Blue-Jacket – Action story by Chris Butler.

After being disowned by my parents because I did not match their idea of what a daughter should be like and do, I moved to a large city where no one knew me and found work as a table-waitress at a late night club. I also enrolled at a gym, and, oh, while I was living there I received a letter from an old friend of mine from school, Gina Carson, telling me that her parents had died in a car accident and my parents had got in touch with her and told her she was welcome to come and live with them while she completed her studies. The room they offered her, of course, was my old bedroom. That was their way of finding a replacement for me. Gina wasn’t sure whether she could accept the offer or not and that was why she was writing to me but I wrote back saying she should accept it if she thought that it would help her with her studies. Why not?

Soon after sending my reply to Gina, I was on my way to work when I saw a blue jacket in a shop window. Asking inside the shop, I was pleased to learn that the jacket was available in my size. The following night, I was out again, wearing my new jacket, when I heard someone yelling. A woman wearing a white mask and carrying a large knife came running towards me. I tried to stop her but she was stronger than I thought and she knocked me over. While I was still stunned she drove her knife not only through my new jacket but also through my shoulder, pinning me to the fence behind me. Then she pulled out another knife from somewhere.

‘You should have kept out of my way,’ she said.

She drove the second knife through my other shoulder in the same way as the first and ran away. There was no way I could pull either of the knives out and I would have bled to death if an old woman had not come along. When she extracted the knives I passed out for a moment or so, but after I came to again, she led me to her house which was nearby. Her name, she told me, was Psittica and I said I wanted to track down the woman who had done that to me. Did she know who she was? She said that she didn’t but, she added, she could track her down using the knives. Closing her eyes and burning something, she did something with the knives and then she told me where I could find the woman but she advised me to wait until I had got my full strength back.

Arriving at 44 Jefferson Place, two days later, and wearing a small black eye-mask to hide my identity in case anyone saw me, I climbed into the house through an upstairs window. The woman must have heard me make a step on the landing because she came out of a room as I was creeping along the landing. She was not wearing the mask and her face was strange. Taking advantage of my surprise at the way she looked, she caught me off-guard and pushed me down the stairs. I hit my head on something and the next thing I knew I was standing up, my head was throbbing and I was manacled to a wall in a small room without any windows. The woman was there in front of me and now she had the mask on again.

‘I am Lady White Mask,’ she said, stroking the blade of a knife even larger than the ones with which she had skewered me before.

She then explained that the other evening when she pinned me to the fence she had just attacked a government agent called Number 60 who had discovered the secret island where she had her base and where she trained assassins. She had under-estimated my strength. I wrenched my arms free, pulling the chains clear out of the wall and knocked her flying across the room before she could even react. While I wrenched the manacles off my wrists, she fled the house and it took me weeks to track her using Psittica’s help to her island headquarters where I caused a volcano to erupt using a special stone Psittica had given me. When at last I cornered Lady White Mask she begged me not to hand her over to the authorities and promised she would change her ways.

A few weeks after I had moved to the island, I received a letter from Gina Carson saying that she thought my parents were ready now to forgive me. She was sure that if I were to visit their house, they would welcome me back with open arms. I thought I knew my parents better than Gina did, however. I knew they would be horrified if they saw me now. In any case, I was happy where I was.

Kitty-Girl Zuo Mem – Action story by Chris Butler.

Though I was a proficient gymnast, I suffered from terrible shyness. It was extremely debilitating. Eventually, deciding that I’d had enough of always being tongue-tied in other people’s company, I went to see a hypnotherapist called Dr. Dimmings. However, after he had put me in a trance, I felt exhausted and went straight home to bed.

The next morning when I woke I still felt tired. In addition, my whole body ached and I was covered in bruises and scratches which I could not account for. Around lunch-time, on the television news, I saw a report about a burglary which had occurred in the city. The police said that the person who had carried out the crime must possess incredible gymnastic skills in order to have been able to get past the sophisticated security devices which had been active at the property. A blurry image was shown of the burglar, taken by a closed circuit camera. I was sure that the person shown in the image was myself. I suspected that Dr. Dimmings had commanded me to carry out the burglary while I was in a hypnotic trance in his surgery. However, I was afraid that if I went to the police and told them what I suspected they would arrest me. Instead, I decided to visit another hypnotherapist called Dr. O’Mara. She put me into a trance in order to find out what Dr. Dimmings had done. When I woke again a great range of physical and mental abilities were available to me. Dr. O’Mara, however, advised me to keep my newly-accessed abilities a secret. The world, she said, was not ready for this capability to be made public knowledge. She wanted to carry out some more tests on her own, following proper research procedure. She assured me that she would release information to her fellow practitoners and the world’s media gradually, so that the world could safely absorb the meaning of this breakthrough.

That was fine by me. I wanted revenge on Dr. Dimmings. I returned to his practice but he had gone. After that the city became the victim of a crime spree. I made a costume for myself. It made me look like a cat. I equipped it with special claws and began to roam the city’s roofs at night. I thought that Dr. Dimmings might have hypnotized other people and sent them out to rob for him. If I trailed these burglars after they had committed their crimes, one of them might lead me to Dimmings. In this way I found myself fighting crime. Every time a burglar or group of burglars did not lead me back to Dimmings I descended upon them and used my newly enhanced gymnastic and mental abilities to capture them. Once they were secured, I would call the police, leaving a note explaining what the criminals I had captured had done. I was always careful to ensure that I was absent from the scene by the time the police arrived. As far as they were concerned I was the only person capable of having carried out that first impossible-seeming burglary.

For months I captured criminals but the crime spree continued. At some point I learned that a personage called Mr. Big had been organizing the crime-wave. At last, one night, I followed a trail which led me to the headquarters of Mr. Big. When I entered I was set upon by a group of robed figures who seemed to blend seamlessly with the shadows. These opponents were more agile than any I had previous faced. Also they possessed mental powers. I had heard rumours about these characters. They were called ‘Shadow Ghosts’. My mind proved strong enough to defeat all of them. In addition, though they were extremely nimble, I was more athletic even than they were and I eventually captured all of them.

As I was tying up my prisoners with the ‘cat-cords’ I carried for this purpose, I heard a heavy tread behind me. Turning I found myself face to face at last with ‘Mr. Big’. To my amazement, ‘Mr. Big’ was none other than Dr. O’Mara! She uttered a word which cancelled my enhanced abilities temporarily, having implanted this command word as a fail-safe in my subconsciousness so that she would be able to subdue me if I became a threat to her. She told me that she had decided I would be more useful to her as a servant. She had tried numerous other subjects but none had emerged from their hypnotic trance possessing skills comparable to mine. As she began to hypnotize me again I lashed out at her with my cat-claws, raking her face. She had not taken into account that the cat-claws were my own invention. As she screamed, clutching her face, I smashed the first heavy object which came to hand on her head. Then I tied her up and left a note for the police officers who arrived in response to my call, explaining how Dr. O’Mara had conducted her crime operation but omitting all mention of my role in the affair.

‘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.

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’.