Beauty Queen of the Crimefighting Set
(originally published in the Fall
2002 issue of Once Upon A Dime)
comic books as the hottest commodity in Hollywood
why hasn't there been any talk of a Mary Medusa
movie? As a long time Mary Medusa fan, I've dreamed
of seeing the Make-up Marvel in living Technicolor
deploy her HairNet or toss a LipBomb.
course I realize that Mary Medusa may not have the
same pop culture cache that some of the more current
spandex crimebusters have, but she has always held
on to an important piece of my heart. For those
of you who don't know your comics history, let me
tell you about one of the classiest lady crimefighters
to ever bust up a counterfeit cosmetics ring.
June of 1943, under the shadow of Rosie the Riveter,
Mary Medusa first appeared in issue 4 of Pretty
Exciting Stories. The book told the story of
professional beauty pageant contestant Mary Moore
who lived the life of glamour by day and at night
donned a hideous mask in order to fight crime.
Exciting really found its stride with the premiere
of the Cosmetic Crusader. She made her next appearance
in issue 8 and by issue 12 she was the regular star
of the book.
13 might be the right place to start, as that was
the first time Pretty Exciting spun the yarn
of Mary Medusa's origin. In the Grand Cliff Beauty
Pageant, Mary Moore was all but a lock until a gangster's
unnamed girlfriend (later given the name Betty Greico
in the 1956 retelling of her origin, 'A Girl's Best
Friend') was a late entry into the contest and her
victory was bought.
coincidence, the gangsters chose to pay off the
judges in the alley behind the hotel Mary was staying
at while in town. Mary heard the transaction being
made and, still wearing her green beauty mask, climbed
down the fire escape to confront them.
judges panicked at the sight of the furious Mary
with wild hair and a green face. They dropped their
money and ran. The two gangsters stood their ground
but Mary's famed redheaded temper and an accidentally
thrown nail file secured the Beautiful Brawler's
first victory. Of course, she took the payoff money
and distributed it to each of the girls who had
been cheated out of their fair chance at the prize
money and the fame.
this first accidental adventure, Mary Medusa was
born. At night after the girls on the pageant circuit
had turned in, Mary Moore distorted her comely features
with green makeup and even hid her glamorous identity
by wearing either tattered dresses or (gasp!) men's
on MM was simply a playful riff on Pretty Exciting
Stories' other girl detective characters, like
Penny Eye and Shirley Holmes, but as she took over
the book she evolved into a full fledged super-heroine.
began adapting various beauty products into gimmicks
and weapons that she carried in her trademark green
purse. Obviously the first weapon was that flung
nail file but as the series went on the gimmicks
got more complex. In issue 14 the HairNet made its
debut to snare an escaped lion, and issue 16's story
'Wallflower's Shoppe' was the first time Mary concealed
herself within the canopy of the EyeShadow.
Exciting was cancelled after issue 18, but not
before Mary gained a few enemies, including the
first recurring villainess, The Glam-Marauder. As
Mary's nemesis, The Glam-Marauder robbed her victims
after distracting them with her dazzling diamond
encrusted dress. The Glam-Marauder's ranks were
soon joined by Halo-Girl and The Giantess. Eventually
all of these villains would form the infamous Glamour
Guild, triumphing greed and a 'flaunt what you've
got' attitude that enraged the usually demure Mary
since 1944, Mary saw a revival in 1956 as an attempt
to match DC's successful rethinking of The Flash
and Green Lantern. The publishers decided that Mary's
fun adventure fare was too light for the Cold War
climate of 1956. They also believed that grounding
some of the book's endearing buoyancy might attract
more boys to Double M's adventures.
first revamp attempt was Mary Medusa's Adventure
Tales and the back-up story in the first issue,
'Belle of the Ball,' introduced Mary Moore's shy
young assistant, Vickie May. Vickie was a homely
orphan that Mary rescued from an abusive horse trainer
during an appearance at the Kentucky Derby.
soon discovered Mary's secret, proving herself to
be an apt sleuth as well as a scrappy fighter when
the chips were down. Knowing she couldn't convince
Vickie to stay home while she was out adventuring,
Mary did her cosmetic magic on Vickie, making her
into the ravishing Belle. As Belle, Vickie had the
confidence to stand-up for herself but come daytime
she had to return to her plain appearance so that
their enemies could not conclude her and Mary's
the introduction of Belle did darken the stories
a bit, it failed to bring in the male audience the
publishers were seeking. Vickie would often sulk
knowing that every boy would give his eye teeth
to get a kiss from Belle, but was unable to get
anyone to look twice at her as the plain Vickie
course, not being top of the heap seemed to come
with the territory as Mary Moore never once came
in first in her numerous beauty pageant appearances.
Usually she would take second place after losing
points in one category or another due to her crimefighting
prime example came in the issue 3 story, 'Sing for
Your Supper,' when Mary, after tangling with the
shrill Songbird, lost her voice. Still able to compete
in the appearance portions of the competition, she
was incapable of singing in the talent competition
and her improvised dance presentation suffered from
a lack of preparedness. Often Mary would end a story
telling the girls at home that her sacrifice for
justice more than made up for her second place ribbon.
of addressing the girls at home, all four issues
of MMAT showed that the publishers hadn't
completely given up on writing a book for girls
as they also featured the 'Hey Girls!' make up tips
page that separated the lead story from the back-up
adventure. In each issue Mary gave her fans a quick
lesson or two in applying makeup, using Belle as
her demonstration face. Each lesson would end with
Vickie worrying that the improvements would allow
people to realize she was Belle to which Mary would
always reply with the immortal, "Remember,
girls, it's easier to keep up appearances when you
keep up your appearance."
of Mary Medusa's Adventure Tales were poor
and the book was cancelled before issue 5 hit the
racks. Some believe that issue to have been actually
printed; for die hard fans of Miss Medusa, a crate
of unshipped issue 5 has become a kind of great
white whale that has haunted many of our dreams.
While she may not be in vogue in the mainstream
these days, the time is ripe for a Mary Medusa resurgence.
Not only could the Gorgeous Gorgon do well with
a modern post-feminism retread, but a classic version
could make for a fabulous TV series or movie franchise.
It would feature a strong female hero for the girls
and plenty of eye candy for the boys and all would
be thrilled with the action.
very rare Mary Medusa merchandise still resurfaces
at the collectable shows and on EBay from time to
time with a dedicated fanbase that might be a little
bigger than you would guess. Just recently a set
of Mary Medusa Compact/Signal Mirror along with
the matching LipBomb with cap popping action sold
for well over $50. So wake up Hollywood, the Cosmetic
Crusader is ready for her close-up.