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Image (ca.1995) Ace Biographical Portraits
Peter Chapman Peter Chapman i(A135268 works by) (birth name: Peter Thomas Chapman)
Born: Established: 1925 Cammeray, Cremorne - Mosman - Northbridge area, Sydney Northeastern Suburbs, Sydney, New South Wales, ;
Gender: Male
(Cover Artist) assertion
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Peter Chapman studied art at East Sydney Technical College prior to commencing work as a comic book artist for Frank Johnson Publications (q.v.) in 1944. Chapman's artistic style underwent constant change throughout this early phase of his career, as he experimented with different illustrative techniques. Chapman's earliest comic book serials included 'Diana Hastings' (Gem Comics, ca.1946), 'Rocky Ned' (Modern Comics, ca.1946), and 'Steve Conrad' (Fearless Comics, ca.1946), the latter drawn in collaboration with his brother Ross.

Chapman's work frequently appeared in True Pirate Comics (Frank Johnson Publications, Sydney, NSW, ca.1947-1950) and he painted many covers for Johnson's sports-themed pulp novel series 'Kings of the Turf' (see Happy Jack). Chapman also helped his former East Sydney Technical College classmate Phil Belbin (q.v.) gain work as an illustrator with Frank Johnson Publications, shortly after Belbin was discharged from military service in 1946.

By the late 1940s, Chapman had left Frank Johnson Publications and quickly became a sought-after illustrator amongst Sydney's major comic-book publishing companies. He wrote and illustrated 'Captain Lester Burton, G-Man' for Famous Yank Comics (Ayers and James, q.v., ca.1948-1951) and created Bulldog Brandon Comics, a spy thriller/science-fiction series (Lilliput Productions, Sydney, NSW, ca. late 1940s). Chapman succeeded Virgil Reilly (q.v.) as the writer and illustrator on The Invisible Avenger, a Cold War-era science-fiction series featuring a malevolent Chinese scientist intent on conquering Australia (Illustrated Publications, Sydney, NSW, ca.1950-1952).

Chapman began his decade-long association with Frew Publications (q.v.) in the early 1950s, when he was asked by the company's joint founder and publisher, Ron Forsyth, to assume creative control of The Phantom Ranger, the masked cowboy character created by the expatriate British cartoonist Jeff Wilkinson.

Shortly thereafter, Chapman was chosen as writer and illustrator on The Shadow, featuring the mysterious crime-fighter originally developed for Frew Publications by Jeff Wilkinson. Chapman worked as a production assistant on the company's range of US reprint comics, in addition to occasionally drawing covers for Frew's bestselling comic, The Phantom.

In the mid-1950s, Chapman and Forsyth took the unusual step of consulting a psychoanalyst in an attempt to discover (and hopefully duplicate) the source of The Phantom's enduring popularity with Australian readers. The consultation provided sufficient insight for Chapman to create Frew's next costumed-hero series, Sir Falcon, for which John Dixon (q.v.) also drew several episodes.

While still working for Frew Publications, Chapman undertook additional freelance assignments for other publishing firms, such as drawing comic book covers for K.G. Murray (q.v.) and painting pulp novel cover illustrations for the Cleveland Publishing Company (q.v.).

By the early 1960s, Frew Publications had significantly scaled back its range of comic books, pulp novels, and paperback books, prompting Chapman to embark on a new phase in his commercial art career. He produced a series of eight-page promotional comics for Coca-Cola (Australia) and drew The Story of Medicine, an educational comic published as part of the Pictorial Social Studies series (Australian Visual Education, Sydney, NSW, 1960).

Chapman found himself in demand as a children's book illustrator from the mid-1960s to the early 1970s. His earliest assignments from this period included illustrating The Australian Children's Dictionary (Collins Book Depot, q.v., Melbourne, VIC, 1964) and The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Australia (Collins Book Depot, Melbourne, VIC, 1964). He also illustrated a series of children's reference books for Readabout Publishers (q.v., Crows Nest, NSW), including Australian Ores and Minerals, Story of Australian Wool, and Australian Seasons (1964). Chapman painted the children's adventure story book, Minus Five and the Mountain of Gold (Golden Press, q.v., Sydney, NSW, 1972).

In 1965, Chapman joined John Sands as an illustrator and designer, where he produced artwork for a wide range of greeting cards, board games, and calendars. Chapman left John Sands in the early 1970s and taught art at regional TAFE colleges in New South Wales until 1989. Chapman briefly returned to the pulp-fiction industry in 1988, when Horwitz Publications (q.v.) commissioned him to provide cover designs for some of the last novels to be written by J.E. Macdonnell and Marshall Grover (aka Len Meares) (qq.v.). In 1993, Chapman launched his own 'travelling art school', conducting classes throughout New South Wales, in addition to illustrating and painting works on commission.

Most Referenced Works


  • Sources:

    AusReprints (

    Graeme Flanagan, Australian Vintage Paperback Guide (Brooklyn, NY: Gryphon Books, 1994)

    Kevin Patrick, 'Peter Chapman: The Phantom Artist of Frew', (26 December 2007) (

    John Ryan, Panel By Panel: A History of Australian Comics (Stanmore NSW: Cassell Australia, 1979)

    Annette Shiell (Ed.), Bonzer: Australian Comics, 1900s - 1990s (Red Hill South, VIC: Elgua Media, 1998)

    Dictionary of Australian Artists Online (

Personal Awards

2016 Ledger Awards Ledger of Honour (Hall of Fame)
Last amended 20 Apr 2016 11:26:06
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