Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Number 132

Doctor Of Evil!

No, not Austin Powers' Dr. Evil, but Joseph "Doc" Moran, who dug bullets out of bad guys during the gang period of the 1930s.

This is a story from Crime Does Not Pay #43, January 1946, drawn by Vernon Henkel, a true Golden Age comic book artist, who was there for the duration, from the very beginnings in the 1930s.

As told by Henkel in an interview in the fanzine Alter Ego #48, May 2005, he grew up interested in art and cartooning, and sent Quality Comics publisher, Everett "Busy" Arnold, an original comic book story. He was rewarded with a check and a steady art gig for quite a while. Like most journeymen comic book men of the era Henkel worked for various publishers over the years. He didn't work for Charles Biro for long, but long enough to do some memorable stories, including this lurid 6 2/3 pager about a notorious drunken quack who catered to the bank robber clientele.

As usual, the Crime Does Not Pay story jibes with real life only long enough to establish the story. Although they purported to be true stories, "truth" was fictionalized. For some reason while Dillinger gang member John Hamilton is called by name, the Barker-Karpis gang's name is changed to the "Russ Gobson Gang." Say what? Gobson? I can't imagine the publisher was worried about getting sued, since the only survivor of that gang in 1945, when the story was drawn was Alvin Karpis, then residing in Alcatraz.

In real life Moran was killed by Dock and Freddie Barker because he was blabbing all over town about handling money from a kidnapping by the Barker-Karpis gang. Besides whittling fingerprints off criminals, botching plastic surgery, and operating to get bullets out of desperadoes, Moran was also a money launderer. He came to a bad end, just like it was shown in the comic book. His body has never been found.

Check out the cover to this issue, in a scene inspired by James Cagney's popular gangster movie, Public Enemy.

"I'm a dirty rat and got what was coming to me." Yow! The Code of the Underworld! If I had been old enough to see that on the comic book racks my hands would be sweating and my head would fill with lust and desire to own it.

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