Balladeer’s Blog’s examination of the neglected Golden Age superheroine Fantomah concludes with a look at the final eight stories penned by the one and only Fletcher Hanks under his pseudonym Barclay Flagg.
VII. JUNGLE ACTION #8 (August 1940)
Locale: The Temple of the Boiling Mud, hidden deep within Fantomah’s jungle territory.
Villain: Mister X, another Great White Hunter type, who plans to steal the sacred relic in the Temple of the Boiling Mud then ransom it back to the natives for a fortune.
The Tale: Fantomah discreetly follows Mister X as he makes his Indiana Jones-ish way to the Temple. After he succeeds in crossing over the boiling mud pit that surrounds the tiny patch of land that the Temple stands on, he penetrates into the Temple itself. Fantomah appears to Mister X and warns him against stealing the relic. The natives believe that if the relic is removed the boiling mud will rise up and flood the entire jungle, wiping out all life.
The Mayhem: Like all Fantomah villains Mister X ignores our heroine’s warning. He makes off with the relic, barely escaping the boiling mud, which is already rising. The fiend demands ten million dollars from the nearby village chief as the raging, boiling mud continues to spread across the jungle like a gigantic blob.
With natives and jungle animals frantically fleeing the spreading supernatural mud-blob Mister X, watching from overhead in his handy airplane, ups his ransom demand to twenty million dollars. Fantomah threatens the Chief against paying the ransom and then flies up to shoot down Mister X’s plane with her lightning bolts.
The villain grabs the relic and abandons his crashed aircraft, fleeing from Fantomah, from spear-wielding natives, fleeing jungle animals and from the boiling mud-blob itself. Grabbing the relic from Mister X Fantomah returns it to the Temple and the mud immediately starts to subside, eventually just occupying the original mud pit.
Fantomah teleports herself and our villain beneath the Earth, into the deep subterranean volcano whose cone is the Boiling Mud Pit with the Temple Island. (I know that makes no sense.) She leaves Mister X there with the green-skinned troglodyte people who live down there. He will be trapped with them, sharing their diet of hot mud until he dies.
VIII. JUNGLE ACTION #9 (September 1940)
Locale: Panther Valley, part of Fantomah’s jungle domain, plus New York City itself!
Villain: Wealthy madman Mark Lord, who is convinced that progress and technology have been a disaster and seeks to return the world to a primitive state through mass destruction.
The Tale: Exploring Fantomah’s remote jungle region by air Mark Lord spots Panther Valley, home to thousands (yes, thousands) of giant panthers, each of which is bigger than any 1940’s vehicle. And cars back then could house a family of six. Lord returns with his private army and lots of equipment. Fantomah warns Lord against pursuing his insane plans but he ignores her and has his underlings round up FIFTY THOUSAND of the enormous panthers.
The Mayhem: While a fleet of Lord’s transport ships head to New York City, where he plans to unleash the panthers, he has his aerial fleet attack and bomb New York City, reducing parts of it to ruin. The ships dock and the villain releases the legion of panthers to roam the city feeding on innocent survivors of the earlier bombing.
After a while Fantomah intervenes. She is able to strike this far from her home because the panthers are from there, so … the narrative tells us she can strike where they are. Anyway she flies in and obliterates all of Mark Lord’s planes with her ray-blasts, incinerating the pilots along with the aircraft.
Next Fantomah levitates all the enormous panthers and flies off with them, nabbing Mark Lord along the way. The U.S. navy is depicted making note of “Flying panthers! And a man and a woman!” in a scene that is pure Fletcher Hanks. Once back in Africa Fantomah returns all of the panthers to Panther Valley. Then, since Mark Lord wants to transform the Earth to a primitive state she turns him into a caveman and lets the giant panthers devour him.
IX. JUNGLE ACTION #10 (October 1940)
Locale: A concealed laboratory in Fantomah’s jungle domain.
Villain: Angel Eyes, a white Mad Scientist whose parents died in an accident in the jungle long ago. This has left him with a desire to wreak vengeance on the jungle itself for killing them. (?)
The Tale: Fantomah is surreptitiously observing Angel Eyes as he uses secret chemical ingredients found only in her jungle domain. He’s using them to create an army of giant and invisible Chemical Men with flaming hands. The flaming hands are the only parts of their bodies that are visible so it looks like just a bunch of gigantic flaming hands flying around.
The Mayhem: Angel Eyes releases the Chemical Men from his laboratory, allowing them to run rampant, burning down much of the jungle and burning to death plenty of natives and jungle animals. Fantomah tries to convince Angel Eyes that his parents died in an accident (which he already knew) but he inexplicably insists they were murdered.
At last feeling the body count and destruction have reached a high enough point for her to take action, Fantomah unleashes her power, destroying Angel Eyes’ lab. Next she flies him to the top of a mountain where she binds him to a tall dead palm tree so he can watch as she battles his Chemical Men.
Eventually our heroine overcomes the Chemical Men, halting their rampage and paralyzing them. She levitates them and herself to the mountain top where she left Angel Eyes. The flaming hands of the creatures slowly work their way up to the screaming mad scientist, who dies of a heart attack before they can reach him. Fantomah then causes the Chemical Men to break down into their component chemicals, returning them to the jungle that spawned them.
X. JUNGLE ACTION #11 (November 1940)
Locale: The Mountain of the Sun in Fantomah’s jungle domain.
Villain: Arco, a mummified Egyptian scientist and astronomer.
The Tale: Arco is thousands of years old and exactly 2,000 years ago he unleashed a disease called the Scarlet Shadow on Fantomah’s domain, killing countless villagers. The stars have at last alligned properly once again for him to unleash a second epidemic of that disease. To that end he has used his magic to erect an Egyptian astronomy on top of the Mountain of the Sun. The glasses and discs in the observatory harness the sun and starlight to unleash the Scarlet Shadow in ray form.
The Mayhem: Arco aims the ray at the villages below and delights in the results. Before killing its victims the Scarlet Shadow blinds them, and as the blinded natives stumble around they fall off cliffs, get stung by snakes and eaten by alligators.
Surveying the situation Fantomah realizes her ancient foe Arco is back in action, but too late to prevent him from launching the next phase of his plan. The mummified Egyptian uses star power to resurrect an army of Egyptian mummies and summons them to his current location to conquer Fantomah’s disease-ravaged territory. Even mummies in museums around the world come back to life and start shambling toward Arco.
Growing impatient the villain levitates all of them the rest of the way and sics them on the blinded natives. The mummies round up the helpless natives to use as slaves (yes, in their blind state). Fantomah flies past Arco and vows revenge on him. To that end she summons all the carnivorous animals in the jungle and has them attack and chow down on the army of mummies (talk about rotten meat).
Arco catches the flying Fantomah in his observatory’s Scarlet Shadow ray but she fights back against the effects of the ray. Ultimately she reflects it back on Arco, who is immediately blinded. Fantomah presses her advantage by picking up the Egyptian and dropping him into the mouths of waiting crocodiles in the river below. Next she cures the natives of the effects of the Scarlet Shadow disease and orders them to tear down Arco’s observatory.
XI. JUNGLE ACTION #12 (December 1940)
Locale: Coast Town, an Atlantic Ocean port city to the west of Fantomah’s land.
Villains: The New Blitzers, obviously a reference to the real world events involving the Nazis at the time. The New Blitzers are depicted as being from a fictional European country.
The Tale: As Fantomah watches, the New Blitzers seize Coast Town by way of a paratrooper attack. With the town secured they radio their colleagues in South America, who plan to accomodate their amphibious attack on Brazil. The overall plan is that eventually they will conquer that country plus all the nations to its north, with America the ultimate goal.
The Mayhem: With the New Blitzer’s invasion force mobilized and at sea Fantomah flies over the Atlantic Ocean to a midpoint between Africa and South America. From there she is able to exert her power over jungle beasts on both continents. She summons lions in Africa to the coast and then levitates them toward her.
In South America she summons horse-sized lizard/porcupine monsters from deep in the Amazon Jungle. Next she turns the clouds into octopus tentacles and strikes the New Blitzer’s planes down to the plain on which the Amazon Jungle beasts wait to eat them. Fantomah uses the flying lions to kill the NB’s ground troops, then flies with them back to Africa to liberate Coast Town by having the lions kill all the troops remaining there.
XII. JUNGLE ACTION #13 (January 1941)
Locale: Wildmoon Mountain in Fantomah’s jungle region.
Villains: The Tiger-Women, an exclusively female tribe who live on Wildmoon Mountain and who ride their personal tigers into battle.
The Tale: The Tiger-Women plan to kill all the other women in the world so that they will have all the men and, through them, rule the world. Riding down from Wildmoon Mountain on their tigers they start with native villages in Fantomah’s domain. The tigers are simultaneously their mounts and their weapons of destruction.
The Mayhem: The Tiger-Women launch their rather hare-brained plan and succeed in slaying all the women in the first village they reach while the inscrutable Fantomah flies around watching. At last she decides to intervene and summons elephants, lions and vultures to attack the army of Tiger-Women.
The crafty Tiger-Women came prepared, however and douse themselves in glow-worm oil, making their bodies glow so that they scare off Fantomah’s attacking animals. (?) Reaching the next village they proceed to slay every woman there as well, including, in a positively Biblical touch by Hanks, all the female infants, too.
The flying Fantomah blasts the Tiger-Women with rays that wash off the glow-worm oil. She then has lions attack and kill all the tigers the women are riding. The Tiger-Women leap into the tree branches overhead only to be attacked by apes summoned by Fantomah. The survivors flee the trees only to be attacked by boa constrictors.
Fantomah next has a flock of giant vultures pick up the surviving Tiger-Women by their hair and fly with them along side her back to Wildmoon Mountain. Using her powers Fantomah digs out an actual ancient moon at the heart of the mountain, which gave the spot its name. She traps the Tiger-Women inside it (?) and sends it hurling toward Mars, where it explodes, killing all the Tiger-Women.
XIII. JUNGLE ACTION #14 (February 1941)
Locale: A secret laboratory on the Atlantic Coast, far to the west of Fantomah’s usual stomping grounds.
Villain: Zomax, a white scientist and “The Man with the Most Ridiculous Origin in Super-Villain History” as I call him.
The Tale: Years earlier Zomax was hunting in the jungle when a lion attacked him. He killed the lion but it severely wounded him before it died. Next an elephant picked him up in his trunk and threw him into water filled with poisonous gnats.
After he emerged from the water a boa constrictor wrapped itself around him and broke a few of his ribs. A mad ape attacked and killed the boa constrictor but kept Zomax captive for months, smacking him around and doing who knows what else to him. Scarred, disfigured and crippled Zomax escaped and was found by a safari, then was returned to civilization. Over the years he vowed revenge on the entire jungle where he had experienced that bizarrely unlikely series of events.
The Mayhem: Zomax, who is not drawn in any way that indicates he has anything at all wrong with him, is, we are told, STILL scarred, disfigured and crippled. From his secret laboratory he has found a way of controlling the tides by way of the moon’s effect on them. He plans to create a gigantic tidal wave that will wipe out everything from the coast all the way to Fantomah’s hidden lands.
Sensing what is up, streams of jungle animals flee inland. Fantomah goes to Zomax and demands that he stop his mad plan. He refuses, wanting revenge on the whole jungle. (The guy is clearly nuts. If they wanted him to seem purely evil they should have just made him a former foe of Fantomah back for revenge. The odd series of animal attacks he suffered would have at least made sense if they had been doing what Fantomah told them to do.)
Fantomah flies high in the air and using her powers at last disperses the gigantic tsunami into smaller waves. Zomax flees in his airplane but Fantomah gives chase and summons a giant wave of her own that reaches up to the villain’s aircraft. He jumps out in a parachute but Fantomah manipulates the wave so that it washes over him and drowns him before it washes his laboratory into the sea.
XIV. JUNGLE ACTION #15 (March 1941)
Locale: Valley of the Spiders and, once again, the Sacred City of Simbora.
Villain: Org, an African native who is able to magically mesmerize certain animals with his rhythmic drumming.
The Tale: When Org discovers the hidden Valley of the Spiders he uses his magical drumming to enthrall the legion of elephant-sized spiders who live there. He then leads them in an attack on the Sacred City of Simbora to start his planned conquest of Africa.
The Mayhem: Org’s spider army rolls along, killing elephants, giraffes, lions and thousands of inhabitants of Simbora. Fantomah shows up and threatens Org. She then zaps him so that he can’t control his drumming anymore. With the giant spiders freed from the villain’s control Fantomah scares them back to their hidden valley.
She then strikes down Org with what Fletcher Hanks describes in the text as a “super-superiority ray” following which she carries him up into the sky with her. She drops him into some floating grass in the middle of the river then levitates the grass and Org to the Valley of the Spiders where she has one of the spiders feed on their former master. Next, Fantomah shrinks all the spiders in the valley to the size of normal spiders, ending their threat forever.
YA GOTTA LOVE FLETCHER HANKS! NEXT TIME I’LL EXAMINE ANOTHER FORGOTTEN GOLDEN AGE FIGURE.
IN THE MEANTIME THE HACK/SLASH PEOPLE REVIVED FANTOMAH FOR A TEAM-UP, SO HOW ABOUT A FANTOMAH/ ASH WILLIAMS TEAM-UP IN THE ARMY OF DARKNESS COMIC BOOKS?
FOR PART ONE CLICK HERE: https://glitternight.com/2015/02/04/neglected-superheroine-fantomah/
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