Today, I am very privileged to bring you another interview with a Phantom creator- Mr. Antonio Lemos. Antonio has been the regular cover artist for Australia's FREW Comics' Phantom since 1993. He has dozens of Phantom covers to his credit. Antonio agreed to take a few minutes out of his busy schedule to do a short, e-mail interview with me:
Ghost Who Blogs:When and how did you first become interested in art?
Antonio Lemos: I remember drawing since I was in primary school, in Uruguay, but I think it was only when I started high school that I contemplated "doing something about it". Paid tuition in any shape of form was out of the question; my mother, my six siblings and me were barely surviving ,so, no chance in hell of diverting any money I could make into pursuing artistic endeavours. It would even look very odd as no one in my family had any interest in art, and probably regarded my constant drawing as some sort of juvenile fancy that will certainly pass when the raw realities of life and its challenges, started to bite.
I travelled to the capital Montevideo before finishing high school and applied for an apprenticeship at a Naval school. I failed my first attempt, as I couldn’t complete the physical tests on the allocated time. But eventually I was admitted and thus my life as a sailor began. Little I knew it was going to last for …23 years!
It was during my time in the navy when I met a journalist from one of the largest newspaper in Uruguay, and was fortunate enough to be offered a spot in the same newspaper as a freelance illustrator. In between my trips with the navy and some long periods patrolling at sea, I continue to work in that capacity, and then started publishing a comic strip of my creation, called Rocco.
But all this time, although reading art books and copying other artists as we all do in the beginning, I tried to teach myself to draw and improve my technique to reach new levels in my job. Self taught? You bet.
GWB: Were you familiar with The Phantom when you lived in Uruguay? Were you a fan of The Phantom before you became a Phantom artist? AL: I don’t remember being a Phantom fan when I lived in Uruguay. I was familiar with the character, sure, but not very fond of the artists doing it at the time.
GWB:What drew you to Australia? AL: I reached an early peak in my naval career. And I knew that if I stayed in Uruguay I’ll eventually have to retire on an ever diminishing pension and I wanted to explore other options for me and my family’s sake. I found out that there was a Uruguayan guy in charge of a Spanish newspaper in Sydney, and I sent him a comic strip that we have done with Eduardo Barreto, whom you surely know from The Titans and Judge Parker. They published the strip for one year in the newspaper, and at the end of it sent me a work contract.
GWB:Do you prefer the Phantom in red, blue or purple?
AL: I am more familiar with the purple uniform. I think the blue looks good too, but again, to me the right colour is purple. They used it on the movie, so it might have been Lee’s favourite colour too.
GWB: How did you come to draw The Phantom professionally ?
AL: I met the man who was doing the lettering for The Phantom in 1993. He told me that the artist doing the covers had passed away, and prompted me to apply for the job. I did, and the rest, as they say, is history. As for doing it professionally, remember I had a number of years of work in newspapers and books, so by the time The Phantom came I was quite ready to meet the challenge.
GWB: Who is your favorite Phantom artist?
AL: No favourite Phantom artist. There are certain things that I admire in some and certain things that I admire in others. And artists from all kinds of mediums have influenced me, not just comic book artists. I try to be the best I can in every job, but I do not aim at duplicating the work of greats such as Felmang or Barry or my good friend Sal Velluto.
GWB:Do you know a lot of your fellow Phantom artists? AL: I spent an evening with Felmang at his studio in Rome once, and I met Sy Barry here in Sydney a few years back. I corresponded with Lindhal in Sweden and stayed with other artists in Madrid but didn’t meet Carlos Cruz, as he lives somewhere in the east coast of Spain.
GWB:Favorite comic project?
AL: The next one.
GWB: Have you been approached by Dynamite Entertainment about doing any art for their newly-acquired Phantom comics?
AL: No, I have not been approached to do the Phantom outside Australia. There have been what could be regarded as opportunities but I have been a bit reluctant to act on them, as I do not want to live by deadlines again. I love travelling and there where a few places I wanted to see before my 70th birthday, and I did. Greece is the last one on my list, and God willing, I’ll be there in October this year.
GWB: How do you feel about the current state of the comic industry? What, if anything, would you do to improve it?
AL: I think that things changed dramatically since the Golden Era of comics in the fifties, but the genre will continue to exist, no matter what. It is evolving into something different, and the multitude of movies made with characters from comic books speaks by itself of the popularity of the medium. Artists will have to evolve, too, and move with the times, to accompany the metamorphosis.
GWB:What advice would you give to aspiring comic artists? AL: The one I painfully learned by myself; practice, practice practice. Whether you are studying with the best in the business or battling it alone in the wilderness , nothing will take the place of discipline, observation and hard work. Don’t ever think that you have “arrived”; there is always something new to learn, and different ways to express what YOU feel.
GWB:What would you most like others to know about yourself?
AL: That I always try my best. Some might like the end results, some might think it’s awful. But I try to show that no one could be a harder critic than myself.
I'd like to extend my sincere thanks to Antonio for granting me this interview, and also to Jungle Patrolman Sal Velluto who graciously put me in touch with Mr. Lemos.
Antonio was also kind enough to send me a hand-picked gallery of his work for our enjoyment...
Before there was Superman or Batman or Spider-Man, there was The Phantom. Playwright and cartoonist Lee Falk introduced The Phantom to the world in 1936.
Since then, The Phantom has run continuously in newspapers around the world, gaining a following in Europe, Asia, South America, Australia and New Zealand. He has spawned films adaptations, paperback novels, an animated television show and several comic book series.
I have been drawn to the Phantom by his unique backstory-one of the best in sequential media. This blog will let me share with others the exciting world of "The Ghost Who Walks, Who Cannot Die...The Phantom!!"
The Phantom and all related characters, indicia, etc. are copyright 2010 King Features Syndicate.
All scans and art are taken from my own comics except where otherwise noted and are utilized under the legal understanding of fair use.
Now YOU Can dress Like The Phantom and Impress The Ladies!!
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" 'The Phantom' is a marvelous role model because he wins against evil. Evil does not triumph against the Phantom... He hates dictatorship, and is in favor of democracy. He is also opposed to any violation of human rights." -Lee Falk