Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Number 1797: Phantom Lady, In the wrong place at the right time

Sandra Knight, secret identity of the Phantom Lady, finds herself on a subway platform with a maniac called the Subway Killer. How lucky is that? What an amazing coincidence. (Heavy sarcasm.) Unfortunately, such coincidences are part and parcel of comics. The writers had to get to the action in as short a time as possible. Anyway, as happens to males in these types of stories, Sandra’s boyfriend takes the maniac’s cane upside his head. To chase the villain of course Sandra takes off her everyday clothes to expose herself as the exhibitionist Phantom Lady.

We never find out anything about the maniac, except he pushes girls off subway platforms, and dies in a sort of justice administered by our heroine.

It is from Fox’s All Top Comics #12 (1948). The young guys who bought this comic book also got Rulah, Jo-Jo the Congo King, and Blue Beetle, and assorted females in various states of undress.


jim said...

Love the Phantom Lady. Favorite part - as PL, she wears NO mask & she doesn't even change her hairstyle & yet NO ONE (not even her father or boyfriend!!!) realizes that PL & Sandra are the same person. At least, Clark Kent wore glasses!! ha ha

Daniel [] said...

Ugh. I have no problem with the idea of attractive women in states of relative undress, but Fox had something about killing women. It's bad enough having some innocent man killed, but more bothersome to me when it's a woman.

It is, on the other and, merely silly that she can leap onto a moving train while wearing pumps.

In illustrated fiction, people who dress as does the killer here are almost always, uhm, killers. In real life, probably few people who dress like that are killers, but they do seem to be making an effort to alienate those around them.

Pappy said...

Jim, my theory on Phantom Lady is that guys were bouncing their eyeballs off what she was exposing, and didn't look at her face.

Ryan Anthony said...

The panel you displayed under the post title really woke me up. Victor Fox may have been a cretin, but he made Phantom Lady much more...engaging. He (and his artist and/or writer) did go overboard at times: panel 3 on page one (the legs) is just silly. And would she really have gotten away with an outfit so low-cut as that green number in the late 40s? With Phantom Lady, Rulah, and other "assorted females," they could've called this All Top-Heavy Comics! Speaking of which--that was a good explanation, Pappy, for why no one recognized Sandra Knight as Phantom Lady. It reminds me of Frank Miller's excuse for why Batman wore such a target on his chest as the yellow-moon bat: he couldn't protect his head from bullets.

Was Matt Baker's art the house style at Fox during this period? This piece looks just enough like him to make me wonder.

I love those lines, "I'll kill you with my bare hands! But just in case..." And then, later, Don wakes up on the train when he was knocked out elsewhere. Comics need more comedy like that.

Yes, Phantom Lady! Forget pepper spray! Every woman should carry a black ray!

J_D_La_Rue_67 said...

Aah, you two just ruined one of my accurately balanced, wonderfully humorous comments... you must be Telepathic Lizards in Disguise from Outer Space :)))
Have to admit, Clark Kent is Lon Chaney compared to her!
And by the way: the bad guy has a black beard, a hooked nose and a considerable hump. Why on earth does he kill beautiful women? Good ole days. Page was a genius.
Lovely art. Any guess who the artist is?

Tmdess said...

Other than her personal attributes, did PL even have any special powers ?

jim said...

Pappy - I think you are definitely on to something there. Much more effective disguise than a dumb old cowl or a stupid pair of glasses. *bounce*bounce*bounce*

7f7f3e2a-4856-11e4-900a-bb8e57f8828f said...

It's Phantom Lady that sometimes overflows the panels and rightly so. Seven pages and there's your comic book story with ample cheese cake. Looking back from all these decades later and I smile fondly. I don't fault it and certainly not the artwork. Thanks.

J_D_La_Rue_67 said...

@Daniel: On Goofy's ethnicity: I've checked the phrase "N****r in the Woodpile", and it's very interesting indeed, so thanks for letting me know.
it's like saying "hiding a skeleton in the closet", but with a racist touch.

I don't think we have or had (even in the 30's) a similar way of saying, though our comics, for instance, were loaded with jokes on Ethiopians and (since 1938) Jews.

Anyway, I just can't think of Goofy as a black man (dog?). My guess is that the phrase was so deeply rooted in the cultural background of that age, that somehow the "ethnic" part was not so relevant and one could use it WITHOUT the intention to make an explicit racist remark.
The interesting thing is that the card is a Joker, so maybe Goofy is seen as the "oddball", lunatic and somehow potentially embarassing individual who doesn't fit in the conventions of Mickey's / Disney's society.

This concept was used by Andrea Pazienza (an underground comic artis) in the story "Perchè Pippo sembra uno sballato?" = "Why Goofy looks like a stoned screwball?", where Goofy quits working for WDP and flees on an island but is confronted by a self-contained, business-minded and relentless Mickey/Disney.

A Disney character with an undeniably strong (and unpleasant) ethnic identity is Eli Squinch.

Pappy said...

Tmdess, besides the black light, I'm not sure...but then, doesn't a beautiful woman in a sexy outfit have a sort of super power?

Pappy said...

J D, I'll let Daniel address your note if he cares to, but I never thought of Goofy as an African-American stereotype. It has to do with the way he speaks, which isn't in a dialect I would associate with common stereotypes of the era, written or spoken. He speaks more like a slow-witted, rural-type. In English, anyway. I have no idea how his dialect is portrayed in other languages.

Pappy said...

7f7, I do enjoy cheesecake. Indeed I do.

Pappy said...

J D, I'm sure Gregory Page is a pen-name. As I understand, most of the scripts were written by Toni Blum, daughter of artist Alex Blum. She worked for the Jerry Iger shop. The art was produced by the shop, so several artists probably worked on it. Besides Matt Baker, other artists good at the pin-up females were Jack Kamen and Al Feldstein. That was sort of a requirement for the Iger shop, being able to draw leggy females and breasts a bra could hardly contain.

J_D_La_Rue_67 said...

Thanks for the clarifications. On Goofy, I was referring to Daniel's interesting comment on Pappys 1793.
Too late I realized the link he left was to An Oeconomist which his, I think, his blog.
So I just posted the same answer there. :-D