Monday, February 22, 2010

The Domino Lady

It will probably come as no surprise to anyone that I am a big fan of pulp novels from the 1930’s and ’40’s. Although I do enjoy the occasional Lovecraftian pulp horror story, the detective pulps, with their mysterious masked avengers The Spider, The Shadow and The Phantom Detective, have always been—by far—my favorites.

One of the lesser-known pulp heroes… or heroines, I should say… was the lovely Ellen Patrick, also known as The Domino Lady. When her father, incorruptible California politician Owen Patrick was assassinated by the corrupt political machine who had failed to bribe him, young Ellen donned the black silk mask, cape and form-fitting gown of the Domino Lady in order to avenge him.

The Domino Lady’s adventures were more light-hearted than most of the other detective pulps. While The Shadow and The Spider fought demented scientists, cold-blooded criminal masterminds and unstoppable zombie hordes, the Domino Lady’s foes were mainly low-level jewel thieves, blackmailers, gangsters and people who looked like this. She was an expert shot with a pistol, but would only use her weapon to wound or fend off attackers; unlike her male counterparts, she wasn’t a killer. In fact, the Domino Lady spent more time undressing, taking baths and lounging around in skimpy nightgowns than she did actually fighting crime, which very well may explain the success of the stories among male readers.

A few years ago I was fortunate enough to stumble across a copy of Vanguard Productions’ The Domino Lady: The Complete Collection with cover art and chapter illustrations by the great Jim Steranko. If you’re a pulp fan, I can’t encourage you enough to track down a copy.

Anyway, here are a few drawings of The Domino Lady and her “kissable shoulders” (as author Lars Anderson often described them)…