THE MOON MAN – Created by Frederick C Davis, the Moon Man is, to me, the epitome of the campy but fascinating heroes the old pulp publications used to treat readers to, issue after issue. Operating in fictional Great City, the Moon Man not only waged war on the ruthless representatives of the criminal element, he also plundered their ill-gotten wealth from them and distributed it to the Great Depression-ravaged poor of the 1930s.
This not only made the hero a combination of the best elements of the Shadow and Robin Hood, but it also gave him a healthy dose of “Green Hornet appeal”, too, because, like the Hornet, the Moon Man was hunted by both the crooks AND the cops, doubling the danger for the daring and resourceful figure every time he donned his costume and stalked the night-darkened streets.
That costume, by the way, is beloved by some fans for its hammy, campy, “pulpish” quality, but is just barely tolerated by others for the same reason. The Moon Man was armed with an automatic and dressed all in black, usually including a black cloak, and hid his face behind a round glass globe that covered his entire head (think Spider-Man’s foe Mysterio for a comparison).
The globe was made of one-way Argus glass, the glass Speakeasies used to use for their windows during Prohibition, so the customers inside could see anyone approaching the illegal boozery but cops approaching it would see only their reflection in the glass. Similarly the Moon Man could see out of the globe but people looking at him would see just the mirrored surface of the globe. The globe-headed aspect of the Moon Man’s outfit often annoys people who take pulps a little too seriously, but to me it adds to the old-fashioned fun.
The Moon Man was really police detective Stephen Thatcher, son of Great City’s police chief. His lady love, who eventually shared the secret of his dual identity, was Sue McEwen, daughter of detective Gill McEwen, the Great City lawman most obsessed with bringing in the Moon Man. You can well imagine the type of secret identity/soap opera fun that results in each adventure because of these tangled relationships, especially in the early stories when not even Sue knows the identity of the romantic figure capturing and robbing Great City’s most dangerous criminals.
The Moon Man’s supporting cast of regulars is rounded out by reformed thug Ned Dargan, better known as “Angel” (you Rockford Files fans can insert your own “I got Angelo to think of” joke here). Angel was our hero’s agent in charge of distributing the money that the Moon Man relieved his criminal opponents of and the narrative often filled the reader in on the tragic background of the recipients of this largesse, so they weren’t just anonymous “poor people” but seemed actual flesh and blood. Angel was kept ignorant of the Moon Man’s secret identity, adding another layer of deception to Stephen Thatcher’s identity-juggling.
In all, Frederick C Davis (his real name, by the way, not a house pseudonym), penned thirty-eight Moon Man stories in the pages of Ten Detective Aces Magazine. The stories ran from 1933 to 1937 and are available in a huge two-volume set. Those tales are full of action, suspense and colorful villains as well as the usual plot twists centering around the Moon Man’s efforts to keep his true identity a secret and the expected story elements where his role as a policeman means he’s kept informed of some of the traps the cops are planning for him.
In recent years, some tribute stories (as opposed to fan fiction) have been written by pulp afficianadoes in which the Moon Man battles Doctor Satan, the star of one of the short-lived Villain Pulps and another in which he teams up with fellow neglected pulp hero Agent X. The time-traveling hero called the Rook also shares an adventure with Davis’ unjustly forgotten hero. I’ll be offering a synopsis of each of the Moon Man stories like I did for Silver John, the previous neglected pulp hero I examined.
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