She was one of the first creations from the pen of a young writer named Stan Lee. As strong as Lee's concept was, many pin her popularity on the abilities of artist Syd Shores. He is one of the greatest and most dependable artists of the Golden Age. One of his other notable creations is the Two-Gun Kid. His fantastic skill helped the Blonde Phantom to last quite a while as superheroes were dying off in the reader's eye.
The Blonde Phantom was part of a wave of comic creations that began around 1946. Superheroes were starting to drop in popularity, but no other genre had solidly established itself in the public's eye. In a few years, both westerns and romance would start to find huge audiences, but by 1946, publishers were starting to worry about their core audience. With the future of comics uncertain, there were a few attempts to create new superheroes for the reading public. The best of these new creations were often female heroes.
In a previous edition, Scoop brought you the beginnings of DC's Black Canary. She is still a vital part of the DC Universe. The heroines that Timely introduced during the same time period were strong, but they don't seem to have the legs that Canary does.
Between 1946 and 1948, Timely had brought out Namora, the cousin of the Sub-Mariner; Sun Girl, who hung around the Human Torch; and Golden Girl, who replaced Bucky at the side of Captain America for a short while. Each of the women was a strong character, but those three were all variations on an established theme. The Blonde Phantom was something relatively new. In addition, she had no ties to an established character.
What she did have was a recognizable format and a familiar supporting cast. The most important part of this cast was her boss. Mark Mason ran a private eye business. The Blonde Phantom worked there during the day in her secret identity as Louise Grant. When Mason couldn't solve a case during the day, Ms. Grant slipped out in the dead of night, put on a fancy costume and helped him with the details.
Where other female heroes opted for something skin tight or practical, the Blonde Phantom worked in a gorgeous gown. This evening dress is notable for its bare midriff as well as its slinky split along one side of her leg. She also worked in high heels. It is a testament to his skills that artist Shores managed to make this highly impractical costume appear highly glamorous and functional all at the same time.
Her first appearance was during the fall of 1946 All-Select Comics #11. When The Blond Phantom appeared and first helped her detective boss Mason, Lee seems to be creating a subtle twist on one of the dynamics that made Superman a hit. Only this time, the woman was the sought-after hero. This new version of the traditional love triangle made for a decent hit among readers. One of the more puzzling aspects of the story line is that Mason was supposed to be a crack detective, but he never figured out that the Blonde Phantom was actually the woman taking his dictation.
After her first appearance, she took over the title. With the book now re-titled after her, she enjoyed a strong three year run that lasted until issue #22 May 1949. Issues #12 through 18 featured great looking covers by the original artist Shore. Each one captured a strong woman in a dangerous situation. She was always acting strongly and never seemed to have a problem with combat.
The strongest among the covers may be from issue #13. Shores creates an unusually crowded cover that has the Blonde Phantom dropping into the backstage of a Hollywood film. As the men stand helpless below, she is seen rescuing another woman and brandishing a pistol. The ways that the catwalks are arranged above the ground add a distinct feeling of almost vertigo to the cover. It takes the reader a second or two to get their bearings on the action.
The cover for #14 is also notable for its depiction of a man in bondage as a woman rescues him. Now, over at Fiction House, this type of scene would not have been out of the ordinary. It was almost normal for them to show a woman rescuing a man. However, Timely seldom dealt in this type of racy material. Timely was much more of a meat and potatoes type of publisher than a fiction house.
The Blonde Phantom was seen a lot during the end of the forties. She held a back up spot over in Marvel Mystery Comics (issues #84 -91) for a while and also appeared in several other Timely titles such as Sub-Mariner, The Miss America Magazine, and even an issue of Namora.
One place she was not seen was as a member of the All-Winners Squad. Several histories incorrectly identify her as a member. Maybe that is because of one of her more notable covers.
In 1948, she was larger than life on the cover of the only issue of what was to be the start of the second volume of All-Winners Comics. In a definite sign of what was coming in the comic marketplace that title changed to All Western Winners with just its second issue.
The Blonde Phantom was a strong heroine who fought crime with little more than her fists and a pistol. She had a good run that lasted a bit less than five years. Considering that she was one of his earliest creations, it is surprising the Stan Lee never brought her back during the sixties or seventies.
She wasn't seen again until 1989 when she appeared out of nowhere in She-Hulk #4. It turns out that during the past few years she married the Detective who could never figure out her secret identity. They had a couple of kids and she had become a housewife. However, her daughter was active for a short while in her Mom's old guise.
That didn't last long and she hasn't been seen since. Her original appearances are part of a seldom explored part of comic history. The post-war years of 1945-1950 held some good work and some intriguing characters. It is surprising how many of the best are female.