OK, before I go any further with this week’s, probably short, write-up, I have a message for Jimmy Impossible: I checked three times and there’s no hyphen missing from this character’s name.
We now continue out regularly scheduled look at the bizarre, sometime forgotten, and often when forgotten, forgotten for a very good reason sort of character.
Once upon a time many columns ago, I wrote up about Fantomah. Fantomah might very well have been the first female superhero…and she was, to put it nicely, extremely weird. Like, she lived in a jungle where she would appear as an attractive blonde woman, but then when evil stuff came along, the skin on her face would melt away to a skull, her remaining skin turned gray, her body may have bulked up a bit, and sometimes she’d just be a disembodied head. What sort of powers did she have? Well, any that she wanted. Mostly she did stuff to kill villains in creative and ironic ways.
Fantomah was the creation of one Fletcher Hanks, and as near as I can make out, all of his work followed that sort of pattern: an all-powerful superbeing that dispensed lethal force against relatively normal evildoers and criminal types.
Because, really, that more or less describes Stardust the Super Wizard.
Despite his name, Stardust was perhaps not a wizard. No, more like he was a man with vast scientific knowledge that, I suppose, was sufficiently advanced to look exactly like magic. That’s pretty much all of the backstory Hanks saw fit to give Stardust over his 16 or so appearances, starting in Fantastic Comics #1 from Fox Features Syndicate way back in December of 1939.
According to Wikipedia, the standard Stardust story would have the hero patrolling the solar system when he’d overhear a criminal or evildoer plotting something big and terrible. Stardust would then say something about how there was no one who could stop the evildoer, especially when the evildoer started his vast and terrible plot, causing death and destruction. Only then would Stardust swoop in, dispense with his own violent punishments, and fly off.
And sure, the survivors would wish they could thank their hero since Stardust never stayed around long enough for anything like that, but it sure does seem to me that Stardust could have stopped these things before they started if he knew about them rather than sit around and talk to thin air or the vacuum of space or wherever he was that there was no one there to stop these people.
As for his powers…he had a lot of them. That’s all I will say about that. My guess is if Hanks thought of it, Stardust (or Fantomah for that matter) could do it.
Fletcher Hanks died penniless on a Manhattan park bench in 1976, having left the comics industry in 1941. What little is known about his life is kinda depressing, as his son Fletcher Jr. was both the only source for information and didn’t seem to have anything good to say about his father. However, Fantographics did put together some collections of his work, probably an easy thing to do since Stardust and Fantomah are both in the public domain these days. If you’re interested, the third such volume, titled Turn Loose Our Death Rays and Kill Them All!, includes everything. OK, a hardback ain’t cheap from the looks of things, but a digital copy might be more economical.
Otherwise, hey, Stardust, the Super Wizard who did not need a hyphen.