SAD NEWS this morning out of Hudson, Massachusetts. The artist Paul Ryan, my partner on the Phantom daily newspaper strip for the last dozen years, died at 66 over the weekend.
I sent him a new 97-page script on Friday, and he was into it, read it immediately and hailed me with a question about panel 23, of 327. We discussed it and his final words to me in this life were: “Just wanted to make sure I give you the image you want. I think it’s pretty cool, too.”
Paul considered it a privilege to work on a classic character created by the great Lee Falk, in 1936. He and I thought exactly alike in that regard.
We also shared a love for Montana. He and his wife, Linda, enjoyed vacationing on a ranch in Sweetwater County, which borders my favorite place out there, Wheatland County.
(Correction: It’s Sweet Grass County, Montana. Sweetwater County is across the state line in Wyoming. Been there on the motorcycle as well. Both are wonderful places! See them when you can.)
Paul sent me this pic two summers ago, I think. He and Linda at the ranch.
He loved horses. Which may be why he was so good at drawing Hero, the Phantom’s trusty mount.
A hot day on the high plains. Time for a dip, hoss!
I close with three panels from a yarn recently published in newspapers around the world. We finished this one up on January 30. Here, a crime kingpin enjoys a night out, partying at a club in Mawitaan, capital of Bangalla, Africa. He leaves half a dozen goons waiting for him at the curb, in two SUVs.
The Phantom whups them all, stuffs them into one of the vehicles, and then waits for the boss to come out and get in the other one, none the wiser.
Paul modeled this thug on a friend of ours in Maryland, Pete Klaus. Haha! We had some fun over the years.
Pete, by the way, is a real gentleman. He just happens to look as if he dumps bodies in concrete for a living.
What a kick in the gut, waking up to news like this. I’m sure I haven’t even started to process it. Oh, man…
For now, all I can say is, Adios, partner.
Tony DePaul, March 7, 2016, Cranston, Rhode Island, USA