Hello dear readers.
Last week, we visited Thomas Blake, aka Catman, as he went from laughable Batman wannabe to a nomadic beast master who handles his business. This week, we’re going to take a look at Tinya Wazzo aka Phantom Girl. From her origin to now as a whole, it took quite a while for writers to actually carve out who she really is. A significant portion of her appearances are sadly typically sexist girl power team ups; it wasn’t until recently that we’ve seen her come into our vision.
When we first meet Tinya in Action Comics #276, she is introduced to a Supergirl who feels a disconnect from her world, not because she’s an alien, but because she has no other women to chat and relate to. In 1961, it made more sense for other non-Kryptonian women to relate to her more so than her also-endangered alien cousin, Kal- El. Because the 60s… I guess. Making very short-lived appearances as some of the first-introduced members of the Legion of Superheroes from the 30th century, Saturn Girl, Triplicate Girl and our subject Phantom Girl were all introduced as “Super Girlfriends.” After this dismal attempt at gender equality, the three friends were swept under the rug for more important Legionnaires like Braniac 5. At this point, we hadn’t even been told he name is Tinya.
The next time we see her after a long while, her entire story is treated as fodder exposition for story progression among the Legion that is barely relevant. During this, they throw in tiny tidbits of information that slowly explain to us that she can make her body invisible and intangible. Good thing Phantom Girl is a bit obvious. We also learn that her home world Bgztl is in the Phantom Zone and that jumping in and out of the Phantom Zone is how her powers work.
After Crisis On Infinite Earths, Tinya gets her memory wiped like everyone else and begins to live her life among L.E.G.I.O.N. as Phase and let me tell you, it’s not much better there either. Once they established her with the slightest individuality we learn it was never Tinya; Phase is her unmentioned cousin, Enya. Groan. Her character was left a stagnant feminine atmosphere for quite sometime and in my opinion, didn’t start getting any shine until 2011’s Legion: Secret Origin when writer Paul Levitz decided to revisit the origin story of the Legion of Superheroes from the 30th century and give them a young adult modern overhaul.
Revitalized as a pivotal character, Tinya now came bearing an ominous message of Phantom Zone monsters that have ravaged her people’s colonies. Now we see a rework that honestly took very little actual work; with Brainiac 5, Tinya uses her knowledge and her wit to get the upper hand in the situation. All the while casually mentioning how the people of Bgtl simply moved their planet to another plane of existence when danger arose—a feat that stupefies even Brainiac 5.
Throughout this new origin, its Phantom Girl and her scientific mysteries that eventually convince Brainiac 5 to join the Legion in the first place. By the end of the 6-issue run, we come to know her as a brilliant strategist, a diplomat, and a leader. These things couldn’t have even been dreamed of from where we saw her start. We learn from Phantom Girl that even characters that haven’t been utilized need just the most basic amount of care and love to feel genuine and refreshing.
These last two case studies have been about positive change, but we know not all change is good. Next week, we will explore how our main man got the guillotine.