Phantom Lady

Blog Post 1 - Phantom Lady #13Phantom Lady was first published in 1941 by the Eisner & Iger studio, originally for Quality Comics.  One of the first female superheroes, the Phantom Lady has undergone several alter egos such as Sandra Knight, Delilah “Dee” Tyler, and Stormy Knight, and is currently licensed by DC Comics.  When she first appeared in Quality Comics Police Comics (August 1941), the Phantom Lady’s alter-ego was Sandra Knight, a beautiful daughter of a U.S. Senator named Henry Knight.  The Phantom Lady was a superhero who utilized a “black light projector” to blind her enemies and make herself invisible.  Her vehicle’s headlights also projected black light.  Her character was not given an origin story until after DC Comics acquired her and integrated her into their Freedom Fighters series.  In the final issue of the original Freedom Fighters series, she was finally given an origin story.  Her thirst for adventure and crime-fighting was developed after one night in which Sandra Knight used a rolled-up newspaper to prevent two assassins from murdering her father.  Afterwards, she found a “black light ray projector” that a family friend sent to her father and managed to integrate the device into her crime-fighting technique.

The story that I chose to analyze for the purpose of this blog is Phantom Lady #13.  In this issue, a female villain named Tersa Thorn wants revenge against Sandra Knight’s father because he caused Tersa Thorn’s son to be executed via the electric chair.  With help, Tersa Thorn procures a robot doppelganger of Sandra Knight and forces her to commit murder.  Once the robot is arrested, Tersa Thorn’s henchmen kidnap the human Sandra Knight and substitute the robot for her.  She manages to break out of prison and tricks the henchmen into believing that she is the robot, and with the help of her father and the police they catch Tersa and her men.  I believe this superhero is significant for a few reasons, one of the most primary being that she was one of the first female superheroes to emerge from the Golden Age.  Her character was often criticized for her provocative outfit and poses, and underwent several reconstructions due to it.  I believe that it’s important for the class to consider the gender-specific undertones of female superheroes and to understand how their issues were regulated in ways that male superheroes were not.  The rhetoric surrounding Lady Phantom argued that her character influenced children in negative ways, and because of that her character was reworked several times.  I chose this particular issue because it also featured a female villain, a convention that is arguably uncommon for its time.  This issue portrays women to be intelligent and capable of good and evil.  However, despite this relatively realistic portrayal of women, in the end of this issue Phantom Lady is still saved by men.  She still becomes the trite “damsel-in-distress” that women are so often portrayed as in literature.  Also, she is considered to be nearly indistinguishable from her robot counterpart, which could be inferred as making a statement about how women were perceived at the time.  The robot is remarkable because she cannot talk without being prompted from Tersa Thorn, but the henchmen at the beginning of the issue believe she is human until they find out from Tersa Thorn that she is in fact a robot.  It’s difficult to believe that a robot could be mistaken for a fully fledged person, and it portrays women as vapid and unremarkable, besides the robot’s “beauty.”  The Phantom Lady superhero is interesting because by researching it and the historical aspects of the comic, we can gain a better understanding of the gender dynamics of the 1940s.


The link for accessing the particular issue that I analyzed here is:

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Studies in Comics & Cartoons Book Series @ Ohio State University Press

This year the new book series, Studies in Comics & Cartoons (edited by Lucy Shelton Caswell & Jared Gardner) officially launched with its first book, Redrawing French Empire in Comics by Mark McKinney (Ohio University). More information about the series and Mark’s marvelous book can be found at the University Press website.


Stephan Pastis: Honorary Buckeye!

Pearls before Swine cartoonist Stephan Pastis is heading our way to speak at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum Festival this weekend, but according to today’s paper he made a wrong turn in a state-that-shall-not-be-named (see below). Festival registrants and ticket holders (sorry, everyone else, Stephan’s talk is now sold out) prepared to give him a warm welcome and perhaps a few bandaids to help him recover from his detour into the heart of darkness!


When They Were Buckeyes II: Jeff Smith

As the Ohio chapter of the Jeff Smith fan-army already knows, Bone & Thorn were born right here at Ohio State in the pages of The Lantern. I was going to feature a small gallery of Smith’s early strips here in honor of his upcoming gig at the 2013 Festival of Cartoon Art (with yet another former Buckeye, Paul Pope). But a young cartoonist named Charles Brubaker made my life easier (and your life better) by collecting all of them at his website for your enjoyment:

So all that is left for me to do is to remind you all to get your tickets for Jeff Smith & Paul Pope in conversation, this Friday, November 15 (tickets included with registration for Festival attendees and free for OSU students with BuckID).

Tickets and more information available at the Wexner Center: 


Comics Classes @ OSU in Spring 2014

Spread the word around capital city: we have three comics classes in the spring here on the Columbus campus at OSU (that I know of… if there are others at any of our campuses, please let me know!). OSU folks, spread the word to your students and/or classmates. (We’ll likely have  2 coming up for Fall 14 as well)


Comics in Columbus in 2014: a quick preview and an appeal

It is hard for me  to think much past the Festival next month, but in truth that is only the beginning of what is shaping up to be one of the best years ever for comics at the Ohio State campus. Just last week, for example, we got official word that Bill Watterson (Calvin & Hobbes) and Richard Thompson (Cul de Sac) will be jointly exhibiting at the new Billy Ireland museum in March, bringing together two of the great contemporary masters of the comic strip form.

Then in May, The Art of Daniel Clowes comes to the Wexner Center here on campus, with related programming that I can’t tell you about because your head will explode (and also, I don’t know the details yet, so I’d just be making stuff up).

Finally, close to campus and near and dear to our hearts, our colleagues at the Columbus Museum of Art and the Thurber House will be once again hosting a cartoonist in residence. Hard act to follow after Ed Piskor this year and Paul Hornschemeier the year before, but our 2014 resident, Lilli Carré, has more than enough awesome to step into those shoes. There will be workshops, talks and of course an exhibition of Carré’s work at the Museum. In order to support Lilli’s visit, the CMA and Thurber House have set up a site to kickstart the funding for the residency at . Check out the adorable video: how can you resist?



CFP: Comics of Charles Schulz

The Comics of Charles Schulz: The Good Grief of Modern Life is a proposed volume in the new book series, Critical Approaches to Comics Artists, at the University Press of Mississippi. This volume will contain an array of critical essays on the comics of Charles Schulz, best known for Peanuts, the nationally-syndicated daily comic strip that ran for fifty years and which remains today the most recognizable strip worldwide. Essays from many disciplinary and interdisciplinary perspectives are welcome, including critical approaches from comics studies, art history, cultural studies, literary studies, philosophy, history, and political science.

Essays that address the following topics are especially welcome:

  • ·       Influences & relationship to earlier comics
  • ·       Philosophy & Ethics
  • ·       Suburbia
  • ·       Politics
  • ·       Repetition and seriality in Peanuts
  • ·       Psychological and social identities in Peanuts
  • ·       Peanuts & the 1950s, 60s, 70s, etc.
  • ·       Peanuts across media
  • ·       Peanuts and global merchandizing

Please send a 500-1000 word abstract, 3-page CV, and contact information to Jared Gardner at by December 31, 2013 (new deadline).

Accepted abstracts will be used in a formal book prospectus, and the deadline for full-length essays will be negotiated shortly thereafter.


When They Were Buckeyes I: Derf

Known today for his ongoing editorial comics series The City and for his award-winning memoir, My Friend Dahmer, 30 years ago Derf Backderf was an editorial cartoonist for The Lantern. Derf even courted the most dangerous kind of controversy in Columbus by taking on OSU’s legendary and deeply troubled  former quarterback, Art Schlichter, in an April 11, 1983 cartoon:

Already an inveterate gambler during his college years, Schlichter—who failed to earn the starting spot on the Colts in his rookie pro season—got deeper and deeper into debt, and to some bad people. Never one to bow before sacred cows, Derf called ’em like they were and bravely took the heat from the football faithful back home.

Here are some other examples of Derf’s editorial work for the Lantern: