Introduction On Racism Epigraphs A History of the Pulps A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Glossary and Character Taxonomy Breakdown by Country of Origin Bibliography Table of Contents The Best of the Encyclopedia
Phantom Detective. The Phantom Detective was created by “G. Wayman Jones,” a Better Publications/Standard Magazines pseudonym used in this case by D.L. Champion (Inspector Allhoff, Mariano Mercado, Mister Death (I), Rex Sackler) and appeared in Phantom Detective #1-170 (1933-1953).
The Phantom Detective is a Costumed Avenger. He appeared in the third most stories in the American pulps, after the Shadow (I) and Doc Savage. The Phantom Detective is Richard Curtis Van Loan, who gained a taste for adventure during World War One and then became a Rootless Veteran when he returned to the big city. He is challenged by his friend Frank Havens, the publisher of the New York Clarion, to solve a case that the police cannot. Van Loan does, and discovers that he has a talent for crime fighting. But he does not immediately put on his trademark tuxedo and mask costume and jump in against the bad guys. He begins learning everything he can and trains himself to be an expert in crime detection, disguise, criminal psychology, hand-to-hand combat, and anything else that will help him as a costumed vigilante. When he has learned all he can, he goes to work. He builds a secret "crime laboratory" that he uses as his headquarters in the war against evil. In the lab he has all the latest equipment and science that can be used against criminals.
Among Van Loan's assistants in his war on crime are Frank Havens and his daughter Muriel; the reporter Steve Huston; and the closest thing Van Loan had to a kid sidekick, Chip Doran. Among Van Loan’s enemies is Li Hung, the Yellow Peril “undisputed leader of the lawless element of the Orientals in the city.”
* I'm including Phantom Detective in the Best of the Encyclopedia list because of its historical importance. Phantom Detective is important for one reason and one reason only: it had the third-most number of stories of any hero pulp in the United States. One would think that because of that and because of the pulp's twenty-one-year-long history the Phantom Detective, or at least the Phantom Detective, would have been more influential or inspirational. Not so. The Phantom Detective stories are perfectly cromulent, average at just about everything but excelling at nothing. Even the Phantom Detective's Rogues Gallery is meh, and his Yellow Peril foe, Li Hung, carries none of the spark that makes a good Yellow Peril character leap off the page. All Li Hung's got is the racism of his conception. Phantom Detective: it lasted for a long time. Phantom Detective: got all the trappings of pulp heroes but none of the anima. (To paraphrase Mark Twain, Phantom Detective knows the notes but not the music).
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