Mar 14

Long ago and far away, in a galaxy known as The Silver Age of Comics, I was broke, again, and talked my way into writing a comic for King Features: The Girl Phantom.

I had gone to the editor, Bill Harris, looking for freelance work. He was very nice and extremely encouraging, except for one thing. “Women,” he said, “don’t write comics.”

Harumph. I left his office armed with leads for other work, but also with a little seed of anger growing inside me. What did he mean by that? Why couldn’t women write comics?

Are we not members of the human race? If you poison us, do we not die? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you prick us, oh never mind.

So I marched back into his office, and said, “The hell they don’t!”

He backed down, partly because “Pat” could be a guy, so he wouldn’t have no ‘splainin’ to do to nobody. Besides, he had been thinking of doing an entire book about the Phantom’s twin, The Girl Phantom, and there I was: a girl. Holy Skull Cave! I was going to write a comic about the secret sibling of The Ghost Who Walks.

PhantomPage007And they were paying me for this! Almost 200 smackeroos! I was over the moon about this job, and had something to prove: women could too write comics.

It took me weeks, endlessly writing and rewriting. A pro would have knocked it out in days, but hey, I was a beginner and besides, I was striking a blow for feminism.

Well, sorta. My heroine did climb mountains, swim rivers and solve riddles with the best of them. But reading it now, I see some cringe-worthy touches: like when the chief tells a young woman to stop worrying about her missing sister and go home and make dinner. I wrote that. Whoops.

As for the art: The Girl Phantom dressed up like her brother — hell, girl, she didn’t even have her own get-up. But she does have a pin-up girl figure with what looks like a size 34 DDDD bra size. But then, all the women look like that except for the witch: your standard hag-like horrible old female creature.

When I finally finished writing and turned in the copy . . .


Phantom_1Bill loved it and gave me more assignments. Even the “real” Phantom. Sigh.  I did end up writing quite a few other comics, including Boris-Karloff’s Tales of Mystery, Grimm’s Ghost Stories, UFO Flying Saucers, The Twilight Zone. And my personal favorites: Little Lulu and Uncle Scrooge.

But it was that first one that I really remember.

Especially the ridiculous amount of time I spent laboring over details, which actually resulted in an error: The story revolves around a riddle, The Riddle of The Witch, which I changed so many times that I ended up handing in copy with two versions — both of which appear in the book. No one seemed to notice. And they sent me a check for $189, the stub of which I have to this day. It’s good to get paid.

WonderWomanRecently, I was asked by someone creating a comic database for info about my career in comics and I had to dig up all kinds of material, which brought back terrific memories — especially that for one shining moment I was a superhero: the Girl Phantom.

My only regret is that some years later I let my feelings (how girlie of me) get in the way of writing Wonder Woman. I was appalled by the attitude of the male editors, who seemed to be far more interested in the length of my skirt than my skill as a writer. Besides, the pay stank and I wasn’t as broke anymore.

It would have been fun to be Wonder Woman, at least once. I tried to compensate by going to a Halloween party dressed in a bustier, gold bracelets, metallic boots, and big hair, but it wasn’t the same.

Tiger006Oh well. You can’t always get what you want, no matter how many ceilings you break or doors you storm through. But I’ll always have The Phantom.

The GIRL Phantom!

Complete with BAMS! ! BOOMS! ! AIEEES!! TWACKS!! TWANNNGS!!! R-R-ROARS!!! R-R-RUMBLES!! and even a couple of GRRRs!!!

Where else do you get to write copy like this????

I also got to name characters: King Lliwami was an anagram of William in honor of Bill, which probably was the inspiration for Will. I. Am. Not. The other chief was King Tumuchi. Please!

And to write deathless prose:  I MUST STOP HER!! I HOPE I’M NOT TOO LATE! ! WHAT CAN IT MEAN???

Hey, I was young and I needed to write a comic.


The Girl Phantom Comic can be found at:  http://www.mycomicshop.com/search?TID=183521

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