Frew #1401
by Heiner Bade & Jim Shepherd
(this edition is the 1429th actually printed)

Release Date: 26 Nov 2004

  • Pages: 36
  • Price: $2.20 inc. GST
  • Cover: Heiner Bade & Jim Shepherd
  • No Phantom Forum in this issue

Fantomen Nr.5/1980
by Rolf Gohs

  • Prisoner 21
    • Script: Donne Avenell
    • Art: Heiner Bade
    • First published in Fantomen Nr.5/1980 by Semic, Sweden (now Egmont). Original cover shown on the left, thanks to Phantom Kingdom.

  • Message from the Publisher:
    The story in this issue first appeared in 1980 [in Sweden] but is new to the Frew Publications chronology. Prisoner 21, written by the late Donne Avanell and illustrated by Heiner Bade, was a totally new plot concept when it made its debut. Today, some 24 years later, it still stands out as a Phantom adventure idea well ahead of its time.
    The Phantom has often adopted secret identities, but this story marks the first time Lee Falk's famous character goes to so much trouble to have himself convicted as a criminal and be sentenced to prison. The reason for all of that is explained quite early in the story!
    Writer Avenell cleverly has The Phantom sentenced to a term in Boomsby Prison as "Prisoner Twenty One". The reason for his "name" is obviously that he is the current, 21st Phantom. Something of a private joke between The Phantom and President Luaga!
    Prison stories, especially in movies, are usually vaguely similar. Invariably, a new inmate has to face up to the resident criminal "heavy" who thinks he runs the institution and all too often, an apparently meek and mild inmate provides the brain power. Prisoner 21 has all these ingredients. It also has another clever idea which Avenell clearly borrowed from the famous Bird Man of Alcatraz movie which starred Burt Lancaster. And another - borrowed from the history of Alcatraz. The former federal prison, built on a rocky island in San Francisco Bay, was known as "The Rock" and was considered escapeproof. Well, almost escape-proof! There were many attempts by inmates to escape custody and although absolute proof has never been unearthed, it seems at least one attempt succeeded. Alcatraz housed many of America's most notorious criminals during its years of operation (1933-1963) and is now part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and a magnet for tourists.
    There is an enormous amount of information about Alcatraz and the movie Bird Man of Alcatraz available on the internet and if you haven't seen the movie, it is still relatively easy to find in speciality video and DVD stores. Alternatively, check out the programme listings on the more obscure Foxtel and Optus channels. It's amazing how often movies such as Bird Man of Alcatraz come up (invariably, I hasten to add, late at night!). I must point out that the depiction of Boomsby Prison in this story bears only a passing resemblance to Alcatraz.
    The artwork in this story is probably best described as being old-fashioned - almost quaint. Yet, Bade's stark simplicity works perfectly! There is, after all, little glamour associated with prisons and Bade's pen and brush work captures the cold and depressing atmosphere.
    Doubtless some enthusiasts will question how The Phantom managed to get away with using the name "Twenty-One" and having this highly improbable name entered into the court and prison records! Only the late Donne Avenell knew the answer to that! Somehow, he had to avoid The Phantom/Mr Walker being traced in later years and for that reason, has our hero allowed to wear gloves (no chance of fingerprints) and his trademark dark glasses. Best nobody dwells on those weaknesses in the plot! Phantom adventures depend on action, drama and mystery to hold the attention of readers and fine details often tend to get in the way of logic!

Jim Shepherd

Coming Soon:

Future issues planned as of 22 October 2004 (subject to change without notice):

Check New@Egmont, Frew Reprint Schedule, and The Missing Semic Stories for details of other upcoming stories.

My thanks to the staff of Frew Publications for providing this information.

More Frew stuff ...

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Bryan Shedden /
Last updated 20 November 2004