THE PHANTOM LADY OMNIBUS [Fantastic Femmes of the Comics] by Will Eisner & Matt Baker

The original Phantom Lady in full color!

Created by the legendary Will Eisner, Phantom Lady was the first and longest-lived costumed heroine to grace the comic books (in a different form, she is still around today).

Phantom Lady made her entrance in 1941, the brainchild of Eisner and his then-partner Jerry Iger. Although she didn't have super powers, Phantom Lady, like Batman, had honed her physical and mental reactions far beyond those of most mortals, and in battle was more than a match for the average gang of miscreants. Also like Batman, she used science to give her an edge when fighting villains, ordinary or super—such as a futuristic gun that shot a wide beam of blackness, instead of light, completely blinding her enemies. In real life, Phantom Lady was Sandra Knight, the daughter of a U.S. senator who had grown bored with her privileged life and decided to use information that came to her as a Washington insider to help fight espionage and crime.

Phantom Lady reached her height at the hands of illustrator Matt Baker, fabled today as one of the kings of "good girl art" and the comic book industry's first successful African-American artist. Baker changed Phantom Lady's outfit to a revealing blue and red number that packed every frame with sexual overtones—so much so, in fact, that Baker's cover for Phantom Lady No. 17, featuring Sandra Knight attempting to free herself from ropes (reproduced on the cover of this omnibus), helped stimulate a congressional hearing on comic books, and was denounced by psychiatrist Frederic Wertham, who claimed Baker's cover aroused unhealthy "sexual stimulation by combining 'headlights' with the sadist's dream of tying up a woman." In his sixties, Wertham recanted his indictment of comic books and his claims that they were a harmful influence on the young. (You will find a gallery of Phantom Lady covers at the end of this omnibus and can make up your own mind about Baker's art.)

These stories from the Phantom Lady comic books are redolent of the values, concerns, fantasies, stereotypes, and events of their time, and many readers will find aspects of them problematic by today's standards. At the same time, within the context of its creation, Phantom Lady can also be seen as an early, and still compelling, portrayal of a strong, independent female figure in popular media, and one who, in her more recent incarnations, is still inspiring people today.

Categories Comics , Science Fiction , SF - Bargain Omnibuses
Author Page Will Eisner's Futures Past Editions eBooks
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