Interview: Kid Phantom iIllustrator Paul Mason talks The Phantom, hard work and inspirations ahead of Oz Comic-Con Melbourne

Many, many moons ago I was called upon to a great task, one that would give me the privilege of passing down something special to the next generation. I was given the task to buy a newspaper for my Nan, leading me to a newsagency where I found my first The Phantom comic in 1992 as ten years old. Twenty four years later, The Phantom has entered my life again with the emergence of the new series Kid Phantom.

I gave the first issue of Kid Phantom to my now Ten-Year-Old Son Logan, he loved it and is now also awaiting the second issue. The circle of life and all that!

Before he attends the Oz Comic-Con Melbourne this weekend, I was able to catch up with one of Kid Phantom’s creators and artists, Paul Mason or Dr Paul Mason (he has a Doctorate you know). We about our love of The Phantom, his love of being an Illustrator, what inspires him (podcasts), what doesn’t (being called an Artist) and continuing the legacy of Jim Shepherd and Frew Publications after 80 Years of The Phantom with the brand-new Kid Phantom, their first new Phantom Comic series in 50 years.

Glad to be able to speak with you today and I am very glad to be pulled back into the world of The Phantom after being away from it for so long.

Yes, I am the same, I collected a few as a kid and then I went off and got caught up with life and then discovered it again after my first Uni (University) course. Just before picking up this new work I found that a lot of my creations and characters had a lot of the proxies and archetypal elements that made up The Phantom anyway, it must have seeped into my subconsciousness and I’m not sure if I was aware of it or not.

I got a chance to read the first issue of Kid Phantom without having to rely on 3 boxes a day in my local paper, I loved it and so did Logan, my Ten-year-old boy who stayed up to read it last night. To me that is a fantastic start and I am sure your hoping that Kid Phantom reaches audiences as well as this?

I do, I do and that is fantastic that the young bloke dug it as well, I mean that was the primary reason of its existence in the first place. In Glenn’s words (Glenn Ford of Frew Publications), the Co-Director and Editor of the book “Our audience is slowly dying”, for lack of better words. People would go to these big conventions and say to us ‘My dad loves that’ or ‘My mother loves that’, so yeah, now you’ve got to read to a new audience, so it’s appropriate in that sense.

I really hope that love carries over the next issue (Issue 2) where Andrew Constant (comic Authour/Writer) makes his debut, I feel like the next issue is a bit of world building so it can continue into a long series. The first issue jumped straight into it, so now we have to lay the pieces, the foundation as they say, down for the long haul.

First thing’s first, to the uninitiated when can we get the ongoing issues of Kid Phantom?

It has gone to print, so we are looking at Oz-Comic Con Melbourne, the first week of July when that second issue will be available and the debut issue for Andrew Constant. I am excited too! I had a sneak peek at it last night and I dug the story.

I am always so critical of the way that letters are put down on the page because I am constantly always about trying to make sure the illustration tells the story as much as I can (without words).

Issue 2 is one of those things, like in a movie where it gets quiet for a bit and then a little bit of action and of course the third part (Issue 3) is where it all starts to go crazy!

You attended Supanova Comic-Con & Gaming Expo Sydney and your booth was so busy, I could not even get a second to say hi and introduce myself, which is great for you and Frew. Now you’re heading to Oz Comic-Con in Melbourne, are you expecting the same kind of massive turn out and possible RSI there as well?

That is a good question, no one really cared much for me until I started doing Kid Phantom, I was doing indie books and doing a publication for Gestalt Comics, they are the ones doing The Deep TV Series and a Cleverman comic book tie-in as well, I had almost finished a graphic novel (The Soldier Legacy) with them before Kid Phantom came along and I’ve been a guest at comic conventions for the last five years now, so building up a slow following has been good. Usually, if you’re not one of the big two (DC & Marvel) no one cares too much.

But now The Phantom (Kid Phantom) has come along and it’s getting a little bit of press, it is great. I think the fact Frew was there (Supanova) and it’s near their Sydney home base and it coincided with the Lee Falk Memorial Bengali Explorers Club annual dinner that they do, was why there was a little bit of a pilgrimage, a lot of Phantom readers from all over the country and overseas had come down and snapped up a lot of what Frew were doing.

So, who knows what the crowd numbers will be like in Melbourne, I’m hoping that word is getting out more and there will be a lot more attention regarding people knowing that it’s out (Kid Phantom) and coming along. We live in a world where there is so much sensory overload, so for anything to punch through and for anybody to acknowledge the existence of something that you have done as a passion as well as a job it’s very nice.

How long have you known you were going to be working for Frew and drawing the Kid Phantom series?

I had a bit of inkling in July of last year (2016). I was getting a plane to San-Diego and prepping some pitch material with a writer mate of mine Chris Sequeira and he contacted me and reminded me the talk we had about Frew and change of ownership, Chris had spoken to Frew a couple of years before the unfortunate passing of Jim Shepherd (The then Owner of Frew Publications) and pitched this idea of some Aussie stories, so it sounds like it was in the works for a while. Possibly my name was attached for a while, I remember being told by a guy that said, “I’ll tell you one day about the story of when I first met Jim Shepherd and he was holding a copy of your Soldier Legacy in his hands”!

So when Chris had put in the pitch that turned out to be ‘Phantom by Gaslight’ (new story in The Phantom comics), he attached my name to it, we had done a little story together for Blackout Comics which was kind of a precursor to this because it was a Victorian era Soldier Legacy character running around the streets of Victoria Era London, not unlike the ‘Phantom By Gaslight’ story, they already had Jason Paulos (Comic Illustrator) in mind who has been in the Australian comic scene for a very long time, so it was a fantastic choice anyway, but I guess they saw something in the stylized, animated, bastardized Jack Kirby, Harvey Kurtzman (Mad Magazine) style of drawing that I do and thought this looks really animated and possibly cool for something along the lines of this Kid Phantom pitch that we’ve got sitting here.

So, they said the folio is great, can you do some Phantom drawings and maybe a younger Phantom, like a Kid Phantom? We will send you a bit of a pitch later but see what you can do. There I am in San Diego and L.A. just scribbling away on the hotel tables with these ideas of what I wanted based on the pitch. The original pictures they send me was of this overgrown, ripped body-builder with an oversized head and a cheeky grin and I just thought no! I kind of think of mine as a big oversized German Shepherd puppy dog, lanky and excitable but it has massive paws and it’s going to grow up to be a hunter one day, that was the approach I took for Kid Phantom, this dangly Peter Parkerish version of Kid Phantom, essentially a Ten-Year-Old with the strength and abilities of a full-grown adult. It was neat to play around with.

That September I got handed an outline and that is when I met Glenn Ford for the first time at Sydney Comic-Con, he handed me those couple of pages that outlined their intention and the first story and that was it!

I heard you hate the word Artist, so what would you like people to call your particular set of skills when they approach you and your work especially when Kid Phantom series really takes off?

*Laughs* They can call me whatever they like, I just don’t like calling myself an artist it sounds really wanky! Many in the comic scene are very productive in the fan art department making the prints and talking about their next piece and being an artist while drawing and watching TV, no you’re doodling in a notepad. I listen to a lot of Podcasts with Comedians Bill Burr and Marc Maron, a lot of other comedians and they talk about some people that get up and do a sketch for five minutes on some late-night talk show and get paid $20 and then call themselves professional comedians.

There are dudes that have been writing for ten to fifteen years and writing their sets, defining their craft, go to all the shitty clubs and try out their jokes and they don’t quite work, until you see them on a TV special and they have refined it to that point and they’re what I would call a professional comedian. So, yeah, it’s that term people use and It irks me, I don’t mind using Illustrator or Cartoonist or even scribbler, wrist monkey, I dunno, but people can really call me whatever they like that’s ok!

You mentioned along the inter-web that being part of The Human Fly comic a while back was the closest you would ever get to working for Marvel? Was that an ambition of yours from the start to get into major mainstream Marvel or DC comics? Or now your simply happy living the dream with Frew, Kid Phantom and your very own Soldier Legacy series?

It’s funny, it used to be and I feel like it was a little bit naïve perhaps, I know guys that are like ‘I just did my first comic and in five years I am going to be drawing for the big two’. I was saying to these kids once in my Uni class, some people will sit around all day doing pin-ups and drawing Spider-Man and then they expect Marvel will call them up one day out of the blue and say, ‘Hey can you draw a Spider-Man for us?’ and it’s like ‘Hey can you draw a building too? Because if you can’t draw a building you’re not going to be able to draw for Spider-Man’, you must be able to fill it with all the support cast and offices and chairs, the mundane stuff as well, the stuff that makes the universe real. I slowly learned that maybe the big two weren’t for me because you had to conform to a certain visual house style that might not necessarily suit.

I also figured if the major comic book industry can screw Jack Kirby (a late American Comic Book Artist) over they can screw anybody over. It’s not the be all and end all, there is a world outside the big two you can draw comics for. Europe’s comic industry is arguably bigger but we just don’t hear about it. A lot of it is creator work outside the super-hero genre as well in that sense. So, I became kind of content, I was doing this book for Gestalt Comics and having a good time on it, it’s a western with some supernatural elements and Gestalt has a following and people will see it, so I was content. Then when the opportunity of Kid Phantom came along and I was like this is the thing that got me started in the first place, I now feel honoured that I’m part of this big history. I went to Frew headquarters the other day and I was looking at all the original artwork and images of all the previous creators, I’m just honoured in the sense that I am playing in the sandbox of a character that predates even Superman!

The Human Fly was good, it was fun and didn’t turn into anything bigger and we do keep in touch, but I am content with where I am now.

Having a Doctorate in Visual Arts and being a lecturer, how do you even find the time to do all of this and what do you do for a hobby when you’re not drawing or attending University?

Yes, it has been hard. Not only am I lecturing my own course but I am now convening other courses, so I am managing other staff and I have high expectations, so I must get used to the fact that not everyone is as prepared as I would be. Like being prepared and reading things and doing things on time, so I sometimes feel like I’m herding cats in that sense. It is a lot of juggling, admin and paperwork and students demanding your time. Some nights now, I might not get to start drawing till 1am or 2am and then finally crawl into bed at 4 or 5am. I try to give my loved ones like my partner Amanda the time when she is home. One of my hobbies is Tae-Kwon-Do I am a 4th Degree Black Belt, so I have that focus and fortitude to push through even when I don’t feel like doing something.

Music that inspires you while your pencilling?

It all depends on what mood I am in, I listen to a lot of podcasts of comedians and love the behind the scenes of late night talk shows and old-school heavy weight boxing like Muhammad Ali and that era of fighters I listen to. Music though, Metallica or Black Label Society and sometimes it’s Queen or Limp Bizkit (shame of me), otherwise it is things like movie reviews from reputable sources.

The Phantom Pop Vinyl is now in my son’s room on display as well as The Kid Phantom Poster, glad to have The Phantom and Kid Phantom back in our lives and we are looking forward to Paul Mason’s wonderfully illustrated Issue 2 and Andrew Constant’s Kid Phantom writing debut of course. It is going to kick-ass!

Thank you!

Kid Phantom Issue # 1 is available now from all reputable comic book retailers or directly off Frew Publications HERE.  Kid Phantom Issue # 2 will be released around the same weekend of Oz Comic-Con Melbourne the very same event that you can also catch up with Kid Phantom‘s Paul Mason and Andrew Constant and meet some of the rest of the team of Frew Publications!

You can follow Paul Mason’s journey on his Twitter @pmason83  and Andrew Constant @AConstantWords for all things awesome and Kid Phantom! You can also follow me on @DaHunter07 and of course our very own The Iris @TheIrisAU 

Oz Comic-Con Melbourne takes place at Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre on July 1st and 2nd 2017 check out the website HERE!