Tagged: Invisible Scarlet O’Neil

Dennis O’Neil: Invisible!

I was in what must have been a vast desert. I pivoted in the sand and looked in every direction. Nothing but sand – sand and overhead a brutal, merciless sun. Was I lost or stranded? And how did I get here?

“Hi, handsome,” a throaty female voice said from behind my left shoulder, I turned and stared and… sand. An endless vista of shimmering yellow sand.

“You gonna stand there and stare all day?” the voice said, and now I recognized it.

Aunt Scarlet?” I rasped.


“Granny told me that sometimes you turned invisible”

“Whenever I feel like it”

“You’ve come to rescue me?”

“Not really. But as long as I’m in the neighborhood… hop in.”

“Hop in what?”

 “I”ve borrowed Wonder Woman’s invisible plane, silly.”

And here we take our leave of the story above, which shouldn’t disappoint you too much, since it doesn’t have an ending anyway. “Silly” is probably its last word, one you’ll have to admit is appropriate, unless someone decides to continue it. Ask me if I care.

Now ask me why I’m expending bandwidth on a comic strip character who first appeared in the nation’s newspapers in 1940 and ended her run in 1956. Is a last name that’s identical to mine enough? That’s for you guys to argue. We’ll offer a kinda-sorta answer soon. Meanwhile, let’s take a brief look at…invisibility. (Yeah, I did that deliberately. Sue me.)

Invisibility has been a trope in both mythology and fiction for a long time – at least since the Greeks. You doubt? Then Google the Grecian helm (or cap) of invisibility and the brothers Grimm’s tale “The Twelve Dancing Princesses.” In the market for something a bit fresher? Well, there’s H.G. Wells’s The Invisible Man and The Hollow Man, a movie starring Kevin Bacon. Then, in no particular order… a television series, comics’s Sue Storm, The Invisible Girl (later Woman) and… golly, what am I forgetting? Oh, sure. Harry Potter! You may recall that in one of the novels/movies, the boy wizard dons a cloak of invisibility and…I dunno – skulks?

There are more.

But for now, we come to the gent who is arguably the best known (and maybe just the best) invisibiler, The Shadow, of course. He began fighting crime on the radio in the mid-30’s and ended his broadcast career in 1954. While he was active he appeared in virtually every mass medium: radio, film, novels, newspaper strips. On the novels, films and comics, he wasn’t exactly invisible. He used a technique similar to that of Batman and your friendly neighborhood ninja, using dark clothing to blend into the – yes! – shadows.

In the early comic books and on the radio he was really, truly invisible.

He was an approximate contemporary of Scarlet O’Neil’s and if you’ve sampled any of the Shadow reprints, hey, maybe you’ d like to sample some of The Shadow’s comrade in invisibility.

So good news. Your comics retailer should be able to sell you a copy of Invisible Scarlet O’Neil: The Official History of America’s First Female Superheroine. And coming soon: Invisible Scarlet O’Neil Returns, an original graphic novel.


Dennis O’Neil: The Ethereal Being and The Invisible Woman

Before we mention Invisible Scarlet O’Neil, let’s expend a few words on an ethereal being – maybe that should be Ethereal Being – who dwells in some vast realm beyond the clouds: Zion. The Ethereal Being I refer to is called an editor and he is a veritable creature of Gold. Last year, when Americans were in a colossal fuss over who was to be elected to their presidency, the EB told us, my colleagues and I, that maybe we should take it easy on the political stuff because this – this, what you’re reading – is not a site devoted to politics but, rather, to pop culture. Being made of gold, the EB must be obeyed and so he was and is, even as I type.

I did mention Invisible Scarlet O’Neil somewhere up there, didn’t I? The snarkier among you might ask why I mentioned her in the first line and then ignored her for the rest of the paragraph. Snark not and instead ask yourself this: Doesn’t every column have to have a first line? The answer? A resounding yes! (Trust me on this; it’s a rule.)

And is there any reason Invisible Scarlet shouldn’t be mentioned?

I don’t know how or when I learned of her, but I can probably guess pretty accurately. When: sometime around 1945, when I was six. Where: Well, my parents rented a flat in St. Louis and I didn’t go anywhere much – certainly not out of the city – so that’s where Scarlet and I encountered each other.

And the how? That’s a bit of a puzzler. Invisible Scarlet O’Neil was a newspaper strip and that’s where and how I must have become aware of her, by looking at what we then called “the funny side” in St. Louis’s morning paper, The Globe-Democrat. Problem here is, my family read the afternoon paper, still publishing, The Post-Dispatch, and never, in my memory, ever picked up the Globe. Okay… seeing my family name in print would have certainly given me pause and maybe prompted me to investigate further. But I was also aware of two other strips carried by the Globe, Dick Tracy and Smilin’ Jack. No familiar names there.

I also went to the movies, usually a small theater, The Pauline, a couple of blocks away, but sometimes pretty far astray, to shows I had to reach by riding the bus! (By myself!) I saw things that never made it to the Pauline. Same kind of entertainment – cowboys, Three Stooges, detectives, the occasional cartoon – but with different stars. Somehow I knew about these pictures and was curious enough to cadge bus fare from my mother and trek into alien precincts.

How? How did I know about the pictures and about the comic strips? And yes, it’s a question not to be avoided: how did I know about Invisible Scarlet O’Neil?