‘The Menace of Dr. Grimm!’ (Fantasy Masterpieces # 4, Zenith Books, August, 1966. Originally in Captain America # 4, Timely Comics, June, 1941).

On their way to the cinema, Private Steve Rogers and his young friend Bucky Barnes witness an armed robbery in progress. After changing into their costumes in an alleyway, the pair emerge as Captain America and Bucky.  Bucky gets knocked unconscious by a blackjack during the ensuing fight and so, once he has mopped up the crooks, Steve Rogers takes his injured friend to the nearest hospital in a taxi. The nearest hospital turns out to be a private establishment owned by Dr. Grimm, a bald, heavy-built man in a white smock. Grimm says that Bucky needs to stay at the hospital for several days while he recovers.

That evening, Bucky shares his concerns about the creepy hospital with his nurse, Miss Ray. She explains that she has only been working there for a few days since the last nurse left suddenly without giving notice. Miss Ray does not like the hospital, either. At night she hears strange noises.

During the night, Bucky is woken by loud cries. Convinced he can hear Miss Ray screaming, Bucky opens the door to his room and encounters a monstrous hump-backed man crouching in the corridor. Dr. Grimm arrives with a leash. ‘Don’t be afraid,’ the Doctor tells Bucky. ‘Igan is harmless when I am holding his leash.’ When Bucky says that he heard a woman screaming, Dr. Grimm insists it must have been an auditory hallucination brought on by the young man’s nerves. The Doctor warns Bucky not to leave his room at night as he allows Igan to roam around a little then.

The following morning, Bucky’s breakfast is brought by Dr. Grimm’s hideously ugly servant Lomm instead of Miss Ray. When Bucky asks after the nurse, Lomm says he knows nothing but perhaps she ran away during the night. In any case, the Doctor has already advertised for a new nurse.

By now convinced that something sinister is going on at the hospital, Bucky writes to Steve, saying he thinks Captain America should investigate the place. Dr. Grimm catches Bucky in the act of writing the letter and wraps his powerful right arm around the boy’s face. Nonetheless, the Doctor decides to mail Bucky’s letter so that Captain America can be lured into a trap.

After receiving Bucky’s letter, Steve Rogers steals away from Fort Lehigh, the army camp where he is currently stationed, wearing his Captain America uniform. Arriving at the hospital, Captain America wrestles with the monstrous Igan. After being punched, Igan retreats in order to pull a hidden lever in the wall. A steel door closes and the airtight room begins to fill with water. Captain America escapes through a trapdoor in the ceiling only to meet with Dr. Grimm. Holding the hero at gunpoint, the Doctor explains his grim purpose. He has created a powerful monster called Gorro which requires much energy to survive and so the Doctor draws energy from human captives. Bucky is currently being prepared as the next victim of this process. When Captain America lunges forward in anger, Grimm presses a concealed button and a glasso-metal cage descends, trapping the hero.

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Dynamic storytelling by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby.

The next morning, Steve Rogers’ friend, the beautiful Betty Ross, applies at the hospital for the available position as nurse. After checking Betty is in good health, Dr. Grimm awards her the post.

Subsequently, Dr. Grimm marches Captain America at gunpoint to a laboratory where Bucky is strapped to a bed, surrounded by sinister-looking medical apparatus. Betty is also there with her hands tied behind her back by a rope that is secured to the ceiling. Enraged, Captain America whirls and punches Dr. Grimm before the fiend can react. The masked hero then frees Bucky but not before Grimm’s servant Lomm has managed to open the cage containing Gorro. A loud roar echoes from the far end of the room as the monster emerges. Captain America leaps over Gorro and knocks out Lomm. But then Gorro seizes the sentinel of liberty with huge beast-like fingers. Having freed Betty, Bucky shoots Gorro repeatedly with Dr. Grimm’s fallen automatic. Dr. Grimm meanwhile has pursued Betty onto a tower balcony and prepares to throw her to her death. After Captain America  pulls Betty from the Doctor’s clutches, Grimm and the hero grapple briefly until the maniac plunges over the balcony to his death. Captain America explains to Betty that Dr. Grimm had aimed to develop Gorro to a point where he would become almost human. Aided by Gorro’s strength, Grimm planned a career of crime.

On returning to camp, Steve thanks the sentry, Pete, for covering for him. But he is mistaken. The ‘sentry’ is not Pete. It is Sergeant Duffy, who punishes Steve and Bucky with a month’s duty in the kitchen for leaving the camp without permission.

THE END.

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Dick Tracy – The ‘Unprinted’ Stories #2 (Blackthorne Publishing, November, 1987).

This issue’s reprinted newspaper serial episodes begin excitedly mid-story as a man and a woman out hunting in a country field near a railroad trestle discover a dead body. The deceased person was an unfortunate old hobo who had identified his fellow freight car hopper as fugitive criminal Joe Period after reading about him in a newspaper article. Evidently, Joe pushed the old man to his death as the train went over a bridge in order to prevent the hobo from blabbing to the authorities. Meanwhile, police officers are searching at a railroad yard for Joe. In due course, they identify the freight car he hid inside but cannot work out where he went after the engine arrived at the freight yard.

In fact, Joe is hiding, ‘knee deep in brine’, inside one of a row of pickle vats that are parked at the yard and which have recently been emptied. With one arm in a sling he is unable to climb out of the vat, even after the police officers have departed.

Summoned by Dick Tracy, policewoman Lizz arrives at the freight yards. (Unfortunately, her fellow officers have forgotten to meet her.) Lizz bumps into two children who have heard someone yelling from inside a pickle vat. When Lizz looks into the vat and sees Joe Period, the end of her scarf comes within the criminal’s reach and he pulls her down into the brine. Joe tries to grab Lizz’s gun from her shoulder-bag but she repeatedly throws him, using judo moves, until he gives up the attempt.  Lizz then calls to the two children, telling them to fetch a policeman. However, another – rather distinctive-looking – youngster orders the kids to scram. This young man is none other than Flattop, Jr., the son of deceased criminal Flattop. Flattop, Jr. reaches into the vat, offering to pull Lizz out, but instead he snatches her bag and takes the police revolver from inside it. Keeping Lizz at bay with the gun, Flattop, Jr. helps Joe Period climb out of the vat.

Using a jack, Flattop, Jr. moves the car on which the pickle vats are standing until the vat containing poor Lizz is beneath a water tank. Flattop, Jr. then turns on the water so that the vat begins to fill. The two crooks depart, leaving Lizz to drown. And we’re only on page 12!

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Policewoman Lizz dunks Joe Period.

 

 

As these reprints are re-sized, panels on one page can be smaller than those on the next. This is a little distracting, but the reproduction is fairly sharp and once you settle in to reading the thing, you get used to the re-sizing. Another consequence of this re-jigging is that excerpts from Dick Tracy’s ‘Crimestoppers Textbook’ appear at the top of some pages to fill a gap. Many of these notes are quite mundane but they create a nice period feel. The one at the top of page 3, for example, tells Truck Drivers: ‘Do not leave your truck motor running to ‘keep the cab warm’ while getting that cup of ‘Java’. Cartage thieves are constantly on the lookout.’

 

Bibliographical note –

This Blackthorne series features ‘unprinted’ stories in that it continues from where an earlier Harvey Comics reprint series had left off. At the time the present issue appeared, about 20 years of Chester Gould’s work had never appeared in comic book format. The stories in #2, editor Shel Dorf acknowledges, had been printed in comic book form but only in censored versions. The Blackthorne series presents these stories ‘complete and uncut’.