Comic Art Friday: Phantom Lady is a “Heart Baker”

When I first conceived the Bombshells! project two years ago, I believed that I had a relatively narrow commission series ahead of me. After all, how many comic book heroines existed before 1960, the arbitrary parameter I set? Surely not that many. I jotted down the dozen or so names that came immediately to mind, and called it a day.

As it turned out, the field of potential Bombshells! proved more vast than I anticipated. Today’s featured artwork brings the series to the quarter-century mark. My going research into heroines from comics’ Golden Age has yielded enough candidates to triple that number.

So many Bombshells!, so little cash.

Phantom Lady, pencils by comics artist Michael Dooney

Phantom Lady appeared near the top of my original Bombshells! list. Given her stature among the most popular and influential heroines of the 1940s, I reserved her appearance for one of my favorite “good girl” artists, Michael Dooney. Mike’s third entry into the Bombshells! arena ranks with his best. (You can click the image above for a better view… and you should.)

One of the earliest costumed heroines, Phantom Lady premiered in Police Comics #1 (August 1941). After a 23-issue run in that publication, the character’s creators, the Jerry Iger Studio, moved her adventures from Quality Comics, their original publisher, to Fox Features Syndicate, where Phantom Lady headlined her own title. It was during her Fox tenure that Phantom Lady’s stories began to be illustrated by Matt Baker, the artist most closely associated with the character. Baker’s voluptuous cover depictions of Phantom Lady inspired the moniker “headlights comics” (I leave it to you, friend reader, to figure out why), and drew the ire of Congressional crusaders bent on stamping out the comics industry.

I suggested the punning tagline “Heart Baker” for Phantom Lady’s Bombshells! spotlight, to acknowledge Matt Baker’s contribution to her legend. Michael Dooney grabbed onto that idea and ran like the wind, adding his own clever touches to the piece, including the shark face and “autograph” on Phantom Lady’s bomb — two period-accurate details from the World War II era. Which makes sense, given Mike’s penchant for creating authentic bomber nose art.

By the way, the device Phantom Lady wields here is her signature “black light” projector, which she uses to blind her adversaries. That always seemed to me like overkill. If you catch my drift.

And that’s your Comic Art Friday.

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