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  1. #1
    Incredible Member Lorendiac's Avatar
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    Default Plastic Man and Phantom Lady: A strong debut for one, and a "Mary Sue" debut for the other

    As many of you may have remembered, but probably hoped that I had forgotten, in recent years I have established a proud tradition for this special day. Each time I see we are commencing the month of April, I like to amuse myself by taking a critical look at the original appearances of one or two Golden Age "superheroes." I've previously given the business to the famous debut stories of Superman, Batman, Captain Marvel, The Human Torch, and Namor the Sub-Mariner. But I'd never before inflicted this treatment upon any of the Quality characters from the good old days. This year, after noticing that two of the more long-lasting ones first appeared in the same issue (Police Comics #1, introducing Plastic Man and Phantom Lady), I decided my duty was clear!

    It's interesting to note, in passing, that the lead story of this issue, the only one to offer the reader a whopping 11 pages of plot development, featured a character who was probably considered the odds-on favorite to stand the test of time and become a major figure in the superhero community. He was Firebrand, aka Rod Reilly. Yeah, that didn't work out so well . . .

    Other characters who have their own little features within these pages include 711, Super Snooper, Eagle Evans, Chic Carter (already a Quality regular from other titles, by the way), Steele Kerrigan, The Mouthpiece, Dick Mace (in a two-page text story), Dewey Drip, and The Human Bomb. But I decided to skip over all the above in favor of focusing my gaze upon the two who may actually be said to have achieved "iconic" status over the years . . . Plastic Man and Phantom Lady!

    Each of those two received a six-page debut.

    Plastic Man's story starts out by presenting the "finished version" of this superhero to us in a two-thirds-of-the-page panel which serves the function that today would be called "a splash page." Then we backtrack to see how he became the man he is today.

    The bottom third of the page brings us into the middle of a robbery at "the Crawford Chemical Works." Apparently, a gang of crooks had reason to believe a hundred grand would be stored in the safe overnight, and they are now getting their hands on it. Then a guard comes along and starts shooting. One member of the gang ("The Eel" is wounded by a bullet to the left shoulder and also gets "a vat of acid" spilled on him. His buddies decide not to wait for him; they run outside and take off in the getaway car while Eel bellows at them.

    The aforementioned acid appears to have been quite mild; The Eel complains that "It's in the wound and stingin' like blazes!" -- but there's no suggestion that it's causing him the least bit of pain in any other place where the acid made contact with his body. Furthermore, traveling on foot, he manages to wander out of town, "through swamps," and "up a mountain side," before finally collapsing. I don't know how many miles that was, but probably a goodly number.

    When he wakes up, he's in a peaceful community called "Resthaven," and he is served breakfast by a man whose garb and haircut strongly suggest he is a monk. (Althouh no one ever says "monk" or "religious retreat" in so many words.)

    The monk addresses his guest as "Eel O'Brian," explaining that he already knows the name because the police came looking for him, but the monk "turned them away." (Implied, but not quite stated: The monk lied through his teeth about whether or not this fugitive from justice was currently parked within these walls.) The monk states his motive for this assistance to a wanted man: "Because something told me that here is a man who could become a valuable citizen if he only had the chance!"

    Eel claims to have had a real hard-luck life ever since he was orphaned at the age of ten, which has made him cynical and greedy in his approach to getting ahead in the world -- but the discovery that a total stranger went out of his way to give Eel a break is a real shock that gives him considerable food for thought.

    After the monk leaves the room, Eel stretches out his arms . . . and suddenly discovers that his hands each end up several feet away from the bed as his arms elongate incredibly. Then he dioscovers his face is equally flexible. "Great guns! I'm stretchin' like a rubber band!"

    Eel quickly deduces that the acid in his bloodstream must have triggered a physical change. (And I presume he is correct, since no evidence to the contrary is offered to us.)

    At this point, the story is suddenly switching tone, going all the way from a grim-and-gritty crime drama (with a nod to the early pages of "Les Miserables" when Jean Valjean was powerfully influenced by a kindly bishop) to something far more cheerful. Days later, after Eel has recovered from his wound, he decides to deal with the gang of rats who deserted him at that chemical factory. He walks in on them and assures them he just wants his cut of the take. They quickly hand him a wad of cash and invite him to help out with tomorrow's job. He insists upon being the driver this time, to make sure he isn't left behind again. When the other thugs enter the building where they intend to steal half-a-million in cash, Eel quickly changes his face and clothes to become . . . "Plastic Man!"

    I will spare you a full description of the various stunts he pulls with his new powers while confusing and terrifying the thugs. Suffice it to say that at one point Plastic Man is pushed off a roof (twenty stories above ground level!), but rolls himself up and bounces like a rubber ball without acquiring so much as a bruise . . . and later on, when the thugs make it back into the getaway car, their old pal Eel is waiting for them, and appears to be carefully driving the car at the same time that he uses his elongated arm to capture the crooks and deliver them to a police station (by shoving them in right through a window). To carry several grown men with one arm is, to me, evidence that Eel's flesh has not only become super-stretchy but also super-strong (despite the fact that you wouldn't think plastic-like bones would provide much in the way of structural support when he was trying to lift anything heavy).

    In the final panel, Eel is driving away from the police station and saying to himself: "Now to return the money! I never knew fighting for the law could be so much fun!"

    My conclusions:

    This is a very optimistic story. The implication is that even if a man has been shamelessly participating in armed robberies for years, a bit of Christian charity (I assume the monk was a Christian of some sort) can nudge the fellow into a much more ethical path. In this case, going into law enforcement, so that he starts using his knowledge of crime to foil the plots of the unrepentant sinners. (As I recall, Plastic Man later became an agent of the FBI to nail down his newfound respectability as a defender of law and order. Who knew the FBI hired reformed bank robbers and the like?)

    And there's already a fair amount of slapstick humor showing in the ways that Plastic Man uses his powers, disguises himself as a red rug, etc., in the later part of this tale. Jack Cole was just warming up, I take it, for all the goofy stunts that Plas would pull in the future.

    On the other hand, we could argue that this preaches a dangerous lesson to America's impressionable youth: "If you see a dangerous criminal trying to hide from the cops, and you lie to protect him from arrest, this will work out so well that he'll become a heroic figure!" I wish it were reliably that easy to redeem a bad man, but in practice it could easily backfire.
    Last edited by Lorendiac; 04-01-2016 at 06:45 PM.

  2. #2
    Incredible Member Lorendiac's Avatar
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    With that said, let's move on to the other story I selected from Police Comics #1.

    Poor Phantom Lady doesn't even get an "origin story." As we meet her, a narrative caption assures us that debutante Sandra Knight is the beautiful daughter of a U.S. Senator . . . and has already formed the peculiar habit of putting on a green-and-yellow costume and fighting crime under an alias in her spare time. We are given not the slightest hint of what started her down this path! (Neither in the first panel, nor anywhere else within the tale.)

    For some reason, this wealthy society girl is playing chauffeur to her daddy, the Senator, in the next panel. He wants to see "Raphael's new explosive," which a man named Wenner has already Presumably, Wenner works for some portion of the federal government of the United States (although this is never stated). At this moment in time, Sandra's car is red.

    Note: Please bear in mind that this story was published well after World War II had begun in Europe, but before the USA had officially taken sides in the conflict.

    In our first glimpse of Raphael, he is asserting that "my uranium explosive has tremendous force. The test will prove that!"

    The actual test begins with setting off one pound of TNT, which leaves a small crater. Then some of Raphael's stuff is tested. (Presumably another one-pound charge, to make for a fair comparison?) There's a "BOOM!" -- and Wenner, studying the results through binoculars, generously concedes that he was wrong. The new stuff made a much larger crater than the TNT did!

    Just then, a U.S. Navy plane (or at least it's marked as one) dives down at Wenner and Raphael and machine-guns the area. Senator Knight and Sandra, recently arrived on the scene get away -- driving off into the nearby woods, we gather, although it isn't entirely clear. Please note that on this page, Sandra's car is consistently blue.

    We now learn that the pilot of the plane is in cahoots with Wenner, who has knocked Raphael unconscious. (Nobody was actually struck by the machine-gun fire, and this is the way it was planned all along.) The two bad guys load Raphael into the plane, then Wenner climbs in as well, and then as they fly off, the pilot drops a bomb on the scene of the crime to "destroy the remaining evidence." (It is far from clear just what "evidence" he had in mind. They didn't leave behind any dead bodies, for instance!)

    At the top of the third page of the story, Sandra is having dinner with a young fellow described in a caption as "Don Borden, State Department investigator." He assures her that he believes her story, and then in the next panel he advises her to get a bodyguard or take a trip (far away from Washington, D.C., implicitly) since she and her father are the only witnesses to whatever happened. This is Don's entire contribution to the plot of this story -- having dinner with the heroine and giving her advice which she promptly ignores. After being onstage for two whole panels, he is not heard from again, and I do find myself wondering why anyone bothered to squeeze him into the script in the first place! (Just to set him up for future use in other stories, perhaps?)

    Now Sandra changes into her Phantom Lady costume in her apartment. Her costume is basically a yellow leotard (or one-piece swimsuit? I'm shaky on these distinctions) and a green cape, plus short yellow boots. She climbs into a car called "her black roadster." As near as I can tell, it's the same car that was both solid red and solid blue, earlier in the day, at different moments, and has now added a third color to its repertoire. And that's not even the most incredible thing about this sequence! Sandra hops into her car and instantly knows exactly where to go to find the evil men who have abducted poor Dr. Raphael. She doesn't need to do anything so prosaic as "real detective work"; she just magically knows where she wants to end up! So she goes racing off toward her destination. As she approaches a two-story building, she says brightly: "Wenner's week-end camp! I'll see if my hunch is right!"

    Please note: Until this moment, there's been no indication that Mr. Wenner possessed a little place out in the woods which he sometimes used as a "weekend camp" in the first place, nor that Sandra Knight was so well-acquainted with him as to know all about it, including how to find the precise location from memory in the middle of the night, in the second place! Nor does anyone offer any explanation for why Wenner would think it was safe to use the place as a hideout when previous dialogue made it clear that he knew that the Knights, father and daughter, had both seen him loading Raphael into the plane and then flying off in it! (It's always nice to see a writer who doesn't even try to pretend that he isn't shamelessly stacking the deck in favor of his pet character. This sort of thing is an early example of the literary phenomenon which eventually came to be known as "Mary Sue.")
    Last edited by Lorendiac; 04-01-2016 at 04:58 PM.

  3. #3
    Incredible Member Lorendiac's Avatar
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    A blond sentry with a shotgun starts blazing away at Phantom Lady as she approaches the place (but he misses -- honestly, what else did you expect?). She circles around and finally enters the house by the back door while the sentry is still explaining himself to Wenner over by the front door. We now learn that, while the Phantom Lady may not have inherent superpowers, she does have one special gadget up her sleeve (not that she actually wears any sleeves): a "black lantern" which emits a "cone of darkness" making it impossible for people in its path to see what's going on around them, even though the remainder of the room is still very well-lit. (Please don't ask me how that works!)

    The Phantom Lady demands to know where Raphael is, and adds an interesting bluff by saying: "Unless you answer you will remain blind!"

    In other words, she's trying to foster the false impression that she has magically ruined their eyesight, and that only she can lift that curse at will! As opposed to the facts of the matter, which seem to be that she has just artificially (and very temporarily) suppressed the light in the air around her targets.

    It is an interesting bluff, but it does her no good! Considering that Wenner is standing perhaps fifteen feet away from her (at most), and has a gun, and can hear her voice threatening him, Phantom Lady really has no one but herself to blame for the fact that he starts shooting in her direction! In fact, she's remarkably lucky that his first bullet fails to drill a hole in her tender flesh, and merely knocks the "black lantern" out of her hand instead. At which point everyone can see everyone else again, and Phantom Lady runs for it as more bullets start flying (but oh-so-conveniently missing, even though the shooter can now see what the heck he's doing).

    Well, this first invasion of the evil villain's lair certainly accomplished a heck of a lot! She upset the bad guys for a few seconds by "blinding" them, and then she turned tail and ran when that didn't terrify them into instant submission!

    Was this trip really necessary? Wouldn't it have been more to the point to share her suspicions about that "week-end camp" with her father, and have him pull strings to get J. Edgar Hoover to send out a squad of heavily-armed FBI agents who would surround the place so that no one could get away? Faced with numerous machine guns pointed in their direction, Wenner and his cohort probably would have given up quietly.

    But to do her justice, Phantom Lady doesn't just hang her head in shame and slink home in defeat. She keeps plugging away at this case. Wenner and his unnamed buddy load Dr. Raphael (whom, we now learn for the first time, was in fact in that same house) into a car and drive off to the edge of a swamp, where they have stashed a boat for a quick getaway. Phantom Lady has somehow managed to follow them there (in her black car) without their noticing a thing. (I admit this is possible -- perhaps she was driving without headlights? An unlit black car might not show up well in a rear-view mirror as they drove through wilderness areas.)

    The bad guys row to a "shanty boat" -- a floating cottage, you might say -- and Phantom Lady is right behind them, having somehow found quickly another boat or canoe or something which she was able to use to keep her quarry in sight. (Don't ask me where the extra boat came from -- nobody ever mentions this; we merely see that Phantom Lady getting out of it at the end of her trip!)

    Phantom Lady overhears something which indicates that the crooks are now trying to torture Raphael into writing out the formula for his explosive. So she tries the same tactic she usedbefore -- burst in on them, start snapping out an order ("Stop that!", in this instance), and use her "black light" to make it impossible for Wenner and Pete to see her. As might have been foreseen by any sensible person, once again the bad guys start shooting in the dark. This time, instead of hitting her special lantern, they hit a perfectly ordinary oil-burning lamp. Lots of burning oil spills out across the wooden floorboards, and the houseboat is clearly not long for this world.

    Phantom Lady and Raphael manage to get away by boat. Wenner and Pete try to follow in what they call "the canoe," but it immediately tips over (for no clear reason), and the two men splash into the water of the swamp. It is implied, but not guaranteed, that they soon die -- one caption describes it in these terms: "Wenner and Pete struggle vainly against quicksand and a nest of angry moccasins." We don't see anything further of them.

    Meanwhile, Phantom Lady asserts that Wenner hoped to sell Raphael's explosive formula for at least a million dollars. Raphael, on the other hand, says he will give his formula to the War Department. (Hmmm . . . a super-duper new explosive based on uranium? Somehow, I doubt it will ever amount to much.)

    Let's take inventory:

    As far as I can tell, Phantom Lady's head looks exactly the same in her "Sandra Knight" role as it does when she's out crimefighting. No mask (such as Batman wears); no wig (such as the original Black Canary wore in her debut, several years later); no glasses (such as Clark Kent wears to distract people from how his features resemble those of Superman); no scarf to cover the lower part of her face and muffle her voice (a la The Shadow); no dramatic transformations from one form to another (such as when "Billy Batson" is replaced by "Captain Marvel"); no real effort at disguise whatsoever! I must question the likelihood that her "secret identity" will remain a secret for more than two seconds after the first time she, in her "Phantom Lady" persona, someday comes face-to-face with anyone who already knows what "Sandra Knight" looks like! (Or the other way around.)

    Also, as far as I can tell, Our Heroine routinely drives the same roadster in both roles, and there's no mention of taking such precautions as switching license plates around so that nobody can trace Phantom Lady's vehicle to its registered owner: Senator Knight's daughter Sandra!

    And I've already dealt with how her nifty "black lantern" doesn't give her nearly as much of an advantage over armed and dangerous criminals as she evidently expected it to. It wasn't any clever tactics on her part that prevented Wenner and Pete by successfully chasing her through the swamp in their boat, and quite possibly killing her (and/or Raphael) with a few shots; it was just sheer dumb luck!

    All things considered, I am perfectly willing to give Phantom Lady full credit for being brave and sincere, but I am forced to conclude that where brainpower is concerned, she is in no danger of ever becoming the sharpest knife in the drawer.

    With all these thoughts in mind, if I'd been reading this comic for the first time in August 1941 (the cover date), I'd be forced to conclude that Plastic Man, the Repentant Sinner, had a superb chance of going on to star in various movies, TV shows, a comic book series that would never be cancelled, etc., but that Phantom Lady would soon be forgotten as having nothing remarkable about her to make her stand out from the crowd.

    Somehow, that isn't quite the way it worked out. Anyone care to share their thoughts on why Plas did not do as well as I would have foreseen, whereas Phantom Lady showed more staying power than I, for one, would have given her credit for?

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lorendiac View Post
    A blond sentry with a shotgun starts blazing away at Phantom Lady as she approaches the place (but he misses -- honestly, what else did you expect?). She circles around and finally enters the house by the back door while the sentry is still explaining himself to Wenner over by the front door. We now learn that, while the Phantom Lady may not have inherent superpowers, she does have one special gadget up her sleeve (not that she actually wears any sleeves): a "black lantern" which emits a "cone of darkness" making it impossible for people in its path to see what's going on around them, even though the remainder of the room is still very well-lit. (Please don't ask me how that works!)

    The Phantom Lady demands to know where Raphael is, and adds an interesting bluff by saying: "Unless you answer you will remain blind!"

    In other words, she's trying to foster the false impression that she has magically ruined their eyesight, and that only she can lift that curse at will! As opposed to the facts of the matter, which seem to be that she has just artificially (and very temporarily) suppressed the light in the air around her targets.

    It is an interesting bluff, but it does her no good! Considering that Wenner is standing perhaps fifteen feet away from her (at most), and has a gun, and can hear her voice threatening him, Phantom Lady really has no one but herself to blame for the fact that he starts shooting in her direction! In fact, she's remarkably lucky that his first bullet fails to drill a hole in her tender flesh, and merely knocks the "black lantern" out of her hand instead. At which point everyone can see everyone else again, and Phantom Lady runs for it as more bullets start flying (but oh-so-conveniently missing, even though the shooter can now see what the heck he's doing).

    Well, this first invasion of the evil villain's lair certainly accomplished a heck of a lot! She upset the bad guys for a few seconds by "blinding" them, and then she turned tail and ran when that didn't terrify them into instant submission!

    Was this trip really necessary? Wouldn't it have been more to the point to share her suspicions about that "week-end camp" with her father, and have him pull strings to get J. Edgar Hoover to send out a squad of heavily-armed FBI agents who would surround the place so that no one could get away? Faced with numerous machine guns pointed in their direction, Wenner and his cohort probably would have given up quietly.

    But to do her justice, Phantom Lady doesn't just hang her head in shame and slink home in defeat. She keeps plugging away at this case. Wenner and his unnamed buddy load Dr. Raphael (whom, we now learn for the first time, was in fact in that same house) into a car and drive off to the edge of a swamp, where they have stashed a boat for a quick getaway. Phantom Lady has somehow managed to follow them there (in her black car) without their noticing a thing. (I admit this is possible -- perhaps she was driving without headlights? An unlit black car might not show up well in a rear-view mirror as they drove through wilderness areas.)

    The bad guys row to a "shanty boat" -- a floating cottage, you might say -- and Phantom Lady is right behind them, having somehow found quickly another boat or canoe or something which she was able to use to keep her quarry in sight. (Don't ask me where the extra boat came from -- nobody ever mentions this; we merely see that Phantom Lady getting out of it at the end of her trip!)

    Phantom Lady overhears something which indicates that the crooks are now trying to torture Raphael into writing out the formula for his explosive. So she tries the same tactic she usedbefore -- burst in on them, start snapping out an order ("Stop that!", in this instance), and use her "black light" to make it impossible for Wenner and Pete to see her. As might have been foreseen by any sensible person, once again the bad guys start shooting in the dark. This time, instead of hitting her special lantern, they hit a perfectly ordinary oil-burning lamp. Lots of burning oil spills out across the wooden floorboards, and the houseboat is clearly not long for this world.

    Phantom Lady and Raphael manage to get away by boat. Wenner and Pete try to follow in what they call "the canoe," but it immediately tips over (for no clear reason), and the two men splash into the water of the swamp. It is implied, but not guaranteed, that they soon die -- one caption describes it in these terms: "Wenner and Pete struggle vainly against quicksand and a nest of angry moccasins." We don't see anything further of them.

    Meanwhile, Phantom Lady asserts that Wenner hoped to sell Raphael's explosive formula for at least a million dollars. Raphael, on the other hand, says he will give his formula to the War Department. (Hmmm . . . a super-duper new explosive based on uranium? Somehow, I doubt it will ever amount to much.)

    Let's take inventory:

    As far as I can tell, Phantom Lady's head looks exactly the same in her "Sandra Knight" role as it does when she's out crimefighting. No mask (such as Batman wears); no wig (such as the original Black Canary wore in her debut, several years later); no glasses (such as Clark Kent wears to distract people from how his features resemble those of Superman); no scarf to cover the lower part of her face and muffle her voice (a la The Shadow); no dramatic transformations from one form to another (such as when "Billy Batson" is replaced by "Captain Marvel"); no real effort at disguise whatsoever! I must question the likelihood that her "secret identity" will remain a secret for more than two seconds after the first time she, in her "Phantom Lady" persona, someday comes face-to-face with anyone who already knows what "Sandra Knight" looks like! (Or the other way around.)

    Also, as far as I can tell, Our Heroine routinely drives the same roadster in both roles, and there's no mention of taking such precautions as switching license plates around so that nobody can trace Phantom Lady's vehicle to its registered owner: Senator Knight's daughter Sandra!

    And I've already dealt with how her nifty "black lantern" doesn't give her nearly as much of an advantage over armed and dangerous criminals as she evidently expected it to. It wasn't any clever tactics on her part that prevented Wenner and Pete by successfully chasing her through the swamp in their boat, and quite possibly killing her (and/or Raphael) with a few shots; it was just sheer dumb luck!

    All things considered, I am perfectly willing to give Phantom Lady full credit for being brave and sincere, but I am forced to conclude that where brainpower is concerned, she is in no danger of ever becoming the sharpest knife in the drawer.

    With all these thoughts in mind, if I'd been reading this comic for the first time in August 1941 (the cover date), I'd be forced to conclude that Plastic Man, the Repentant Sinner, had a superb chance of going on to star in various movies, TV shows, a comic book series that would never be cancelled, etc., but that Phantom Lady would soon be forgotten as having nothing remarkable about her to make her stand out from the crowd.

    Somehow, that isn't quite the way it worked out. Anyone care to share their thoughts on why Plas did not do as well as I would have foreseen, whereas Phantom Lady showed more staying power than I, for one, would have given her credit for?
    For one thing:
    Matt Baker's art on Phantom Lady in her later appearances as opposed to Jack Cole's art on Plas could be a factor.
    Last edited by Rod G; 04-02-2016 at 08:06 AM. Reason: Addition

  5. #5

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    Plastic Man was Quality's most famous hero. Not only did he become the cover feature with Police Comics #5 but he had his own title. Phantom Lady never had her own comic at Quality. She got her own title in 1947 when the character went to Fox Features. That is when Matt Baker started on her artwork. In modern day Plas had other series plus a cartoon show. Phantom Lady only appeared as part of the Freedom Fighters.

    IMO Plas was much more successful than Phantom Lady

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by md62 View Post
    Plastic Man was Quality's most famous hero. Not only did he become the cover feature with Police Comics #5 but he had his own title. Phantom Lady never had her own comic at Quality. She got her own title in 1947 when the character went to Fox Features. That is when Matt Baker started on her artwork. In modern day Plas had other series plus a cartoon show. Phantom Lady only appeared as part of the Freedom Fighters.

    IMO Plas was much more successful than Phantom Lady
    There is that, yes.

  7. #7
    Incredible Member Lorendiac's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by md62 View Post
    Plastic Man was Quality's most famous hero. Not only did he become the cover feature with Police Comics #5 but he had his own title. Phantom Lady never had her own comic at Quality. She got her own title in 1947 when the character went to Fox Features. That is when Matt Baker started on her artwork. In modern day Plas had other series plus a cartoon show. Phantom Lady only appeared as part of the Freedom Fighters.

    IMO Plas was much more successful than Phantom Lady
    I posted this piece on more than one site on April Fool's Day, and you are not the only reader who felt the need to point out that Plastic Man did, in fact, become a bigger commercial success story than Phantom Lady as the years rolled by. I think I've been misunderstood! I'm going to cut-and-paste the reply I recently offered on another forum. (Including a line from the guy I was replying to, so that you get the full context.)

    Quote Originally Posted by crashryan
    The only place I disagree with you, Lorendiac, is your suggestion that Phantom Lady has "done better" than Plastic Man.
    I don't think that's what I suggested!

    Granted, I was wrapping this up in a big hurry on April First because I needed to make my annual self-imposed deadline by getting it posted on a few comic book forums while it was still April Fool's Day (my traditional day for tongue-in-cheek reviews of Golden Age debuts). So I may not have expressed myself as clearly as I would've done if I hadn't been running behind schedule due to delays and distractions earlier in the week. But I don't think I ever said: "As things turned out, Phantom Lady did better than Plastic Man in the long run."

    In my final comments in that piece, I wasn't really comparing Phantom Lady's historical success to Plas's; I was comparing each superhero's long-term performance to what my personal expectations for that character would have been if the material contained in "Police Comics #1" were all I had to go on in gauging their prospective staying power.

    So I suggested I would have expected Plas to become a big hit -- and he didn't do as well as I would have hoped. (For instance, when was the last time he had a big-screen movie?) I also suggested that I would have expected Sandra Knight to just quickly and quietly fade into comic book limbo (like zillions of other Golden Age comic book characters, some of whom deserved better than they got) . . . and yet she ended up doing much better than I'd have expected!

    But since my expectations for her long-term prospects would have been very close to zero, she could (and did) exceed those incredibly low expectations . . . without ever coming anywhere near Plastic Man's level of success. (After all, when did the "Phantom Lady" concept ever have her very own Saturday morning cartoon? I vaguely recall watching reruns of the "Plastic Man" cartoon when I was a kid.)

  8. #8
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    Did she ever get a decent origin story during her original run?

  9. #9
    Incredible Member Lorendiac's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rafa-Rivas-2099 View Post
    Did she ever get a decent origin story during her original run?
    Not that I know of. Years ago, I read a bunch of her Golden Age appearances (stories which were freely and legally available online because the original copyrights had been allowed to expire). But it's been so long that I remember almost nothing of the plots. For instance, when I decided to review two debut stories from "Police Comics #1," I couldn't for the life of me remember whom Phantom Lady had fought in her very first appearance, nor how she had defeated them. I know I'd read the material before, but all the details had vanished from my memory!

    So I can honestly say that I don't remember ever seeing a "flashback origin story" from her Golden Age material -- but that doesn't prove there wasn't one.

    P.S. After typing the above, I belatedly decided to take a quick look at Phantom Lady's Wikipedia page. It claims that DC, decades after her debut, started giving her origin stories (with updated versions coming along occasionally). That strongly implies that she never really got a detailed origin story from any of the companies that published her adventures during the Golden Age. Apparently her first such story was offered to the world in "Freedom Fighters #15," published by DC in 1978. I'm not sure if I own that comic book or not! (I know I own copies of several of the earlier issues of that series.)

  10. #10
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    During the final issue of the original Freedom Fighters series, the writers gave the character an origin story. One night, Sandra happened across two would-be assassins targeting her father, and stealthily thwarted them with nothing more than a rolled-up newspaper. Knight consequently developed a taste for adventure and crime-fighting, and after finding a "black light ray projector" that a family friend named Professor Davis sent to her father, she adopted the device as a weapon.

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