simon Hall, Roisin Young, Basil Lim, Vanessa Ronan, Ashwin Chacko, Derek Keogh, Sean Hill, John O’Reilly, Jerry Higgins, Sinead O’Neill, John Fitzwilliam and Dave Williams. The project will be edited by Lightning Strike Comics Publisher Eoin McAuley.
EC: How did you go about working with rights holders to develop this Phantom project?
EM: We initially approached King Features Syndicate in the US to discuss the possibility of working on such a project for charity. We felt that the character was very recognisable among comic book readers and would serve as a strong vehicle to raise money for the three designated Children’s hospitals at the Con.
We then engaged in negotiations with their UK representatives All Sorts Media and after serial months of negotiations arranged a contract providing us with permission to proceed with the project.
Throughout the development of the project both All Sorts Media and King Features Syndicate have been very accommodating and have provided us with great archival material.
EC: How can fans support the charity/get the comic if they can’t attend?
EM: At the moment The Phantom 80th Anniversary Comic is a Dublin Comic Con exclusive and can and will be only sold at the show in August. Attendees will be able to reserve collection of the book at the show by email, a system which will be put in place by the end of June. But if anything changes with regards to the release of the comic this news will be shared across all of DCC’s social media and website www.dublincomiccon.com.
But for those who wish to donate to the cause they can donate at the below links at any time:
EC: Are there any other things going on at the convention that feature The Phantom?
EM: We will hopefully be arranging a signing session at the show featuring all of the contributors to the comic to sign copies and there’s always the possibility of one or two cosplayers.
EC: Why do you think The Phantom is so endearing and enduring?
EM: I personally feel that the idea of there being a dynasty of Phantom’s really allows the character to grow and evolve over the years and keeps stories and the character fresh much in a similar way that the Doctor Who franchise is sustained by the process of regeneration.
Also the whole aesthetic of the character is just pitch perfect, it’s no wonder that later superheroes borrowed elements (skin tight costume and blank-eyed masks) from him. Truly Lee Falk created a timeless character.
EC: Where can fans, exhibitors and brands that wish to participate find more information?
Thank you very much for taking the time to cover this story and this support, I will update you as the project progresses.
EC: Thanks for your time and continued success, Eoin!
And now, I think I need to call my Irish pals, like Kevin Patrick O’Connell and Sean McCooe, to plan a Dublin trip!