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Meet the Domino Lady

Posted by at 10:00 am Monday, March 14, 2016 in Domino Lady, Hero Pulps, Pulps, Review
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Meet the Domino Lady

"Saucy Romantic Adventures" (May 1936)The Domino Lady is the only female, costumed pulp hero from classic era who starred in her own series.

Sadly, females were rarely headliners for series. The most well known was Sheena, Queen of the Jungle, with Senorita Scorpion a distant third place. Others include detectives Carrie Cashin in S&S’s Crime Busters, and Grace Culver in the back of The Shadow. Other major female characters would include Jirel of Joiry, Red Sonja, and similar characters in science fiction and fantasy. But for masked/costumed pulp heroes, the Domino Lady’s pretty much it.

And maybe the fact that the Domino Lady came out of the “spicy” pulps is part of that. Many of the more traditional pulp publishers seem to put restrictions on how females could be used in the hero pulps.

The Domino Lady appeared in six pulp stories published by Fiction Magazines (not to be confused with Fiction House!) in the mid-1930s, and cover featured on the first, fourth, and sixth stories:

  • “The Domino Lady Collects” (Saucy Romantic Adventures, May 1936)
  • “The Domino Lady Doubles Back” (Saucy Romantic Adventures, June 1936)
  • “The Domino Lady’s Handicap” (Saucy Romantic Adventures, July 1936)
  • “Emeralds Aboard” (Saucy Romantic Adventures, August 1936)
  • “Black Legion” (Saucy Romantic Adventures, October 1936)
  • “The Domino Lady’s Double” (Mystery Adventure Magazine, November 1936)

Socialite Ellen Patrick is really the Domino Lady, who wears a black crepe dress (later a white evening gown) and a domino mask in avenging the murder of her district attorney father. She is armed with a .45 automatic and a syringe of knockout drug. Being something of a Robin Hood, she takes from her victims, and gives it to charity, leaving a card saying “Compliments of the Domino Lady.”

Of course, an interesting element of the first couple of stories (which seem to be overlooked in the modern use of the character) is her changing into a black crepe dress when she goes into action, usually in the villain’s own home! Maybe I should mention that there is a chance of her getting caught undressed or semi-dressed. Hey! These are the “spicy” pulps for a reason!

Compliments of the Domino LadyBold Venture Press has Compliments of the Domino Lady, a complete reprint of all six stories, which includes an article by Will Murray on who the author, Lars Anderson, was. Vanguard Publishing has done a couple of other versions of this. These came out several years ago, but are still available if you look (like on the publisher’s page; Amazon thinks it’s out of print).

Since then, there has been a great deal of use of the Domino Lady, as she is in the public domain. Moonstone put out a collection of new stories titled Domino Lady: Sex as a Weapon, and Airship 27 put out a collection of new stories in 2015. There are about a half dozen novels starring her. And there are numerous new pulp stories and novels where she co-stars with various other pulp heroes. Probably the most interesting use of the character is when Win Scott Eckert had her marry Richard Benson, The Avenger, and have a daughter, Helene Benson who would inherit some of the Avenger’s powers and abilities.

She has also appeared in pulp-inspired comics. Probably the strangest are the erotic tales by Ron Wilber, which have been collected in graphic novel format.

So if you’ve read some of her new stories, check out her original stories as well.

4 Comments

  1. Thank you, Michael, for shining a light on the Domino Lady and her adventures, past and present. She’s one of the archetypes of the ‘tough broad’ brought to life by Stanwyck and Bacall in my humble opinion and deserves to be read by anyone who enjoys reading pulp or stories with strong women characters.

  2. Thanks for another informative and enjoyable column! I’ve actually been reading the Bold Venture Press edition of “Compliments of the Domino Lady” lately. Her stories certainly don’t have the intensity of an adventure of The Shadow, and come across as “pulp lite.” Still, they are enjoyable — fizzing champagne rather than whiskey — and have a charm of their own. She deserves recognition, even if as a minor star.

    The “romantic” in “Saucy Romantic Adventures,” where all but one of her stories appeared, makes me wonder if this pulp was an attempt to particularly appeal to women readers, as does much of the approach in the Domino Lady stories themselves. What eroticism there is in the stories is milder than in the few spicy tales I’ve read, lighthearted and romantically-hued rather than serious. The threats are likewise handled in a less intense fashion by the author. The Domino Lady particularly comes across as a fantasy surrogate for women, far more down-to-earth than characters like The Shadow, Spider, Doc Savage. No brainiac master detective, with no retinue of agents, she gets most her info by…listening to gossip. Much is made of the fashions worn by the daintily feminine “little adventuress” (her nails are painted pink rather than passionately red; why, even her gun is petite!), the good-looking chaps pining for her.

    (The most interesting thing about her is that she definitely gets an almost-sexual thrill about her dangerous “adventuring”…)

  3. Thanks for spotlighting one of my favorite pulpsters, Michael. I love the original stories and have had a blast writing some of Ellen Patrick’s new adventures. She’s a great character.

    Bobby

  4. Madam Madcap (The Masked Woman) by Johnston McCulley was serialized in a newspaper, but she was published in 1921, more than a decade before the Domino Lady. She wore a cloak, mask, and wore sexy dresses. Very likely the model for Domino Lady.