1934-04 The Monsters

Cover Date: April 1934
Volume 3 # 2
Copyright Date: March 16, 1934
Author: Lester Dent
Editor: John Nanovic
WHMC: The collection contains nine folders for this story, f.149-157
Recurring Characters. The entire Iron Crew are all present in this story.

The Monsters by Kenneth Robeson 
Thunder at the Dam by Hal Field Leslie 
Alaska Thaw by Conrad Gerson 
The Teakwood Box by Milton Burns 
Doc Savage Club 

This story actually started around July 23, 1933. An articles in the Sooner State Press, dated Saturday, July 22, 1933, notes that Lester Dent is at the Chicago Exposition.

This excursion may have provided the mental seed for a couple of the items that appear in this story.  The first one is the appearance of the three native “pinheads” at the local circus and who then appear again in the story as giants. Robert Bogdan, in his book “Freak Show: Presenting Human Oddities for Amusement and Profit,” explains how promoter Nate Eagle passed off two black men from Alabama as African tribesmen. Eagle referred to the two men as “pinheads” while presenting them as members of the African “Ituri” tribe who practice head binding. Not only was the exhibit demeaning but it was also a fraud. The use of “pinheads” in circus exhibits had been around for some time prior to the Chicago Fair. They were usually presented as being missing links of low intelligence.

The second item Dent may have gleamed from the fair was the basic idea to use giants as the story gimmick.  The human giant, Robert Wadlow made a well-publicized visit to the Chicago World’s Fair. Wadlow stood nearly nine feet tall.  The idea of extraordinarily large people was not a new notion.

July 6, 1933

Dent appears to have borrowed the basic idea for this story from H. G. Wells.  “The Food of the Gods and How it Came to Earth” was published in 1904.  The story plays off the idea of a new compound, Herakleophorbia IV, which causes living organisms to grow to gigantic proportions.  In Wells’ story, the first animals used for experimentation are chickens.  Dent names his first character Bruno Hen.  Wells’ experimental farm is tended by a married couple, the Skinners.  Bruno Hen is a trapper or skinner of animals.  Giants in both stories wear iron shoes.  The giant, Caddies, is imprisoned in a chalk pit where he is condemned to work.  Dent has the giants in his story imprison Doc Savage and his men in a deep pit. 

Another book dealing with giants is “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” by Lewis Carrol.  This 1865 story details Alice’s strange adventures which also include growing to gigantic proportions.  A movie version was released on December 22, 1933, by Paramount Pictures.  The movie featured many popular stars such as Gary Cooper, W. C. Fields, and Cary Grant.  The story was also a very popular play on Broadway in 1932.

Potent explosive rounds come on the scene.  Exactly how does one go about making explosive rounds for a machine pistol?  One method that might work would be to have a binary type of bullet similar to that used for chemical weapons.  The hollow shell of the bullet would be divided into two chambers separated by a thin membrane.  The shock from firing would break the membrane and allow the two chemicals to mix forming the explosive.  Another method would be to have tiny wax spheres suspended in a liquid.  The heat from firing the round would melt the wax spheres, releasing the chemicals contained therein and creating an explosive compound.

The George Washington Bridge is mentioned.

Pacs are lace boots with waterproof bottoms and leather uppers.  They are more commonly known as shoe-pacs.

Renny hires a hydraulic mining firm to excavate the old coal tunnel.  A steam shovel was also mentioned.

Doc uses special shells for a .410 shotgun.

One of the villains falls in quicksand.

Batman #1 features a remarkably similar story.  Human beings are injected with a compound that speeds up their growth glands. The end results are “giants” who are as tall as fifteen feet. These massive creatures are limited in intellect and are used for simple robberies albeit on a large scale.

In the Doc Savage story, the giants are protected by armor they wear.  In the Batman story, they wear bulletproof clothing.

The criminal gang in Batman #1 plan to use their giants similarly as depicted in the Doc Savage story. They will rob banks.

The giants in “The Monsters” are incapable of speech.  There is no dialog for any of the giants in the Batman story.

Going through the Batman comic series I spied another oddity that does not belong to Doc Savage but is closely related to another Street & Smith character, The Shadow.  “The Crime Master” first appeared in the July 1, 1934, issue of The Shadow Magazine.

Interestingly, Batman #2, published July 19, 1940, features a story that uses a mystery novel titled “The Crime Master” as the center of the plot. In the Batman story, mild mannered Adam Lamb enters the story reading “The Crime Master.” Later that night, he falls, hitting his head, causing a severe injury.  While trying to regain his senses he gazes at the image of a bat.

Readers may wonder about this but in The Shadow’s story he is described as a batlike creature – “A squidgy sound occurred. It was made by concave rubber disks, attached to hands and feet. A batlike figure began its ascent straight up the precipitous bricks.”

When the clock chimes midnight Adam Lamb turns in a grotesque person closely resembling Mr. Hyde from the novel by Robert Louis Stevenson, “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.”  Lamb becomes a criminal set on reenacting the crimes he read about in his mystery novel.

The November 1, 1931, issue of The Shadow printed a story called “The Red Envoy.” In it, The Shadow uses a magician’s trick called the Devil’s Whisper to distract an enemy.  “The left hand of The Shadow made a movement; the thumb and third finger snapped together. There was a flash of flame, and a sharp explosion, like a pistol shot, directly in front of the Red Envoy’s eyes.”

The Batman uses a similar trick with a smoke pellet. Perhaps it is only a coincidence.

This is the end of this story, but it is not the end of Street & Smith plots appearing in DC Comics.


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