Spawning from the success of The Shadow, The Phantom Detective debuted in February 1933, just a month prior to the debut of another great pulp hero: Doc Savage. The Phantom Detective has ties to many detective-like characters. In fact, one can argue that The Phantom Detective helped inspire Batman. Richard Curtis Van Loan, much like Bruce Wayne, was a wealthy playboy who was orphaned at an early age, gaining great wealth. After service during World War I, he found it difficult to settle back into his prior extravagant lifestyle.
At the suggestion of an old family friend, and later confidant, he tried his hand at solving a crime that had confounded the police. Aware of his natural talent, The Phantom Detective quickly became known as one of the world’s greatest detectives, a master of disguise and an escape artist. Recognized by law enforcement agencies the world over, there was even a red beacon placed on top of the Clarion newspaper building to summon him when needed.
Published by Thrilling (Better/Standard) Publishing in his own pulp magazine title, The Phantom Detective also saw publication in Thrilling Comics. The pulp ran until 1953, comprising an impressive run of 170 issues, the third longest run of a pulp hero title behind The Shadow and Doc Savage.