THE PHANTOM EAGLEMedium: Comic books
Published by: Fawcett Publications
First Appeared: 1942
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For a comic book hero to conceal his identity is a perfectly ordinary state of affairs. This goes not only for superheroes like Bulletman, Captain America and The Human Bomb, but also for western guys like Johnny Thunder, jungle guys like The Red Panther, medieval guys like The Black Knight and more. But inasmuch as people seldom know the name of the fighter
pilot who bombed their village anyway, one wonders why aviation heroes like The Flying Dutchman and The Iron Ace took the trouble.
But in the case of young Mickey Malone, there was a good reason for concealing his identity. Not from the people he dealt with in the spirit of antagonism, but from his own side's command structure. Mickey wasn't old enough to enlist in the U.S. military as a regular pilot, despite the fact that he was loaded with ability to do the job. He had to sneak away from his day job as mechanic in a Pacific airfield, and fly a plane he'd hidden in the nearby jungle, whenever he wanted a little Jap-busting action.
Mickey, or in his secret identity, The Phantom Eagle, was a Fawcett Publications character, just like Captain Marvel and Spy Smasher. He appeared in Fawcett's title Wow Comics, where the star, at first, was Mr. Scarlet, later replaced with Mary Marvel. He was mostly a back-pages guy, but did appear on an occasional cover, usually sharing it with other heroes. The first one he shared was the one where he was introduced, #6 (July, 1942), where Commando Yank, who also started in that issue, was the dominant figure.
In that issue, Mickey tried to enlist, and was turned down because of his age but the commander did offer him a position as ground mechanic and general handyman, and told him to report to Sgt. Flog. The work rankled a qualified pilot, grounded by a technicality, and Flog's taunting made him determined to get in the air. Before long, he was purloining parts, hiding his tracks by taking them from several manufacturers, and building an airplane of his own advanced design, in a cave about ten miles from the base.
In comic books, of course, building the plane was no more difficult for an underage kid than trekking ten miles each way whenever he wanted to work on it. By the end of the 13-page story, he was not only flying it, he was building a reputation for The Phantom Eagle by taking out Japan's legendary Skeleton Plane, former scourge of America's airborne operations in that part of the world. It isn't known who wrote or drew the story.
Once Mickey had become established, he became associated with writer Otto Binder (Kid Eternity, Space Cabby). In later issues, he shifted his location and began taking on German foes. Also, he was assisted by several men at the base, who called themselves The Phoenix Squadron. After the war, he went into the charter airline business, and got involved in a quest to find The Golden Chalice, which contained the Secret of World Peace.
The Phantom Eagle adjusted well to the postwar world, and continued far longer than most wartime comic book heroes, especially ones so firmly tied to the war. He lasted as long as Wow Comics itself did. The last issue was #69 (August, 1948). After that its title was changed to Real Western Hero, and everything not of that genre, including The Phantom Eagle, was dropped.