Richard: Why do people like to read about the Phantom?
Paul: Richard, I have no idea why people like to read the Phantom. I can only speak for myself. I started reading him the the newspaper with I was very young, I just thought he was cool looking. He had the wolf, the white stallion, a mysterious cave with treasures inside. There was the Phantom lore dating back 400 years. He was unique and exciting.
Richard: How did you get hired by King Features Syndicate?
Paul: I was no stranger to King Features. I had penciled the Spider-Man Sunday strip from 1992 to 1996 working with Stan Lee. The Spider-Man strip was distributed by King. When George Olesen announced that he was retiring from the Phantom Daily strip I got an email from King Features Editor, Jay Kennedy, asking if I would be interested in illustrating the dailies. I had been illustrating stories, for about three years, for FANTOMEN, the Phantom comic published by Egmont, Sweden. So, not only was I a long time Phantom fan, but I had experience illustrating his adventures. My first daily appeared the end of January, 2005.
Two years later Phantom Sunday strip artist, Graham Nolan gave his notice. I was contacted, again, by Jay and asked if I would like to add the Sunday strip to my work schedule. My first Sunday appeared April 1, 2007.
Richard: What type of personality do you try to give the Phantom through your drawings?
Paul: I see the Phantom as strong when he needs to be, gentle when he can be. A man with a dry sense of humor. A Man of Mystery to confound the wicked.
Richard: What is the current storyline in the newspaper strip?
Paul: The Daily strip, The Croccos deals with the discovery of a mysterious race of creatures, a humanoid/reptilian life form. The Phantom embarks on a mission to save them from further discovery and find them a new, safe home.
The Sunday strip story, which we just started, brings back Rex King, Prince of Baronkhan and adopted son of The Phantom. Rex is having romance troubles that, hopefully The Phantom and Diana can help him solve. The story is titled, "The Love Triangle!"
Richard: How is drawing a newspaper strip different than a comic book?
Paul: The first difference is the size and shape of your canvas. The strip is more limited in size and shape than a comic book page. Second, there is no down time with a newspaper strip. The writer and artist have to produce a strip every day, 365 days a year. With a comic book you illustrate 22 pages, take a break and then work on the next month’s story. It usually took me two and a half weeks to pencil a comic book story. My pages were then passed on to a letterer, then the inker and the colorist. With the Phantom strip I am the penciller, inker, letterer and, in the case of the Sunday strip, the colorist.
Richard: Would you like to draw other newspaper strips?
Paul: If I could clone myself (so that I could continue drawing the Phantom) I’d like to work on Prince Valiant, Tarzan, Flash Gordon. If any syndicate would consider it I’d love to do John Carter, Warlord of Mars.
Richard: Have you seen the Phantom movie, if so what did you think of it?
Paul: I have seen the Phantom movie at least four times! I thought it was pretty good. Billy Zane was great! He was in terrific shape, moved with the grace of a panther, rode horseback well and brought just the right level of humor to his portrayal of the Ghost Who Walks.
Richard: How do you spend your free time now?
Paul: Free time? Free time?? The term sounds familiar somehow but I just can’t place it.
Richard: You did a lot of work for Marvel and DC do you miss that?
Paul: I miss the people I knew back then. Marvel was like a family when I first walked through their doors! Everyone was excited to be working there. They joked, laughed, played pranks on each other. I made some friends at DC as well. They are what I miss the most.
Richard: Did you have a favorite Marvel character you enjoyed drawing more than others?
Paul: I guess that would be a toss up between Spider-Man and The Thing.
Richard: Do you plan to ever fully retire from illustration?
Paul: I had that conversation with Tom DeFalco once. I mentioned to Tom that Linda and I were discussing what we would do once I retired.
Tom: "Didn’t they tell you?"
Paul: "Tell me what?"
Tom: "Artists never retire. They are found dead, slumped over their drawing tables!" I guess I’ll keep on working as long as I can hold a pencil.
Richard: What comics did you read as a child and do you read any now?
Paul: My all time favorite was Superman, followed closely by Batman. I liked Adam Strange, the Flash, Green Lantern and The Justice League. I got hooked on Fantastic Four with issue #1.
Unfortunately I don’t have a lot of time for comics anymore. I do like to collect the old books that Marvel and DC re-release as Trade paperbacks.
Richard: How can someone contact you?
Paul: You need to have Colonel Worubu leave your message in the Jungle Patrol Safe located in the Unknown Commander’s office. Or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit my website: www.secondstargraphics.com .
Richard: Any words for fans of the Phantom strip?
Paul: Thanks for being there!