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Charlton Comics
Last Updated June 4, 2014

To see a larger version of any artwork on these pages, click on the picture

D on did his first professional work at Charlton Comics in 1974. Charlton Comics was a family owned company out of Derby CT that published comics because it was cheaper than letting the printing presses they owned sit dormant. We owe the existence of Charlton Comics to their presses, but these very same presses were the bane of the company. To put it mildly, they printed some pretty shoddy looking books. The colors were never up to industry standards and at times the blacks were washed out and ugly. Having said that, they also where the home of some of the industries biggest talent, like Steve Ditko, Jim Aparo, Dick Giordano, Joe Staton, John Byrne, and yes, Don Newton.

In the mid-70s, Charlton, under the guidance of Editor George Wildman started putting together a fairly respectable line of comics. They avoided superheroes (with the exception of the Nicola Cuti/Joe Staton E-Man) and instead focused their attention on other genres, such as action/adventure, westerns, science fiction, and horror. These were fields where Charlton had a chance of competing and they did so very nicely. To bolster their line-up of artists, Charlton hired Joe Staton, John Byrne, Tom Sutton, Wayne Howard, Dan Adkins, and a guy by the name of Newton. Like I think everyone else, I only collected Charlton comics sporadically.

Don's first work for Charlton was a seven-page horror story in Ghost Manor #18, March, 1974 called "The Empty Room," written by Joe Gill. I personally don't find anything wrong with the art on this strip, but Don thought it was "horrible." "The way I rushed through the job, I thought they'd hate it!" Don once wrote. As it turned out, everyone at Charlton loved Don's work on this story. "The Empty Room" suffers from bad printing and really poor coloring, things that Don complained about throughout his entire tenure at Charlton. The two pages below are representative of Don's work here.

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The first two pages of Don's first "pro" comic work from Ghost Manor #18.

The next month would see the release of Don's second strip for Charlton. "The Treasure Seekers," written by Joe Gill, appeared in The Many Ghosts of Doctor Graves #45, May 1974. Don was much more pleased with his art on this story, calling it "500% better" that his art on "The Empty Room." The Charlton brass agreed. Editor Nicola Cuti wrote to Don:

Joe Gill and myself have been looking over your story: "The Treasure Seekers" and we felt compelled to write you a note. The craftsmanship of the art is superb. Each character is unique and interesting, not a department store manikin and the dreariness of the swamp is unmistakable.

Please continue to turn out your art on this level of quality and there is no doubt in our minds that you will soon be rising to the top of the profession.

I look forward to when you will illustrate one of my stories.

In my opinion, Don went a little cartoony with his art for this story. The influence of Will Eisner's Spirit is obvious, particularly on the two "treasure seekers, " Tucker Joe and Alvin. But Don was improving on his story-telling abilities which is where this strip really out-shines his prior effort. See for yourself in the four pages presented here.

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The Eisner influence is obvious in the final four panels on this page. As the story moves from town to the swamp, the mood become more ominous. Stark light sources and heavy shadows became a staple of Don's work. A real treat! Here is a page not destroyed by the Charlton color department!

Gm19.jpg (47803 bytes) The next issue of Ghost Manor, #19, June 1974 had two one-page features. The first introduced the character of Baron Weirwulf and his mysterious library from which he would read us facts about "vampires, werewolves, monsters, UFO's and magic" which were promised to appear in the pages of Ghost Manor, Ghostly Tales, Ghostly Haunts, The Many Ghosts of Dr. Graves, Haunted, and Haunted Love. It seems Don was hired to provide filler material for the horror books and the other page in this issue is the first such filler, entitled, "Vampires of the World!" I recall seeing this same introduction to Baron Weirwulf's Library in other Charlton books and not buying them because, as the French guys in the castle said in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," "I already got one."

Ghost Manor #20, which skipped a month and was dated September 1974 featured what I think is the only three-page Baron Weirwulf story. It is entitled, "A Report of UFO's," and like all of the Baron Weirwulf fillers, it was written by Nicola Cuti and penciled and inked by Don. Like most of Don's work at Charlton, the printing and the color are really bad, but the art is wonderful. We have all three pages here, two of which are scanned from the original art (our thanks to Howard Siegel for the beautiful pages). What is interesting is that Howard owns pages one and three, but appears on page two, panel three! On page three, you can see the influences of Berni Wrightson and the many Neal Adams' DC horror comic covers. Take a close look at some really wonderful Newton art.

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Don employs heavy use of his "fandom" cross-hatch shading technique to this page. The poor coloring and printing really mars this page masking a lot of the detail Don put into it. This page is a real gem and features some really great inks by Don.

Don would finish out the year doing Baron Weirwulf pages for Charlton, but Charlton was making the most of Don's limited output. The one-page Baron Weirwulf introduction appeared in Ghostly Haunts #40, September 1974, Haunted #17, October 1974 and in The Many Ghosts of Doctor Graves #47, also in October 1974.

Ghostly Haunts #40 also featured a one-page Baron Weirwulf's Library piece entitled "A Word About Vampires and Werewolves." Ghostly Tales #111, October 1974 contained another one-page Baron Weirwulf's Library piece entitled "The Devil's Sea," while Haunted #17, October 1974 carried a one-pager explaining "How to Become a Werewolf." The Many Ghosts of Doctor Graves #47, also in October 1974 contained the one-pager "The Abominable Snowman." The year finished out for Don and the good Baron in Ghostly Tales #112 with the one-page "The Lock Ness Monster." All of the Baron Weirwulf fillers were written by Nick Cuti.

Ghostly Haunts #42 Don started off the year with The Many Ghosts of Doctor Graves #49, January 1975. It has a nice Don Newton cover (Don Newton fan extraordinaire, Scott Moore sent in a beautiful scan of the original art to this cover) and a nine-page story written by Joe Mollov, Penciled by Don and inked by Dan Adkins, called "Death in the Storm!" This was the first time I saw Don inked by someone else, and although not as nice as when he inked his own stuff, Adkins would turn out to be one of the better inkers Don ever had as they would continue their working relationship in later years at DC. The very same month brought us Ghostly Haunts #42, which sported a cover by Don  and a nine-page story written by Nicola Cuti and penciled and inked by Don called "The Man Who Hunted Satan." This story suffers some from some really poor printing but still manages to deliver some nice Newton moments here and there. Scott Moore also sent in a beautiful scan of the original art to this cover. Just wonderful Scott!

February 1975 brought us Midnight Tales #11 and an absolutely wonderful six-page story, "Orion," written by Nicola Cuti and penciled and inked by Don. The entire issue was devoted to stories featuring mythological gods, and "Orion" is a story of lust and revenge. I think it is one of Don's finest strips during his horror period.  

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Two pages of Don's wonderful "Orion" from Midnight Tales #11.

1975 was the year that Don really exploded on the Charlton scene, he was everywhere. March brought two books with Newton artwork, including Don's first painting for Charlton. Haunted Love #8, March 1975 featured a cover painting by Don that showed there was a lot more facets to Mr. Newton than first met the eye. The cover is a beautifully rendered gothic love scene of a man professing his love under a harvest moon, while a ghostly apparition looks on. Inside there is a single full page ad featuring Don's work. It features Dr. Graves and the hosts of all the other Charlton horror books congratulating Baron Weirwulf for being given his own book, Baron Weirwulf's Haunted Library.

Gm22.jpg (33811 bytes) March of 1975 also saw the release of Ghost Manor #22, which features three Newton treats. First is a rather pedestrian cover by Don, which really suffers from some over-bearing coloring, which if you can get past you can still enjoy the art. Next is a one page Baron Weirwulf piece on Thomas James, a young printer who completed an unfinished Dickens novel after being spiritually contacted by the late author. It features some nice Newton figures. Finally, we have "Mr. Beazely's Ghosts," a nine-page strip written by Joe Gill and penciled and inked by Don. This strip features some very good work by Don but is marred by some shoddy printing on Charlton's part. Still, the page presented here shows you the quality of work Don was putting out at the time.

April of 1975 saw the release of two books with work by Don. First was Midnight Tales #12. It contained an excellent six-page story written by Nicola Cuti, penciled by Don and inked by Dan Adkins. "The Snow Men!" represents one of the best Newton/Adkins collaborations. The tale takes place in the Himalayan mountains and concerns a mountain-climbing expedition, yetis, mystic palaces, dancing girls, just a whole heck of a lot for Don to sharpen his pencils on.

The other Newton feature that month was Baron Weirwulf's Haunted Library #21 (actually Haunted #21 but the first issue to have BWHL on the cover). It featured another Newton cover painting, this one of the good Baron, an introductory page inside by Don, a one-page Baron Weirwulf page on "The Great Houdini," and it finished with a house ad for the newly rechristened book. The interior page looks like it was whipped out fairly quickly and suffers from some dreadful colors and another piss-poor printing job from Charlton. They had problems with Don's work the entire time he worked there. I think Don's stuff suffered more than most because he relied so much on shadows. His pages had a lot of black to them and the Charlton presses just could not reproduce them with any consistency.

Don's contributions to the first issue of Baron Wierwulf's Haunted Library, a book featuring his character creation.

Don was averaging two Charlton books a month by now, one with a story or fillers and one with a cover painting. The May 1975 issue of Ghost Manor #23 contains two pages by Don. The first is the same full page ad that was in Haunted Love #8 congratulating the Baron on his new book. The second is Baron Weirwulf's Haunted Library filler on the moon. This issue also sports a wonderful ink and watercolor cover by Tom Sutton. Don was not the only one painting covers at Charlton in those days. The second Newton treat of the month was the cover of Ghostly Tales #115. It featured Don's rendition of an archeologist in an Egyptian tomb, facing off against a huge snake. The hieroglyphics on the wall spell NEWTON if you turn the cover upside down. Don did one better this month, fitting in another cover painting, this one for Haunted Love #9. The only copy of this book I have been able to find has a very dark cover, since printing varied so much between Charlton runs, its hard to say how nice this cover actually is.

Ghostly Tales #115

Haunted Love #9

Ghostly Tales #115 features this great cover of an archeologist in an Egyptian tomb facing a giant snake. I love this painting. Haunted Love  #9 features Don's second painting of the month. this is not one of my favorites, but the muddled printing may be the culprit, not Don.

bwhl22.jpg (55160 bytes) June saw the release of three books with Don's wonderful art, including one of my all-time favorite cover paintings. But the month started out with Midnight Tales #13. It featured a six-page story, "The Scarab" written by Nicola Cuti, penciled by Don and inked by Dan Adkins. Not as good as their work on "The Snow Men!" the previous issue, it is still a good example of Don and Dan working together. The second book was Baron Weirwulf's Haunted Library #22, which featured a cover painting by Don, a few small Baron figures and heads introducing stories, and a one-page Baron Weirwulf's Library filler on "Man-Made Monsters." The third Newton treat that month was the shocker. Don painted the cover to Teen Confessions #89 and it is just one of my favorite paintings of his. In the foreground a couple walks hand in hand, the man kissing the girls hair, but her eyes are turning behind her, to the long-haired biker. I may be all alone on this one, but I just love this painting.

Teen Confessions #89 features this great biker cover which is just one of my favorite Newton paintings.  I love Don's use of color on this one; I just find it very striking. Teen Confessions   #90 the very next issue is not one of my favorites and it looks like Charlton did some editing around the figures' heads, as if they removed something from the background.

monhunt1.jpg (161581 bytes) In August 1975 Don did his last horror cover. This was for the first issue of Monster Hunters and featured a beautiful Newton painting of the Loch Ness Monster. The cover was taken directly form a panel of the story Hoax by Nicola Cuti and drawn by Paul Kirchner. It is interesting to compare the cover to the interior art, as Don actually followed the interior page quite closely. The monster is attacking three characters on the rocky shore, a young man, an older man with one leg an a crutch and a young woman. The monster is completely different, but the old man is in the exact same pose as inside and the young man is in the same pose as the young woman inside. Given that so much is the same, it is interesting to see the difference in the two pictures. Don's is filled with terror and the interior one is not. This month also saw Don's second and last Teen Confessions cover painting for issue #90. I don't like this one as much as the one he did for #89 and it definitely looks like Charlton edited the background some as there is a line around the heads of the figures. Oh well, it's still not a bad painting at all. 

September of 1975 saw the last of the new horror work that Don would do for Charlton and it appeared in Midnight Tales #14.The six-page tale of time travel entitled "Love Thy Neighbor" was written by Nicola Cuti and penciled and inked by Don. It features a couple of very nice pages. Roy Thomas seems to be the model for the character Harley Davenport . This was a nice peek at what was to soon come from Don. The art is a bit uneven in places, but has a very nice opening page. Maybe Don was just storing up his energy, because he would be needing it. Don was about to break loose in a most unforgettable way... The Phantom was coming!

Midnight tales #14 featured the last new horror work Don would do for Charlton. Roy Thomas seems to be the model for the character Harley Davenport. This is the original art for Midnight tales #14, page #1, a beautiful piece of artwork that I am happy to say is a part of my private collection.

October 1975 was the month that Don Newton made the comic industry stand up and take notice as his vision of the Phantom burst onto bookstore shelves across the county in issue #67. Since Don was stylistically reinventing the character, it was all too appropriate that Don's first work on the Phantom would be a retelling of his origin. After all, how could we go forward if we didn't first know where we were and how we got there? From the beautiful cover painting through 23 pages of story Don made it clear that the Phantom was alive and kicking, the jungle avenger, "the Ghost who Walks" had returned.

Although the story, "Triumph of Evil!," is attributed to Joe Gill, Don would later claim that he "re-wrote 50% of [the] #67 script," including all of the crucial "resurrection" scene on page 17 and the solemn ending of page 23.  The fact was that, within a few months, Charlton would basically give control of the Character to Don, lock, stock, and domino mask.

phan67.jpg (44567 bytes) Don knew that he was taking a chance with the character, but he had an idea of how he wanted to present the Phantom and he stuck to it. Don wrote, "I almost have the Phantom story [(#67)] penciled at the rate of one page a day. I can promise one thing; it will be unlike anything ever done on the Phantom before... Whether that's good or bad will have to be judged by history."

Don would pencil and ink all of his Phantom work and would supply a cover painting for every issue he drew. Looking back over these books, particularly the first few issues Don did, I am struck by how different they seem from the work he was doing on the horror books. Don did use a different style on the Phantom than on his other work. A lot of the art in the first few stories seems simplified in construction, not as much detail as Don had been putting into his work. But when he did go for detail, he seems to return to his black and white style he had mastered in his fandom years. The result is an odd hybrid style, very textured, yet at times very simplistic. Now all of this may have simply been the result of deadline paranoia, a young artist doing his first book-length title in his spare time (remember Don was still a teacher through all this), devising a new, simpler style to help him adjust to those ever-present deadlines.

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Page 3 of Don's debut on the Phantom. Notice the standard Newton heavy lighting and the use of pen cross-hatching to add texture. A throwback to Don's days in fandom. The final panel of Don's first Phantom story, Heavy lighting, silhouettes, jungle darkness, billowing clothes, and wonderful staging, the trademarks of Don Newton at his best.

December 1975 brought with it a new Newton Phantom with a new writer. Phantom #68, "The Beasts of Madame Kahn" was written by Nicola Cuti and most likely heavily re-written by Don. The cover was another gem. It features a very Frazetta influenced Phantom crouching in the jungle grass preparing to fend off an attack from a cat-like creature. The cover was very nice and boon to the book as a whole as the inside effort was not up to par for Don. However nice the cover was, Don was very displeased with the printing of it, "Yeah, I just saw Phantom #68 and couldn't believe the cover! I actually made a special effort to paint it light in hopes of outfoxing their printer. No one, I guess, can outfox the printer it seems."

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The cover to Phantom #68 as printed by Charlton. As Don lamented, the cover is very dark.   The original art for the cover to Phantom #68. Now this is more like it!  

This is maybe Don's weakest Phantom artistically although he personally felt it was  "much better than 67... I was not so rushed." The interior of this book, 22 pages in all, seems very rushed and although Don thought the art looked better, he complained that "the interior color was horrible as ever." I'm sure Don was going through fits trying to meet the Phantom deadlines and it shows. There is a noticeable lack of detail in this book. But also, the story-telling seems forced at times. However, a rushed Newton is still Newton and the book is well worth owning.

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Phantom #68, page 7. Even though Don appeared to be rushing, he could still put together some fairly interesting figures and was still relying on stark light sources to generate interesting shadows. Phantom #68, page 8. Though rushed, Don's pages were alive with interesting characters and settings.

It would be four months before the next Newton Phantom would arrive on the newsstands. The Charlton people were trying to appease Don, whose art they were quite taken by, and Don had a lot of gripes. That he was not happy with the stories he was getting was obvious, since he was re-writing so much of them. He was also unhappy with how dark his covers were printing, the interior printing, and the interior coloring. He knew he could do nothing about the printing, but he felt the interior coloring could be done better and he knew people he trusted to do it. It appears that there was a protracted disagreement with Charlton over the book that Don eventually won. The fallout from this was the missing of the deadline for issue #69, Don having a hand in all future stories, and Bill Pearson being hired to color the interiors of the Phantom. Don was able to deliver a beautiful, beautiful cover painting for issue #69 , even though he had no hand on the interior art. So, although we had to wait four months for the next Newton, it would be well worth the wait.

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The cover to Phantom #69 as printed by Charlton. The cover is very dark and washed out in appearance.   The original art for the cover to Phantom #69. This is the prize of my personal collection.  

phan70.JPG (44151 bytes) Issue #70 of the Phantom is quite simply my favorite Phantom issue. It is known far and wide as the "Bogart" issue, as the story stars Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, and Claude Rains and is a mixture of "Casablanca," "African Queen," "The Maltese Falcon," and "Treasure of the Sierra Madre." Don put it like this, "The Phantom meets Humphrey Bogart, Sydney Greenstreet and a bunch of others as they seek a fabulous golden idol in Casablanca!!! Sounds like a comedy? Not really. It's a tight mystery based on four old Bogart films that Pearson and I wrote. This will be the first superhero comic in a long time with a plot rather than 20 pages of gang war!"

Many have speculated on the substitution of Lauren Bacall for Ingrid Bergman in the Casablanca cast. Howard Siegel remembers Don discussing this, "The Casablanca caricatures, believe it or not, gave Don trouble. He told me that he spent a half hour trying to nail down Ingrid Bergman, without luck. Hence the Bacall substitution." The way Pearson wrote the story it made no difference who physically played the part. 

The story, "The Mystery of the Mali Ibex," is attributed to Bill Pearson, and Don called the book "a two man show. Pearson wrote it (with me hanging over his shoulder saying, "No, No, you can't do that!") lettered it and will color it. You know what I do!?" Although attributed solely to Pearson, Don would write, "The original idea came when Pearson wrote some Phantom story summaries for me and at the end of one decided to be funny and said, "and in the end the Phantom stops in Casablanca where he meets Bogart, etc., etc." When I read this I thought he was nuts, but then I began to see a possible story. So I called him up and he thought I was nuts! I suggested we string several old Bogart movies together and build a story around their elements. Well, he liked that idea and went to work on a script. He'd bring the story over and we'd tear it apart and he'd go and write it again... and again and again! The final result was called a "classic" by several people at Charlton and I hope Pearson gets his just recognition for this really original job."

The information quoted above comes directly from letters Don sent to his friend, columnist Howard Siegel. I only know what I read in Don's own words (as I have said many times, I did not know Don Newton) and these letters are just that. If you click on the images below you can see fairly good, readable copies of the letter I used as my source.

The only reason I am bringing this up is that the correctness of the above has come into question. Regarding this story Bill Pearson should know as much about it as Don Newton did and Bill Pearson says that Don was inflating his contribution to "The Mystery of the Mali Ibex." Pearson says, and I am quoting from a letter to the Editor of Back Issue! magazine, "In the case of The Phantom #70, “The Curse of the Mali Ibex,” I wrote the story, sent the script to Don, and he illustrated it masterfully. He didn’t contribute the script or see it until he got it in the mail, and he didn’t make any changes on his own. I didn’t “bring the story over and we’d tear it apart and start over…” because I was in Connecticut and he was in Arizona."

Don's Charlton years are very confusing to me as people kept moving around (Adkins is in Phoenix then in Reading and the same seemed to be true of Pearson) and the roles of each were unclear to me. I also have no reason to believe that Bill Pearson is not telling the truth, while Don? Well, lets just say that Don was known to stretch the truth from time to time. I think Don knew that   "The Mystery of the Mali Ibex"   was a pretty special story and Don liked to brag. Most damning of all is Pearson's assertion that he was in Connecticut when the story was written; that does make it hard for Bill to "bring the story over." This stretching of the truth by Don may also be why he didn't want Siegel to print any of this letter.   

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Pearson and Newton's motley crew: Bogart, Bacall, Greenstreet, Lorre, and Rains. The story is also populated with 21 or 22 "personalities" from Don's life including Don himself in the very last panel.

So, despite what Don wrote, this is a marvelous Bill Pearson story, a truly classic issue of The Phantom.  What I really enjoy about it is not just the Bogart tribute, which is handled wonderfully, but the writing all around is superior. The pacing, the connection between dialog, caption, and art all telling us a piece of the story is really wonderful. The characterizations are very rich, particularly the Greenstreet character, Max Grotzman. See for yourself:

phan70_9.jpg (83093 bytes) The Phantom posing as a civilian named Walker, realizes that even if the girl does have the Ibex, It will never be safe until the others who seek it are completely stopped.
Phantom:: Just found her in time to make a reservation on the same plane... "Shall we share a cab?"
Betty: "Why not?"
Phantom: She might have lined up a fence by now...or heard from Clifford!


This is the place for intrigue, without doubt. Everyone in Casablanca takes risks these days, and it's a hotbed of big schemers on every level...


One of the biggest operators in this crowded city, in more ways than one, is a man named Max Grotzman. His most public possession, the Catalina Club...


Few people anymore ask Max how he acquired his wealth. Those who do are satisfied with his answers, however, for Max Grotzman has the gift of gab... and infinite patience.
Max: "This fowl is half raw! Is that cook drunk again?!"
Lorrie: "He didn't show up at all today. His mother's taking his place, but she's got one arm in a cast."


Max: "That's no excuse! They're BOTH fired!"
Henchman: "Classy blonde just came in with a tall stranger, and Rick hasn't taken his eyes off them."


Max: "That IS interesting... Does she look familiar?"
Henchman: "Can't tell."


Max: "Rick is a man who usually sizes up people with one glance, but he's definitely checking them out with some care..."

 

phan70_10.jpg (96193 bytes) If she had a pressing appointment, it wasn't apparent. They had made the rounds according to their cabbie's suggestions, and Betty appeared equally at ease everywhere... That is, until they reached the Catalina!
Roulette Player: "Hey, fella! That's my number! Pay attention to business, will ya?!"

More than one pair of eyes notice the double-take when she recognizes the house man behind the roulette wheel.
Phantom: She's surprised to find Clifford here. So they're NOT working together!

Max: "They know each other, alright. I want her alive, and bruised as little as possible."

Max: "Doing business with a beautiful woman is such a rare treat at my age that it would be a shame to ruin our first meeting with ill feelings or black and blue welts.

Henchman: "We'll be gentle, but...shall we say...persuasive."

 

 

Beside the wonderful writing, these two pages also show off Pearson's superior colors and his very tight lettering. This was the first book done with Don in total control and you could see that everything he was doing was an improvement on what had gone before. Nothing Don could do could improve the printing though. Don was particularly upset with the printing of the cover of issue #70 . "Well, you've got to admit that the cover on #70 stank. Not my fault though... they didn't even come close to the original." Don's main gripe with his painted covers at Charlton was that they always printed far darker than they actually were. I've seen multiple copies of his Phantom books, and there is a real inconsistency in the printing of both the covers and the interior pages, but I have never seen copies of #68 and #70 where the cover was not too dark.

Lastly, while much is made of the famous stars of "The Mystery of the Mali Ibex," they are not the only "real" people to inhabit the story. Don wrote to friend Howard Siegel, "Did you pick out all the personalities in #70? There were either 21 or 22 from various "stations" of life. If Charlton printing was sharp, you'd be able to read my name in the reverse on the door in the last panel, page 22. Everything inside a Charlton seems to bleed just a little though."

The Phantom #71 Don was even more proud, and rightly so, of his next issue; July 1976 saw the release of the Phantom #71 and a story called "The Phantom Battles the Monster of Zanadar." The credits on the book say that Don's friend John Clark wrote it and of course, Don penciled and inked it and provided the beautiful cover painting. The book has a wonderful cinematic feel to it and artistically, is superior in most ways to the previous issue. Unlike issue #70 the quality of the art does not taper off as the book progresses; Don gives us a full 22-pages of some of his best work to date. Don is really working hard on this book to develop his inking style and on some pages there is an interesting Wally Wood approach to some of the inking. 

Unlike Don's other cover paintings for Charlton , this issue's cover is bright and clear. In fact Don expressed his dismay at the printing job in a letter to Howard Siegel, "Yes the printer really goofed on #71...he let it get by looking just like the original! I dare say that for such a FUBAR he might be transferred to the US Postal Service."

With this issue Don's vision of the Phantom became clearer, as the strip took on a more action/adventure slant. With a few minor changes this could have been a Batman story. As Newton put it, "I have a pretty clear cut idea on how I want to present the Phantom and thought this came across well in #71."

Don was in control of the book. He had Pearson handling his colors and letters on the interiors and had collected a small staff of writers (Clark and Pearson) to assist him in his stories. Despite the names that may be officially credited on each story, creatively the buck stopped at Don. As he related to Siegel,  "For the sake of h istory I'll tell you about the story (#71). I actually wrote the plot... part one of a two-parter to be completed in a future issue. Now I asked a local fellow (John Clark) to put it in script form while I completed #70. Now when I got the script back I rewrote most of his dialogue and when Person got hold of it he made a few changes. Pages like #20 and 21 are all my stuff, as is about 75% of the rest of it... I've got John Clark working on the second part of #71 with the understanding that I may edit him heavily."

After Charlton's initial collapse in 1977, the company resurrected itself a number of times and each time it did it found a use for Don's artwork. Normally this was just reprinting his horror strips, but for issue #12 of Monster Hunters in March 1978, despite the proclamation of "All New" on the cover, the cover was in fact a reused page of Don's Phantom artwork. The figure of the Phantom was removed, pterodactyls were added to the sky and eyes were added in the foreground darkness. But these changes did not diminish nor disguise the wonderful Newton jungle or the mist shrouded mountain, Zanadar. 

The Phantom #71, Page 1

Monster Hunters #12 Cover

Don's wonderful splash page to "The Phantom Battles the Monster of Zanadar" from the Phantom #71, with its lush jungle and great Pearson coloring.   The cover to Monster Hunters #12 uses most of this splash page, minus the Phantom. Also missing are Bill Pearson's colors.   

Don returned in The Phantom #73 , with another wonderful painted cover that Charlton was able to completely destroy. Of this cover we have three different views and from these you can garner the affects of Charlton's printing on Don's work. You also get a glimpse of how Don worked up a painting, with a unique look at Don't unfinished original concept for the cover. Don laid out his paintings in the same manner he laid out his interior work, I've never heard of an artist roughing out his painting in magic marker before, but apparently that is how Don Newton did it.

The Phantom #73 Cover as printed

The Phantom #73 cover, as painted

The Phantom #73 cover, original concept.

Don's cover for "The Torch" from the Phantom #73, features the ominous figure of Raven, whom Don thought would be a reoccurring character. Charlton's printers did not help this cover at all.   Don's original painting for the same cover. Ah, what could have been!   This  is Don't unfinished original concept for the cover. The Raven character made it to the final piece, pretty much intact, but the Phantom figure was completely reworked. Don painted his acrylics on illustration board and apparently laid them out in magic marker.

"The Torch" is written by Bill Pearson, using the name Ben S. Parillo, and is moving the book in the direction Don wanted it to go. He wanted to create a new mythos, with new characters and the villain in this book, the ancient evil one, Raven, was the beginning of this. Don planned for Raven to return in a few issues, but The Phantom was canceled before that could happen.

OK, for those who can't wait, here is a preview, the cover to Don's final Phantom!

The Phantom #74
Don's masterpiece, The Phantom #74 featuring the Phantom of 1776!

Charlton Comics sat out most of 1977 during which all of the new talent in the company fled to greener pastures. Don was already gone, having left when The Phantom was cancelled. In late 1977 Charlton came back, but without many of the talents they had been using. As such they limped along till 1985 with a lot of reprints and a smattering of new content before finally calling it quits. During this period they reprinted a number of Don's works, though I don't have anywhere near a complete list of this. I do know that Haunted #59, January 1982 contained a reprint of "The Treasure Seekers" from Many Ghosts of Doctor Graves #45 . Ghost Manor #64 from October 1982 is also supposed to have a Newton reprint in it, though I have never seen the book and have no details.

In Beyond the Grave #17, October 1984 may appear the last Newton reprint. If this is the last reprint it is very appropriate as we come full circle back to "The Empty Room" from Ghost Manor #18, Don's first work for Charlton Comics. The coloring on this reprint is much darker than that of the original. Also, the narrator from Ghost Manor who plays a part in the story is colored blue thoughout the story where he was given fleshtones in the original printing whenever he became part of the story.

 

All artwork on this page is copyright Roger Broughton 1974-2014 or anyone else who owns the copyright. The Phantom and associated likenesses and characters are copyright 1998-2014 by King Features Syndicate, Inc., The Hearst Corporation.

Copyright 1998-2015 The Art of Don Newton
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