Miss X. Artist: Bernard Baily.

MISS X

Medium: Comic books
Published by: DC Comics
First Appeared: 1940
Creators: Ken Fitch (writer) and Bernard Baily (artist)
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Anyone at all familiar with comic book history knows very well that Wonder Woman wasn't the first female superhero. She was preceded by more than a dozen, from the famous Phantom Lady to the obscure Silver Scorpion — more like a dozen and a half, if you count sidekicks like Bulletgirl and Flame Girl or ties like War Nurse and Lady Fairplay. In fact, Wondy wasn't even the first at DC Comics, and never mind the technicality that both she and The Red Tornado (another who came before her) started at DC's …

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… sister company, All-American Comics. No, the first female superhero at DC, assuming you count her minimalist approach to superheroing as qualifying her for the genre at all, was Miss X.

Miss X was a femme fatale of the sort readers had become familiar with from detective and spy movies, typically a good guy in general tho sometimes an ambiguous one, who attaches herself to a male hero. She introduced herself to male hero Tex Thomson (the guy who later became Mr. America) in the back pages of Action Comics #26 (July, 1940) with a note warning him to stay away from Malone. He didn't even know who Malone was, but found out later in the story, when Malone turned out to be the new district attorney. Malone enlisted Tex's aid in the local struggle against crime.

To deal with the technicality, Action belonged to DC-proper. In fact, that was the title where Superman himself got his start. Miss X was created by the regular Tex Thomson team, writer Ken Fitch (Hourman) and artist Bernard Baily (The Spectre).

In the following issue, Malone introduced Tex and his adventuring partner, Bob Dailey (a third team member, a black stereotype named Gargantua T. Potts, had recently been written out of the series), to his daughter Janice (who was called Peggy in later issues). Any moron could see that Janice and Miss X were one and the same, because X, who took an even more casual attitude toward superhero accessorizing than Crimebuster, used nothing but a pair of dark glasses to disguise herself. Her "secret" identity was never spelled out in black and white for readers, but it didn't have to be.

But comic book characters can be awfully dense about stuff like that, so Tex and Bob didn't instantly catch on.

So it went for the next couple of issues. Finally, in #29, when they ran into Peggy (or Janice) on a train and Miss X turned up at their destination, Tex confided to Bob that he thought he'd figured out who she was. Well, duh!, but he never got a chance to use that knowledge. There followed a sequence of events that put him on a ship before could see if he'd been smart enough to guess correctly (even tho she did appear in #30). The ship sank, Tex was presumed dead, and only Bob knew he'd survived and assumed the costumed persona comic book readers remember him for today.

Months later, with Tex's survival now public knowledge, in Action Comics #43 (December, 1941) Janice/Peggy and her dad made one final appearance in the Tex/Mr. America series. But by then, she seems to have lost all interest in being Miss X. Over on the All-American side of the aisle, Wonder Woman was just getting started.

— DDM

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Text ©2009-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art © DC Comics.