Some people claim that comics are and always have been for young boys. History tells us different… Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of All Select Comics #11 awaits!
Writer: Stan Lee
Penciler: Syd Shores/Ken Bald/Pete Riss
Inker: Charles Nicholas/Jack Binder/Ed Winiarski
Editor: Stan Lee
Publisher: Daring Comics Inc. (Marvel Comics)
Cover Price: 10 Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $5000.00
Previously in All Select Comics: Whether it was the end of the war, the aging of the primary target audience or a combination of those and other factors, superheroes were slipping out of fashion in 1946. In order to keep the four-color presses running, publishers began searching for new genres, new characters and even untapped audiences for their comic book wares. This was the era that brought us a renewed interest in Westerns, the dawn of the romance comic and an attempt to court female readers. Martin Goodman’s company, known as Timely, Atlas, Marvel and other titles was no exception, thus did the eleventh issue of All Select (previously co-featuring Captain America and the Human Torch) make a swift and intriguing turn.
We begin this story… at the end of a story!
The first appearance of the mysterious Blonde Phantom doesn’t give any indication that it IS a first appearance, as was relatively common at the time. First issues weren’t really in demand, what with there being little-to-no back issue market to speak of, and companies would go to great lengths to make it seem as though their characters were established quantities to new readers. The story opens with private investigator Mark Mason having taken into custody a minor spy whom they suspect of working for one Signor Korte. Mason is a bit distracted from the case by the Phantom’s beauty, but she seemingly has no interest in him. As Signor Korte targets Mason and The Blonde Phantom, Mark decides he needs a night off.
There’s a definite focus on the romance angle here, and an amusing take on the “doesn’t recognize their crush when they have glasses on”, but I’m bothered by why Louise Grant wants anything to do with her loutish boss. Their night out is interrupted by the glamorous Gloria, who has another party in mind… one that include Signor Korte! Mark leaves Louise in the lurch, but she quickly gussies up as The Blonde Phantom to put in an appearance of her own.
Gloria’s cousin (who works with state secrets) is taken away by an ambulance, but it quickly becomes clear that this was all a ruse by Korte to get the knowledge in his gourd-shaped head. I really enjoy Syd Shores art in this issue, though the microfiche copy I have access to seems like it might be a little elongated? Sorry about the quality of the images, but the five thousand dollar pricetag makes this one a little hard to get one’s hands on in pristine shape. Regardless, Louse/Phantom does a little investigating…
…only to end up captured by Signor Korte’s goons! It’s an odd sort of chapter break placement, one that I think is designed to feel like “adult” literature (or at least a good pulp story), leading The Phantom to play up her injuries to get Mark’s attention away from that awful Gloria! That’s… kind of weird. Once Homer’s body is discovered, it’s Louise who figures out the most important clue, leading to an ending where she is tied up and near death, only to be saved at the last second by her boss/secret admirer!
Unusually, this story continues into the next issue of the book, which was officially renamed as ‘Blonde Phantom Comics’, running for another year or so before cancellation. The Blonde Phantom continued showing up as a backup character throughout the forties, though, and eventually married Mark Mason. As one of Marvel’s rare female leads of the era, the Blonde Phantom has actually had more modern appearances than she did back in the day, and even has a granddaughter who followed in her footsteps for about an issue. She even got an origin story in 2009, which… seems perhaps a little bit late to me. Heck, she was even a charter member of The Avengers in 1959, if you believe that Howard Chaykin mini from 2011. All Select Comics #11 is a snapshot of a strange time for the comics industry, courting female readers with romance subplots and (slightly) more adult material but still feeling very much like the stories of the WWII era, with some good art pulling things together for 3 out of 5 stars overall.
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ALL SELECT COMICS #11
Like so much of 40s Atlas/Timely/Marvel, it's kind of an abrupt story, but it's quite interesting to see what Stan Lee thought an adult-targeted comic should be like.