Monthly Archives: August 2017

Forgotten Women of Comics #2: Phantom Lady

She wasn’t a phantom or ghost. She had no superpowers. She had no gadgets except for her trusty black ray which she used to temporarily blind her enemies. But she was resourceful, smart and determined to get to the bottom of things when it came to crime. The socialite daughter of U.S. senator Henry Knight, Sandra Knight made her first appearance in Quality comics’ Police Comics #1 wearing a yellow one piece suit with a green cape. She was sometimes assisted by her fiance, Don Borden, an agent of the U.S. State Department.

In 1946, Quality folded and Phantom Lady was given to Fox Feature Syndicate, where her popularity exploded thanks to artist Matt Baker, one of the rare black artists working in comics at the time. His depictions of women were controversial (it was referred to as “good girl art”) but they were also gorgeously drawn. See for yourself.

(Also read this piece about Matt Baker. Someone needs to make a film – or write a biography – about him.)

In fact, Baker’s art was so famous, it was included as an example in Dr. Frederic Wertham’s infamous comics critical book Seduction of the Innocent.

Another change Baker made to Sandra/Phantom Lady was her costume. It was now blue and red – and a little skimpier. But amazingly, she never wore heels, just practical flats. It was during this time that her fiance Don Borden also became – how can I put this? – more clueless about Sandra Knight’s alter ego. She never wore a mask, change her hairstyle, her voice, or her personality as Phantom Lady, yet Don could never put two and two together. Neither could her father. Nevertheless, she was famous in the city she fought crime in and, like Batman, the police department always cooperated with her. She was the talk of the town.

By the early 1950s Ajax-Ferrell Publications took over the character and changed her outfit by covering up her cleavage and her back, but she still basically had the same costume. With flat shoes. In 1956 DC Comics obtained the rights to Phantom Lady. In 1973 she became a member of the Freedom Fighters, a superhero team that lived on Earth-X  where Nazi Germany won World War 2. She is still at DC Comics today. Her alter-ego now goes by the name Stormy Knight or Jennifer Knight.

For the original Quality/Fox/Ajax printed stories, you can purchase them here at Amazon. Or see if they’re available at your local Half Price Books. That’s where I got my collection of PH stories (I own volume 2).

To learn more about Phantom Lady and other classic female superheroes read The Great Women Superheroes by Trina Robbins.

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Filed under comics, female characters