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CSBG Archive

Foundationed Deep – Starman and Phantom Lady

This is the latest in a series (of indefinite length and regularity) of pieces looking at particular odd/strange/interesting instances of retroactively connecting different comic book characters (for instance, Uncanny X-Men #268 retroactively established that Wolverine knew both Captain America and the Black Widow from World War II). Here is an archive of all of the past pieces.

Today, based on a suggestion from John Trumbull, we look at the 40-year-after-the-fact connection between the original Starman and the original Phantom Lady.

Starman, Ted Knight, made his debut in late 1940 in National Comics’ Adventure Comics #61 (by Gardner Fox and Jack Burnley)…

Five months later, Phantom Lady, Sandra Knight, made her debut in Quality Comics’ Police Comics #1 (by Arthur Peddy)…

Forty years later, in 1984′s All Star Squadron #31, Roy Thomas, Rick Hoberg and Mike Machlan introduced the Quality Comics characters into the All Star Squadron (Quality’s comic book characters had been purchased by National, later DC Comics, sometime in the late 1950s). When Phantom Lady and Starman met each other in the issue, Roy Thomas introduced the idea that the two Knights were related…

And they’ve been cousins ever since!

Thanks to John for the suggestion! If YOU have a suggestion for this column, drop me a line at bcronin@comicbookresources.com

17 Comments

Phantom Lady has one of the coolest gadgets in comics ever.

If I remember correctly, Ted somehow assisted her with making her black light ray which became her primary weapon.

Jack Burnley was one of the better Golden Age artists working for National/DC. Compared to Bob Kane, that is. I liked how Jack put some effort into facial expressions and overall physical dynamics. His work was above the average fare found at the time.

Clutch, compared to just about anybody, Jack Burnley was great. Calling Burnley “above average” doesn’t do him justice. If he was alive and drawing today, he’d wipe the floor with the Jim Lee’s and Leinel Yu’s.

The Crazed Spruce

November 30, 2013 at 7:40 am

Y’know, I’m kinda surprised it took this long for the man who coined the term “retcon” to turn up in this column. :)

Wow, Hoberg sure does draw a pretty face.

And on the subject of Burnley, maybe he could be the first of a series of columns here called “Unsung Heroes” or something.

Wow, I only sent Brian an email suggesting Starman & Phantom Lady (among others) just a couple of HOURS before this went up! Now, THAT is service, ladies & gentlemen! :)

Thomas later had Sandra Knight make an appearance in the Starman origin sequence he did in All-Star Squadron (the character had never had one in the Golden Age), and James Robinson later played up the connection in his 90s Starman series.

It is sort of fascinating the differing fates of Golden Age premises that got the Julie Schwartz treatment in the Silver Age versus the characters that got the Roy Thomas treatment in the Bronze Age.

Thomas was far more respectful, but none of the characters that he worked with ever had much commercial success. Starman was the only A-Lister, but that is a bit of special case given how personal the legacy-line story of Starman was to James Robinson. Other than that, the Thomas-ified Golden Agers have fared little better than the female half of the Marvel U.

The Schwartz treatment (by contrast) was a raging success. Both the Flash and Green Lantern have been A-Listers for decades. The Atom was an A-Lister in the Silver Age. Hawkman and Hawkgirl were durable B-listers through the Silver and Bronze Ages.

Great stuff. Coincidentally, a new podcast, the Starman Observatory, has recently debuted, and the lads there were also talking about the connection.

http://starmanobservatory.blogspot.co.uk

I’ve never been a big fan of Golden Age artwork, but I’ll join the chorus singing Burnley’s praises. That is some beautiful work right there, regardless of what era it came from. I may have to check out that Starman Archives now…

Part of what i liked about Thomas’s retcon origin was that his version of Ted Knight really was a spoiled playboy before turning super-hero. Though Robinson dropped that in developing the Starman legacy.
Yes to the Burnley art and also Fox’s stories. I’ve got the archive edition and it was a solid strip even though it wasn’t really a big name.
Actually Dean, Schwartz tried spinning off Starman and Black Canary into their own book (and also an Hourman/Fate team)–at least i assume that was the intent of their Brave and Bold team-ups–but it didn’t take off either.

interesting never knew that phantom lady was related to starman at all and no doubt when if ever dc does make them part of their current universe that will get wiped away if ever.

@ fraser:

I was using the two men’s names as short-hand.

What I meant by the Julie Schwartz approach was taking the name and the very basics of the premise while updating everything else. While BRAVE AND THE BOLD #61 might’ve been edited by Schwartz, it used the Thomas approach.

Conversely, Thomas nearly used the Schwartz approach with his new Firebrand in ALL-STAR SQUADRON. She had a legacy connection, but she was mostly new.

Wow, I only sent Brian an email suggesting Starman & Phantom Lady (among others) just a couple of HOURS before this went up!

Hehe, yeah, I planned to use this particular one anyways, so when I saw your e-mail I thought “perfect!”

Ah, got it Dean.

Phantom Lady lecturing Starman on the subject of poorly-hidden secret IDs is like Rosie O’Donnell lecturing Jack Black for being overweight. Seriously. Of course Starman isn’t even trying, but transparent goggles aren’t much of a “disguise” either. Though I’ve long suspected that Phantom Lady’s skimpy outfit is her real disguise, as most men won’t be looking at her face anyway (the same principle applies to Power Girl’s “chest window”).

One minor nitpick: I’d tweak the “Forty years later” paragraph because as written it sounds like that was the first time Thomas used Quality characters in All-Star Squadron when they were there from the start of that series. It would be more accurate to say that issue was the first Quality-focussed issue and/or the first time the Freedom Fighters, all Quality characters appeared as a team in All-Star Squaron. A fun retcon though.

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