Over the last year and some odd months I have been reading the stories in original order. It has been very enjoyable and has resulted in some new insights along the way. While reading “The Feathered Octopus“ from September 1937 certain similarities with a previous Doc adventure came to light. Of course, the obvious solution is to simply pass it off to plot cannibalization. But that is not a satisfactory situation. My preferred method is to find linkage between the two stories and extrapolate until a logical answer is found.
In July 1933, Doc Savage was involved with “The Pirate of the Pacific.” In this story, an old friend, Juan Mindoro, seeks Doc’s help in preventing a coup in the Luzon Union. It’s pretty clear that the Luzon Union is in actuality the Philippine Islands with the capital city of Mantilla paralleling the actual capital of Manila.
At the head of this plot and master of a Mongol horde is the pirate leader Tom Too who began his career on the Chinese coast. We learn Tom Too heads an impressive organization utilizing many men. So much so that he plans on seizing control of the Luzon Union in a bloodless coup. Once in control, the pirate government would then systematically loot the country while appearing to maintain a legitimate government to outside observers.
Turning back to “The Feathered Octopus” let us explore that situation. The villain here is a Chinese pirate known only as Hi Lar. This pirate leader is shown to be absolutely ruthless. We learn he is married to the beautiful Eurasian, Lo Lar who was born amongst and grew up in the Chinese pirate culture. Hi Lar comes to Doc’s attention through a plot to obtain controlling interest in World-Air Air Lines. The idea is to control the pacific air routes and then move into the continental U. S. air routes and take them over by sabotaging competing lines and undercutting fares thus driving them into bankruptcy.
How are these stories similar? The villain in each case is purported to be a Chinese pirate. Both stories begin in New York and end in the Pacific. Both plots revolve around the idea of taking “legal” control of an institution – the Luzon Union on the one hand and the airline industry on the other by illegal means.
Now, what is the connection between the two stories? Some four years after the events of “Pirate of the Pacific,” a new pirate leader rises up to terrorize the Pacific. How did one man assemble a powerful and impressive organization in such a relatively short period? Obviously Hi Lar took over the leadership of Tom Too’s organization. How was this accomplished, especially knowing the fact that Hi Lar was really the American, Burke Benbow? Why would the pirates be so ready to accept a leader from outside their own culture? This seems highly unlikely on the surface. The Eurasian woman, Lo Lar is the key here. We know that Lo Lar was born and raised in the pirate community. But there has to be more to it than that for the pirates to accept Benbow as their new leader. When Hi Lar orders the execution of his sister along with Doc Savage’s men, we learn that Lo Lar is the real power behind the throne when she secretly countermands that order and is obeyed without question.
My theory is that Lo Lar was some relation to Tom Too. I cannot discern enough information from the stories to speculate what the exact relationship was and whether she was a wife, sister, or even Too Too’s daughter. Benbow’s nefarious nature came to the pirate’s notice and became Lo Lar’s interest. Becoming acquainted with the American, Lo Lar fell in love with Benbow and he then became the new pirate king. Naturally this is all circumstantial but it makes for some interesting thoughts.