In the Aftermath of Infinite Crisis #1: Spotlight on Phantom Lady
For this column, I’m going back to the good old days of Phantom Lady’s career, which is every appearance she made prior to her death in the pages of Infinite Crisis #1. I no longer want that agonizingly brutal scene of her being impaled on Deathstroke’s sword permeating my thoughts. So enjoy these happier and more heroic scenes that I’ve chosen to include.
The Phantom Lady in Infinite Crisis #1 is not the same person who debuted in Police Comics #1 (August, 1941). The original Mistress of Darkness was Sandra Knight, a debutante during World War II, who took on the role of Phantom Lady after saving her father, a U.S. senator, from assassination. Despite her competent crimefighting, she is most famous for striking a notorious bondage pose on the cover of Phantom Lady #17 (April, 1948). After years of inaction, she returned as a member of the Freedom Fighters of Earth-X (Justice League of America #107, Sept.-Oct., 1973), starred with the Freedom Fighters in their own title, where she acquired the power to turn into phantom form (15 issues, 1975-1978), and in the 1980s was retrofit into writer Roy Thomas’ All-Star Squadron.
Sandra would go on to open a finishing school in France. I’m not sure what became of her after that. Hopefully her fate was much kinder than that of Dee Tyler, who was introduced in Action Comics #636 (January, 1989). After graduating from Sandra’s school, Dee became the new Phantom Lady to save her Attorney General father from being blackmailed by a crime cartel. It was a decent start, but not star-making, and she went on to guest in The Flash and appear in James Robinson’s Starman. Alas, I believe that was about it for her appearances in the DCU. But the potential was always there for her to bask in the spotlight.
Somewhere along the line she became a member of the new Freedom Fighters, which consisted of her, Uncle Sam, a new Black Condor, a new Ray, the Human Bomb (pushing seventy-something) and Damage. And what a way to make a comeback, in the pages of the most anticipated comic of 2005. In what could have been a perfect opportunity to achieve long overdue attention and exposure in a heroic role, she instead became another victim of the overly utilized and wretchedly violent Gratuitous Death Scene. Poor Dee.
In both incarnations, Phantom Lady was a hero, as were her teammates. She always fought heroically, she always fought the good fight, and she always triumphed, no matter what the adversity. But not this time. This time she wasn’t meant to be heroic. She never had a chance to, because she was setup to die. She deserved better. I don’t know about you, but her senseless death slightly marred my enjoyment of reading Infinite Crisis #1. I was disturbed, still am, and I’m sure that was the intent. Which is certainly not my idea of good intention.