Fantomah, mystery woman of the jungle opening page

First appearance: Jungle Comics #2

There’s a first time for everything.

Before 1940, there were no female superheroes. Women in comics were almost universally designated as one of two separate roles: a romantic interest or a supporting character. That’s not to say that all female characters prior to the ‘40s

were bad - it’s just that, for the most part, they didn’t play all that big a role.

Then, in Jungle Comics #2, the first true female superhero made her debut. Fantomah, Mystery Woman of the Jungle, used her supernatural powers to punish those who would threaten the jungle or its inhabitants. Transforming from a beautiful young woman into a horrifying, blue-skulled monster, Fantomah was a symbol of terror and justice... even if it meant that some of her other traits weren’t quite as well-defined as other heroes of the era.

The influence that Fantomah has had on the industry cannot be understated. She is, in many ways, the template that all modern-day superheroines would draw from, and it’s easy to assume that comics simply wouldn’t have been the same without her influence. The name ‘Fantomah’ may not be all that recognizable in 2016 - but there’s no denying that, 75 years ago, artist Fletcher Hanks and his Mystery Woman of the Jungle changed the comic book industry forever.

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