“FOR HEARTS LONG LOST” – IN BLACKEST NIGHT, PART 2

In 1946, men in America were in trouble. And since superheroes were men as well, at least figuratively, they were in trouble, too. Men who had served during the war, found the world a much-changed place once they came home. In their own way, superheroes had served in the war. Some of them were shown in fierce battles with the evil agents of the Axis Powers in their four-colored world. Others were enlisted to sell war bonds in the real world. Some had stayed behind to guard the home front. They’d all become patriotic as was expected from any men or women across America. Really, if you were a teen, or a child still, and too young to take an active role, was there any better way to express your unqualified love for your country and all it stood for, than to pick up these comic books that came with godlike superheroes who smashed some evil Japanese soldiers and some Fritz and Franz right in the kisser? If there was, you didn’t know it. Best of all, if said heroes wore the trusted red, white and blue. They weren’t all men. For every Captain America, the most patriotic hero of them all who had punched Adolf Hitler in the face on the cover of his debut issue, there was an equally patriotically garbed heroine like Miss Victory. And for every Green Lantern who lifted a massive tank with his will power and his glowing power ring high up into the air, there was a fearless heroine like Speed Comics’ Pat Parker, War Nurse, who went up against an armored enemy vehicle and its cannoneers with her bare hands. Pat defended America on the home front and the battlefield alike. Albeit, once Pat Parker was in her red, white and blue costume to signal that here was another one of these super-patriots, and foes of America and democracy better be aware, her war nurse disguise revealed more than it actually attempted to conceal. A short-sleeved, cropped top that left her entire midriff bare, in white, long blue gloves and tiny blue shorts that made her shapely legs seem even longer, knee-high red boots with heels and a white domino with her symbol, a red cross, of course. And lest readers felt they were skimped out of any details, her artists made sure that she was seen changing into her barely-there superheroine costume on panel, albeit often highly silhouetted and in the shadows, but still. For every superhero who heeded the battle cry which sounded and resounded in their four-colored world in the Spring of 1941, many months before the Japanese fleet attacked Pearl Harbor and the start of America’s official involvement in the war effort, there was soon a girl hero who fought side-by-side with these men of superpower and raw strength. But whereas as a man, you needed to be from another world, had to possess a green lantern and a ring made from a rock from outer space or be chummy with Professor Reinstein to be injected with a super-serum that changed you from a 97-lb. chump into a champ, with a physique that made every other man marvel, a serum that built up your brain as well, superheroines just were. They were special and gorgeous at the get-go, the latter perhaps their secret source of power, at least where the soldiers of the enemy were concerned who gawked at these costumed, albeit poorly, women instead of making good use of their weapons which they all knew perfectly well how to unload whenever they saw Captain America’s mighty shield from a safe distance. Granted, not all men had superpowers or were even men, technically speaking, like Bucky Barnes, the boy-sidekick to the Sentinel of Liberty. But weren’t you expected to know how to use your fists and not to run from any physical altercation as a man or a boy? In the early 1940s at least, you were. And Bucky could always rest assured that Captain America had his back. But these masked women of mystery and feminine wiles to better manipulate any unsuspecting man and enemy agent, they operated alone. And what’s more, in their civilian identities, they were often scoffed at by condescending males like you only saw with mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent who needed to keep up appearances but of whom readers wished he’d finally manned-up and landed one of those powerful haymakers on the guys who mocked him like he did as Superman. Exceptions did apply. Pat Parker was always depicted as competent, be it as a nurse or as War Nurse, and The Black Cat was a film star, yet many superheroines were play-acting like government stenographer Joan Wayne, who was a mousey, timid blonde with thick glasses and, as it would seem, a propensity for fainting whenever trouble arose. But it was all a ruse. Once out of sight from her superiors’ eyes, who hardly noticed her at all it seemed, Joan took off her glasses and removed her drab business attire to be herself once again, as she was now clad in her red, white and blue heroine costume that came with a red cape and an eye mask. Yet surely, none of these gullible men would ever suspect that Joan and the statuesque Miss Victory were one and the same. Not only did the two versions of the same woman look completely different from one another, but once behind her mask and in her tight-fitting patriotic threads, Joan was capable of anything. It seemed, that in order to liberate foreign countries from their dictators and monarchs, you had to liberate yourself first. And Miss Victory did it the All-American Way which garnered her many admirers. While some of her male counterparts kicked the enemy of democracy in the face and left it at that, and you really wouldn’t want to get punched by Captain America or his overly muscled, powerful brethren, girls didn’t have any such compunctions, as was the case with Joan Wayne. Firing a handgun or a rifle, Miss Victory took aim. Even while she was in her plane, escaping enemy territory, she unloaded her rifle on some unfortunate Japanese soldiers, to kill these troops without prejudice. And what better symbol was there that women had taken a seat at the table than when the busty, blonde heroine fought a huge gorilla who oddly enough wore a leather cap with a swastika and jackboots, but no pants and she simply punched the vile beast right off a roof? And once Miss Victory had defeated all the raw masculinity the patriarchy could ever hope to throw at her, the heroine and her alter-ego began to change. Miss Victory had first appeared in Captain Fearless No. 1 (1941). When the anthology book got cancelled after two issues since the publisher was in trouble, another publisher snatched up the rights to Miss Victory. After a break of several months, she returned in Captain Aero Comics No. 6 (1942). In Captain Aero Comics No. 16 (1944), which strangely came eleven issues later due to some re-numbering shenanigans, timid Joan Wayne became a Ferry Pilot. Joan’s new and clearly much more dangerous profession took her behind enemy lines frequently and into the South Pacific specifically. Many non-superpowered superheroines were flying fighter jets by that time. All you needed to do was to pick up an issue of Contact Comics, incidentally the only hit book put out by a tiny, fly by night publisher called Aviation Press, to see the absolutely gorgeous Mary Roche take flight. Mary was once a popular exotic dancer at a nightclub in Paris but had long since immigrated to America. Now she entertained the troops at the U.S.O. canteen in Burma of all places. But once night fell, she slipped into an aviator uniform that came with pilot goggles but no pants legs lest her dancer legs were hidden. Very soon, she was airborne in her fighter jet to take the war to the Japanese as Black Venus. Once her second adventure saw print, Mary’s superheroine costume became what amounted to a black swimsuit and knee-high boots, while she also moonlighted as an Air Force nurse in her civilian identity. However, flying a jet in a bathing suit seemed a bit ridiculous, especially when she confronted enemy combatants and their cruel commanding officers. Certainly, matters weren’t helped by her long opera gloves or the 6-inch heels of her boots. Thus, in her third adventure, Black Venus settled for a more practical, albeit provocatively skintight, fashionable black catsuit that came with a cowl and a pair of aviator goggles. At least now, whenever Japanese soldiers put her up against the wall outside their secret strongholds, she needn’t fear that she might catch a cold. Clearly, her colleague Miss Victory hadn’t gotten that message. In Captain Aero Comics No. 17 (1944), the patriotic, blonde heroine felt it prudent to change her tight-fighting top that covered her upper body, into a much more revealing one that came with plunging, V-shaped neckline which nearly reached down to her belt, and thus revealed much of her ample cleavage to her sadistic foes and associates alike. Her anatomy was apparently a secret she was willing to share.

 

If you were a superheroine in the 1940s, you were a wanted woman. You only needed to ask Ms. Roche whose image as Black Venus was seen plastered across any territory currently in the hands of the enemy or their collaborators. But even once they were able to ensnare her, the men who had offered a reward for her capture, paid their price in full, only not like they had intended. And still, they wanted her. After Black Venus was taken prisoner by Japanese troops in Contact Comics No. 4 (cover-dated January 1945), their C.O. is delighted in more ways than one. Soon, the Colonel lets his Major know that he knew Mary in a different life and during very different times, when she was a dancer in Paris. Lest, he stops himself right there, to let the past lie where it lay, he enters Black Venus’ cell to reminisce about the days long past and to tell her effusively how much he admires her talents, as a dancer that is. Mary suggests that they better continued their talk over dinner. In a move that surprised no perceptive reader, really, who had been following the adventures of the girl superheroes or who had a sister old enough to go out on a date on a Friday night, not only does Col. Yomata like the idea, he even supplies a long, red evening gown for her to wear. Obviously, neither he nor his men thought that Mary’s aviator goggles with their round lenses made of glass posed any danger lest they had them taken from her when they threw Black Venus into her cell. But clearly, they didn’t, and they did. At dinner, after readers had seen how Yomata spent a lot of time with grooming and having his Major hand him his best uniform, all the while his cook was preparing an “elaborate meal”, Black Venus, now in the red dress, even allowed him to place a kiss on her hand. Too distracted was the awestruck, and perhaps lover-struck man to suspect the thoughts in her head or the deed Mary had planned with her black heart in the right place: “Killing swine like this must be done in the most horrible fashion! He knows nothing but deceit and bloodthirsty torture of the innocent!” A keen sense of irony was not one of her many attributes, since seconds later her host and soon erstwhile captor rose from the dinner table in agony. Naturally he suspected that she had so much but poisoned him, with poison being the thing male writers often ascribed to women as their preferred weapon of choice. But even sans her superheroine outfit, her sleek black catsuit, Black Venus was still very much a superheroine. Coldly, while Black Venus observed Col. Yomata’s death, she told him, that poison was too good for him. So were the shards of glass she had slipped into his food apparently. Like with a person in a toxic relationship, his was a death by thousand cuts. Black Venus made good on her escape, all the while she took out Japanese fighter planes. In case that there was a reader who thought that Black Venus had done unto the Colonel what she accused him of, there were two Japanese doctors who helpfully explained that even they were glad that they hadn’t been able to safe such a vile monster of a man. Joan Wayne was wanted now, too. Not only as Miss Victory and in an entirely different fashion but perhaps for the same obvious reasons. In Captain Aero Comics No. 21 (1944), which followed after issue No. 17 (just don’t ask), Ferry Pilot Wayne gets recruited by the Intelligence Service for a classified mission. First Joan is to rendezvous with two handsome Air Force officers who are to provide their skill set to the clandestine operation. While the servicemen enjoy a stiff drink at the officers’ club, they took offense to being ordered to be working with a girl. After all, it was a confidential mission. When a blonde woman enters the club, a woman whose look predates Marilyn Monroe’s by a few years, they wish they could only be so lucky that this was the woman they’re supposed to meet. Obviously, she couldn’t be since that woman was a girl pilot and they’d already surmised that “Joan Wayne’s probably one of those big though outdoor girls!” But yes, this was Joan Wayne, the all-new, liberated Joan Wayne. Boy, were they in for a surprise. Joan, who had pretended that she was a blonde version of Clark Kent for too long, did welcome all this new attention she received. But this being comics, there was more, obviously. Once they are aboard her sleek plane and over islands controlled by the Japanese, as to be expected, they’re attacked mid-flight by a Japanese plane. Whereas the two U.S. airmen were more or less dead weight in such a critical situation, Joan remained calm and in control. However, her pilot uniform seemed more of a hindrance than helpful since while in battle, she slipped into her much lighter Miss Victory costume, albeit in front of the prying eyes of the officers whose chins dropped to the floor of the cabin. The guys were her own private cheering section, because what Air Force man wouldn’t feel secure, now that his life depended on a young female pilot who was dressed like a swimsuit model, albeit in patriotic colors. Indeed, as one of the men exclaimed: “Wow! This is dynamite!” The whole situation was. The pilot was as formidable as she was. Though Joan had been flying only for a few months, it seemed she was born to fly a fighter plane. Still, one of the men next to her gets shoot dead. The other is critically wounded. While Miss Victory tells the man to “lie down the floor!”, she manages to do some damage to the other plane. Then, with both planes on the ground, she decides not to use the guns of her jet to finish the job once and for all, but to put her gloved fists into action against the enemy. It was personal! To her shock and utter surprise, the other pilot was a woman as well. And not any woman, but Susumenka, a former Japanese fashion model who definitely looked the part even in her sleek pilot’s uniform that came with shiny, knee-high jackboots. That this aviator was a woman disturbed Miss Victory deeply: “I didn’t know that the Japanese had women in their Air Force!” But apparently, in Japan, women had heeded the call to arms loud and clear and without reservations: “They haven’t, but because of great casualties inflicted upon us by your accursed country, Japanese women have volunteered to do what I’m doing…” And the exotic beauty wouldn’t surrender or be captured, either. Seconds later, the bomb aboard Susumenka’s grounded plane blew up, with Miss Victory surviving the explosion by the skin of her teeth. Once at her debriefing, with Miss Victory back in her civilian garb, she learned that her venture was a success. She had taken out the pilot who was menacing the entire region. Yes, the wounded serviceman would live. Like Susumenka, most women across America had heeded the call. Where the comic book industry was concerned, which was still in its infancy, with men enlisting in ever increasing numbers, publishers were losing their talent, and this was happening at the most inconvenient time. Comic books which featured patriotic men and women, superpowered or otherwise, doing heroic things, were selling like hotcakes. With pages still in need of pencils and inks, publishers and the shops that provided them with material began to give artists a second look whose work they’d previously rejected, and they turned to women. Though still a rare thing at the time, women doing art for popular fiction was de facto nothing new. You had Margaret Brundage who did fully painted covers for the pulp Weird Tales, including the first covers for Robert E. Howard’s stories about Conan the Cimmerian. Then there was June Tarpé Mills. After she had worked as a model and a fashion illustrator, Mills was hired to work on syndicated newspaper strips which paid well compared to comic books. Her creation Miss Fury pioneered the black catsuit readers later saw on Black Venus. In fact, Miss Fury was so popular, that Timely Comics got the rights to publish the newspaper strip in comic book format. But Brundage never let on that she was the artist on those pulp covers, and Mills dropped her first name when she signed her work. Nevertheless, when Jerry Iger placed a job ad in the classified section of the papers to let young artists know that he was hiring, Jerry did not hesitate when a female artist showed up at his office to show him her portfolio. This was right around the time after he’d split from his business partner Will Eisner. Iger was seriously understaffed. With less male talent available, and impressed by Nina Albright’s art, Iger took her on as a freelancer to do pencils at his studio. With talent getting scarce, Fiction House was ahead of the curve again. One of the largest comic book publishers at that time, (they were one of the first companies that had branched out into comic books when they realized that their source of revenue, pulp magazines, saw diminishing sales while the funny books were on an upward trajectory), they decided to take artistic talent in-house. In their comic book line, Fiction House peddled anthology comics that featured a lot of beautiful female heroes, spies, girl pilots and girls from the future; this meant that a second-rate artist wouldn’t do. In a major coup, they hired three of the top female artists, Fran Hopper, Lily Renée and Nina Albright, who’d soon work on all their titles. The three artists did fantastic work, and in Albright’s case, this brought her to the attention of Holyoke Publications who’d just gotten the rights to Miss Victory. Holyoke, who had worked with Tarpé Mills before she landed a better paying gig as illustrator for newspaper strips, made Albright an offer that came with a special perk: on top of doing the artwork, they wanted her to write the stories centered around Miss Victory as well. Even though Holyoke was smaller than Fiction House, Albright, who had already worked on Black Venus for Aviation Press, signed up. This offer was too good to pass up. Thus, a female heroine character created by men, became much more interesting and better written. Even though Miss Victory was designed as a character for young boys to stare at, Albright made her more than just a pin-up model in a red, white and blue bathing suit. The writer-artist always showed Joan as highly competent and resourceful, in both her roles, as patriotic superheroine Miss Victory and as her alter-ego, Joan Wayne, Ferry Pilot. Men might gawk at her, and they sure did, but they respected her all the same for her talents. Ultimately, Miss Victory was a perfect superheroine for female readers. Joan could do everything it seemed, and she didn’t even need superpowers that came from a test tube. And if a guy didn’t take her seriously at first, in the end, even he had to admit that she was “dynamite”.

 

Whereas Black Venus was back in captivity and in chains no less, in her next adventure, and this time a Japanese officer asked her to switch sides while his eyes lustfully wandered over her athletic body which was sheathed in her snug-fitting black catsuit, and he told her how “most valuable” she’d be, “working for our Emperor”, Pat Parker usually evaded the men who hunted her. Even the biggest bad of the war, the final boss, wanted the War Nurse. Consequently, Hitler had a guest appearance in one of her stories. He too, wanted the War Nurse apprehended and brought to him. For what sinister purpose was left to the readers’ imagination entirely. Yet Pat wouldn’t have to go at it alone this much longer. Comics didn’t only feel like they were pushing a political agenda, they were. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had long since appointed a propaganda liaison with the comic book industry specifically. Really, was there a better way to inspire girls and young women than to have a superheroine, albeit one who needed no superpowers to get the job done, go on a recruitment drive among likewise non-superpowered women, who were equally brave? In Speed Comics No. 23 (1942) readers saw Pat Parker do just that. Pat raced around the globe and put together a team with members from all walks of life, but they all were women. Soon, in what ultimately can be viewed as a precursor to the transformation many heroes would need to go through in order to survive, the series changed. Pat Parker was no longer a superheroine nor were the other girls simply her followers. Once the series changed to the South Pacific, and then to numerous battlegrounds and enemy hot zones, Pat Parker, War Nurse became Girl Commandos. Every girl on Pat’s team, including Pat herself, donned a military style outfit, albeit skirted uniforms that came with black, knee-high boots and cute military caps, as the strip was now an adventure style military comic. Just like that, the series changed genres again. Pat Parker had started as a series about a regular, but very heroic British nurse in Speed Comics No. 13 (cover-dated May 1941). Two issues later, without any explanation other than that she wanted to protect her civilian identity, Nurse Parker donned a patriotic, albeit very skimpy costume and a mask, which technically made her a superheroine, no superpowers required. But as times changed, so did she. Once issue No. 24 rolled around at the end of 1942, Pat Parker became a full-fledged Captain in the U.S. Army and she led her own troops, who operated as spies and undercover agents behind enemy lines first, and then changed into uniformed, gun-toting commandos altogether. Clearly, not every young woman under her command looked like a long-legged, perfectly proportioned glamour model, nor were they all Caucasian and white. None of them were superheroines, just women who served their countries, the perfect role model for girl readers. For Pat Parker, switching genres was like changing hair color. She’d started out as a redhead, then she became raven-haired and now, clearly to make her stand out more, she was a blonde. And she and her Girl Commandos soon made headlines. “Girl Commandos Outwit Ratzis”, the fictional Daily Herald-Gazette proudly proclaimed in big letters on the front of an extra edition long before Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds” ever set foot in the territory held by the enemy. Eventually, fate did catch up with her, and the woman, even Hitler wanted seen captured, feel into the hands of an operative of the Axis. In Speed Comics No. 33 (1944) Pat was finally trapped. Chained to a wall no less, Major Parker found herself right next to the handsome captain she and her commandos had been looking for. The attractive man, who had been severely tortured by the enemy, had long since abandoned all hope. But this was something Pat Parker wasn’t cut out to do. Deftly, she found a way to free herself and the Army Captain who was completely useless. All it needed, apparently, was for Parker to raise herself on tiptoes in her black boots and to apply a bit of athleticism. It’s worth mentioning that the two artists who worked on the series at that time were women as well, Barbara Hall, who worked on the strip until she got married in 1943, and Jill Elgrin. And the enemy agent who’d succeeded in what no one had been able to do before, namely, to capture Miss Parker? She was a woman, too. Indeed, as her superhero colleague Shock Gibson could have told her, whose adventures ran in Speed Comics right around the same time, women were liable to cause all kinds of trouble. Thus, her male counterpart had his hands full with beautiful, albeit vicious ladies from the enemy camp, or at least from an undefined if not less dangerous affiliation. In Speed Comics No. 25 (1943) the blonde he-man went up against a platinum blonde Nazi villainess who looked a lot like actress Lana Turner would three years later in the movie adaptation of James M. Cain’s novel “The Postman Always Rings Twice”. And in issue No. 38 (cover dated July 1945), the blonde hero of science and muscled encountered “The Quisling Queen of Tambu”. The story begins when a platoon of American G.I.s lands on the beaches of a beautiful island in the South Pacific. The second the troops make landfall; they immediately draw fire from Japanese soldiers. Little do both parties suspect that among them is a man with powers that seem magical but that are owed to a chemical super-formula. Once out of sight from his peers and the enemy, Private Robert Charles Gibson slips out of his fatigues and into his patriotic superhero garb to bring the war to these cowardly Japanese troops. But when he over-extends himself, he is taken prisoner by the tribe who lives on the island and brought to their queen. Queen Lagoona, who wore a long dress which was generously slid to reveal her long legs, and who held a cigarette by a long cigarette-holder between her fingers, was of course an exotic beauty. She looked like she’d just stepped out of a newspaper strip by legendary artist Will Eisner, or the beautiful, but treacherous Tondeleyo, who was seen in the Eisner co-created Blackhawk series, a young woman who’d come to Blackhawk Island to pose as an innocent, but whose real motives were as sinister as she was gorgeous. As readers saw who picked up a copy of Military Comics No. 14 (cover-dated December 1942) and who read this story by the new creative team of Bill Woolfolk and master artist Reed Crandall, Tondeleyo wanted to bring dissension and cowardice to these brave men at behest of her Nazi handlers, and she nearly succeeded. Such was the power and perhaps the nature of a young woman, readers learned, well, at least that you needed to be on careful. And like Tondeleyo, Queen Lagoona was in league with the enemies of democracy, albeit the Japanese in her case. Now she claimed this fine specimen Shock Gibson as her prize, whom she seized up as the kind of man who was worthy to be her groom, to run the entire island together with her under Japanese rule. Instead of commanding her men to kill the rope-bound Shock Gibson, the hero’s fate was far worse than death, at least if you asked a ten-year-old male reader. Without even asking, she kissed the blonde hero. To complete the gender-reversal, Gibson resorted to the bag of tricks male writers gave to women under similar circumstances. He’d simply play along until he saw an opportunity to make a break for it. However, her affections for the blonde All-American superhero brought Lagoona into conflict with the commander of the Japanese troops who was secretly in love with the dark-skinned native beauty. Mad with jealousy, Commander Barukki, the leader of this battalion of fiendish Japanese soldiers who gave Gibson’s band of brothers so much trouble, was pulling his sword to make short work of Lagoona’s new, handsome lover. It is worth mentioning that the artist for this story was none other than Bob Fujitani, who was half-Japanese. During the war years, Fujitani would frequently use the pseudonyms Bob Wells and Bob Fuje to hide his ethnicity and heritage when working on tales which depicted Japanese soldiers more often than not as cruel “sub-humans”, or as inapt buffoons. Colonel Barukki was clearly the latter. Instead of killing the hero, all he achieved was to make a complete fool of himself, and to inadvertently free the hero from his bounds. This gave Shock Gibson the opportunity and time to recharge his powers, on a simple field telephone no less. Some two decades later, readers would see Iron Man do something very similar whenever his armor ran out of juice and his heart was about to fail. Once he was a full man again, or at least a functioning superhero, Shock Gibson used the ensuing chaos to defeat the Japanese, this time around without breaking into a sweat. Then, to add insult to injury, not only did Shock manage to capture Lagoona, but he did so in his guise as Private Bob Gibson, to let her know that any American male knew how to put a woman such as she in her place. With his manliness re-asserted, the tale ended.

 

Like with Tondeleyo and Lagoona who supported the enemy in a non-militaristic manner, and for every woman who did on the battlefield, like Pat Parker and Miss Victory and her alter-ego, as well as her foe, former fashion model Susumenka, there was an American superheroine who made sure that the home front was not left unguarded. For all the girl readers who saw their older sisters go to work in a factory that made essential products or put on a nurse’s uniform, there was a young woman in the comics who wanted to serve her country as superheroine or at least as some sort of crimefighter. Gangsters hadn’t gone away only because there was a war going on, quite to the contrary. But with patriotic heroes like Captain America and his female counterpart Miss Victory fighting abroad in their hero identities and as their alter-egos, and soon men like Alan Scott enlisting as well, who was secretly All-American Comics’ Green Lantern, who better to protect the home front than a wielder of a very different kind of lantern altogether? Whereas Green Lantern’s lantern and his power ring were designed to shed “light over dark evil… for, the dark things cannot stand the light, the light of the Green Lantern!”, this lantern would put evildoers into an abyss of total darkness, as black as the bottom of their evil hearts. And who was better suited than a woman to possess such a fantastical weapon? A woman who had heeded the call that had young women all over the country slip into a new role and to meet the challenges posed by the war, all the while looking fabulous doing just that. In the Summer of 1941, right around the same time Harvey Comics was getting ready to debut their own female crimefighter The Black Cat, Jerry Iger was putting together the first issue of Police Comics for his client. Knowing full well that Everett Arnold was hands-on in many respects, the kind of behavior that had earned the publisher his nickname “Busy”, Iger felt that there needed to be a bit of a balance to all the male heroes and their testosterone. Though Police Comics No. 1 featured the debut of a guy whose new superpowers would put him more on the cartoony side, namely Jack Cole’s soon to be extremely popular Plastic Man, for most of the issue kids would see men doing manly things. Since Iger knew that “Busy” Arnold fancied himself somewhat of a ladies’ man, meaning that he liked to look at women whenever the situation allowed, or at least at pictures of them, he asked artist Arthur Peddy to come up with a superheroine. He did and she was dubbed The Phantom Lady. Since there was no origin story needed, it would do that glamorous debutante Sandra Knight, the daughter of an elderly, wealthy U.S. Senator no less, had decided to do her part, once they’d picked up the first issue of Police Comics, kid readers met the latest superheroine fully formed. In “The Coming of The Phantom Lady”, a title that either betrayed the writer’s inexperience, or was simply poorly chosen, the black-haired woman took center stage on the splash page in her superheroine identity right away. Clad in what pretty much amounted to a saffron colored, one piece bathing suit combined with a green cape and yellow ankle boots, and a thin red belt to accentuate her small waist, Sandra Knight, who was not much older than eighteen as the story stated, looked like many young girls around that time, except for her strange get-up, of course. Peddy drew his heroine somewhat realistically proportioned. Even in her role as superheroine, Sandra a was good girl and very modest at that. All Sandra needed, apparently, was her natural gift at doing daring stunts that required the skills of an athlete, and a tiny object which she held in one hand and which would shroud anything she pointed it at, in total darkness. An item the story referred to as “black lantern”. No need to explain how she’d ever come into the possession of an object such as this one, or the need to ask any questions. There was plenty of well-drawn action, since Sandra knew how to handle herself in a fight as well, and she’d be back soon as a helpful blurb on the last page told every boy and girl reader. That she was, but she’d also change very quickly since both Iger and Arnold saw that their competitors weren’t asleep at the wheel. Fight Comics, an anthology title put out by powerhouse publisher Fiction House, had its issue No. 19 come out less than a year later in 1942. It featured a raven-haired female spy with the license to thrill and to kill, and Consuela Maria Ascencion De Las Vegas made The Phantom Lady look like a little naïve girl. As Señorita Rio, Consuela struck fear into the heart of every Axis’ agent in Latin America, and she did so in ways that predated Sean Connery’s portrayal of Ian Fleming’s James Bond by two decades, and the creation of 007 by ten years. While the future writer of arguably the most famous spy in the world was serving in the British Naval Intelligence Division, the Señorita knew how to seduce any man, and she strangle them to their death just as easily. Consequently, with new artist Frank M. Borth at the helm, Sandra Knight did a lot of growing up. Soon, her yellow costume became much more revealing and there was suddenly more to reveal. And to make more of her legs, which had gained in length, her ankle boots were replaced by impractical slingbacks. Sure, the click-clack of the high heels of her slingbacks announced her presence to the bad guys well in advance when they met any polished floor or the pavement, as if the superheroine had just sent these evil-doers a message regarding her arrival via the telegraph. But weren’t they just perfectly glamorous, and so very perfect for kicking your male enemy right in the crotch? Clearly, these were fantasies. Why not have fun. While she was still competent, far less so than Black Venus or Señorita Rio who used their bodies in many ways as a means to an end, the scenarios The Phantom Lady now found herself in, were much more sadistic and clearly less intended to inspire young girls, but to titillate boys and maybe some adults as well. In her penultimate adventure, at least for the time being, which came in Police Comics No. 22 (1943), and with a story called “Submarine Sabotage”, in an attempt to make the character more relevant by involving her more directly in the war, The Phantom Lady was getting strangled by an overtly muscled, bare-chested sailor wearing a gas mask. By now, the heroine looked a lot like a fashion model, and wearing her costume, which had morphed into a neck holder swimsuit with a long slit at the front, together with her high heel shoes on a submarine in front of gawking seamen seemed pretty normal to her. She won this fight, of course she did, but barely. But right on cue, on the splash page for the next issue, readers saw The Phantom Lady in yet another predicament. Now Sandra was tied to a chair with some common rope while she was getting menaced by four evil-looking individuals who were up to no good. With Police Comics No. 23 (cover-dated October 1943), it was time for Sandra Knight to hang up her green cape and to put her black lantern into storage. The Phantom Lady would make a triumphant return eventually, but in the meantime, during her first tenure, she’d never achieved what Señorita Rio managed to do quite regularly. Since Plastic Man was the uncontested breakout star in Police Comics, his were all the covers. This wasn’t the case with Fight Comics. Not only did the raven-haired spy have the covers to herself more often than not, she became the star of the anthology series once Lily Renée began her long run on the serial. Indeed, Señorita Rio appeared in every issue since her debut, until her feature was cancelled with No. 71 in 1950. Señorita Rio proved that it paid if you were a good bad girl.

 

Then, the war ended. Men who had enjoyed the camaraderie of other men a bit too long were anxious to get back the civilian lives they’d been forced to put on hold, and to get into the company of women. There was a sense of uneasiness at first. Men, who were made deeply insecure by how they saw their once so familiar wives and girlfriends act, every woman really, had to come up with a whole new lexicon to better equip themselves when dealing with the fairer sex in this new world. But at the same time, if you were a girl and you read comics, you learned that women were expected to re-adjust as well. After comics had taught girls that they too were needed in the war effort, now it was time to roll things back to how they’d been before the war. Granted, movies like “Gilda” showed men that it was alright if some of the women, especially the more exotic ones, stayed a bit bad for the time being, which also explains how Señorita Rio managed to stay on so much longer while other superheroines soon faded away, but with a good girl, a nice girl you might marry one day, this was not the kind of behavior men wanted to see. Too much independence and too much competence might give any girl the wrong kind of ideas. It is therefore not surprising, that comic book readers noticed a huge change in the superheroines whose adventures they’d been reading. In Contact comics, Black Venus now had to contend with fighting some non-descript racketeers like The Phantom Lady once had to, but this wasn’t all. In Contact Comics No. 10 (cover-dated January 1946), in the tale “The American Fronters” by Woolfolk and Maurice Whitman, Mary Roche meets Mike Williams, a highly decorated war hero and ace pilot. Mike had tired from the atrocities he had to witness. Apparently, there was no fight left in him. Kids might observe this attitude in their dads or an older brother, now that the men were home from the war. Initially, Mary’s there to save Mike from some crooks, which she does once she’s changed into her tight-fitting catsuit, in which Mike obviously is unable to recognize her as the same young woman he’s just encountered. But once they get into a firefight in the air, readers saw a reversal of the events as they had played out in Captain Aero Comics No. 21 just two years earlier. Now it was Black Venus who got wounded and thus rendered helpless and it was up to Mike Williams to save both of them and to win the fight. Obviously, he did. Here was a signal to every man out there. You were supposed to be back in the driver seat. Now, if one of the heroes palled around with a heroine, she needn’t to be brave or competent much longer. Daddy was home and he was here to stay. Case in point Valkyrie, the raven-haired bad girl from Hillman’s oft relaunched and re-numbered Air Fighters Comics. Valkyrie had made her debut in Volume 2, No. 2 of Air Fighters. This issue came with cover art by Fred Kida for arguably one of the most famous covers of the 1940s. The cover showed the star of the title, blonde pilot Airboy, whipped and broken on the floor of some dungeon. Airboy had even been put into chains like Pat Parker once she’d finally been captured. Like Captain Parker, Airboy was now at the mercy of a gorgeous, albeit sadistic woman who had proven that she was his betters. She was the Nazi air vixen Valkyrie, who had very little patience, lest she never took the time needed to button her shirt. Her pose, as she stood over the badly beaten American hero, was one of triumph fulfilled, and surely enough, from a round, barred window an evil henchmen looked into the cell with these two highly attractive individuals while he fingered his whip which he had already introduced to the hero’s soft flesh. The provocative illustration was sexually charged to the brim, but it evoked some strange metaphors. With Valkyrie’s long, straight and booted legs spread extremely wide, and her victim unconscious, and well-nigh in a fetal position, this was a mother with her unruly child, a reminder that without women there would be no men. Yet her introductory story, with art by Kida, had many surprising twists in store. On the splash page, the hero’s size was that of an action figure, thus, in the hands of the black-haired woman, he was her mere plaything. Valkyrie, who had a lot of clout with any Nazi officer for her skills as a pilot and her ruthlessness, had outwitted the handsome boy. The Nazi villainess had him stripped down to his pants and tied to a pole. With her full breasts nearly falling out of her open shirt with every movement she made, she gave Airboy a whipping of a lifetime, which was to be expected from a woman who had a heart as black as hers. Still, Valkyrie got betrayed by her squad of female pilots, the Airmaidens, who can’t stand seeing a beautiful creature such as this pretty boy get punished. When the girls are found out, Valkyrie tricks Airboy into revealing the secrets to his plane to her, which she uses as collateral to get her squad freed from the charges of treason. But Valkyrie learns that her commander is still intent on having the three girls whipped, even after she gave up the location where the Maidens had been hiding Airboy. Her C.O.’s reaction doesn’t sit well with Valkyrie, especially since he’d promised to release the girls. Without any hesitation, she shoots the Nazi commander dead on the spot, then Valkyrie takes to the skies in Airboy’s plane. With Airboy facing a firing squad, and her Airmaidens about to get whipped, she mows the Nazis down with the guns from his plane. In the end, Valkyrie and Airboy make out in the cockpit of his plane, in what seems like another precursor to all the James Bond movies to come, and this isn’t where some of the similarities ended if you know your Bond. But that was in 1943. When Valkyrie returned a year later in Air Fighters Comics No. 7, again depicted by Fred Kida, she was now in league with the Royal Air Force. When Airboy learns that some of his pals in the R.A.F. got captured by Nazis, he goes on a one-man mission to rescue them. But Valkyrie is there, as his backup, to bail him out from a Nazi jail, and to shoot the Nazi C.O. when the opportunity presents itself, something he isn’t willing to do. However, once her third adventures saw print in Airboy Comics No. 12 (cover-dated January 1946), which was Air Fighters Comics under a new name, things had to be very different. The times had most certainly changed. During the war, a superhero or a hero pilot could be aided by an equally skilled woman. Such was the charm of a noble hero, that the women were even willing to betray their own nations, like it was the case with the German Valkyrie or the Japanese witch Mystery, who had secretly helped The Blackhawks in Military Comics No. 15 (1943). For Airboy and the raven-haired beauty, the war had not yet ended, technically, but Valkyrie was now in a transport corps in Burma. When her plane gets snatched by Airboy’s unearthly nemesis Mysery, it is up to the ace pilot to rescue Valkyrie for a change. Soon thereafter, he and his comrades get attacked by Valkyrie’s plane. Airboy is quick to gather that she must be under the demon’s spell. In a daring plane to plane maneuver, the blonde pilot manages to gain control of the situation and he knocks Valkyrie unconscious, lest she poses any danger to him or herself. He then confronts the demon who defeats him with the help of the woman who was in his thrall. In a last second rescue, Valkyrie regains her senses and saves Airboy while she pushes the demon into a pit. He wasn’t dead, yet. It was up to Airboy to take the fight to the demon once and for all. As far as Valkyrie was concerned, she did return a few months later. Without the war, the air heroes had lost their purpose, and with them having little to do, there was no room for a brave woman to stand her ground. Valkyrie was reduced to window dressing and by now she had learned to button her shirt properly. Little by little, the superheroines vanished, and even the superheroes had to figure out a way to adjust to civilian life. Like with any other man out there, this meant settling down and getting a job. Then, you could go looking for a nice girl. This was exactly what readers saw the most revered superhero of the war do. Thus, it was conveniently revealed in Captain America No. 59 (1946), that prior to his time of service, Steve Rogers had worked as a public-school teacher. Soon, he receives an offer for a teaching position at the Lee School, which he accepts. Naturally, he makes sure that Bucky Barnes, his underage sidekick and secretly the crimefighting partner of Captain America, is enrolled at the same institute as their latest student. Things were still a bit weird. In one issue, Cap and Bucky went up against some common crooks, in the next they fought some one-off costumed villain, and in the next issue they might encounter Captain America’s archfoe The Red Skull who had also survived the war. But when issue No. 61 (1947) ended with a panel that showed the blonde man and his kid pal sleeping next to each other, in separate beds, mind you, something needed to be done. Right with the next issue we learn that Steve, who now wears a hat and smokes a pipe, has a new colleague, none other than Betsy Ross, a young blonde who had first appeared in Captain America Comics No. 1 (1941), and who worked as an agent for the U.S. Army at that time. She’d served as love interest for Steve, and she was assigned to this role once again. Though to the readers, Betsy was a bit dull and the relationship was on a friendly level at best, comics were telling young people that they needed to be on guard whenever a girl crossed their path who was all glamour but had the wrong intentions in mind. These were the women who had not given up their position of power and who were unwilling to adapt like Valkyrie had. These girls were out to manipulate you, like they tried to do with the heroes. Consequently, for the next couple of issues you saw Cap and Bucky go up against some of the most beautiful, yet most treacherous women. Though she often proved rather useless, Betsy was around to look pretty and to cheer the heroes on. These evil women loomed large on the covers and the splash pages, or they paraded around in their pencil skirts and their seamed stockings in high heel shoes as if to test how steadfast the resolve of the heroes truly was. With art by Al Avison and Syd Shores, they most certainly looked like the temptresses from a film noir. Whereas Captain America certainly couldn’t, Betsy was ready to punch some of these girls right in their made-up faces. But around the very next corner, there was another girl who might trick the noble war hero, or some naïve ingénue might require his assistance who may prove a rival to Betsy, but in the end was a loyal friend to Steve’s blonde friend. Then, all was lost it seemed. When Captain America No. 65 (1948) appeared on the stands, readers couldn’t believe their eyes. There on the cover by Syd Shores, Cap hit Bucky right in the face because his sidekick wanted to warn him about this women Grace who was holding Cap’s arm. Evidently, The Sentinel of Liberty had fallen under the spell of a girl who was up to no good. This was no trick either, as you learned from the story by Woolfolk and Shores. Indeed, Cap was dating this black-haired woman, and they were seen dining and dancing in fancy night clubs across town. Suddenly, Bucky had become a child from a broken marriage. He snuck out of the apartment he shared with Steve to sleep at a homeless shelter. But lucky, it was all a ruse. Cap had pretended that he was in love with this woman, to reveal her as the mastermind behind the latest crime-spree in the city.

 

Other heroes crossed paths with these women as well, and like Captain America, they were all immune to their alluring charm and overt propositions. Superheroes only wished their sidekicks were this lucky. In All-American Comics No. 71 (1946), in a story by former pulp writer Henry Kuttner and Paul Reinman, Green Lantern witnessed his pal Doiby Dickles fall under the spell of such a wicked siren. The little, over-weight man had managed to push Alan Scott’s erstwhile secretary and possible love interest out of the series when it was felt that the Green Lantern tales needed more levity to attract younger readers. But now it was time for him to get his comeuppance, it least this was how some readers felt who had been annoyed by this hapless character for the longest time. In “Doiby Dickles, The Human Bomb” three mad scientists, who looked like they came from a Universal horror movie, decided to turn a test subject into a walking bomb. They know they can do it, so why not? But where to find such an individual? But luckily, as it would seem, one of the men has a young daughter. The ravishing Drina is seen walking the streets to lure some fool into their clutches, all the while she muses: “Ho-hum. So dull luring men with my fatal beauty. It’s like shooting a sitting target. Hardly sporting.” All it takes for Doiby is to set his eyes on this lovely creature for his higher brain functions to shut down completely. He hits the ground face first. His buddy Green Lantern is unable to prevent his abduction since the sneaky Drina hits him over his head with her wooden-clasped purse, and sure enough, the hero fell prey to his only weakness. And for this time at least, it would remain his only weakness. Once Green Lantern manages to locate the lair of the evil scientists and gets Doiby’s rescue underway, Drina tries her charm on him, to rather pitiful results. Green Lantern hardly looks at her as he snarls: “Scram, lady! I’m busy!” But in the end, like with the tale in which Captain America had fooled the wannabe mob-boss Grace, it was all a big deception. The three scientists were nice looking fellows once they removed their rubber mask. Drina was really a secretary, and if you thought she was gorgeous, well, the joke was on you. Once she took off her miracle makeup, let’s just say reality was far less pleasing to the eye. But even though Doiby hadn’t died in the story, he wasn’t off the hook yet. Soon, Green Lantern’s portly sidekick would suffer a fate far worse than death. He’d be deemed irrelevant. In 1947, just a year later, several things happened at around the same time which would have a profound influence on comics in general and on superheroes books specifically. In 1944, Max Gaines, the co-founder of the company that produced All-American Comics, Green Lantern’s solo series, and many other successful superhero titles, sold his stake in All-American Publishing to his erstwhile financial backer and business partner Harry Donenfeld, thus giving Harry complete ownership over the three largest comic book companies in North America, National Comics, Detective Comics and All-America. Donenfeld, who had immigrated to America with his parents from Romania, also owned a distribution company, Independent News. Once a publisher of semi-pornographic pulp magazines, he’d gone all in on the new hot trend at the end of the 30s, namely superheroes, like many other publishers who saw the writing on the wall when pulps were going down in sales and comics rose to new heights. The war years, which had turned the entire country patriotic overnight, had proven a boon for business. All you needed to do was to dress men and women in the American flag or to have them somehow else involved in the war effort on the printed page, and you had a new sales hit on your hands. Clearly, with comics sales going through the roof and an ever-increasing demand for superheroes and superheroines, as well as war heroes and sexy spies, publishers made more and over-extended. The entire comic book industry, still in its infancy at that time, was like a poker game in which all players went all in. Like Max Gaines predicted, who hadn’t sold his share in All-American Publishing voluntarily, soon the bottom of the whole market would fall out. It did once the soldiers were back home who no longer had any time for these funny books that had offered them escapism during the dull downtime in the barracks. Worse, in retrospect it actually felt kinda silly that you had ever been reading these stories for kids as an adult. Kids had no need for the superheroes any longer, either. Just a few months prior, they’d seen them go up against the tanks, submarines and other war machinery of the enemy. That enemy had been ground into dust once Berlin fell, and just two bombs forced the Japanese Empire into unconditional surrender. Now you saw your favorite superheroes push around some regular crooks, which looked dumb and silly really, like Airboy and Valkyrie getting captured by some character who dressed up like they were from medieval times. Still, comics about gangsters sold, but you didn’t need any superheroes for those. This attitude, which began to spread like wildfire among the readers that stuck with comics, explains why a title like Lev Gleason’s Crime Does Not Pay still moved a million units per copy while Superman and his peers no longer did, and why all of a sudden you saw these evil women in a comic like Captain America. Femme fatales were heavily featured in the crime comics, women who still didn’t play by the rules and who looked as dangerous as they were beautiful. In the end, there’d always be a big shootout between some gangster and his glamorous, deliciously wicked girlfriend and the police. If you were a kid, a boy or a girl, these four-colored morality plays about adults doing bad things held an endless fascination for you, a package that was completely irresistible. Gaines had tried to win the hearts and minds of young readers by presenting stories about the one man who was more powerful than all the superheroes put together, namely Jesus Christ. But as far as falling sales for superhero titles and comics overall, the Lord couldn’t perform any miracles, either. But Gaines, who was one of the pioneers, if not inventors of this medium of comics, was no fool. Educational Comics, the company he’d founded from the profits of his sale of All-American to Donenfeld, had two big new releases planned for 1947 with which Max wanted to turn around the fortunes of EC Comics. International Comics, an anthology title with recurring heroes like super-sleuth Van Manhattan and a pretty dark-haired girl in peril on each cover, an attempt to get some of the sales Lev Gleason was making. And with his second new offering, Max was shooting for the moon. At All-American Publishing, Max had been involved in the creation of Wonder Woman when he had appointed William Moulton Marston to EC’s advisory board. As it turned out, the psychologist had a pitch for a comic book series of his own, and for a character who was based on Greek mythology, his own belief that women were superior to men and his experiences from living with a wife and a live-in lover whose affections he and his wife shared together. Under the pencil of artist Harry G. Peter, there was a lot of bondage and themes of sado-masochism that were prevalent during the war years. Wonder Woman was a smash hit for All-American, though even her sales were in decline now. But what if you toned it all down a bit and played up the romance angle? If kids bought Moon Girl and the Prince, they’d get “America’s newest and most exciting characters in four complete thrilling episodes!” The problem was, they didn’t. Max died in a boating accident in the Summer of that year, and his son Bill, who took over the failing company, changed Moon Girl and the Prince into a crime comic. Crime, violence and a lot of pictures of pretty girls were also the kind of mix Victor Fox had in mind to combat the falling sales of comic books when he turned to the man who was pretty much a guaranteed hit-maker. Though Fox had been embroiled in a fierce legal battle with his former business partner Will Eisner, Jerry Iger surely had no qualms about doing business with Fox. Since Iger knew that Fox preferred a bit of sleaze in the titles he was peddling to boys and girls, a formula that had worked well for him in the past, the packager told him that he had just the right character for him. There’d be crime and violence, and a crimefighter, but she’d be a girl, and best of all, her appearance would be that of a pin-up model. Iger needn’t go to the well for this character, he had her on file. Everett Arnold hadn’t used The Phantom Lady in a couple of years, and as far as Iger was concerned, this meant that the rights to the character had reverted back to his studio. But she needed work, character-wise and as far as her overall look was concerned. To get her into a shape that would please Fox, Iger looked at what had worked with Señorita Rio and then told his creators Ruth Roach and Matt Baker to crank it all up to eleven. Whereas Sandra Knight had looked like debutantes when they got ready for a fancy party, and she’d come with body which was realistically proportioned, at least comparatively speaking, the artist retained her age, but gave her the voluptuous body of a fully-grown woman. Baker made sure that the size of her breasts rivaled that of her head, and her legs were like those you saw on a burlesque dancer in a night club. This Sandra would still be a rich girl who liked to go to parties, only the parties had changed and her attitude. You immediately got the impression that here was a girl who wouldn’t wait till the third date, hell, she’d skip the first date, dinner and a movie altogether. And you got the idea that she liked it rough. Clad in a new, skimpier outfit that left little to the imagination, and plenty of opportunities to entice readers to spy on Sandra while she was changing into her blue, barely-there superheroine threads, the all-new, all-improved Phantom Lady made her debut in the Summer of 1947. In her adventures, she’d get tied up a lot, and Baker and a host of ghost artists like Jack Kamen made sure that whenever Sandra was trying to wriggle free of her bonds, such scenes would include several full-body shots, with the readers’ eyes guided to her bust and legs.

 

When they realized that superhero books and comics in general got cancelled left and right, one of the top teams of creators of the superhero craze, decided to try something else entirely. It all started when Joe Simon paid closer attention to the people who were actually reading these books, and they weren’t all kids at that time: “I saw all these adults reading comic books and said, ‘Jeez, they’re all reading Disney and Donald Duck.’ I got together a few pages of True Romance Confession [magazine] and I thought the girls, the housewives that were reading comics… everybody who was reading… would really like to read some adult comics.” But that was before America, and especially adults, had fallen out of love with the cheap thrills these books offered. What was still selling, though, were teen romance books, which kept MLJ Comics afloat, the publisher of the Archie comic books. With all other avenues of income drying up fast, Simon and his business partner Jack Kirby landed at Macfadden Publications during the immediate post-war years. Macfadden was mainly a publisher for romance, teen and movie magazines, but when comics were a hot commodity, they’d branched out into this market as well. But this was not their core business, and now they were surely glad it wasn’t. Still, Simon and Kirby worked on one of the remaining comics in the anemic line, for which the erstwhile superstar creators did the feature “My Date”, a teen-romance serial with a humorous bent like with the popular Archie. Artist-writer Al Feldstein, who would become the creator to move the industry in a new direction, after EC Comics’ Bill Gaines hired him, had begun developing similar teen romance books for Victor Fox. Since Feldstein’s style was similar to Matt Baker’s, it was a match made in heaven. But with Simon looking at Macfadden’s magazine line, he soon recalled his idea from a few years earlier. Unfortunately, Macfadden, which were getting ready to leave comics behind, showed no interest, and neither did some of the other publishers he and Kirby contacted with their pitch. Finally, they landed at Crestwood Publications, which still had a viable comic book line via their Prize Group imprint. They’d heard of Simon and Kirby, but their idea sounded crazy. The team that had created the once immensely successful Captain America comic a few years earlier now wanted to comics that seemed ostensibly targeted at girls at best. Their reluctance mirrored the sentiment one of Simon’s colleagues, Harvey Kurtzman, would later refrain: “So far had the mighty fallen.” Still, comics were losing steam but fast, so why not try something crazy? The catch was: Prize wouldn’t pay the two creators upfront. Joe Simon, who fancied himself a businessman, and who very much thought his friend Jack wasn’t, saw the opportunity for a two-way partnership. They’d pay for the talent, which would be they and a fellow named Bill Draut, who’d made the mistake of switching from doing art for newspapers to comic books, and who had landed at Prize, with the publisher handling the printing and distribution. It seemed fair, except that Prize pre-sold the title to its distributors on advance payments, thus limiting their financial exposure. But still, if this thing worked out, Simon and Kirby would see a backend of fifty percent. Thus, in the Fall of 1947, Prize published Young Romance No. 1 by Simon, Kirby and Bill Draut. The issue came with a cover that let kids know that this book was “designed for the more adult readers of comics”, which meant that you needed to buy it if you were like eight years old. Matters were helped by the cover by Kirby which had nothing to do with any of the stories inside the book, but if readers did notice, surely nobody was complaining. In what seemed a bit meta, you saw a distraught painter who was being tempted by his hot model, a smoking redhead, obviously not a good girl. If the picture of the long-legged woman in the red dress, who messed with guy’s blonde hair hadn’t sold you on the idea of what she was up to, well, her words surely did. She was ready and willing to kindle the artist’s spark of genius. The problem was, there was this guy’s fiancée coming through the door of his studio, and Jane and the model, Linda, they were sisters. Of course, you’d buy such a book. And the next issue as well. What had seemed like a crazy idea born out of desperation, began to pay off handsomely for the duo. Almost overnight, Simon and Kirby had not only created a new genre in comic books, romance comics, but these books soon sold a million copies per issue, only rivaled by the crime comics, further pushing any old title that featured a superhero into the boxes that were marked “unsold, return to distributor.” As far as Simon and Kirby were concerned, via the deal with Prize they were soon making one thousand dollars a week each (around ten times the amount in today’s money when adjusted for inflation). Once again, the team that had created Captain America for Timely Comics in 1941 was on top. It only seemed fitting that it was Timely who soon thereafter brought the second romance comic to newsstands, which was called My Romance. It saw its debut in August 1948. Victor Fox, never one to waste any opportunity to turn a quick buck, had My Life ready only a month later, which oddly enough started with issue No. 4, once again due to some re-numbering shenanigans. Who cared, really? Once you saw the illustration on its cover, which depicted a sassy redhead who admired herself in a vanity mirror while she told her husband “Run along, Junior, you bore me!”, you were hooked. Now with two strong genres to stand on and a few others like western books, comic books were seeing vastly improved numbers. Which was a huge boon for the industry, but not for superhero titles. These still sold as poorly as they had once the war was won. What were those creators supposed to do who were unfortunate enough to get assigned to any of these books? Clearly, they were scrambling to keep these superpowered characters relevant. Fox’s Phantom Lady, technically a superheroine, albeit one who looked like a pin-up model in bondage, was selling reasonably well. Therefore, why not give the superheroes a superhero girlfriend? Thus, you could introduce the whole romance angle into the proceedings. And wouldn’t it be fun to see how some of them dealt with romances that went beyond schoolyard crushes, now that they had the time for this after the war. And as Fox’s Phantom Lady had proven, you could still get away with a lot of overtly sexy content if only you put a woman in a superheroine costume. Soon, The Human Torch, who had running around with a shirtless boy-sidekick, got a long-legged, blonde girl as his new crimefighting partner. She had been a supporting character. Now she was Sun Girl and she had a gimmick similar to The Phantom Lady, bracelets that emitted beams of bright light. Though it had been a ruse in Captain America Comics No. 65, readers already got a taste what it would be like if Cap dropped Bucky for a girl. There was just no way this would really happen. But only one issue later, in Captain America Comics No. 66 (1948), he did exactly that. A glimpse at the cover by Syd Shores prepared readers for the worst. One of those bad girls you had seen Cap and Bucky go up against for a couple of issues now, took center stage. She was a ravishing raven-haired beauty in a long evening dress and a black domino-mask who held a gun. There was a trail of smoke that came from its barrel and there was Bucky, clutching the mid-section of his tiny body as he got weak in the knees. Bucky had been shot, and Cap had been unable to prevent this from happening. In fact, he stood there, impotent and unable to decide what to do next. Once you turned to the splash page, things only got worse. You saw Cap, but again he wasn’t on top of the situation. Instead you saw a gorgeous, long-legged blonde girl in a golden, mini-skirted costume with a green cape and a green cowl mask that left her pretty face bare, with her identity hidden behind a domino-mask. Golden Girl. This time, there wouldn’t be a cop-out, Bucky had really bought it, and this “clever and beautiful” girl-hero was ready to take his place. But who was she, and was Bucky really dead? Well, better get the issue to find out! And Woolfolk and Shores surely delivered. During a heist, Cap and Bucky go up against some crooks who are led by this mysterious black-haired woman who went by the name Lavender. Like you saw on the cover, she pulls a gun and without any hesitation, she shoots Bucky. Then you saw Cap who solemnly picked up his young partner and carried him to a nearby hospital. Then an agonizing wait began, with Cap outside the operating room while Bucky received emergency surgery. But Cap wouldn’t need to wait alone much longer. There was his friend Betsy, who looked more beautiful than ever and who had heard what had happened to Bucky. Then there was the doctor now who lit up a cigarette and let them know that Bucky had “a rare chance” to pull through. Cap spends a moment with Bucky. Time enough to tell him to keep on fighting before the kid passes out. He’d get Lavender as Cap had promised his sidekick, but there was a small issue: “It will be tough going, doing the job alone! I’m used to working with a partner!” Luckily, there was Betsy to remind him that he wasn’t on his own. A short while later, he shows up at her apartment where Betsy is in full makeup, but wearing an apron since she’s cleaning her nice, gleaming kitchen. Betsy was a nice girl. With Betsy doing the dishes, Cap pulls up a chair to sit. Then he starts a job interview. His questions are all about her fitness and her athleticism. Clearly, Betsy was a fit, All-American girl who could handle herself in physically demanding situations. Obviously, Cap finds her answer satisfactory, since only seconds later he reveals to her that secretly he’s her friend and colleague Steve Rogers. Betsy had no idea! What’s more, he wants her to partner with him in going up against Lavender and her gang of crooks. Having ditched her apron, Betsy is of course flattered, and she does a bit of posing in her living room, courtesy of Syd Shores, before she gets ready to get trained by Captain America. He does, for a few panels. Then she presents herself to him in her new costume which seemed even shorter than on the splash page and which came with cute boots. Obviously, readers had not seen the pretty blonde in a skirt that could have easily doubled for a belt before, and while the hero pretended not to notice, they clearly did. They get into a fight with Lavender and her gang, and though it seems that Betsy knows how to handle herself and it appears that she even saves Cap’s life when the evil vixen throws a knife at him, it was all a test and she has failed. Distraught Betsy looks for a way to redeem herself in Cap’s eyes, and through some clever sleuthing, she does just that. She’s figured out where Lavender and her crew are holed up. The crimefighters go on the offensive without a warning as Shores makes sure he can get some nice pin-up shots of Betsy as Golden Girl in, and obviously he does enjoy drawing the naked legs of a young woman a bit more than drawing a boy sidekick. It’s Golden Girl who takes on Lavender in the fight, and thus, she has won Cap’s respect. Once the matter is settled, he and Betsy have time to finally kiss each other, with a big heart appearing above them that says “smack!” Then they visit Bucky in hospital to tell him that he was furloughed until he had fully recuperated, which might take a while as Betsy was secretly hoping. Thus, Cap had a new partner and a serious love interest.

 

By the end of the 1940s, one out of four comic books published was a romance comic. With around six hundred different comic books hitting newsstands in any given months, romance and crime books were increasingly crowding out the superheroes. Harry Donenfeld’s comic book companies, National Comics, All-American and Detective were among the last few to survive the culling, yet even they couldn’t ignore this new trend in comics. With nearly all publishers putting out romance comics, they appointed editor Jack Miller to build up and oversee a whole line of romance books. But what were the editors on their superhero books supposed to do, like Sheldon Meyer, who had worked directly under Max Gaines, but who was now stranded without his former boss. Or Julius Schwartz, a former agent for pulp writers. He had only recently come to work for DC/National where his friend Mort Weisinger was the editor for the entire Superman line of books. Schwartz liked nice girls, but he liked those who played hard to get the most. He also like the love-hate relationship between their Batman and Catwoman characters. The very first meeting of those two in Batman No. 1 (1940) had ended with The Caped Crusader snarling the now iconic line “Quiet or Papa spank!” at Selina Kyle. Then there was the film “Gilda” which gave you a wild romance between two nocturnal creatures, a handsome hustler and a fiery redhead. What if, instead of giving the hero a superheroine girlfriend, they came up with a female adversary? She’d still be a good girl who was secretly in love with the hero, but meanwhile she’d behave like a real bad girl would, a girl who wanted to get caught and punished, but who eluded the hero for so long. Such a dynamic offered a lot of story potential, especially if the woman was a bit mousey as her alter-ego. She’d really let things rip once she was in her sassy supervillain attire and the mask she wore gave her license to be bad. She’d be close to the hero, even secretly in love with him, but since she was timid, he completely overlooked her. This eventually made her angry and in turn, it brought out her fiery personality. Schwartz discussed this with Mayer, who suggested they might as well give it a try with one of their superheroes who’d lost much of his luster in recent times, Green Lantern. But they better had a back-up plan ready in case this wasn’t working. They’d introduce Schwartz’s bad girl to the readers, but in the next issue Green Lantern would meet a confident woman, maybe a government agent, who was beautiful and who could become the hero’s love interest. They’d wait for the response they’ll get. Clearly, this was an improvement over having the hero pal around with a bald, overweight guy for this much longer. Doiby Dickles wasn’t doing Green Lantern any favors. Schwartz went to the creative team responsible for the Green Lantern stories in the anthology title he appeared in. Before they’d introduce any female characters into his solo series, this was the place to test them out first. Robert Kanigher and artist Irwin Hasen had their work cut out for themselves. They designed two new female characters and they created tales to debut them in. All-American Comics No. 90 (1947) featured a brand-new supervillain called The Icicle. When a cruise liner gets frozen in the middle of Summer, naturally, The Champion of Light needs to investigate matters. On the vessel, he finds a murdered physicist but before he can shed more light on the situation, it is lights out for the Emerald Crusader who gets hit over the head from behind with the wooden handle of a gun. In fact, the individual who knocks him out cold is a woman. She leaves a strange note behind which asks him to come to a specific location. There he’ll find the criminal who was on the ship. But first, he has to contend with this new supervillain and his ice-themed henchmen. Once he gets to the address, he finds the woman who’d hit him over the head. That is, once he is tied up by the bad guys and gets thrown in vault that is filled with quicksand. Now that they are both prisoners, he can chance a much better look at her. The statuesque, raven-haired beauty was Lorna Dawn, a Secret Service agent on an undercover mission. And of course, she wore high heel shoes in the line of duty. Though she’d been able to infiltrate the mobster’s gang, the same man Green Lantern had figured as the man behind the mask of The Icicle, and readers saw in a flashback sequence that this was indeed a quite capable young woman, the timing was right for the hero to show the girl what he could do. He pulled Lorna close as she wrapped her arms around his broad shoulders while he attempted to pull off a daring stunt to free them despite his power ring having run out of energy. Just with his strong fingers, dug deep into the gaps between the bricks, and the strength in his powerful arms, Green Lantern manages to climb up the high walls of their prison, all this while Lorna clings to his shoulders and back. Once they’ve made good on their escape, he simply lifts her up into the air with his powerful arms, while she sighs: “Green Lantern, you’re wonderful!” But since Scott was a superhero, now wasn’t the time for romance. First, there was business Green Lantern had to take care of. And though Lorna was competent as a Secret Service agent, her abilities went only this far. But this here, was a job for a man with superpowers, a real man. Green Lantern said good-bye to the beautiful girl, though it must have felt a bit awkward that he had to walk along the street on foot while she waved back at him. But once he’d put some juice into his ring, he took the fight to The Icicle. Right before the villain seemingly plunged to his death from a bridge in their decisive battle, the mystery of his dual identity was revealed. He was Dr. Joar Makent, the physicist whose body the superhero had discovered on the cruise liner. He wasn’t dead after all. But now, after a fall of twenty stories, he surely had to be dead. The story ended with radio announcer Alan Scott relating the tale and the secret behind the supervillain to Lorna Dawn, after all, he was friends with Green Lantern. Very pleased with the way things had turned out, Alan concedes that Lorna had played a valuable role in solving this crime. Readers saw them standing next to each other and you had to wonder, maybe this was more than the beginning of a wonderful friendship. Indeed, Lorna was back two issues later in All-American Comics No. 92 (1947) in another story by Kanigher, this time with art by comic legend Alex Toth, who created a striking cover as well. The Icicle had returned. While the nasty supervillain was firing his freeze-gun at the hero, once again held only by the tips of his fingers, Green Lantern desperately tried to avoid falling into the boiling lava of an active volcano as he held Lorna close to himself with his other arm. What might have been a bit more puzzling to astute readers than the surprise to see the supervillain alive, was the change Lorna had gone through. She’d turned into a rather dull brunette in the span of just two issues, and that scene on the cover? That never happened in the story, either. Lorna was mostly a bystander. Why this sudden change? Her new look and attitude were closely tied to what had occurred in the issue before she made her debut, and in the issue right before this one. All-American Comics No. 89 (1947) premiered the bad girl Schwartz had envisioned. She too was back two issues later, and she’d changed by then as well, but in a very different way than Lorna had, who’d be gone after her second appearance. What is interesting is the way Kanigher chose to introduce the supervillainess Schwartz wanted to see. In “The Harlequin”, readers meet Molly Mayne (frequently spelled Maynne), Alan’s hitherto unmentioned secretary at the radio station he manages. Molly is a tall redhead who dresses conservatively. Her business attire even comes with a ridiculously huge, stripped bowtie that makes her look a bit silly. An important sponsor of Alan’s radio program tells him about his big idea. They’d better put Green Lantern on the air to promote the sponsor’s chain of department stores. Alan scoffs at the thought of using a superhero this blatantly for crass commercialization, but the client is important, so he seemingly plays along, but tries to kill the man’s crazy idea by telling him that they’d need a fierce opponent for Green Lantern to fight or they’d have one dull radio show on their hands. He is dismayed to learn that Mr. Lentil has thought about that already. They’d simply invent one for the show, and as it turns out, Mr. Lentil’s son has offered his two cents by pointing his father in the right direction: “I’ve got one,” Mr. Lentil tells Alan excitedly. “My boy got the idea from this comic magazine! A beautiful doll in a harlequin costume, glasses and gimmicks!”

 

This was indeed a sly way to let your readers know why all of a sudden Green Lantern needed a female supervillain. She was there to make the sponsor some cash. It was the sponsor who wanted a girl villain. It’s rather interesting that John Broome, the writer who’d soon play an important role in the reboot of the Green Lantern character for The Silver Age of Comics, a move instigated by Schwartz as well, would make a similar meta-comment regarding the inclusion of female characters for financial reasons. In one of the last issues of the original Green Lantern series before the title was cancelled in 1949, Alan intends to sell Mr. Lentil on a new radio show only to learn that his important sponsor wants a real celebrity on the program, and who’d be better suited than Sylvia Woods, “the only gal in America running a logging camp… without her it’s no sale!” And as Green Lantern soon found out, with the livelihood of his alter-ego’s company depending on a woman, the beautiful blonde wore the pants, literally and figuratively. And so did The Harlequin. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, Molly didn’t, which triggered exactly the chain of events Schwartz had envisioned. While Mr. Lentil demands that an actress soon be cast to assume the role of Green Lantern’s latest opponent, Alan Scott has a change of heart. He’d appear on the show in his superhero identity, but they’d have to stress “that crime doesn’t pay and my salary goes to charity.” The Emerald Crusader delivers his message to Molly directly who’s still at work in the dead of night since she has no better place to be. This is Molly’s first encounter with The Champion of Light, and despite him not doing anything heroic like rescuing her from a vault and a pool of quicksand, Alan’s secretary has the same reaction as Lorna would one issue later: “Sigh! Isn’t he wonderful?” Of course, she is unaware that Green Lantern is her boss from work. A week has passed. At the station they have the first script for the new show ready. With Green Lantern scheduled to appear in person for the show, this might be the right time for Molly to ask her boss the question that has been in her head for the last seven days: “Mr. Scott, do you think… well, maybe Green Lantern will… like me well enough to see me… after the show?” Since Alan is Green Lantern and Molly is right in front of his eyes, he knows that Green Lantern isn’t in the least interested. No need to let her down gently: “Better forget about Green Lantern, Miss Maynne. His time is occupied with fighting crime… You wouldn’t want to be a big criminal just to meet him, would you?” Quite the brush-off from a crimefighter who makes time for his appearance on a live radio broadcast. Lo, there was more to this young woman he’d just utterly crushed: “I never had a date, because I was too athletic. No man could beat me in sports. I had to hide my talents, become a mousey secretary. Now for the first time, I meet Green Lantern, my match, and he has no time for me, only for crooks!” Very similar thoughts had to have been in Joan Wayne’s head right before she put on her Miss Victory costume for the very first time, only in Molly’s case, the result was quite different. She stares at a drawing of The Harlequin on the wall to her left, and on the next panels readers saw the new villainess as she came crashing through a window. Though her look had changed dramatically, why fool the readers, they were clearly smarter than Green Lantern who would not recognize his secretary once the two met mask to mask. Thus, Kanigher told readers right away, yes, this was Molly. Now free from her drab business attire, she surely looked like a new woman. Her fiery red hair seemed longer, and it came with a nice bounce now. She wore a polka dot paper party hat, a wide, white collar and mini skirt, both seemingly lifted from a Pierrot, a sleeve-less blue top that accentuated her firm breasts, gloves, a pair of stripped pants and blue pixie boots with curved tips. To hide her true identity, she’d donned odd looking spectacles which were more than met the eye. Her glasses could do all sorts of neat tricks, like projecting 3-D holograms, she could hypnotize you with them, to put you in a trance, and if you so much dared to touch them, they electrocuted you. And almost as if she knew the hero’s weakness, she carried a handled-extended wooden mandolin. Even for the late 1940s and for a superhero comic, she looked rather bizarre and far removed from Matt Baker’s hyper-sexualized re-design of The Phantom Lady. Yet in “Gilda”, red haired actress Rita Hayworth only needed to slowly take off her long satin opera gloves during the film’s most iconic scene, and men fell in a crumpled heap at her feet. Readers saw something similar happen with the group of gangsters whose party she’d crashed. Within a few panels, the woman who was Molly Mayne but who acted completely differently, had defeated and demoralized these men. But instead of turning them in, she proclaimed herself to be their new leader. And when Green Lantern made the scene, she crushed him as well, that was until she knocked him right out of the window with her wooden mandolin. Immediately she rushes to the window to see if the hero was alright. Luckily, he had safely landed on a long, upward tilted flagpole. Though his lifesaver, the pole only emphasized the hero’s severely bruised masculinity. The Harlequin was a force to be reckoned with. But Kanigher made sure readers got that she wasn’t really bad. The Harlequin just wanted Green Lantern’s attention. Theirs would be a long, drawn out courtship. And thus, when she seemingly perished in an exploding building at the end of the tale, he was equally shocked. But there was Molly, right on the last panel. Clearly, The Emerald Crusader had found his match. And so had Molly. What Kanigher does in this story is interesting on many levels. Back then, heroes and villains usually didn’t move in the same circles. That there needed to be a close personal connection was a trope that got introduced much later. Superman and his arch-nemesis Lex Luther had never met prior to their first confrontation. The Batman didn’t know any of his adversaries, let alone the man who shot his parents when he was a boy. And while it would also become a convenient plot point that the actions of the hero helped to create the villain or sometimes vice versa, this was still a unique element in 1947. More so, Green Lantern and The Harlequin were now locked in love-hate relationship that was based on the idea that neither Alan nor his alter-ego took notice of the woman who was secretly in love with the hero. Still, once she was in her cute supervillain costume, he desired her every time a bit more whenever she drove him crazy, yet he knew he couldn’t be with her. What is truly astonishing, The Harlequin read him like an open book. Molly Mayne clearly had fun being The Harlequin because it gave her a freedom she didn’t have as her alter-ego, but she also knew that if she pretended that she’d reformed, Green Lantern would allow himself to consider her as his romantic partner. The irony was of course, that he only noticed her when she was a bad girl. Kanigher clearly had an eye to the Batman-Catwoman relationship, but he still created a truly unique character in that she was rejected and desired by the hero and both at the same time, while they worked together on a daily basis without knowing each other’s dual identities. The Harlequin is arguably Kanigher’s best character. She predates the first appearance of Sand Saref, the woman who shared her past with Denny Colt who had become the mysterious crimefighter The Spirit, while she was shadowy operative with plans within plans that ran counter to what was considered legal. They had been in love with each other once when they were still children, though Denny came from the wrong side of the tracks and she was a good girl, at least that was what she told herself. Now, after so many years they were on the opposite side of the spectrum once again. Interestingly, when Sand Saref got first introduced into the Spirit newspaper strip on January 8, 1950, Green Lantern had begun to fade away. All-American Comics ended with issue No. 102 in October 1948. Green Lantern was cancelled with issue No. 38 (cover-dated May-June 1949). Yet it’s a testament to how well The Harlequin connected with comic book readers, presumably with boys and girls alike, that within a short span of time, from September 1947 until her final appearance in this role in Green Lantern No. 34 (September-October 1948), The Harlequin was featured in twelve stories as the main antagonist. In The Golden Age, no other supervillain was used this much and this frequently.

 

When The Harlequin and her alter-ego Molly Mayne appeared for the second time just two issues later in All-American Comics No. 91 (November 1947), it was immediately obvious that both her incarnations had undergone subtle, yet significant changes, courtesy of Robert Kanigher and Irwin Hasen especially. What wasn’t subtle in the least, was the cover by Hasen. There it was, “The Wedding of The Harlequin”. And with some gangsters and a handful of police officers saluting them, the groom was of course none other than Green Lantern. Kanigher was again ahead of the curve. Though women threw themselves at The Spirit in Eisner’s newspaper strip, and clearly with the intention of landing such a fine specimen, it would take until the mid-1950s when “Marriage and the Superhero” became a theme. Surely, Lois Lane and even Lana Lang wanted Superman to marry them, but soon every superhero was on the run lest he be tied to the old ball and chain. In the Batman comics, Batwoman was specifically created once charges were brought up that superheroes who had young boys as their sidekicks, might not be on the up-and-up as for as societal norms were concerned. Kanigher starts with an exciting rooftop chase between the hero and The Harlequin and her gang. Hasen makes this chase as intense as the one that came eleven years later in the movie “Vertigo”, a high-end, glamorized film noir which was about a woman with two distinct identities with both blending into each other. The same thing happens here. When the bad girl realizes that Green Lantern has taken out her entire gang and she won’t be able to escape him on foot across the rooftops, she quickly changes into her civilian clothes and throws herself off the roof of one of the building. Just like that, in a subversion of the “damsel in distress” trope, she beguiles the gullible hero who sees the secretary of his alter-ego plunging to her death. Naturally he catches her in his strong arms mid-flight without realizing that this is the same woman he’s been chasing. But there is something different going on. As if in response to the pretty Secret Service agent readers saw Green Lantern met in the previous issue, before she got dulled down for her second appearance, Molly looks like her own version of Rita Hayworth. Obviously, this was no mousey secretary. Like Joan Wayne, she was liberated. Immediately she slings her arms around him and repeats the line she and Lorna Dawn had already used: “Green Lantern, you’re so wonderful!” Immediately, readers saw red hearts popping up in the panel as in the scene when Captain America and Golden Girl kiss. Again, taking a cue from Eisner’s playbook, the resolution of all this romantic tension is played for laughs. Having rescued her, the hero just drops Molly on the ground with her derrière hitting the pavement. Like with The Spirit, who was quite a ladies’ man, the joke was on the superhero. Here was a healthy young male who had a woman throw herself at him, and all he could do was to think about the criminals he had let escape. But clearly, Green Lantern was also seething with rage that The Harlequin had once again out-witted him. He wants to catch her so he can put her behind bars, but his actions are always reactive. It is fascinating that The Harlequin is more active than the hero. In both her identities, she’s upfront and very aggressive in the pursuit of her target i.e. to get her man, and Molly’s sexuality is as predatorial as you might see in many men. Even as a boy, you understood this behavior, perhaps better than Alan Scott did in these stories. She was the girl who teased you on the playground and played pranks on you because she liked you. Consequently, her look had changed, not only as her alter-ego, but the light-blue top of her costume had been replaced for one with an open back that reached all the way to her skirt. As such, this top left her entire back bare. This, in combination with her red Gilda-hair, was an invitation directed at the man she desired, an invitation that offered him a glimpse into a possible future, what it would be like to know this woman intimately, to wake up next to her with her sleeping on her stomach, her back offered to him, unprotected. This image of naked, milky skin was a symbol of trust, a mutual bond. But as The Harlequin bore herself half-naked to him, Alan also knew it was a perfect deception. After all, she was the mistress of illusions. This was also true for the way her new top was drawn. Sometimes, from one panel to the next, she switched back to the old version which covered her back, because technically, there was no way this could work. A backless top, cut this wide and low that it exposed her entire back, did pose a challenge to the artists. It wasn’t quite clear how her top was held in position at the front, and when she was shown sideways. Since The Harlequin was constantly in motion, performing some athletic stunt, or in a pose of triumph with her often shown from behind, the artists had plenty of excuses and  opportunities to provide some suggestive images, or at least a lot of eye candy, and by her very own nature, The Harlequin was a tease, for sure. But contrary to what Baker and his ghost artists could get away with on Fox’s Phantom Lady, confident that Victor Fox would approve about anything short of a nipple slip, DC’s target demographic was still attending elementary schools or junior high schools at best. Hence, Hasen and his colleagues had to rein things in. Which also explains why in this story The Harlequin forces Green Lantern to marry her. These two could only be together with the blessing of matrimony. Naturally, the hero was against this idea, yet as The Harlequin deftly wore down his resistance over the course of the next few stories, this made for an intriguing cat and mouse game, especially since the mouse had turned into the cat. As far as this tale was concerned, interestingly, The Harlequin turns Green Lantern’s pal Doiby Dickles into a tool to achieve her goal, the same character who had become a liability and who most readers wanted to see gone from Green Lantern’s adventures. At the end of the story, The Harlequin succeeds with her ploy. The hero begrudgingly agrees to marrying her in the city hall, and in front of many witnesses. But when he slips a ring on her finger, it’s his power ring. As it turns out, even a villain as formidable as The Harlequin cannot break the norms required by society, at least in the world of comic books. The power ring makes her see herself for who she is, and this is too much for her to bear. A bad girl who was strong and confident couldn’t be with the hero, she needed to reform first. But since readers obviously enjoyed this bad girl, a month later, in Green Lantern No. 29, The Harlequin was the antagonist in all of the three Green Lantern stories featured in the issue. As if to indicate that Green Lantern was settling down and getting ready for a life many American men were expected to lead at the end of the 1940s, in the next issue, Green Lantern adopted Streak the Wonder Dog. But Harlequin fans didn’t have to wait too long. After Green Lantern said his good-byes to Lorna Dawn in All-American Comics No. 92 (December 1947), The Harlequin appeared in the next three issues back to back, and she made it on the cover every time, with full-figure drawings no less. To cement her status even further, in March 1948, she chased her man in both titles, in All-American Comics No. 95 and Green Lantern No. 31, making this her eighth and ninth appearance within seven months. In fact, from No. 31 on, she showed up in four consecutive issues of Green Lantern, with issue No. 34 marking the last time The Harlequin was seen during the Golden Age. Molly Mayne showed up two additional times before both books were cancelled, but as The Harlequin, she was done. One can only speculate but had Kanigher chosen a different route to conclude her story arc, The Harlequin might have been able to save her man from the culling that befell most superheroes at the end of the decade. Instead, he made the mistake that many TV writers would make in the future, whenever they had their characters caught in a seemingly unending cycle of “will they or won’t they?” Once you answered the question either way, the magic was gone, and such shows soon came to a close. Though Kanigher didn’t answer the question itself in Green Lantern No. 34 (September – October 1948), he opened the door to the former. But unfortunately, he did it in a way, that immediately rendered the character unusable, or in the least, he took away what had been the most interesting aspect about her. Readers learned that these attractive individuals were free to hook-up with one another. Yet even more so, they could have been together the whole time, because there was a twist to The Harlequin’s origin. “The Harlequin Secret Revealed!” by Kanigher and Hasen (with inks by Bob Oksner) starts wonderfully. With a swell of manly pride in his chest, radio station manager Alan Scott tells the world on a broadcast that Green Lantern had again been able to put The Harlequin in jail. Kids, who’d picked up the previous issue actually saw that, and they also saw that he visited her in prison as his alter-ego Alan Scott to gloat at the sight of the gorgeous redhead behind bars. But no sooner has he made his announcement; Molly is there to hand him a note during the live program. Fans knew the drill by now. She’d always be around to tell her boss that his nemesis had managed to escape from prison once again. This time would be no exception either, as he learns from Molly’s note which he furiously throws to floor while he flips his lid on live radio with his producer having to give him a signal to let him know that he must lower his voice. Alan Scott is mad as hell and he’s not going to take these insults against justice anymore. As soon as he has some privacy, he charges his power ring while reciting his oath. The Champion of Light takes to the night sky to hunt the escaped supervillainess. This time, he’ll be able to outsmart his beautiful opponent and he’ll make it stick. Yet despite his many protestations, Alan enjoys their battles and actually, his foe has helped him on several occasions which makes this even more thrilling. And lo, as soon as he locates her, they are flirting with each other while one is trying to fool the other. He wins this round by using a trick he’s learned from The Harlequin herself, deception. Pleased with himself, the hero closes the same fingers around one of her wrists with which he’d saved Lorna Dawn twice and he hauls her to the police. Now it’s she who protests, which is music to his ears: “I’ll never trust you again as long as I live! Using a trick like that to capture me! It’s… it’s not right!” But once they arrive at police headquarters, he learns that the chief wants to speak to him. Still over-confident from his win, Green Lantern orders his captive to wait outside the door, like a teacher might do with an unruly student once they are ready to see the headmaster. Even Streak the Wonder Dog was treated better. But the hero is clearly enjoying himself. With his manliness unchallenged this time and a lot of swagger in his step, he enters the chief’s office. The chief isn’t alone. Green Lantern is greeted by a man from Washington, from the F.B.I. no less. It is from this man that he hears that the bureau wants him to work with one of their “cleverest operatives! Operative H-9!” Always ready to help justice and the Justice Department, the superhero pledges his full commitment. Once again, he’s reminded that the identity of this agent must remain a top priority. He’s not at liberty to divulge any secrets he’s about to learn. Then he meets agent H-9, who is The Harlequin. She’d been posing as a supervillain from the start to infiltrate various criminal organizations, in fact she was just on an assignment, a year-long investigation, when he dropped in on her to arrest her. This was how she’d been able to get out of jail this quickly every time. The F.B.I. simply let her go. The Harlequin now reveals how she’d been able to perform her tricks and deceptions. Green Lantern isn’t impressed but seems rather bored once he’s allowed to look behind the curtain. Yet there’s still one thing he needs to learn about The Harlequin. Without any prior warning he lunges at the statuesque redhead as if he’s about to assault her, and in way, this is exactly what he’s doing. As he tries to remove the glasses from her face, the hero telegraphs his intention also verbally: “Cute stuff, Harlequin! Well, I guess you’ll have no objections to my finding out who you really are…?” His actions and words are equally inappropriate. While his fingers learn the painful lesson courtesy of the electrical wiring in her costume and spectacles, he’s being chastised by her F.B.I. handler: “We don’t ask for your real identity, Green Lantern! And we want the Harlequin’s real identity kept as secretly as yours!” Unfortunately, with the secret out of the bag that she’d been an agent the entire time, Kanigher took the fun out of this cool character but good.

 

The Harlequin wasn’t the only supervillainess heroes had to contend with in The Golden Age. But even though no other supervillain, male or female, had as many appearances as she, some of them managed to establish a legacy of their own by inspiring future creators. Still they, and The Harlequin herself, are mostly forgotten. Case in point, the supervillainess Star Sapphire. When comic book fans hear the name, chances are high that they’ll connect the character to the Silver Age version of Green Lantern. But this Star Sapphire was not the first character with this moniker. What is even more interesting, when John Broome decided to create a female villain for his new version of Green Lantern, he didn’t simply choose to adapt the former character for a different age, like he’d done with the hero. He combined her instead with some of the character traits he lifted from another previously introduced supervillainess, namely The Harlequin. Thus, Broome’s (and artist Gil Kane’s) version of Star Sapphire uses an amalgamation of the original’s science fiction influenced backstory and her name with the motivation and personality of Molly Mayne and her alter-ego as its foundation. Consequently, the supervillainess is someone close to the hero when they are both in their civilian identities and there is the same “will they or won’t they?” dynamic at play. But since he’d already introduced such a female character in the very first issue which featured this new version of Green Lantern, in Showcase No. 22 (1959), he was left with a nice twist in regard to the power structure in which these two individuals were engaged with one another. With the introduction of Carol Ferris as Hal Jordan’s love interest first and then, within the same story, as his new boss, Broome played on the anxiety men had felt towards some women when they’d come home from the war. Women had moved into professions of their own, and by the end of the 1950s, not only were they established fixtures in the corporate world of America, but with a proper education and hard work, some women had been able to find work well beyond the secretary pool. Alan’s secretary only wished she was this lucky. Molly was a secretary who was in love with the man who was her boss. That she had no idea that the superhero she obsessed about was secretly her boss, only emphasized the difference in power between herself and Alan Scott. She was very capable in her job, but she was only allowed to be since readers knew that he was Green Lantern. He clearly had more important matters to take care of than his job at the radio station. Theirs was perfect husband and wife dynamic of the late 1940s. He went into the city to get the job done while she made sure the house was in order. Once she was able to break free and be her own woman as The Harlequin, she was even better at being bad than he was at being the hero. That was until Kanigher reined it all in and he made sure that readers saw that she’d been able to achieve a lot of things because men gave them to her. She really hadn’t been able to free herself from jail, literally and figuratively, but the men of the F.B.I. had simply let her go. And while the object of her affections never showed her much respect, Green Lantern didn’t even want to respect the one secret she’d kept, her secret identity. The same was true for Hal Jordan and Carol Ferris. When she is made manager of Ferris Aircraft, Hal views this as something that will get in the way of his romance. He’s not happy for her and he’s not there to support her, and most of all, he doesn’t respect her for it. But then, is he really to blame? Like with The Harlequin, once Kanigher concluded her arc, Carol Ferris has a man who hands her the keys to her own self-actualization. Originally, The Harlequin is motivated by her romantic obsession towards the hero to take on a new identity, and as we later learn, men give her freedom over and over again when she gets trapped. When Carol’s father appoints her to run Ferris Aircraft for him, it’s still his company and what he gives, he can always take away. Even though Carol is in the driver’s seat, she’s deeply insecure. Carol is constantly evaluated by men, her father, by Hal, and her business associates. Whereas Molly seems invisible, Carol is visible the whole time. That the writer made the decision to turn Carol into the latest foe for Green Lantern when he wrote the script for Green Lantern No. 16 (1962), owes a lot to Kanigher’s story arc for The Harlequin and the changed perception in regard to gender identity and gender roles after the fifteen years that had passed since All-American Comics No. 89. Kanigher was also responsible for the original Star Sapphire who made her debut in All-Flash No. 32 (December 1947-January 1948), visualized by artist Lee Elias. Though “The Amazing Star Sapphire!” seems like one of those oddball stories from a long bygone era at first glance, there is more than meets the eye, and it’s worth mentioning that Kanigher wrote this tale right around the time when he was developing his storyline about the Green Lantern and Harlequin dynamic. The story starts with a group of street cleaners sweeping the pavement right after a parade. With a pipe in one corner of his mouth, one of the men suddenly hits a man with his broom who seems to be sleeping off his buzz. But this is no drunk. He is The Flash (The Golden Age version) and he appears to be dead. While the cleaner is still recovering from his shock and surprise, another man finds young girl who also seems quite dead. The idea that these ordinary men should find the hero and his pretty companion in such a condition, as they are in the midst of performing a rather mundane task at the behest of the city, seems like another scenario lifted from Will Eisner’s Spirit. Soon the news spreads that the hero of Keystone City has finally met his demise, and the woman is now identified by the newspaper, as one joe tells another fella once the papers have come out: “A lady doctor she was!” Indeed. She is Dr. Maria Flura, the young scientist the hero met in the previous issue, and in a story in which she literally wore the pants (think Katharine Hepburn). But it’s not curtains for the speedster quite yet. Both are in suspended animation, and soon they are put in a glass container that supplies them with oxygen. The chief medical officer, a gray-haired man with a mustache and glasses, tasks his medical team with keeping a close watch “while we continue experimenting!” Right behind him is a pretty brunette doctor. Her hair is wrapped into two tight buns and she too wears glasses, and dark lipstick. She seems especially curious about what’s going on. At the same time something weird happens. Astronomers discover a new planet. This planet moves closer and closer to Earth “until it turns night into days!” The planet is a sapphire star. It tinges the sky in a sapphire glow while a crowd of pedestrians keeps looking up in disbelief and with dread in their hearts. And they were right to fear the light from the sapphire star. Scientists soon discovered that the ray from the star “is destroying the chlorophyll, once that is gone there will be no more oxygen left in the world. It’s only a matter of time.” Back at the operating amphitheater where the doctors held their vigil on front of the container with The Flash and his doctor friend inside, the men succumbed to the lack of breathable air. The female physician however, she seemed immune. With a cigarette between her red lipstick lips she watched calmly and coldly as the other doctors fell to their knees while she blew smoke rings into the air devoid of oxygen like she’d watched the women in a film noir film too intently. As all the men around her pass out, she seized a fire axe and walked on her high heels to the container. Then, with her fingers tightly wrapped around the wooden handle, she brought down the tool. The Flash and Maria fall to the floor. Like with everybody else, with the remaining oxygen gone, they had just two minutes to live. Yet as they fall, their bodies were on the surface of the alien world simultaneously. A flashback filled readers in. The Flash and Maria had been tricked and their bodies were duplicated. While they were fully aware of was going on around them on the weird planet, down on Earth they were in a deep sleep. With their bodies on Earth soon rendered dead, this would be the fate of their body doubles, too. Unless of course, The Flash stopped this madness. But first the smoking woman revealed her true self. With a brief flash of light, she changed “into an amazingly exotic creature.” She was clad in a deep purple leotard with a large yellow collar and an even larger yellow belt. She wore a tiara on her head with glowing jewel and her long legs were sheathed in a black fishnet pantyhose. She was Star Sapphire, the ruler of this world. Albeit not a smart one, since instead of her motivation, she simply told the hero how she had executed her plan so far and how he might reverse the process. But alas, how so in under two minutes? Even he did not manage to beat all the traps she threw at him in such a short time. Thus, once her device blows up and Earth is saved thanks to The Flash, Dr. Flura fears for the worst. The Flash is alive as it turns out. Star Sapphire apparently did not know that on her planet time passed much slower than on our Earth.

 

The women don’t fare well in Kanigher’s story. Despite the fact that Dr. Maria Flura is a world-renowned scientist, the writer gives her literally nothing to do. And Star Sapphire herself comes across as a mean-spirited person who doesn’t seem too bright ironically. The characters returned in separate stories. The one involving Maria is actually quite good, but neither she nor Star Sapphire caught on. Soon, The Flash and most of the other superheroes were gone. For the time being, kids were not that interested in them anymore, not until Julius Schwartz decided to task Robert Kanigher and Carmine Infantino and Broome and Gil Kane to rebuild The Flash and Green Lantern from the ground up. However, in his script for her second and final appearance, Kanigher fleshed out Star Sapphire a bit more. Broome would make good use of these new elements as well. In this tale from Comic Cavalcade No. 29 (October-November 1948), the hero was literally “The Last Man on Alive!” That he was still around was a happy accident. As readers learned, Star Sapphire’s world existed in the 7th dimension, with her as its only inhabitant. Since she was a queen, she needed subjects. She’d chosen the women of Earth to be just that. After she’d made all the Earth men go away, what was left to keep Earth women from joining her on her star? The women had plenty of objections and for starters, they wanted their men back. But what if she’d been successful and there was a world of only women? While this was not a new idea, not even when William Moulton Marston and H.G. Peter created Wonder Woman (also originally published by All-American Publishing like the Golden Age versions of The Flash and Green Lantern), Broome took the science fiction elements from Kanigher’s character when he introduced his Star Sapphire in Green Lantern No. 16 (October 1962) in the story “The Secret Life of Star Sapphire!”, but he turned Kanigher’s idea on its head. He envisioned a star that was solely inhabited by women, scientifically highly advanced women. Instead of the queen coming to Earth to make Earth women her subjects, they had come to Earth to select a new sovereign. In what feels like replay of his origin tale for the new Green Lantern, Carol is abducted by the emissaries from the planet Zamaron while she’s flying a small airplane. Like in Hal’s origin story, there is a condition for her to be the chosen one. As a Green Lantern, Hal’s predecessor had to make sure that the individual he entrusted with his power ring was entirely without fear and an honest person. Carol is picked for her looks, specifically because Carol looks like the pervious queen of the Zamarons and the one before her: “Her successor must always be her exact duplicate in appearance!” No matter the abilities, personality or character of a person, appearance was key to them. Irrespective of this criterion, that she should be chosen as their new queen, happened at a convenient point of time. Carol was torn between two men, and even right before these alien women captured her small aircraft, Ms. Ferris was contemplating her dilemma. She had feelings for Hal Jordan, technically her employee: “Too bad I can’t make up my mind to marry him!… But the trouble is there’s somebody else! If I really loved Hal, I wouldn’t feel the way I do toward this other person!” Readers saw an image of Green Lantern pop up in her mind, in case they hadn’t read the previous issues. Editor Julius Schwartz clued these readers in with a helpful caption that appeared at the bottom of this page: “Unknown to Carol, ace test pilot Hal Jordan and the ‘other’ man in the case are secretly one and the same person!” The fact that the leading lady of a book was attracted to the hero persona of the protagonist wasn’t unusual. By this time, this was almost a trope, established in the very first superhero comic, Action Comics No. 1 (1938). Lois Lane loved Superman, but she treated his alter-ego Clark like a doormat. This was similar to how Alan Scott dealt with Molly Mayne who only had eyes for Green Lantern but wasn’t interested in Scott in the slightest. The difference being that she didn’t know that both were the same man. Clark on the other hand was Superman, but he wanted Lois to love him as Clark Kent. In his reboot of The Flash, also under Schwartz’s stewardship, Robert Kanigher reversed this dynamic. Iris West was in love with Barry Allen, though she might scold him endlessly, but she had no romantic designs on The Flash. At Marvel Comics, that saw a superhero revival of their own, Stan Lee would take this a step further. The love interest of the hero’s civilian alter-ego often hated the superhero, which provided Lee and his artists (mostly his co-plotters as well) with intriguing plot twists. As it were, that Carol loved both men, Hal and Green Lantern, was a unique twist by John Broome, he’d milk for whatever soap opera-esque idea came his way, though keeping Carol Ferris unaware that she was never unfaithful (technically) to either man, was a bit mean-spirited since the hero and the readers had all the information she was missing. That she was torn made her look like a fool at best and as fickle when it came to her feelings at worst. Against this backdrop of men writing female characters who they put at a disadvantage, it seems not too far-fetched that Broome would make it the duty of a Lantern to choose his (and much later her) successor based on core values such as bravery and honesty, while he’d have the women of Zamaron base their decision on who should rule them solely on appearance. There’s a catch. She’d have to leave Earth. Carol can’t do that. What will become of her love for Green Lantern? The Zamarons first scoff at the idea that their new queen should have feeling for such a lowly creature such as a man, in their mind, men are inferior to women, then they propose a deal. They’ll prove to her that Green Lantern is weak, better yet, she will prove it herself. For that, they dress Carol “in one of the costumes worn by our queen for hunting and exploration.” Apparently, on Zamaron, hunting is done in magenta-colored swimsuits that come with gloves, knee-high boots and a mask. And Carol receives her own set of powers “concentrated in the great star sapphire you are now wearing!” Just like that, drawn by a weird power that seems to compel her, Carol Ferris is on her way “to seek Green Lantern and win out over him!” What is missing, unfortunately, is the agency that Kanigher gave to his bad girl and which the Zamarons and their star sapphire gem take from Carol completely. Now, with her life determined by the men she is connected with, Hal and her father Willard, it’s also some alien women who seemingly shape her destiny for her. Meanwhile, back at the Ferris Aircraft Company, Hal Jordan is getting anxious without a word from the woman he loves. He changes into his superhero outfit and he speaks his oath. But once he takes to the skies to look for her, his thoughts reveal that even though Hal is a man’s man, on the inside, he isn’t so different from Clark Kent: “I wouldn’t want Carol to suspect the truth, if for no other reason than that I want to win her for myself, as Hal Jordan!” His attitude about his secret identity, if his motives are to be believed, stand in marked contrast to Kanigher’s Flash. Barry didn’t let his fiancée Iris in on his secret because he didn’t really trust her. Ironically, it was he who had trust issues, a theme that would become more pronounced as the Flash series progressed. Anyway, he and the masked and breezily attired Carol meet mid-flight. Whereas they do hide their identities behind tiny domino masks, they don’t know who the other person behind the mask is. As she must, according to her programming, Star Sapphire tells Green Lantern that she’s going to steal a valuable item from a collection. While Carol puts down the gauntlet as she challenges the hero to stop her, we also learn that the object in question was created by the Zamarons, therefore, she isn’t really stealing. Poor Carol isn’t allowed to be the bad girl just this once. However, thanks to the star sapphire gem which rests in the tiara on her head, Carol has all sorts of abilities which surprise Green Lantern who seemingly wasn’t impressed by the fact that this pretty in pink was soaring through the air under her own power. She defeats him easily, but still he persists. They fight once more after Star Sapphire has snatched the item the Zamarons had hidden, but while in pursuit, with Star Sapphire firing her repelling rays right at him, only one of her newly acquired awesome powers, the superhero bumps his head against the brick ledge of a tall building. Immediately, she’s worried like The Harlequin was during her first encounter with her Green Lantern after she’d gone too far and had pushed him out of window. That Green Lantern fell on a flagpole. Luckily, Hal manages to create a safety net with his power ring. This was Broome following Kanigher’s lead to a tee. At least now Carol is allowed some agency when she pleads with the emissaries from Zamaron in their spaceship for them to grant her another attempt at getting defeated by Green Lantern, hence Carol can prove to them he was worthy of her affections and reason enough for her to stay on Earth. But when she is sent on another fetch quest, once again, she doesn’t act of her own accord and again she isn’t really stealing. Like the Harlequin, she is playing a game, but in Carol’s case, she was a pawn in somebody else’s game. Carol behaves in a way, men in the late 50s wanted (and in some cases, more accurately put, expected) women to act. Carol is not able to act independently whereas The Harlequin was. The latter came about when men were confronted with women who’d discovered their freedom during the war, women who were intent on keeping it that way, that was until Kanigher put the genie back into the bottle to tell his young readers that no, The Harlequin hadn’t done it all by herself, men had helped her along. They had let her out of jail when it suited their purposes. But at least Molly got a taste of freedom, whereas Carol doesn’t. Carol is intended as a role model for how women in the 1950s were supposed to act, according to men, of course. In many ways, The Harlequin was a free spirit. She liked to play but it was her decision alone who was allowed to touch her. Carol is designed as a character who yearns for the approval from men and other women. Even as a bad girl, she was a good girl. She doesn’t want to beat Green Lantern. The superhero wins by cutting off the mental communications between Star Sapphire and these women from Zamaron, those that put ideas into her head. Having suffered defeat by a man, they consider Carol unsuitable to be their queen. Compassion and love were traits they didn’t want in their next sovereign.

 

With the status quo reestablished, the women from Zamaron mind wiped her before they left our world to resume their search for an adequate ruler. The writer kept the door open for Star Sapphire to return. There was still the sapphire gem which they didn’t retrieve, and which Green Lantern discovered at the end of the tale. If for no other reason than having a pretty supervillainess go up against the hero usually helped with sales, like The Harlequin had proven, Star Sapphire returned with issue No. 26 (cover-dated January 1964). And the cover to the story “Star Sapphire Unmasks Green Lantern!” by Gil Kane and Joe Giella and new writer Gardner Fox already told you that this time her motivation was exactly the same as years earlier with The Harlequin. She wanted to force the superhero to marry her. As a strange power pulls Carol to the police headquarters “where souvenirs of unsolved mysteries are on display” Fox had to do some house cleaning first. During a flashback sequence to catch readers up to speed who hadn’t had a chance to read Green Lantern No. 16, he now explained why the Zamarons had left the gem with Carol in the first place. After her test run as queen, she’d still feel “an irresistible urge to become Star Sapphire again!” In other words, when a woman found her freedom just once, she might want to have another sip from the same bottle. Thankfully, whenever the cravings became too much for her to bear, the gem would just be waiting for her: “We’ve left the sapphire behind so when this urge comes to her, she can seek out the gem and by looking at it regain her Star Sapphire identity. Otherwise her life would be intolerable.” Either with or without Fox intending it, this gem and the possibilities it offered to Carol, became an interesting metaphor for addiction and sexual liberation, and both of these combined. Back in her magenta-colored outfit, with her other identity safely hidden behind a domino masks, she regains her memory and she feels her powers again, and freedom. This time around, she has a new motivation. Unlike in their previous confrontation, she’d really defeat The Emerald Crusaders. With Green Lantern brought down to his knees, she’d make him her mate. Only this time Carol wouldn’t attack him directly. She’d prove to the hero that she was a better crimefighter and thus, he’d be forced “to abandon his life of Green Lantern!” Still, it needn’t be a fair fight, either. Secretly, as Star Sapphire, Carol uses the powers of the gem to screw with the hero’s sense of time so it’s she who can go up against a new threat, a gang of criminals who perform heists from the air with their helicopters. An approach that apparently leaves the police of Coast City at a clear disadvantage. With her undefined abilities, she easily apprehends the whole gang. Now brimming with confidence, she invites Green Lantern to accompany her to police HQ, where a scene plays out that is very similar to the indignation his Golden Age predecessor suffered once he learned that The Harlequin was secretly in cahoots with the F.B.I. When the chief of police tells him that “it certainly looks as if you have a beautiful rival in Star Sapphire when it comes to crook-catching!”, Green Lantern, who is unaware that behind her mask she is the woman he thinks he’s in love with, feels it’s prudent to remind the police commissioner that Star Sapphire was still a wanted felon in connection with the two robberies she’d committed when they had first met. To his dismay Green Lantern is put in his place. The items had never belonged to the galleries in the first place, hence she had robbed exactly no one it seemed. Green Lantern is still suspicious, as he feels she must have an ulterior motive. He was right. Somehow, she got it into her head that “all I have to do is beat Green Lantern once more and he’ll ask me to marry him!” Strange how she got the idea that competitiveness breaded approval and yielded a reward. It’s worth pointing out, that her mother is never mentioned, and that her role models are her father, a successful business tycoon, and Hal, a brave test pilot. Again, she beats him to the punch, but Fox lets readers know that she’d employed trickery as her mightiest weapon this time as well. With his ego this bruised, Green Lantern agrees to marrying her, but under one condition. The raven-haired girl must be able to unmask him first, and like Alan wasn’t able to do just that with The Harlequin, she fails as well. It’s his will that keeps his mask fastened to his eyeline. But then he makes a fatal mistake. Once he charges his power ring, Star Sapphire can sense the power battery that is invisible to the human eye. Easily she combines her powers with the hidden lantern, and she achieves success. Like already shown on the cover, which not necessarily meant that this would be how the story played out, Carol forces the hero to unmask. Standing with his naked face before her, he feels it is only fair that he should know her secret as well. Thus, what Alan Scott never could, he manages to do as a specimen of the confident men of the early 60s. He unmasks his female opponent. When he calls out her name in surprise, like in one of those fairy tales, the clock strikes midnight and the spell is broken. Carol turns back into herself and she falls into his arms, oblivious once again about what had just happened. Yet more importantly, as he probes her mind without asking prior permission, he learns that she’d caused him to lose by creating a set of illusions. Perhaps, there was hope for Carol after all. In the meantime, he knew who Star Sapphire was, while she had no memory of her adventures. Still, he made the decision to one day marry her, one day in the far future. Not to overexpose the character, Gardner Fox wisely waited till Green Lantern No. 41 (1965) to bring Star Sapphire back. And Fox did it with a bang in “The Double Life of Star Sapphire!” (with art by Kane and inker Sid Greene). A blurb on the cover promised “Star Sapphire vs. Green Lantern in a super-battle of the sexes!” This was something readers had to see if they weren’t already drawn in by cover illustration and the sight it presented. The hero was suffering a terrible defeat at the hands of Star Sapphire who was intent on settling the matter of tying the knot once and for all by shooting bright energy bolts right at him. Only this Star Sapphire wasn’t Carol Ferris. As the tale opens, this time around readers met a confident Carol who tests out a new flying device. This last for one panel. When her mind wanders to Green Lantern and them being together, the machine itself begins to attack her. She’s saved by the hero who fetches a doctor to make sure she’s alright. Once the physician has concluded that she will need to rest up, and she’s left to her own devices, she awakes like she’s in a trance. She knows that she’s under attack and quickly she fetches the gem which is hidden in Green Lantern’s battery. Soon it gets revealed who her invisible attacker is. She’s Dela Pharon from the planet Xanador, the woman who was chosen to be the queen of the Zamarons after Carol had failed the test, she herself had requested. Like Carol, she was made a Star Sapphire. When Dela learned that there were some among her subjects who’d rather wanted to see Carol as their rightful head of state, she decided to destroy Carol. Now you had two Star Sapphires running around, and before a confused Green Lantern gets into the mix as well, a helpful woman from Zamaron more less tells him to “let them fight.” With Carol rising from the ashes and the unkindness of a bitter defeat, there is still the matter of his promise of marriage he gave to her Star Sapphire persona during their previous encounter to settle. Surprisingly, the hero agrees, but he’s not fine with the idea of leaving Earth altogether while she assumes the throne on Zamaron. Again, the well-intentioned woman from Zamaron interjects. They could have a duel and the winner would decide the matter of their future place of residence. They think that’s a great idea. Both seem evenly matched, that is until Star Sapphire once again outwits him. Now, honor-bound twice, they are off to Zamaron to get married, by a man weirdly. As it turned out, the hero was playing a long con. He had been attentive. When Star Sapphire had let it slip that once she became a queen and Hal’s wife, she was foregoing her leadership role at the Ferris Aircraft Company, he knew things weren’t on the up-and-up. Star Sapphire wasn’t aware that she and Carol were the same person. Clearly, the fact that the original Star Sapphire did know she was Carol Ferris had to have slipped from her mind since issue No. 26, which was written by Gardner Fox as well, either this or the writer was making things up as he went along, in hopes readers wouldn’t notice. Maybe they didn’t, but boy, were they glad to see things go back to normal in the end.

 

But that was just it. Over the course of the next five years, from the middle of the decade to its end, as well as for the next thirty-two issues of Green Lantern, things wouldn’t go back to normal. And judging by what was happening, in the series and the world at large, things might never go back to the way they were before. For a while, things looked as optimistic as they had before. Even Alan Scott was back, the original Green Lantern. Like the original Flash, he lived on a different Earth now, and both incarnations could interact with each other. As for Alan’s old sidekick Doiby Dickles, he got a nice send-off when he married a beautiful princess from an alien world. Well, she had chosen him over a fellow named Prince Peril. But as far as the interest of the readers went, Green Lantern needed to charge his power ring stat. In the overall sales statistic for 1965, his title charted on rank twenty-eight. Only a year later, his book had dropped to position fifty. For the year 1967 overall, he plunged even further to rank sixty-two. The reason was simple. The newer readers from the baby boomer generation had become bored with the clean-cut Kennedy men that had been DC’s staple since the reboot of their superheroes a decade prior. Timely Comics, which had become Marvel Comics (the name harkened back to earlier publications) was gaining ground fast, with older readers first. Now their younger siblings were catching on as well. They were all baby boomers. Many kids had grown up during a boom cycle in the 1950s, and the new decade had started with much optimism. Now there was a lot of angst. Not the old anxiety about a nuclear war that had dominated the Eisenhower Era. When his successor was shot on a crowded street and you saw cities go up in flames on American soil in race riots and civil unrest, things began to fall apart from the inside. Men were sent off to a war, put there was no widespread patriotism like when Captain America punching Hitler in the face had anticipated America’s involvement in the Second World War. Many felt that this was the wrong kind of war, or the wrong kind of war for America’ sons to be involved in. Thus, comics book heroes needed to adapt once more in order to survive. Only this time, dressing up in red, white and blue wouldn’t do. If you were a baby boomer, for you to identify with a superhero, the old super heroics wouldn’t suffice. Heroes needed to be torn, they needed to be reluctant heroes, and they couldn’t be part of the military-industrial complex. Though some of their heroes still were, no publisher understood this change in readerships better than Marvel. Their top-tier character was a teen himself, an outsider. At least the editors and writers at DC Comics were trying. While ads in the same books told kids that now even G.I. Joe had a mission to go into outer space like Alan Shepard and John Glenn, and his toy line came with a “Mercury Space Capsule” and an action figure of the hero in an astronaut suit, this was child’s play. As younger kids thrilled to a full-page color advertisement for Aurora’s “American Astronaut”, Hal Jordan, who had been introduced to readers while he was testing a “flightless trainer” for “space pilots of the future” in Showcase No. 22 (1959), was now turning his back on Ferris Aircraft and his job as a fearless test pilot. But how would he ever get to such a point? In Green Lantern No. 49 (1966), John Broome (and Gil Kane) had the answer. In a plot that felt like it had come out of a romance comic book by Simon and Kirby, Carol had a shocking confession to make. She had been two-timing him with another man. What’s more the other guy, Jason Belmore, who moved in the same circles socially, had asked her to marry him and she had accepted his proposal. Shook to his core, Hal realized that his way of acting and thinking was outmoded. Maybe superheroes themselves were. Showcase, the series which had served as a launching pad for the rebirth of The Flash and Green Lantern, would be firmly in the hands of non-superpowered characters once again within the next two years. There’d be mod teens and teens in romance, and for good measure, supernatural masters of the occult as well. And if a hero showed up, she’d be an environmentally friendly hippie girl who lived under water but still had a lot of affection for the Navy frogman who’d spotted her. In the end, even she knew her place was not among the men who supported the machinery of war. As for Hal, once he’d turned his back on Carol and Ferris Aircraft, he became something of a drifter and a searcher. Driving eastward, he took up a job as a pilot. But this was work in the civilian sector since now he was flying tourists around on sightseeing trips over Idaho. As far as his emotional makeup was concerned, he was looking for a quick rebound, since he and the daughter of his new boss had a thing going on. Clearly, the girl who was a bit too young for Hal, was fond of him. She secretly planned a romantic dinner for the two of them, but once Jordan spots a Green Lantern poster on her wall, he is out. In issue No. 51 (1967), Broome let us in on Hal’s thoughts: “Which city? What kind of job? I don’t know, all I know is I’m hunting for something, maybe I’ll know when I’ve found it! After all, my masters the Guardians may be able to see into the future, but I can’t!” When we check back with the series’ former supporting characters, Carol and Hal’s best friend Thomas Kalmaku, two issues later we and Carol learn from the airplane mechanic that Jordan was working as an insurance adjuster in a northwest city. Still, his job with the Evergreen Insurance Company had Hal travel around the country. Jordan was still a wanderer and a stranger wherever he went. This didn’t sit well with every writer who’d worked on the book before. When Gardner Fox came back to the series with issue No. 58 (1968), he had the Guardians discover a flaw in his power ring. His extraterrestrial bosses had shown a lot of concern about the mood swings he exhibited at the start of the story, and to such a degree, that one of the Guardians considered him “emotionally disorganized” while another one was contemplating the possibility that he may have cracked under the weight of his responsibility and what he was showing were signs of “battle tension” and “combat fatigue”. Given the times when these stories were written, this might have been a worthwhile direction to explore, but Gardner Fox was not the kind of writer who was interested in this kind of subject matter. There can be no doubt what Fox was really going for. Once a simple reason could be found for this emotional imbalance, and an even easier fix (his ring needed an overhaul), this explanation would serve as a magic wand with which to wave away Hal’s behavior in this story and the ones in the previous issues (those penned by Broome), and from the narrative altogether, and all unwanted, dangling story threads with it. Instead of more soul-searching, Fox has the Guardians send Jordan on a vacation. This is when Fox has Hal meet his new love interest. Eve Doremus was a nice young girl who came from a rich family, and of course, she was very pretty and very young. To get away from the obstacle that had ruined the Hal and Carol relationship, the writer established right away that Eve was only interested in Hal Jordan, whereas it’s her kid brother who is thrilled by Green Lantern. In an odd way it seemed like Fox was saying that only young children were fans of superheroes any longer. Older readers might be more interested in the romance aspect, like when comic book readers flocked in droves to the romance comics at the end of the 1940s. Perhaps Fox had a good point. Unfortunately, he and Broome were both out of touch at the same time. The issue that had Hal and Eve meet, featured a house-ad for Lois Lane No. 80. But this was not the old Lois from the Eisenhower Era, this was “A Lois you’ve never seen before!” She was “mod and mad” as she ripped the word “girl friend” from the cover with her suitcase next to her. This was Lois still drawn by Curt Swan, but inked by Neal Adams, and she was decked out in a print mini dress and go-go boots, and all Superman could do was to watch in shock and horror as he became a relict not only of her past, but the past of readers in general. Undeterred by this noise, Fox had Hal and Eve start dating. When they kissed, surely hearts were floating in the air like this had been the case with Captain America and Golden Girl. Obviously, Fox was destroying a lot of the goodwill Broome had built with readers when he’d turned Hal Jordan into a seeker, an aspect another writer would pick up on soon. His name was Denny O’Neil. When he made his debut on the series with issue No. 63 (which came with a cover by Adams, a first for Green Lantern as well), he was just a fill-in, but if one thing became apparent, it was that the old guard was not with it any longer. Fox was pushing sixty, Broome was in his mid-fifties, and O’Neil was just twenty-nine, only a year older than Stan Lee’s replacement at Marvel, Roy Thomas. And the sales numbers bore this out. Broome’s approach had put Green Lantern back at No. 40 on the annual sales chart for 1968, but Journey Into Mystery (Thor) was at No. 20, with even Marvel’s second-tier character Daredevil outselling many of DC’s books. A year on, Thor was at seventeen while Green Lantern had dropped again, to rank forty-five. Spider-Man was the best-selling book for Marvel in 1969, as it charted at No 7. Still, the fourth most popular comic book for that year overall, was Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane. She was “mod and mad” and she ruled supreme. When Green Lantern No. 65 came out at the end of ‘68, there was more romance between Hal and Eve. Hal still stayed put and he held down a steady job as he was checking up on claims closer to Evergreen City now. Consequently, when O’Neil and Broome came back for issues No. 68 and 69 respectively, they tore it all down. O’Neil had Jordan discover that she was secretly dating another man, and when Broome had Carol get back in touch with Green Lantern on the day before her wedding, his reaction was similar to when she’d told Hal that she was secretly engaged to another man. Carol made one last attempt to win Green Lantern’s heart, but that was not what Hal wanted, and even though they were not living in the same city any longer, he packed his bags once more, and once again he became a man on the road.

 

After he’d become a travelling sales rep for a toy company, he was back on his spiritual quest. And with Eve out of the picture, Broome didn’t even follow up on what O’Neil had done, let alone Fox, there was room for a new love interest once again. As a toy salesman, Hal soon faced competition from a beautiful lady named Miss Reynolds, a young woman who didn’t mind winning over clients by presenting herself in a swimsuit-like outfit and boots and having them take her out to dinner. Broome obviously had plans for Hal and Olivia Reynolds since he also featured her in an issue of The Flash which guest-starred Green Lantern, but alas, something unforeseen was happening. When some of the older writers began talking about asking for health care coverage after all their years of service at DC Comics, they soon found their assignments at the publisher dry up. This opened the door for the first fans turned comic book writers who truly hailed from the baby boomer generation. However strangely, perhaps due to their lack of life experience in general and a lack of experience in other areas, these nerdy boys had a rather reactionary stance in regard to women, though this did not keep them from putting a hot girl right in the center of their stories. When Mike Friedrich, who was born four years after the war, took over the writing duties for Green Lantern No. 73 and 74 (1969-70), of course Star Sapphire was back. These issues were also a wake-up call to readers and especially Hal in respect to his former sidekick, a character that had become very problematic in regard to the racial stereotyping by some of the previous writers. Once his new line of work brings Hal back to Coast City, and he discovers that Thomas Kalmaku was now working at a gas station, he immediately comments that this had to be step down for the former airplane mechanic. Hal is quite shocked to learn that not only was Thomas the owner of the pump, but that he also owned half a dozen other gas stations, all the while Hal had been bumming it on his “quest”. When Hal meets Carol again, he learns that she hadn’t gone through with her marriage and that she’s still in love with Green Lantern, but less so with Hal Jordan. Since he cannot accept her this way, the hero rejects her with some rather foreseeable consequences. Star Sapphire is back and this time, it’s a battle to the finish. Friedrich certainly makes her much more aggressive, and even when Hal’s will proved stronger than hers, in what seems like a defeat, Star Sapphire manages to strand him in outer space without any knowledge of who he was. What a cliffhanger. But Friedrich didn’t let up in the second part either. After Hal manages to make it back to Earth, Green Lantern not only faces Star Sapphire but his arch-nemesis Sinestro as well. They have joined forces and beat him within an inch of his life. When Sinestro wants to deliver the coup de grâce, Star Sapphire holds him back. She is the one who will decide his fate. Green Lantern is saved by none other than his former sidekick. But when the story falls shut, we get a taste of how cruel heroes could be in this new age of baby boom writers. Green Lantern thinks it is a good idea to confront Carol with the knowledge he’d hidden from her for a long time. Not the secret of his hidden identity, but the secret of her other self. While Star Sapphire knew she was Carol Ferris (according to Broome and Fox, until he kinda forgot), Carol had no knowledge of her other persona. His intervention goes pretty poorly. Carol runs out on Green Lantern, deeply disturbed. Though she’d soon return during Denny O’Neil’s run on the series, only to suffer a physical injury on top of her emotional scars, Star Sapphire was gone, but not for good. Still, it would take three years until another baby boomer brought her back in spectacular fashion, and with a cover by Nick Cardy. A cover that was suggestive and harkened back to Kida’s cover for Air Fighter Comics No. 2 which depicted the triumphant Nazi Valkyrie standing over a beaten Airboy. The cover was for Superman No. 261 (February 1973), the hero who’d started it all. The theme du jour was feminism, and Cardy and writer Cary Bates took to it like a duck to water. The cover betrays a deep-seated fear of women and feminism, and anxiety over a supposed war for superiority among the sexes. Lois and Jimmy Olsen are turned into helpless bystanders, all the while they are as voyeuristic as every reader who beholds this cover and this issue. It is Star Sapphire who has the high ground. Superman is at her feet, but unlike the unconscious Airboy, he is not in a fetal position. He is on his knees and forced to accept her total dominance. But his subjugation is only completed once he fulfills her demands. She orders him to kiss one of her knee-high boots as a public display of his impotence. To Star Sapphire, the hero was only good for one thing, to serve as her boot slave. Both covers are intended as non-romantic. If somebody’s take away is a sexual one, he or she will have an uneasy feeling. This was sex as a weapon, in the way male writers and directors of a film noir showed other men how women used their sexuality. These covers reveal an uneasiness many men felt towards confident, liberated women, who, according to their understanding of (these) women, were out to turn men into boys or their slaves. By presenting elements of fetishism (dominance, submission, autonepiophilia and boot worship), the creators taught children, their target audience, that such women violated norms that existed for a reason, that this was not how things were supposed to be, that these women displayed acts of transgression. No good would come from it. Interestingly, in the tale itself (with art by Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson), readers saw Superman’s alter-ego treat Lois rather poorly (by secretly using his powers to embarrass her), but once he is forced to obey Star Sapphire’s every command in his role as Superman, it’s Lois who rescues him. After readers had witnessed how the magenta-attired, superpowered girl had kicked the living daylights out of their hero, the resolution comes too easy. Lois Lane dresses in a Star Sapphire outfit, the one she had conveniently borrowed for a story, and with Superman now forced to follow the conflicting orders of two women who look identical (for the sake of the story), she manipulates him in a way by which he manages to break free from the power of sapphire gem that compelled him. Whereas this story appears to support the idea that women were superior to men and men were merely their playthings, one needs to look a bit deeper to see what Bates is actually saying. It’s Lois who wins the day very easily, and Bates has Lois call Star Sapphire “a witch”. Indeed, Star Sapphire literally vanishes into thin air once the good girl shows up, a good girl who was in love with Superman and one he could fool any time he wanted to. Star Sapphire was back soon, in an ongoing series no less. When yet another writer from the generation of baby boomers, the comic books fans turned professionals, brought the character back, he also built on the model Robert Kanigher had established for the original Green Lantern and his redhaired nemesis The Harlequin, only he saw it through all the way and with the identity roles reversed. Readers who did pick up The Amazing World of DC Comics No. 11 (March 1976), a fan magazine published by DC Comics in the 70s, not only got an article by super fan and comic writer Michael Uslan in which makes mention of the strange transformation of The Harlequin from a bad girl to an undercover agent, they also found the premier of a new super-team presented to them, albeit in black and white. Oddly, this color scheme was very mismatched. This team was comprised of only supervillains who’d been selected as the leads in a new series DC was promoting, namely The Secret Society of Super-Villains, their attempt at turning some of their bad guys into anti-heroes (those being extremely popular in other forms of media during those days). Among this team’s cast was one lone female character, a gorgeous bad girl. Star Sapphire. Once writer Gerry Conway and artists Ric Estrada and Pablo Marcos introduced the raven-haired beauty to her new teammates and the readers, one thing became quite clear: this woman was not Carol Ferris.

 

There was a new Star Sapphire in town, and even though she looked like the original, almost if she had been chosen by the Zamarons themselves, she acted very differently. Who then, was this girl? This was one of the twists Gerry Conway had in store for his audience, albeit the mystery of her identity and her origin would be revealed in the most anti-climactic way imaginable. But when this issue saw print and the first issue of The Secret Society of Super-Villains in the Spring of 1976, this was all still in the future. What mattered to Conway was that since she was not Ms. Ferris, he could define her character traits in ways that otherwise might not have been possible with an established supporting player and erstwhile love interest of one of the first superheroes of The Silver Age, a time that felt like a long bygone era in the mid-1970s. Conway presented his Star Sapphire as a sexually liberated woman of the 70s. She was more in line with Molly Mayne than with Carol Ferris. But who exactly was this girl other than a cypher for male wish fulfillment or a mere trope of the good-bad girl variety like Mary Jane Watson was in the Spider-Man comics he’d written for Marvel Comics prior to his DC work? One thing was for certain, she was a bit of a flirt, and with her as the only woman on the team (until Poison Ivy joined later), there was some physical contact going on, and she leaned into it whenever it served her purposes. However, there was no attraction on her part towards any of the supervillains she found herself with, originally brought together by DC’s biggest bad himself, the Jack Kirby created uber-villain Darkseid. Since the title needed a hero, for readers to identify with, to balance things out and to fight the Society whenever they weren’t going up against other evildoers, Conway dusted off Captain Comet, a character who had first appeared in Strange Adventures No. 9 in 1951. Created by John Broome (with input by Julius Schwartz) and artist Carmine Infantino, his name was Adam Blake. He was born right at the moment a strange comet passed the little town his parents live in. Soon, the boy discovered that he had extraordinary powers which he didn’t keep hidden well enough from his peers in high school and at his college. Thus, Adam became an outsider. It was not before one of his professors explained to him what he was that he understood who he really was and who he was supposed to be. He was a mutant (a term so new at the time that Schwartz offered an explanation via a helpful caption). Adam was the next step in the evolution of mankind. For all intents and purposes, he was a man of the future. He was also one of the very few new superheroes that were created between The Golden Age and The Silver Age. Obviously, Schwartz and Broome were influenced by Philip Wylie’s novel “Gladiator” (1930) which told a similar origin story for its protagonist Hugo Danner, a story that had also most likely inspired Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster when they came up with their supergod. Furthermore, Broome co-opted some ideas that came from “Doc” Smith’s popular “Lensmen Series”, which he’d also use for his Green Lantern. Like Smith’s Lensmen, Captain Comet was a protector of many worlds as well and he meet women from Saturn and creatures from Venus. In many ways he was a precursor to Hal Jordan, and he was the right kind of character for Conway. Once Captain Comet lost the interest of readers in 1953, no further adventures were created beyond this point. But what if he had been in space the whole time and had not aged? Now he came back to Earth, a man out of time like Marvel’s Captain America, only the contrast between the early 1950s and the mid-70s was much more poignant, especially once Adam met a girl who called herself Debbie and a few issues later, referred to herself as Camille. Soon, she and Adam were dating, Though, readers knew that Adam was Comet, the raven-haired girl remained a mystery. But did she? Any eight-year-old could figure out that there couldn’t possibly be two gorgeous girls running around in the series at the same time without any connection between these two. Unbeknownst to the characters themselves, the hero and the bad girl were dating each other. Readers who were a bit older understood something else as well. This was not your typical comic book romance. Though these two were holding hands, there were no hearts floating in the air, no sound effect that said “smack!” and no sweaty marriage proposal that caused the hero to get hot and bothered under the high collar of his skintight outfit. These two attractive individuals were having sex, not on panel, mind you, but this was what was going on. But you also understood that here was a good guy with a set of morals from a bygone era who hooked up with a modern, aggressive girl who was into sex, and all of this was alright. Adam was like a certain teenager who was raised by a kind couple who were old enough to be his grandparents and who discovered that there were women in the world, all these attractive co-eds, and who had to learn a new vocabular like the men after the war. But whatever Conway had planned, it got cut short when the series was cancelled in 1978 before he could tell Debbie’s backstory. Matters were not helped when in 1979 you had two different Star Sapphires in two different storylines. Carol was in “The Fantastic Fall of Green Lantern!” (DC Comics Presents No. 6, February 1979), the Debbie-Camille version was part of the story which ran in Justice League of America No. 166-168 (May-July 1979), in fact the three-parter which formed the basis for Brad Meltzer and Rags Morales controversial mini-series Identity Crisis (2004-2005). However, if you wanted to know who this Star Sapphire was, you needed to read the letters column in Justice League No. 174 (1980) Ross Andru, who was editing JLA, clued you in about Debbie’s secrets. With Conway leaving Society one issue before it got canned, it had fallen to Bob Rozakis to fill readers in, only he couldn’t. Camille was really Remoni-Notra who hailed from the planet Paridina. After Carol had turned out a failure, the Zamarons offered the role of queen to Remoni, who refused them flat out, but still she was given a star sapphire gem. As it turned out, there were five in total. Once she learned there was more than one stone, Remoni went all Thanos on the women from Zamaron and she raced to Earth to collect the one which was in Carol’s possession. She had joined up with the villains in hopes that they might point her in the right direction. If this was Conway’s original plan, who was writing JLA at that time, has not been answered. As for the recipient of the first gem, she soon found herself the pawn of yet another game. In what seemed like a reversal of Valkyrie-Airboy cover, it was a blonde boy who revived her Star Sapphire persona. In Green Lantern No. 129 (June 1980) and a story called “The Attack of Star Sapphire!” by O’Neil and Joe Staton, a ten-year-old blonde kid Carol was taking care of, found out that she had been Star Sapphire once. At this time, the status quo had long been re-established. Hal and Thomas Kalmaku were back working for the Ferris Aircraft Company. The boy breaks into a museum to steal the sapphire gem. Then he sneaks into Carol’s bedroom to turn her into Star Sapphire. It does look quite inappropriate to see this blonde kid, who is all decked out in some futuristic uniform like he was doing some early Star Wars cosplay, in the same frame next to Carol as Star Sapphire. In her swimsuit outfit, and with legs a mile long, Carol is three times taller than he is. Now, it’s this boy who gives the commands, and he wants Hal Jordan dead. But once the hero is victorious, why, of course he is, there’s a reveal that feels like it comes right out of the movie “Don’t Look Now”. The boy Carol had cared for was really an old man and a bald, murderous dwarf at that. If you didn’t get the fairy tale allegories, Steve Englehart certainly knew how to put it on thick, since at the end of the so-called Bronze Age you seemingly needed to spell things out a bit more. In “A Sapphire’s Story!” Green Lantern No. 192 (September 1985), readers learned that the latest villain the hero was fighting was a manifestation of the male attributes Carol had always felt were demanded of her by men. Really, she was named Carol because her father had wanted a boy, to be called Carl. The villain had secretly stolen Ferris Aircraft by buying up its debt, very similar to how Harry Donenfeld had acquired full ownership over National Allied Publications and All-American Publications, something that was crucial in the formation of DC Comics. In recent years, it was revealed that there was a Star Sapphire Corps, and their oath went something like this: “For hearts long lost and full of fright, for those alone…”