Donne Avenell

1925 - 1997

by Andreas Eriksson

Donne Avenell was born 1925 in London, and aspired to become a writer from an early age. After finishing school he became assistant editor for the magazine Radio Fun published by Amalgamated Press, later IPC. After a period as telegraphist for the navy during World War II, he returned to Amalgamated, where he was editor of an architect magazine for six years. During that time he began to write radio plays and romantic short stories. He was very productive, and used several pseudonyms so it wouldn't look suspicious that all these stories were written by one person. Some of the names he used were Alec Ashton and Charles King.

In 1960, he became a full-time freelance writer for TV, newspapers and magazines. In the mid/late 1950s he had also begun to write comics for IPC's War Picture Library magazines and occasionally the newspaper strip Tiffany Jones.

The Saint by Avenell & Salvador It was during his time at IPC that he got in touch with Norman Worker, who would later introduce him to Semic Press in Stockholm and their comic magazines Buffalo Bill and Helgonet (The Saint). Donne would eventually become the main writer for The Saint, which was based more on the very popular TV series starring Roger Moore than the original novels. The TV series was so popular in Sweden that it spawned a comic magazine (published from 1966 to 1985!) with exclusive stories. One wonders whether this popularity had anything to do with The Saint's car being a Volvo! Working on The Saint would prove to be very challenging at times, as the character's creator Leslie Charteries had to approve of every story synopsis. As Avenell recalled, "Charteris could sometimes let six or seven stories pass without comment, but then all of sudden for no apparent reason he would send an awful letter that would rip you to shreds." Although Charteris never seemed to get over the fact that writing a 22-page comic book story had more limitations than writing a book, he was apparently over all satisfied with Avenell's work. He even offered Donne the opportunity to ghost a Saint novel, but Donne first declined when he heard how much (or little) Charteris was willing to pay! He did however write two novels under his own name, in cooperation with Graham Weaver: The Saint and the Templar Treasure in 1979 and Count on The Saint in 1980.

In 1975, Donne co-wrote the comic strip Powerman with Norman Worker. The comic was produced in the UK but sold initially only in Nigeria! It was drawn by well-known artists Dave Gibbons (Watchmen) and Brian Bolland (Camelot 3000) early in their careers - in fact it was Bolland's first comics job ever. Some episodes were later reprinted in a 4-issue series by Eclipse/Acme Press in 1988 in the magazine Power Comics. The main character's name was changed to Powerbolt since Marvel comics now owned the rights to a comic character called PowerMan (aka Luke Cage). Note that in this reprint series, Donne's name was spelled "Don Avenall".

The Story of Devil, Fa23/1979      Eden, Fa 10/1988

Donne Avenell joined the Team Fantomen ranks in 1978 at the age of 53, two years after his friend Norman Worker. Donne's first Phantom story was Dizzying Affairs (F159, Fantomen 20/1978, not published by Frew) with art by Özcan Eralp. Avenell had never read the Phantom strip before, but immediately became a fan favourite and has written several of the most popular Phantom stories over the years. The stand-out was of course The Story of Devil (F179, Fantomen 23/1979 and Frew #1013 & #1125), which has been elected Best Story of the Year every time it has been published in Sweden (reprinted in 1986, 1991 and 1999). Lee Falk himself vowed never to write any other story about Devil's origin after having read it. Other stories by Avenell that touched the readers in the same way and were elected Best Story in Sweden include:

The Prisoner on Boomsby, Fa24/1985

In the same year that he joined Team Fantomen, Donne began to work with Spanish artist Enric Badia Romero on the newspaper strip Axa, commissioned by the British newspaper The Sun. Romero had previously worked on Modesty Blaise from 1970 to 1978. British newspaper strips have a tradition of allowing more nudity and adult content than American ones, and Axa was definitely part of that tradition. The main character was a young woman who lived in a post-apocalyptic future where she fought the oppressive rulers, usually with very little clothing and occasionally with none at all! Click HERE and HERE for a couple more samples of Axa in action (nudity warning)! The Sun cancelled the strip mid-story in 1986, after which Romero returned to Modesty Blaise. The entire run of Axa has been reprinted by Ken Pierce Books.

Axa by Avenell & Romero

Among Donne's more unusual credits is the official comic book adaption of the wedding between Prince Charles and Diana in 1981. Donne however chose to use a pseudonym for that work, where he cooperated with another ex-Modesty Blaise artist, John Burns. Avenell & Burns also collaborated on the strip Eartha for the Sunday paper News of the World in the early 1980s. He also wrote a one-shot album starring Semic's latin american hero Tumac in 1981.

In the mid 1980s, Donne created the strip Django & Angel for the Swedish Agent X9 magazine. The strip was sometimes simply called Django as the character Angel was more or less replaced by Django's girlfriend, the beautiful topless dancer Monique. The main artist was Florenci Clavé, and the strip was reprinted in the United States: a five issue limited series was published in 1990 by Caliber Press in association with Semic Press. Django was published in Agent X9 from 1986 to 1993.

Django & Angel by Avenell & Clavé

Donne Avenell also wrote an impressive number of Disney stories for the Danish publisher Egmont. Between 1980 and 1994 he wrote well over 200 episodes featuring the well-known characters Donald Duck, Uncle Scrooge, Goofy etc. These stories have since been reprinted in dozens of magazines all over the world. A complete index of Donne Avenell's Disney comics can be found on the Inducks Website.

Donne Avenell was a master of emotional content, and has often been described as a natural when it came to writing. He based his work on Charles Dickens' formula "Make them laugh, make them cry, make them wait!" and his Phantom stories spellbound a generation of Phantom fans in Scandinavia. Unlike many Phantom writers, Donne preferred stories set in current time. Historic adventures require a lot of research, and Donne liked to be able to just start writing as soon as he had an idea for a story. He gladly let his friend Norman Worker take care of the "sword-fighting" stories for the most part.

It was typical for Donne to focus more on the characters and their emotions instead of events. With this character's reactions in different situations in mind, he would prepare a synopsis and send it to the editors. After approval, he would go to work on the script, always writing completely by hand before sitting down in front of the typewriter. He often listened to music while creating stories, and enjoyed going to the opera and working on Phantom stories in his mind.

Donne Avenell suffered from a heart condition for many years, but remained active until the very end in 1997. "I will write until I die by the typewriter", he said in a 1986 interview, and that he did. The Mysterious Skull Cave (F566, Fantomen 10/1997, Frew #1176) was the last Phantom story he wrote before he passed away. His last published story was The Devil's Anvil (F577, Fantomen 21/1997, Frew #1189), although Donne had actually written it before The Mysterious Skull Cave. Donne Avenell wrote a total of 69 Phantom stories during his 20 years with Semic/Egmont; about half of these stories have never been published by Frew in Australia. As a posthumous tribute, his story The Shipwreckers' Town was adapted into a Sunday story by Claes Reimerthi when Egmont began to supply scripts for the newspaper version of the Phantom in 2000.

Source: Fantomen 14/1986, Bild & Bubbla nr. 59 (4/1982) & 150 (3/2000)

Index of Donne Avenell's Phantom stories

F#Story TitleArtistPagesFantomenFrew
159Svindlande affärer
Dizzying Affairs
Eralp33F 20/1978 
The Art Collector
Vallvé32F 23/1978 
167Falskt spel
False Play
Eralp31F 5/1979 
173Det ryska schackpartiet
The Russian Chess Game
Vallvé40F 14/1979 
174Llongos amulett
The Amulet of the Llongo
Bade32F 15/1979 
176Dödens flöjt
The Flute of Death
Leppänen32F 19/1979 
Plague Warning
Bade32F 22/1979 
179Sagan om Devil
The Story of Devil
Bess32F 23/19791013
184Fånge 21
Prisoner 21
Bade33F 5/1980 
187De gåtfulla morden
The Mysterious Murders
Eralp32F 12/1980 
The Pirate Inheritance
Leppänen32F 22/1980891A
The Trap
Bess32F 1/1981  
The River Mystery
Bade32F 4/1981  
The Dictator
Westad32F 7/1981  
The Arsonist
Bade32F 10/1981  
202Djungelns budbärare
The Messengers of the Jungle
Bess32F 11/1981  
The Circus Murderer
Leppänen32F 22/1981891A
The Moon Herb
Eralp34F 23/1981  
The Stone Carving People
Bade31F 6/1982  
The Boy Detectives
Bess32F 20/1982  
The Zombie League
Lindahl32F 4/1983 853A
230Ormöns gåta
The Secret of Snake Island
Bade32F 7/1983 887A
241Den viskande statyn
The Whispering Statue
Bade32F 22/1983  
The Motorcycle Gang
Bess32F 23/1983 872A
249HeroVallvé32F 7/1984  
The Convent Treasure
Bade32F 9/1984  
The Secret
Vallvé32F 16/1984  
288Fången på Boomsby
The Prisoner on Boomsby
Lindahl26F 24/1985928
The Beast
Lindahl26F 12/1986 906
306Vulkanens hemlighet
Secret of the Volcano
Vallvé28F 19/1986  
313Den gamle bandaren
The Old Bandar
Eralp26F 3/1987917
Diamond Fever
Vallvé30F 9/1987920
The Train Gang
Spadari30F 11/1987 
The Ghost Pirate
Bade31F 19/1987 1330
333Polymos hemlighet
The Secret of Polymos
Spadari25F 25/1987  
339StingVallvé26F 5/1988  
The Monster
Bade30F 9/1988  
343EdenLindahl31F 10/1988 931
346Arkens hemlighet
Secret of the Ark
Felmang/Waldrag 23F 14/1988 949
347Kano och Ayobol
Kano and Ayobol
Cruz27F 15/1988 946
354Satans horn
Satan's Horn
Cruz28F 23/1988  
The Iron Mask
Lindahl28F 8/1989956
368Häxorna i Carpatia
The Witches in Carpatia
Cruz29F 11/1989 1364
The Marionettes
Cruz32F 12/1989958A
380Lotosis skatt
Lotosi's Treasure
Vallvé30F 24/1989  
The Drug Farm
Cruz31F 2/1990 996
385Dödens hantlangare
Assistants of Death
Cruz32F 3/1990 997
The Oracle
Eralp30F 9/1990  
403En patrullmans död
Death of a Patrolman
Leppänen28F 25/1990 987
407Pojken från havet
The Boy From the Sea
Cruz30F 3/1991985
410I mördarnas spår
On the Murderers' Trail
Leppänen28F 6/1991988
419Döden i Brügge
Death in Brügge
Mitton28F 19/19911006
The Swamp Fever
Felmang/Ferri 28F 22/19911011
430Tjuvar ombord
Thieves on Board
Felmang/Ferri 30F 6/19921110
The Skull Murders
Cruz32F 16/1993 
475Spöket i Tawasudalen
The Ghost of Tawasu Valley
Spadari30F 1/19941074
476Operation Djungelpatrullen
Operation Jungle Patrol
Cruz32F 2/19941076
493Djungelpatrullen - Klart! - Slut!
Jungle Patrol - Over and Out
Leppänen33F 16/19941091
503Dianas nya jobb
Diana's New Job
Lindahl32F 26/1994 
510Vraket i Bengalibukten
The Wreck in Bengali Bay
Felmang/Ferri/Rancho35F 7/19951112
The Wedding Gifts
Felmang/Ferri/Benny33F 12/1995 
529Den magiska flöjten
The Magic Flute
Lindahl22F 25/19951139
533Vrakplundrarnas stad
The Shipwreckers' Town
Leppänen30F 3/19961138
538Prins Rex försvunnen
Prince Rex Missing
Bade32F 8/19961146
550De dödas väktare
Guardian of the Dead
Spadari30F 19/19961158
553Uppdrag i Antarktis
Mission in Antarctica
Cruz32F 22/19961164
561Brunnens hemlighet
Secret of the Well
Bade32F 4/19971168
566Den gåtfulla dödskallegrottan
The Mysterious Skull Cave
Felmang/Benny30F 10/19971176
577Djävulens städ
("Då Fantomen rör sig står blixten stilla")
The Devil's Anvil
When the Phantom moves, Lightning stands still
Cruz28F 21/19971189

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Bryan Shedden /
Last updated 27 March 2004