Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Saturday, August 24, 2019


The Phantom Lady started out as a sexy female superhero first appeared in Quality Comics Police Comics #1, August 1941.  She was Sandra Knight, the daughter of a U.S. senator.  She used a "black light" projector that confused her enemies and made her invisible.  More importantly, she wore a one piece suit (I want to say bathing suit) and a green cape.  The skimpy outfit was not intended to attract amle buyers of the comic book.  Nope.  It was to distract her male foes.  (Right.) The Phantom Lady was a knockout.  She was created by the Eisner & Iger Studio, who also created Plastic Man in the same issue.  She appeared in monthly up to issue #23 and also in three issues of Feature Comics.

Once the Phantom Lady's run at Quality Comics ended, what had become the Iger Studio sold the character to Fox Feature Syndicate.  Whether Iger owned the copyright to the character was a murky question, but Fox Feature ran with it giving her her own title beginning with Phantom Lady #13, taking over the numbering of Wotalife Comics.  And they sexed her up again.  Now the Phantom Lady wore a low-cute, cleavage-bearing, short-skirted outfit.  (Dr. Frederic Wertham used the cover of Phantom Lady #17 for his infamous book Seduction of the Innocent, which attempted to show that comic books were corrupting the  morals of the nation's youth, leading to the mid-50s campaign against comics and the establkishment of the Comics Code.  Wertham, despite being the party pooper that he was, also described the Phantom Lady's bosom as "headlights.)  Fox Feature's Phantom Lady run lasted for eleven issue of her titular (See?  I can do it too, Wertham!) title as well as ten guest spots in All-Top Comics.  And that was it for Fox Feature; the Phantom Lady moved to Star Publications which used reprints until they, too, went out of business.

By the time the Phantom Lady moved to Ajax-Farrell, Dr. Wertham had done his dirty work and Phantom Lady's cleavage was covered and her skirt was replaced with shorts.  She then bounced around to Charlton Comics and I. W. Publications until DC Comics claimed the character in the early 70s.  DC played with the character a lot, placing her in various comic book universes, changing her name and hair color several times, and giving her a wobbly origin.  She became Dee Tyler and was killed and then resurrected, then became Stormy Knight, and then Jennifer Knight.  Various versions and homages to the character appeared in from numerous publishers and artists.  Alan Moore used a riff on the character in Watchman, Alex Ross based his version of the character on popular model Betty Page, a further version had the character as a lesbian, and Paragon Publications reimagined her as the Blue Bulleteer, giving her a Vampirella-like costume that was even more revealing than the Fox Features costume.  And the legend lives on...

In the first story in issue #18, drawn by Matt Baker, Sandra Knight's fiance is approached to finance a treasure hunt, retrieving a cache of gold from a sunken galleon off Skull Island (not Kong's Skull Island).  It's a scam, of course, and one of the scammers is murdered on the island.  Sandra dons her Phantom Lady skimpy costumes and runs into a strange "ghost pirate" warning her off the island.  The scam is revealed and the other scammer is then shot dead by the ghost pirate.  Lured by the thought of sunken treasure, two other crooks come to the island and force Matt to dive to the wreck.  While Matt is underwater, the ghost comes and kills the two baddies.  The Phantom captures the ghost pirate, who was really an escapee from a lunatic asylum, but can she save Matt from a wtery death?  Do we even have to ask that question.

In her second adventure, Sandra buys a painting from a sidewalk artist.  As she leaves with the painting, a laundry van pulls up and the artist is forced into it by gunpoint and all his remaining paintings are taken.  The man behind the lidnapping and heist is Ambrose Bell -- an obese, wheel-chair bound "collector" who intends to make the poor artist a household name.  Then, of course, he'll kill him, making the paintings he has stolen extremely valuable.  Bell's undoing happens when he is invited to a party thrown by Sandra's father, who is also an avid art collector.  Sandra finds out that Bell is known as the "laundry king" and get suspicious.  As Phantom Lady she sneaks to Bell's mansion and discovers one of the stolen paintings on display there.  She discovers that Bell is planning to kill the artist, so the artist is rescued, one of Bell's flunky's is knocked out, and Bell pulls a gun on her, not reckoning on the Phantom Lady's "black ray."

After a two-page text story about adventure in the jungle, the Phantom Lady returns to narrate a truw story about Irene Shroeder who, with her boyfriend, went on a three-week interstate robbing and murdering spree from West Virginia to Arizona.

Lovers of 'good girl art" will appreciate this issue.


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