Phantom bids Norway farewell
After 80 years, the Fantomet comic strip will fade out this May
M. Michael Brady
Fantomet, the Norwegian translation of The Phantom, a comic strip featuring the feats of a fictional costumed superhero crime-fighter, is the oldest of its genre in Norway. It first appeared in color in A-Magasinet, the Aftenposten weekly magazine supplement, on Nov. 26, 1939, just six months after the strip in color first appeared in the United States on May 28, 1939.
A daily newspaper black-and-white strip followed, a translation of the American daily strip first published on Feb. 17, 1936. Fantomet first appeared in the afternoon edition of Aftenposten, the only Norwegian newspaper that then had two editions a day. With time, it migrated to the morning edition. Around the world, the Phantom became a top-selling comic strip; by 1966, it was published in 583 newspapers and read by more than 100 million people daily. Starting in 1964, Egmont Publishing, Norway’s largest magazine publisher, offered comic book editions of Fantomet. Today, there’s a “Phantom” entry in the English-language Wikipedia and a “Fantomet” entry in both the Norwegian Bokmål Wikipedia and the Norwegian Nynorsk Wikipedia.
But with time, the popularity of Fantomet waned. After the turn of the millennium, readership declined rapidly. That led to Aftenposten announcing that the last strip would be published in May 2019 and to Egmont Publishing suspending the comic book after the current one. Market forces aside, Fantomet exemplified its era. It was a fascinating collage of chivalry, mysticism, drama, superstition, and fairly tale, with an admix of historical accounts of the feats of Phantoms of the past, from the library of the skull cave where the Phantom lived.
This article originally appeared in the April 5, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American.