With March being Women's History Month and in celebration of International Women's Day, I thought it appropriate to take a look at the first female comic book superhero.
FANTOMAH: MYSTERY WOMAN OF THE JUNGLE.
While comic historians seem to go back and forth on who is the first prototypical superhero, Phantom Magician or Mandrake the Magician, it would be Fletcher Hanks' creation that would make history as the first female superhero.
Using the pseudonym Barclay Flagg, Hanks debuted Fantomah in her backup feature in JUNGLE COMICS #2 (1940), which lasted until her final appearance in issue #51 (1944). With her double identity, supernatural powers, distinctive appearance, and a need to combat evil she perfectly fit into the newly emergent mold of SUPERHERO.
the most remarkable woman that ever lived. Devotes her supernatural powers to protecting the jungle -- and the jungle born.
In her original incarnation, Fantomah was gifted with mysterious powers that allowed her to protect her beloved jungle and the innocent denizens of the jungle. These unspecified abilities generally served the plot of the story, but she was regularly shown to exhibit super-strength, transform objects, and the ability to fly. It was in using her powers that her distinctive superhero appearance manifested: her skin turned blue and her face became a skull!
With a new writer on board, credited as H.B Hovious, mid way through her run the supernatural powers element diminished and Fantomah fell into the role of one of the many Sheena, Queen of the Jungle knockoffs. A sad fate for the first of her kind.
But rest assured, it is because of FANTOMAH: MYSTERY WOMAN OF THE JUNGLE that today we have WonderWoman, She-Hulk, Vixen, Jessica Jones, Storm and so many other incredible female superheroes. As fans we owe her a debt of gratitude.