Monday, October 10, 2016

Number 1956: Phantom Lady amongst the face blind

We have mentioned this comic book phenomenon before: a superhero (or, in this case Phantom Lady, a costumed crime fighter) can fool everyone into believing she is a different person (in this case, Sandra Knight) without wearing a mask or substantially changing in any way except for changing clothes. I have considered that Phantom Lady’s body is distracting everyone from looking at her face, but that doesn’t work. After all, from birth our brains are wired toward recognizing faces. My conclusion is that Sandra must be amongst a group of people, including her boyfriend and her dad, who have prosopagnosia, a neurological disorder that is characterized by the inability to recognize faces. It is also called face blindness. Even that is unsatisfactory, since the face blindness of those in Sandra’s circle only happens when they encounter Phantom Lady. Sandra’s beau, Don, can only recognize (in the last two panels of the story) that Sandra wears the same lipstick as Phantom Lady.

In this story, from Phantom Lady #21 (1948), Sandra/Phantom Lady’s talent for evading detection may also be explained by a different artist taking over the art after about page two or so.

I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t mention that Phantom Lady must enjoy being tied up. Based on what I see on pages 6 and 7 of the rope that is binding her wrists, a child could easily slip out. No knots!


Daniel [] said...

Yeah, I always knew that Algernon Blackwood was a punk crook! For the sake of “the Special Relationship”, they hushed-up the truth, but everybody knows that he got the chair on 10 December 1951!

There's more than enough bondage in the Phantom Lady stories for it to be recognized as deliberate, and yet it's so often implausibly drawn that clearly the artists and probably the management had almost no familiarity with actual practice. (I doubt that I could bear to tied-up a partner even were that what she wanted, and I've not been tied-up, but I know more than those guys seemed to know.) Perhaps some of the writers were kinky; more probably, it had just been noted that the bondage theme boosted sales.

That last thought leads to the obvious question of what might have been the effect of featuring bound gorillas on the covers.

Brian Barnes said...

This has one of the great silliness in 40s comics -- they capture Phantom Lady seemingly without a single bit of trouble, tie her up, she gets away, and the bad guys think "oh no, Phantom Lady, we are doomed!"

REALLY? The woman you literally just grabbed and tied up?

And people becoming evil because of a physical deformity never becomes old, does it? At least in a lot of horror stories, some of the blame is pushed onto society (for shunning the person), but in this, it's just he couldn't get a date. And he's pathetic. And short.

Nice "good girl" art in this one, regardless of the artist switch.

Unknown said...

Gee, Pappy, didn't you know that Phantom Lady's uncle on her mother's side was Lamont Cranston. She learned a lot from Uncle Lee.

Pappy said...

Isaac, apparently her training was in how to cloud men's minds as to her face and identity, not to the rest of her. For that we should all be grateful.

Pappy said...

Brian, I never could stand those Hunchback of Notre Dame stories, where a guy was doomed because he chose the wrong parents and got their ugly genes. On the other hand, I can see where a guy could snap under the weight of rejection.

Maybe the bad guys were upset about her getting loose because they lacked the skill to tie her up. Oh, was her face-blind boyfriend who let her loose. I'm guessing she waited for him to free her, because she could have been gone as soon as those dopes walked out of the room.

Pappy said...

Daniel, I wrote a long time ago in this blog that I was totally naïve about bondage as a sexual thing until I was in my teens. A friend introduced me to some of the literature, mostly featuring Bettie Page. It just didn't seem erotic to me, that being tied up or whipped (good Lord!) could give sexual pleasure. I still think that way, but I try not to be judgmental as long as it is between consenting adults.

Russ said...

Actually those ropes are pretty tight; on page six her hands are on backwards.

Darci said...

This is giving Fox more credit than they deserve, but it's an interesting idea to have one artist draw Sandra Knight and a different one draw Phantom Lady.