Monday, August 6, 2018

Skintight costumes—why the Domino Lady may have been as important as the Phantom in the creation of Superman

Historians of the superhero call the Phantom the first superhero for one reason: Early in 1936, two years before Superman's first appearance, the Phantom wore a skintight costume. He met other criteria for being a superhero, but they're much older than comics or cartoons: he used an alias and wore a mask.

A skintight costume makes sense in cartooning. The Phantom deserves to be called the first superhero. But he never wore his costume under street clothes, something that's part of the superhero tradition since Superman's debut in Action Comics #1:


But another costumed adventurer wore her skintight costume under her street clothes only a couple of months after the Phantom appeared.


From the Domino Lady's first story in the May 1936 issue of, I kid you not, Saucy Romantic Adventures:



Did Siegel or Shuster read any of the Domino Lady's stories? I don't know, but it's likely—they loved pulp adventure. Even if they didn't, the Domino Lady appears to be the first superhero who wore her costume under her street clothes.

She also may've been the first to refer to her adventuring outfit as a costume. Superman thought of his as a uniform.

Related: Yes or no? Superman was the first superhero

Possibly of interest: A discussion of early costumed heroes at Who Was First?? - Comic Book Plus Forum