Know Thy History: Madame Fatal
It’s often said that one of the biggest advantages that webcomics have over print comics are that they’re free of the ossified genres that have, more or less, killed innovation — namely superhero comics. There was a time, though, when superhero comics were fantastic and new and everyone wanted to get in on the game but didn’t know what to do.
After Superman busted out on the scene, there was an influx of bizarre comic book characters trying to jump on the new and suddenly hot superhero bandwagon. But what was a superhero? Was it the ability to bounce around everywhere in a fabulous purple dress, like Bouncer? Perhaps it is to protect the jungle and turning your face into a blue skull, like Fantomah? Maybe it’s about being raised by a family of wild birds of prey, like the Black Condor? Or maybe it’s all about solving space crimes, like Lance Lewis, Space Detective?
Then you have Madame Fatal, who was created by Art Pinajian for Quality Comics (the same company that would eventually give the world the notorious poster girl of the “good girl art” movement Phantom Lady and DC’s Plastic Man). The character debuted, appropriately enough, in Crack Comics #1 (seriously). The character stopped appearing in that comic after Crack Comics #22. Why? Because Madame Fatal might have had the lamest superpower of all: the power to dress up as an old lady.
Richard Stanton is a single father, world-famous actor, and a peak physical specimen. He’s also run afoul of crime kingpin John Carver, who has kidnapped his daughter (and causes his poor wife to die of a broken heart). Stanton dons an old woman outfit (purloined from his dead wife’s wardrobe maybe?), transforming him into the spitting image of an old woman:
Flawless plan! Well, until it’s time to bust out the cane and crack open some heads:
Madame Fatal’s skills in cane-fighting is unparalleled in webcomics. Yes, I’m counting Daredevil. And he only WISHES he looked this good in a dress.
Stanton never did find his kidnapped daughter by the way. The story would have the daughter being transferred from villain to villain , but the plot would never be resolved by the time that Crack Comics decided that maybe a little crack goes a long way. But hey, at least Madame Fatal can legitimate claim that he was the very first cross-dressing comic hero.
Madame Fatal was last seen in a cameo appearance in Justice Society of America (some time after DC had bought the Quality Comics properties), and later was pronounced dead by JSA member Wildcat: only the touring cast of La Cage Aux Folies came to the funeral.
Joke’s on them, though. That’s probably what Madame Fatal WANTS you to think!