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Madam Fatal

Contributed by Ronald Byrd

In 1940, the daughter of retired actor Richard Stanton is kidnapped. In order to track down the criminals without attracting attention and endangering his daughter, Stanton dresses up as a “simple old lady” and successfully rescues her. Inspired by his victory, Stanton, who lives alone (presumably in New York City) save for the company of his parrot Hamlet, elects to retain the old woman identity as Madam Fatal, one of the many heroes of that era who fought crime with no more than “her” native wits and skill. “She” appeared in the first twenty-two issues of Crack Comics.

As one of Quality Comics’s stable of characters, Madam Fatal came into DC Comics’ possession along with Blackhawk, Plastic Man, and other heroes, notable and not, many of whom have been depicted fighting crime alongside DC’s own more famous golden age super-heroes. Madam Fatal does not seem to have appeared in any modern DC story, but “she” is known to be dead and largely forgotten by modern times; in JSA #1, at the Sandman’s funeral, it is noted that “they buried Madame Fatal here and no one turned up for the funeral but the touring cast of La Cage Aux Folles.” The significance of these funeral attendees is open to debate.

The reader may note that, perhaps not accidentally, Stanton has some traits that can be linked to stereotypical images of gay men during the 1940s; he lives alone, has a history in the theater, and is a cross-dresser. According to George Chauncey, author of Gay New York, the act of  wearing clothes of the opposite sex was illegal during the first half of the 20th century, at least in New York state. Police often raided gay establishments and arrested men wearing women’s attire. He is probably the closest to an openly gay character that one can find among the super-heroes of the 1940s. [I do not think there was ever a mention of Stanton’s daughter’s mother, whether she and Richard were married, and why she was not around or if she had died. Gay men of this and previous generations often chose to marry and raise families in order to avoid suspicion while living on the down low. – Joe Palmer]

Madame Fatal surprisingly appeared in The Shade #4 (volume 2, cover date 3/2012) in a story by James Robinson, Darwyn Cooke and J Bone. Madam Fatal’s talents are required by the Shade to watch World War II industrialist Darnell Caldecott who has become a recent target for assassination by Nazis. Stanton does aa very admirable job when the need arises to protect Caldecott, shocked to see his newly hired assistant jumping into action. In return for his aid, Stanton learns the whereabouts of his kidnapped daughter thanks to information obtained by Shade. [JP]

Madame Fatal had no superhuman powers but was a highly skilled actor, a master of disguise, and an effective fighter. “She” carried a walking stick that could be used as an offensive weapon.

Art Pinajian is the creator of Madam Fatal. Madame Fatal first appears in Crack Comics #1 and the strip ends with issue #22. This character profile was compiled from information from The Encyclopedia of Super-Heroes, by Jeff Rovin.

Art by Art Pinajian from Crack Comics #4 and Darwyn Cooke and J Bone from The Shade (volume 2) #4.

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July 21, 2021
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