Golden Age Phantom Lady: Needless Character Analysis
With the return of the Needless Character Analysis, we feature the Golden Age Phantom Lady. I can hear you saying, “you just did Plastic Man! Another DC character?” The Golden Age Phantom Lady isn’t a DC Character, she’s actually in the public domain for anyone to use as long as they don’t violate DC’s trademarks.
Phantom Lady had no super powers was very skilled in hand to hand combat and possessed a “black light ray” that could project darkness, which she used to make herself seem invisible. Despite her secret identity, she seldom wore a mask, making the method of maintaining a secret identity unknown. Some writers have speculated that the secret was in her very revealing costume, which drew attention away from her face.
Sandra Knight was engaged to Don Borden, an agent of the State Department’s counter-intelligence commission. During her time in publication, the two never married and Sandra continued to flirt with other men.
Phantom Lady did cross paths with other crime fighters, notably Spider Widow and the Raven. She even developed a rogue’s gallery consisting of the Avenging Skulls, the Fire Fiend, the Killer Clown, Kurtz, the Robbing Robot, the Subway Slayer, and Vulture.
While her appearances in Police Comics, produced by Eisner & Iger Studios, are unclear as to their existence in the public domain, her adventures published by Fox Features Syndicate and Ajax-Farrell are established to be in the public domain. During her time at Fox Feature Syndicates, her adventures were drawn by Matt Baker who established the style known as “good girl art.” Much of the Phantom Lady story elements were used as examples of prurient techniques used in comics and subsequently banished by the establishment of the Comics Code Authority. These elements included her revealing costume which underwent significant changes in the 1950s, a prevalence towards covers depicting Phantom Lady bound by villains, and covers that featured an emphasis on her chest, referred to as “headlights.”
Much of the confusion over the ownership of Phantom Lady came when DC Comics acquired the Quality Comics characters, which they believed included Phantom Lady. In the early 1970s, DC integratied her into their publishing line-up as part of the Freedom Fighters, going on to make some continuity alterations to integrate her with their other Golden Age characters, establishing the trademark that remains to this day. The Golden Age Phantom Lady, with her blue and red costume remains a character in the public domain as long as no elements from her DC integration are used.
(FULL DISCLOSURE: The Recommended Reading links to pages on Amazon where you can buy those books and support Needless Essentials through their Associates program.)