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The ghost who walks: a cultural history of the Phantom comic book in Australia, India and Sweden
thesisposted on 17.02.2017, 00:26 by Patrick, Kevin John
The Phantom, conceived as a newspaper comic strip in 1936, is the forerunner of the comic-book superhero genre which today underpins vast, multi-billion dollar franchises that span publishing, audio-visual entertainment and licensed merchandise. Yet despite the character’s American provenance, The Phantom has enjoyed consistently greater popularity amongst international audiences, most notably in Australia, India and Sweden. The paradox of The Phantom, whereby its relative commercial failure in the US was offset by its phenomenal success in these culturally distinct foreign markets, forms the basis for a fascinating case-study that can provide fresh insights into the production, dissemination and consumption of popular media. Charting the publication of The Phantom comic book across international markets since the mid-1930s creates an opportunity for delving into the largely unexplored pre-history of modern media licensing industries. Examining the complex, intersecting political, economic and temporal factors that have influenced The Phantom’s popularity in Australia, India and Sweden provides a nuanced study of the complex cultural flow of a specific media property, and raises questions about the dominance of textual methodologies in non-denunciatory examinations of popular media. Surveying attitudes towards The Phantom amongst Australian, Indian and Swedish audiences brings a greater international dimension to the study of comic fandom that enriches the existing body of audience reception literature, which, to date, has been confined to a largely Anglo-American focus. By intertwining critical political economy with media history, coupled with the use of audience studies and textual analysis, the cultural history of The Phantom comic book in Australia, India and Sweden adopts theoretical frameworks and methodologies rarely brought to bear in the study of comic books, to bring a richer, multi-perspectival approach to the burgeoning field of comics studies.