Public Domain Super Heroes
Phantom Detective
Phantom detective.jpg

Real Name

Richard Curtis Van Loan

First Pulp Appearance

Phantom Detective #1 (1933)

Original Publisher


Created by

D. L. Champion


The Phantom Detective is a pulp character that transferred to the medium of comics. His stories have some elements (professional working relationship with police chief, signal to summon him (although on top of a newspaper office, rather than on top of police HQ), expert in disguise) that will be hauntingly familiar to any fan of Batman...

Phantom Detective debuted in 1933 in the pulps, as an imitation of The Shadow and Spider, and no doubt equally inspired by earlier French character, Fantômas. The Phantom Detective however takes another step into what would become the classic archetypal dark street-level superhero through the consistent costuming and other more fantastic elements of his comic book, including for example the signal device.

Richard Curtis Van Loan is a wealthy socialite who after serving in World War I becomes bored and craves the same level of "excitement" that he became used to in the trenches of the Great War.

After being challenged to solve a crime that has baffled the police by his friend Frank Havens, publisher of the New York Clarion, Van Loan finds that he in fact has some ability as a detective. Solving mysteries provides Van Loan with the excitement he craves and so begins the career of the dilettante amateur sleuth The Phantom Detective.

Powers and Abilities

Van Loan spends some time learning any skill he thinks could help in his new calling as a consulting detective.

The Phantom Detective enjoys stronger than average physical strength, is a world-class disguise expert - he is even able to fool his closest friends, a feat that only Sherlock Holmes regularly and convincingly pulls off - and is also highly intelligent with a genius for deductive reasoning.

Van Loan is a war veteran and after further training is also a crack marksman.


The Phantom Detective's friend and (in-universe) publisher Frank Havens summons the Phantom (as he's called in the pulps) with a flashing red light from the top of his newspaper offices.

Van Loan's girlfriend is Muriel Havens. In the pulps, Van Loan rarely wears the tuxedo and mask depicted on the covers, usually preferring to operate in disguise. Whereas in the comics, he wore the top-hat, mask, tuxedo, and cape outfit more often.

Golden Age Appearances

  • Phantom Detective #1-32, 33-170
  • Thrilling Comics #53-63, 65-70
  • America's Best Comics #26


  • The Nedor comics were renewed by Popular Library, which was eventually bought out by Fawcett Books. When Fawcett went out of business, Popular Library was sold to Warner Bros. A number of different publishers, however, are currently/have been using these characters without any lawsuits from Warner Bros., so any action over them is (probably) unlikely. They are still, however, "use at your own risk" characters.

See Also