WOMEN’S EMPOWERMENT MONTH – THE DOMINO LADY: First Female Super-Hero!

THE DOMINO LADY

The First and still one of the best!

The Domino Lady is a masked pulp super-hero who first appeared in the May 1936 issue of the pulp magazine Saucy Romantic Adventures. This makes her history’s first female super-hero.

The Domino Lady’s stories were all published under the house name “Lars Anderson” which was owned by the publisher Fiction Magazines. The author’s real identity is unknown.

The Domino Lady is the only female costumed pulp hero to star in her own series. In those days females were rarely headliners. Maybe the fact that Domino Lady came out of the “spicy” pulps is part of the reason why. The more traditional pulp publishers seem to have had restrictions on how females were to be used. Not so with the “spicy” pulps. For example, in the first couple of stories she has to change into her costume before going into action – in the villain’s own home! Meaning there was a chance she could get caught undressed or only partially dressed. There was a reason they were called “spicy” pulps.

Ellen Patrick is much more than a University of California, Berkeley-educated socialite – she leads a double life as The Domino Lady. When District Attorney Owen Patrick is murdered, his daughter Ellen puts on a domino mask and as The Domino Lady and sets out to avenge him. She arms herself with three weapons – a .45 caliber pistol, a syringe with a powerful knockout serum, and her breathtaking beauty. The last one may be her greatest weapon. She often uses her looks to distract and entrance her opponents, or at least it leads them to underestimating her. In any event her wiles allowed her to outwit her opponents – unless her opponent was a female. You can’t have everything. The Domino Lady belonged to the Robin Hood school of heroing. She steals for her targets, donating most of it to charity while keeping a chunk for herself. After all a girl has to eat. Invariably she would leave behind a calling card with the words, “Compliments of the Domino Lady.”

In the 1930s The Domino Lady appeared in six stories published by Fiction Magazines. They are:

  1. The Domino Lady Collects (Saucy Romantic Adventures, May 1936)
  2. The Domino Lady Doubles Back (Saucy Romantic Adventures, June 1936)
  3. The Domino Lady’s Handicap (Saucy Romantic Adventures, July 1936)
  4. Emeralds Aboard (Saucy Romantic Adventures, August 1936)
  5. Black Legion (Saucy Romantic Adventures, October 1936)
  6. The Domino Lady’s Double (Mystery Adventure Magazine, November 1936)

Reprints of the six original stories have been made. Pulp Collector Press’ Pulp Review from 1992 has one. Also Compliments of the Domino Lady by Bold Venture Press with a cover by Jim Steranko and an article by Will Murray on who was the author Lars Anderson.

The Domino Lady character is in the public domain and because of that there has been a great deal of use of her in recent times.

  • Eros Comix: published a series of Domino Lady comics written by Ron Wilber that were then reprinted in 1995.
  • Moonstone Books: 2009 saw a collection of new stories set in the 1930s and edited by Lori Gentile. Many stories saw The Domino Lady team up with other characters such as The Phantom and Sherlock Holmes. They also launched a comic book by Nancy Holder with art by Steve Bryant.

Domino Lady and my favorite female private eye Honey West

The Domino Lady and The Shadow

The Domino Lady and Sherlock Holmes

The Domino Lady, The Golden Amazon, and The Veil

The Domino Lady and The Spider – Master of Men. But not the master of women.

The Domino Lady and The Green Lama – watch where you put your hand buddy.

The Domino Lady and The Black Bat

The Domino Lady, Bulletgirl, and The Lady In Red

  • Airship 27: In 2015 published a collection of stories by Tim Bruckner, Kevin Findley, Greg Hatcher, and Gene Moyers. The art was by James Lyle. They followed that with a second volume by Kevin Findley, Brad Mengel, Gene Moyers, and Robert Ricci. In 2019 there was a third volume by Adam Mudman Bezecny, Gene Moyers, Brad Mengel, and Samantha Lienhard.
  • Bold Venture Press: in 2017 and 2018 they gave us a two-part story by Rich Harvey.

The AudioComics Company announced in 2011 that they would produce a Domino Lady series. The first episode was written by Rich Harvey, directed by Lance Roger, and starred Karen Stilwell. It was released exclusively on an Mp3 digital download and is available on iTunes.

I didn’t emphasize this before but I am going to do so now. The Domino Lady is the FIRST female super-hero. As such she gets all my respect. Now I get that she has no super-powers but super-heroes don’t have to have super-powers. Batman has no powers. Green Arrow has no powers. Hawkeye has no powers. Neither has Zorro, The Green Hornet, or Iron Man for that matter (the power is in his suit). The Domino Lady has an action name, a costume, weapons, and a secret identity. Plus she kicks butt! She is a super-hero and having debuted in 1936 she pre-dates all the other female heroes.

Popular opinion has it that Sheena – Queen of the Jungle was the first female super-hero because she came out in 1938. Nope, sorry jungle lady my girl Domino Lady got you beat by two years.

Prior to this there were female sidekicks. Flash Gordon had Dale Arden. Buck Rogers had Wilma Deering. The Shadow had Margo Lane. But none of them are super-heroes. They may be female characters involved in the action but that is all. My girl Ellen is still the first.

I’ll admit that my love affair with her began only recently. She first appeared in 1936 and that is a tad before my time. I am not that old. I first came across her when Moonstone Books began publishing new stories about her and I fell in love. How can you not fall in love with a female super-hero that uses sex as a weapon? Holy Mackerel! I had to keep reminding myself that she debuted in the 1930s. Talk about being totally liberated!

Now I will freely admit that her outfit is a bit outlandish for super-heroing – she wears a white dress with high heels. But Marvel’s Blonde Phantom was dressed the same way and she kicked butt for years. And let me point out that DC’s Black Canary has been operating for decades in high heels.

When she first came out The Domino Lady only had six original stories. But man is she popular now! As proof take a look at how many companies are now telling her stories and how many other characters she is teaming up with. When you team-up with Sherlock Holmes you have hit the big time. 

Okay guys it has to be totally obvious I am going to give The Domino Lady a high recommendation. But allow me to break it up into two parts.

  • First, I recommend you check out the stuff done by Moonstone Books, Airship 27, Bold Venture Press and all the rest. I fully expect you will fall in love with her the same way I did.
  • Second, now go track down the original pulp stories from the 1930s. You can find one of the collections. Then you will see for yourself why The Domino Lady deserves all our respect and affection.

Okay mi gente it is time for me to say adios. It has been fun sharing my thoughts and feelings with you and I always love the time we spend together. As we all ride off into the sunset I’d like to leave you with some words of wisdom that my Uncle Freddie used to tell me. As I was leaving the house he would say to me, “Be good, and if you can’t be good then be careful.” See ya!

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