1934-03 Meteor Menace

Cover Date: March 1934
Volume 3 # 1
Copyright Date: February 16, 1934
Author: Lester Dent
Editor: John Nanovic
Story Length: 48,077 words
WHMC: The collection contains nine folders for this story, f.140-148.
Recurring Characters. The entire Iron Crew are all present in this story.

Meteor Menace by Kenneth Robeson
Frozen Vengeance by George Allan Moffatt
The Mountain Movers by Richard Wormser
Death Island by Bruce Harley

Doc Savage Club
– How Much Good?

– John E. Coonley, Illinois
– Thomas P. Fitzgerarld, Massachusetts
– Matt Fiegler, Louisiana

“Meteor Menace” has another cryptic comment about Doc feeling utter horror “long ago when he learned his father had been murdered.” That is an amazing statement when you consider it is the thirteenth story in the series and only one year into the series. A year does not correlate with “long ago.”  This adds fuel to the argument that the earlier stories actually happened before March 1933.

The skyscraper under construction in “The Man of Bronze” could be interpreted as the Empire State Building.  Construction began on March 17, 1930, and was completed on May 1, 1931. If the Mayan shooting incident happened in late 1930 that would a little over three years from the time of the events in “Meteor Menace.”  The is an excellent match for the target being on the western side of the building which would place Doc’s offices in the Chrysler building. 

Continuity of action flows smoothly as this story segues from “The Man Who Shook the Earth” right into a fresh adventure.

There is some mystery here about this story and a movie titled “The Invisible Ray” (1936). The movie was released January 20, 1936, starring Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. In it, Dr. Janos Rukh (Karloff) invents a telescope that can see deep into space. Using it, he is able to look back into time and see a large meteor hit the earth in the distant past. An expedition is mounted to Nigeria in Africa to recover the specimen. It turns out to be a new element, Radium X, which has astounding properties. Rukh is driven insane by the radiation. He also acquires the ability to kill at a touch as a consequence of the radiation poisoning. As could be expected, tragic results ensue.

Considering the fact that “Meteor Menace” has a meteor representing a new element with extraordinary powers it raises the question of whether these two stories are related.

Professors Stanley and Rukh are both astronomers, are both driven insane by the meteor’s radiation, and each eventually meets his doom. Obviously, the Doc Savage story was published over two years before the movie was released. But this issue is not that clear cut.

A silent film of this movie was first made in 1920. This version of “The Invisible Ray” follows” the same general idea of a meteor composed on a new element. This new element emits powerful rays. A criminal gang of scientists seek to control the ray but are missing a secret they need to control the new force. The San Francisco Examiner described the movie in a feature published on June 6, 1920. The paper stated the ray “deals with the discovery of an unknown force, the use of which can either wreck the universe or function as a panacea for every known ailment. It comes in possession of a band of criminal scientists known as Crime Creators, but it is impossible for them to use it without possessing the formula.” The relationships in “Meteor Menace” parallel this plot with the dynamics between Rae Stanley and his father with Saturday Loo and Shrops trying to steal the deadly weapon.  Dent even goes so far as to name Professor Stanley’s daughter Rae as a kind of inside joke.

December 13, 1920


An earlier story by H. P. Lovecraft dealt with a meteorite and the horrible effects it had on people and the surrounding countryside. “The Colour Out of Space” was first published in September 1927 in Amazing Stories.

Amazing Stories-September 1927

The story follows the events of “The Man Who Shook the Earth” and begins in Antofagasta, Chile but moves to Tibet. Dent plays a little with the wording and quickly introduces llamas which are pack animals used in the Andes Mountains. Switching the locale to Tibet, readers learn about lamas who are Tibetan monks. The Tibetans pass as Aymara Indians while in Chile. Dent exercises his sense of humor in naming the local hotel. Taberna Frio means cold tavern in Spanish.

One of the villains has an unusual name – Saturday Loo. The word “loo” is unusual and two distinct definitions can be found. The first is a term used for a toilet which is discussed in an article by Will Murray. Another far more interesting usage for the word comes from India where the Loo is the name given to an extremely hot and dry wind that blows across parts of the subcontinent in the summer. It is also referred to as an “evil wind” in the popular culture.

Encyclopaedia medica v. 11, 1902 – Volume 11 – Page 486

Saturday Loo has a Very pistol. Readers quickly learn he is Tibetan. Another character is named Shrops. As he is an Englishman it is probably short for Shropshire. He is also a Cockney and speaks in that dialect. Shrops approaches Doc for aid and claims to be an emissary of the Dali Lama.

Several items are introduced into the story to give it a local flavor. Saturday Loo and his men like to drink buttered tea. Doc and his men are unconscious for at least a month during their journey from Antofagasta to Tibet. They awaken in a lamasery to the sound of Tibetan Buddhist monks chanting their well-known mantra. Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, is mentioned. Shelter is provided by yurts which are portable wooden frames covered in felt. In one scene, numdah, a coarse Indian felt is mentioned as a covering for a yurt. One of the local Tibetans uses a blunderbuss. Yaks are used as beasts of burden and also for the milk and butter they produce. Teyzak is used for fuel in the rocky mountains. It is dried Yak dung. Two kinds of Tibetan speech are used in the story. The first is Rje-sa which is considered polite respectful speech. The second form is P’al-skad and is the common form of speaking used in everyday language. Mo-Gwei is described as “Bron, the half-king of hell” and wears an appropriate mask. 

Monk makes a remark about Brigham Young concerning the possibility of having multiple wives. The expression “For the love of Mike” is used in the story and dates to a 1927 silent movie. Doc uses his anesthetic thimbles to subdue his foes. Monk refers to himself and his friends as being palookas. Webster’s dictionary defines this to as “an inexperienced or incompetent boxer.” Doc’s trips to the Fortress of Solitude are also casually mentioned to Rae Stanley. Doc uses an ultraviolet light projector to track his foes after they have walked through a fluorescing chemical. His men use portable radios to stay in contact with one another.

Doc and his men begin their Tibetan adventures in the village of Tonyi located in the Konkaling sector of eastern Tibet. All we know is that it is north of Lhasa. The story mentions the blue meteor being in a desert region north of the city. The story takes place on the Tibetan Plateau. The Takla Makan Desert which lies in the Tarim Basin is located to the northwest. The Gobi Desert lies to the northeast. but the Qilian Mountains are between the desert and Tibet. It is interesting to note that some older maps dating from circa 1900 label the region encompassing the Takla Makan Desert as the “Desert of the Gobi or Shamo.”

There is a reference to Konkaling in an article from the Asian Geographic (Sept – Nov 2000). The article talks about Dr. Joseph Rock who was an explorer and comments on a 1931 article for National Geographic Magazine titled Konkaling – “Holy Mountain of the Outlaws.” Dr. Rock had several other articles published in National Geographic from 1922 through 1935. Konkaling is located in what is now Sichuan Province, China.

During the time this story was written Ma Bufang, a member of the notorious Ma clique, ruled the Chinese province of Qinghai. This province is northeast of the Tibetan area controlled by the Dali Lama during the time of the story.

Professor Elmont Stanley in his role of Mo-Gwei likes to wear yellow robes as does Dr. Fu Manchu.

The stress on his mental and physical abilities from exposure to blue meteor could be one of the factors impacting Doc’s abilities in later stories.

PRIOR: The Man Who Shook the Earth
NEXT: The Monsters