Move over Spiderman and Captain America – there’s a new superhero in town, Kid Phantom.
Griffith Film School animation lecturer Dr Paul Mason grew up devouring comic books. Now the talented illustrator has been chosen by Frew Comics to reboot the adventures of The Phantom.
Kid Phantom is the first spin-off of The Phantom in its 81-year-history, and Paul admits that re-imagining The Phantom for a new generation was a daunting prospect.
“I was very nervous about tackling such an iconic character – there are people out there who are big fans and real traditionalists who have been reading The Phantom for years,” he says.
“There is a real nostalgic connection to this character, and taking it on was intimidating at first.
“It’s been a real learning curve for me, but it’s great that a company like Frew have embraced local creators and are passionate about creating new stories.
“It’s been a lot of long hours, and I’ve had to sacrifice my social life and sleep to get it done – but it’s all worth it now that the first couple of issues are out.”
The Queensland College of Art alumnus is excited about introducing the character to a new fan base. Paul says the reaction so far has been positive, with parents posting pics on social media of their kids engrossed in the first issue.
“I see Kid Phantom as the unofficial Pixar version – it tells the story of The Phantom as a kid, and is designed to introduce the character to a whole new generation of fans,” he says.
“We have produced smaller, digest size books in full colour that are perfect for younger readers.
“And we are digging deep into The Phantom’s origins and telling the stories that have never been told before. It’s a chance to see how The Phantom became a hero.
“I think it’s something that parents and kids can share together – it makes a nice alternative to the apps and online stuff they are exposed to.”
As a kid, a chance discovery of an old stash of Phantom comics at a friend’s place sparked a lifelong love affair with the genre, and influenced his own work.
“The Phantom was the first comic I ever read – I absorbed a lot of the lore and was heavily influenced by the style of the illustrator, Jack Kirby,” he says.
“As a kid I was always scribbling and experimenting – I grew up drawing The Phantom in the margins of my books at school!
“I wear my influences on my sleeve, and I think Frew Comics liked the stripped back, stylised look of my characters.”
After Paul graduated from the Bachelor of Animation, he was offered a scholarship to come back and complete a Doctor of Visual Arts.
He now teaches animation pre-production, art direction, visual storytelling, and sequential art at Griffith Film School. He says helping the next generation of filmmakers and animators bring their vision to life is inspiring.
“It’s a fantastic privilege to help students develop their ideas and get their vision up on screen,” he says.
“Watching all of these young students with bright futures keeps you passionate about what you do – although juggling teaching and illustration means a lot of my work on Kid Phantom is done late at night!”
At GOMA, the current Marvel exhibition is drawing record crowds. So what does Paul make of the transition of comic books from pulp fiction to prized art works?
“Jack Kirby, who illustrated The Phantom and series like Captain America and X-Men, predicted the transition of comic books onto the big screen,” he says.
“He also said that one day comics would be hanging in galleries, and was laughed out of town, but his work is now up on the walls of GOMA.
“It’s fantastic to see comic illustrators finally getting their due, and the work is gaining more public acceptance and prestige because of the popularity of the Hollywood movies.”