Monday, April 21, 2008

Obscure Character Handbook: Madam Fatal

Real Name: Richard "Dick" Stanton
Dual Identity: Secret
Occupation: Retired stage actor turned altruistic social crusader.
Legal Status: Citizen of the United States with no known criminal record.
Marital Status: Widower
Known Relatives: Unnamed wife (deceased) and daughter.
Known Allies: Tubby White, Scrappy Nelson, talking parrot Hamlet
Major Enemies: John Carver (deceased)
Base of Operations: Mobile
Extent of Education: Unknown, but likely extensive.
Hair: Blond
Other Distinguishing Features: Adam's Apple
Intelligence: Unknown, though the strip itself was pretty dumb.
Strength Level: Surprising.
Skills: Accomplished actor, expert swimmer, pugilist and acrobat
Superhuman Powers: None.
Special Limitations: None known.
Special Weaponry: Walking cane and disguise.
First Appearance & Origin: Crack Comics #1 (May, 1940)
Publisher: Quality
Status: Public Domain
Created by: Art Pinajian

On April 30, 1930, Richard Stanton, famous character actor and master of makeup played the last role of his long and successful career. Mr. Stanton portrayed an old woman in a performance that thrilled and amazed his audience. A millionaire through the stock market, Stanton had married and produced an heir, only to have his daughter kidnapped just a year after retiring. The culprit was crimelord John Carver, who waited two years from the day the woman he loved married Stanton to make off with their child. Knowing her shady past was responsible for the crime and unable to touch Carver, Stanton kept silent from police, though his bride died of a broken heart. For nine years, Stanton perfected a new identity, recreating his role as an elderly woman to perfection. He then spent the next eight years pursuing Carver before a break in the case led the pair to meet. Stanton revealed his long simmering plot, as he'd worked to help others and develop his skills for this final confrontation. Carver attacked, but shot himself in the chest when Stanton literally pulled the rug out from under him. With his dying words, Carver assured Stanton his daughter was still alive. Stanton decided to continue to employ the Madam Fatal disguise in pursuit of justice in general and his missing daughter specifically.

Stanton had many more rollicking encounters in the Madam Fatal disguise, doing the same duty as most heroes while managing in a skirt and heels. There were clear benefits to opponents assuming Stanton was an elderly woman, and the actor proved plenty capable of holding his own when the charade was revealed. One suspects he took some special pleasure in the role, since he generally passed on any other. Madam Fatal's foes often veered toward the "queer" as well, such as a cross-dressing thief who caught Stanton's eye because he so resembled Fatal; or Dwarf Rogan, a famous gang leader of slight stature but rough disposition who literally stole the wife of a friend of Stanton's before being left to die at sea.

Madam Fatal eventually gained a fame all "her" own, becoming a Miss Marple type in interactions with police. To my knowledge, the only people ever made aware of the Madam's little secret were a medical team that tended to a Fatal bullet wound, though the doctor chose not to reveal the truth to Stanton's cohorts.

A good many online resources have deigned to correct the author and refer to the character as "Madame," but the strip title remained "Madam" through to the end, by which point Stanton was teamed with a pair of bumbling dicks from the makeshift Sure-Fire Detective Agency: Tubby White, condemned with Ed Grimley hair and Fatty Arbuckle girth; and Scrappy Nelson, a gap-toothed and mangy redheaded child. Also, the internet suggests that Stanton eventually rescued his daughter, but if that's so, it doesn't seem the child ever came up again.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the rundown on Madame Fatal. Definitely one of the more obscure. Some of Arthur Pinajians other comics are jumping in value of late, including a few he only co illustrated. You can find some more info and check out some comic scans at

Diabolu Frank said...

Thanks for the links-- I dug some of those pieces.


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