Sunday, December 1, 2013
YEAR 1946: THE BLONDE PHANTOM
The Blonde Phantom is most famous for sporting one of the most non-functional superhero costumes of all time: high heels and an ankle-length red evening gown.
However, if one takes away the costume (so to speak), what's left is a perfectly serviceable action-heroine. Strangely, I've seen one online critique claiming that the character couldn't fight at all and depended upon her sort-of-boyfriend to defend her. In addition to the panel posted above, I've seen at least one story in which the Phantom defends herself quite ably against a gang of hoods, thus undercutting their expectations about easily conquering a female opponent. So clearly her creators-- Stan Lee and Syd Shores, who introduced her in ALL SELECT #11-- meant the Phantom to be a tuff girl. However, of the smattering of Blonde Phantom stories that I've read, a number of them are rather low-key, mundane mysteries in which neither the Phantom nor her boyfriend display much activity. It's likely that those who have dismissed the character have not encountered her more action-oriented stories.
The series' running gag was clearly a riff on Siegel and Shuster's SUPERMAN, in which the hero(ine) appears to be a button-down type in the workaday world, only to break free and become a daredevil in a costume. As Louise Grant the heroine worked as a secretary for P.I. Mark Mason. but she donned her pumps and her red gown to fight crime and lend assistance to her handsome boss. Naturally, Mason nursed a passion for the mysterious crimefighter but tended to take his dowdy secretary for granted-- though I do recall one story in which he showed a certain possessiveness toward both of them. I suppose one could take the standard feminist interpretation, that the Phantom was more helpmate than heroine-- but only a close reading of all the Golden Age stories could confirm or deny that verdict.