1940-12 The Men Vanished

Cover Date: December 1940
Volume 16 #4
Copyright Date: Friday, November 15, 1940
Author: Lester Dent
Editor: John Nanovic
Story Length: 38,092 words
WHMC: The collection contains seven folders for this story, f.666-972
Recurring Characters. Long Tom and Renny are in Africa working on a diamond mine.  Monk, Ham, and Johnny provide support.  Surprisingly, Doc agrees that Pat Savage can come along if it cannot be avoided.  Habeas Corpus the pig and Chemistry the ape are also included in the adventure.

The Men Vanished by Kenneth Robeson
Himalayan Gold by Milton Lowe
A Green Idol of Death by George Allan Moffatt 

Doc Savage Club
Editor’s Page
Cover by Emory Clarke

“The Men Vanished” appears in the December 1940 issue of Doc Savage Magazine.  It is a well written story and shows how much Lester Dent’s writing ability had improved over the past decade.  Doc pulls a few tricks in the story, but he also forgets to wind his watch and misses his regular exercises.  The bigger-than-life man of bronze is slowly morphing into an ordinary man.

This story finishes 1940 which had a less than satisfactory story lineup for the year.  The January issue featured “The Other World” which was a superior story, but readers should note that Doc Savage makes a mistake and damages their airplane.  What follows is a series of ghost stories with five written by William G. Bogart and two by Harold A. Davis.  Dent tended to take these stories and smooth them out before sending them to editor John Nanovic at Street & Smith.  One of Bogart’s submissions was “The Spotted Men” which Street  Smith published in the March 1940 issue.  Unfortunately, this story is a badly plagiarized version of “The Milltown Massacres” which had appeared in the February 1937 issue of The Spider.

“The Men Vanished” has several of the hallmarks of a bigger-than-life adventure. 

  • Doc Savage uses a trick heel in his shoe filled with anesthetic gas to vanquish his foes. 
  • He disappears and reenters the story as Dink Masket. 
  • He uses glass eye caps to change his eye color.  Supermachine pistols appear loaded with mercy bullets. 
  • Doc stages a trick on Phil O’Reily to test his sincerity.  
  • Pat Savage attaches a radio beacon to a villain’s car.
  • Three gang members are tied to a stake in the water at the Hudson River hanger and led to believe they will drown when the tide rises.  
  • Truth serum is mentioned but Doc notes that it is unreliable except in dangerously large doses.  
  • The Crime College receives two groups of gangsters for reeducation.
  • Two of Doc’s special gyros are used in the story. 
  • Doc’s plane crashes in the jungle trees. He travels through the jungle like Tarzan.

Monk notes that Doc Savage frequently disappears and may be gone for months.  Monk notes that Doc has a laboratory at his Fortress of Solitude. He also refers to the events of “Fortress of Solitude” from October 1938.  He explains that after Doc’s Fortress was discovered, it was moved to another location.  No one knows where that is.

Every story has a gimmick, and this one involves kidnapping and extortion. Daniel Stage, a member of the Explorers League, has been lost in the Brazilian jungles for over a year.  Since he went missing, another six members have attempted a rescue expedition and disappeared into the jungle.  Daniel Stage has discovered a lost tribe of that is the descendants of a group of Incans and Spanish explorers.  One by one, he has been writing to his fellow League members that he is in trouble and needs their help.  They must come in secret and tell no one about his letter to them.  Once his rescuer arrives, he is seized, and money is extorted from him through the use of back dated bank checks.  The story starts with a letter to League member Phil O’Reily who disregards the secrecy expressed in the letter and seeks the aid of Doc Savage.  After some action around New York City, the story moves to Brazil and then to a plateau in the Amazon where this lost tribe lives.

Doc meets the trader Niji who is a crook.  It turns out that he has a brother named Carl Voorheis and lives on a plantation with his family in the Republic of Hidalgo.  Doc Savage was instrumental in saving Voorheis from a dire situation. Niji feels he owes a debt to Doc Savage and aids Doc and his men.  In return, Doc aids Niji in escaping the trading post where is something of a prisoner himself.  Doc helps him fake his death and escape.  Chief Eagle later explains the situation to Ham, Johnny, and Pat.  Chief Eagle, who is a member of the Osage Tribe, remarks that Doc let Niji go since he was a “white guy.”  But Doc will be keeping an eye on him in case he does not reform.

Chief John Eagle is a sharp operator. Doc refers to him as a “deep river” and notes that he got rich from oil and made himself richer by smart investments.  He is a pilot and successfully flew his plane from New York to Brazil.  The story notes his route covered Miami, Haiti, and Trinidad where he refueled, along with a downriver stop where natives haul five-gallon cans out to his plane. Civilization is somewhere downstream.  He is savvy enough to get one of the natives to update his map with additional landmarks.  Dent does use some stereotypical items when referring to the chief.  Doc Savage describes his flying as being like a redskin riding a mustang around a covered wagon while shooting arrows.  When Monk meets Chief Eagle, he makes a fool of himself with a dialog straight out of a western.

The term “see-pah-poo” appears.  Johnny explains that the term is used to refer to a symbolic hole in the stone well in which they are imprisoned.  The term would later reappear as a story title, “Se-Pah-Poo” in the January 1946 issue. 

The story climax pits Doc Savage against an exceedingly large type of Jaguar.  Doc manages to use a trick to disable the animal.  A moment later, it appears that Daniel Stage is about to shoot Doc.  Phil O’Reily redeems himself by grabbing a spear and striking Stage dead with an astonishingly long shot.  It turns out that O’Reily was a champion javelin thrower in college.

This story could just as easily have been titled “The Explorers Club Mystery.”  The Explorers League is a very thinly renamed Explorers Club.  The idea for the cliff dwellings is also a connection.  In the story, as the group approaches the plateau from the air, Johnny makes some remarks“The construction is entirely cubes and circles,” Johnny said. “That is a characteristic of the cliff-dweller people of the Mesa Verde and other districts in Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico.  This description did not appear out of thin air.  It links directly back to Lester Dent and his Explorers Club application.  The application form Lester Dent  submitted on July 8, 1936, lists “Painted Desert, Arizona, Cliff Dwelling, 1932” as part of his explorations.  J. Allan Dunn’s recommendation letter for Dent notes Dent’s work in 1932 at Mesa Verde.  Finally, an article published in the La Plata Home Press dated August 10, 1939, provides some information on Dent’s recent trip to Hollywood.  The article notes that “Dent stopped at Mesa Verde on his way to California.  The article noted that Dent had previously discovered some ruins south of the region in the past.” 

One of Dent’s references, J. Allan Dunn had written a story titled “The Treasure of Atlantis” about the Atlantean survivors living in a city atop a high plateau in the Amazon jungle.  This story was printed in 1916 in All-Around Magazine.


One of the more intriguing features of “The Men Vanished” is the appearance of a character whose face is disfigured on the left side.  The man, who is posing as a photographer, explains it away to a curious doorman as an accident with flash powder. 

This initial  description is misleading.  Later, the man is described as ugly.  It turns out that he is actually Daniel Stage and is wearing a mask.  It is never clearly stated but it appears that Stage was portraying himself as some kind of demigod to the natives.  The left side of the man’s face is described as resembling that of an Incan idol.

“You mean them things they got in the museum? Them Inca things?” the officer asked. “Sure, I seen ‘em.”   

“Well, the other half of this fellow’s face was like one of those.”

This idea reminded me of a story published in The Shadow Magazine, February 15, 1933, titled “Six Men of Evil.” This story centers on six men whose faces were mysteriously disfigured by natives for some taboo they committed. The Shadow travels to a remote region in Mexico to learn their secret.

Squatting on the floor beyond the emerald was a metal statue of life-size form. It was a hideous idol, molded with clawlike hands and feet. Its body was a twisted, grotesque shape.
It was the face of the idol, however, upon which The Shadow fixed his stolid stare; it was that metal countenance that had brought the sardonic laugh to his hidden lips.
The Shadow had seen that face before. The features of the idol were a perfect replica of the countenance of Thomas Rodan – the face possessed by every member of the evil band whose crimes The Shadow had set forth to foil!

The next interesting item is “Face of Doom” first printed in the March 15, 1938, issue of The Shadow. I find that the cover of this story tends to match the description Dent used for his split-face character. The face is not pleasing but it is not disfigured.

Readers are likely to imagine the Batman comic book villain named “Two-Face” who bore some resemblance to this description.  Two-Face debuted in Detective 66.  It should be noted that the title page of that story depicts a man reading “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.”

The final item is the 1931 movie Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. This ties in with the first appearance of Two-Face in Detective Comics 66 in the August 1942 issue. Page one of that story shows a man reading the novel “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” Two-Face is depicted with a green color on his disfigured side. That is the same color used for Mr. Hyde on the 1931 movie poster. Mr. Hyde, as depicted in the movie, is a grotesque caricature of a human being. For me, this depiction more closely matches Two-Face than any of the others.