I’m concluding my look at Frederick C Davis’ 1930s pulp hero the Moon Man. In reality police detective Stephen Thatcher, the Moon Man stalked the night-darkened streets of fictional Great City clad in his black costume and his helmet made of one-way Argus glass.
Armed with two automatic pistols plus limitless courage and ingenuity the Moon Man captured or killed Great City’s most dangerous criminals – both white collar and blue collar – and robbed them of their ill-gotten booty. He would then distribute that money to the city’s Great Depression-ravaged poor. All this made him hunted by both the crooks AND the cops. For more on the Moon Man and other neglected pulp heroes click here: https://glitternight.com/pulp-heroes/
37. MURDER AS A PASTIME – This story opens up with the Moon Man raiding the headquarters of a stolen car ring in order to capture the gang and make off with their criminal loot. “Yelloweye” Ruane, a man with odd yellow irises, is the brains of the car ring and in a lead-heavy gunfight he succeeds in driving the Moon Man off, but not before our hero nabs the crooked money.
Following MM from a distance Ruane learns the location of his latest hideout and after the Moon Man leaves Ruane enters the house and kidnaps Sue McEwen, our hero’s lady love who has been an accomplice to his double-life ever since she learned his true identity. Ruane is convinced that our globe- helmeted protagonist doesn’t really give his stolen loot to charity but keeps it for himself. Yelloweye anonymously informs the newspapers that unless the Moon Man comes up with $100,000 ransom his female accomplice (name unknown to Ruane) will be turned over to the cops.
Stephen Thatcher alternates between his police detective identity and his Moon Man identity to track down Ruane and his cohorts – a hideous gun-toting hunchback named Devito and Ruane’s girlfriend Daisy. When Ruane makes romantic overtures to the captive Sue the gun moll Daisy is furious and flees the criminals’ lair intent on making Yelloweye pay for his two-timing.
As with last week’s trio of tales this one contained too much rehashing of earlier stories: the bad guys eventually deduce Sue’s identity and plan to blackmail her father, another showdown takes place in an abandoned building along the banks of Murder River and – conveniently – the three crooks who know Sue’s link to the Moon Man AGAIN get killed in a gunfight with our hero in the end.
Davis’ Moon Man stories were very enjoyable and fairly unique but as we’ve seen here at the tail end of his run with Stephen Thatcher and company he had exhausted all the potential storylines and had begun repeating himself too much. Please don’t take this as a negative review of the overall series. By all means read the Moon Man stories from the beginning.
38. BLACKJACK JURY – No, not Cat Scratch Fever, Blackjack Jury. Despite a few repetitious elements in this final Moon Man story penned by Frederick C Davis it serves as a half-decent sendoff for the popular character. Kurt Skoda, Great City’s latest master of the metropolis’ organized crime activities, finds the Moon Man stealing several thousand dollars from his office safe. The Moon Man not only outmaneuvers Skoda and his thugs to escape but also discovers how the crimelord has been secretly intimidating the members of the Grand Jury weighing evidence against him.
In addition our hero rescues his alter-ego Stephen Thatcher’s father – Police Chief Peter Thatcher – who happened to be infiltrating Skoda’s headquarters disguised as a janitor. The reason his father had taken such an out-of-character step was because – yet again – Police Commissioner Curtis Mead has been pressuring Thatcher to resign; this time because of his failure to nab EITHER Kurt Skoda OR the Moon Man.
Meanwhile Sue and our hero’s sidekick Angel (Ned Dargan) are pressuring Stephen Thatcher to give up his double life as the Moon Man because of the increasing danger from both the cops AND Skoda’s dangerous mob. While the Moon Man struggles to save the innocent people being targeted by Kurt Skoda to intimidate the Grand Jury into ruling in his favor Chief Thatcher lays a trap for the Moon Man. The Chief’s trap involves him impersonating MM and trying to fool Angel into leading him to the REAL MM, never dreaming it’s his own son.
In the end the Moon Man orchestrates things so that the disguised Chief Thatcher seems to be the one who brings Kurt Skoda to justice, which results in Curtis Mead keeping him on in his current position. There’s no real closure on anything else but the very heavy pressure from Sue and Angel on Stephen Thatcher to give up being the Moon Man enables the reader to conclude that Stephen complied with their wishes, seeing how this was the last official adventure of the Robin Hood of the 1930s.
I’ve mentioned before that I think the way the Moon Man stories addressed the grey area where unethical capitalist practices and outright criminality mingle plus the main character’s frequent remarks about economic inequality prevented this pulp hero from enjoying the nostalgic revival that some of the other pulp figures enjoyed in the 1950s.
The paranoia about “communist messages” would have made the 38 MM tales anathema in that fearful period, just as modern-day Politically Correct paranoia about “conservative messages” hinders the open celebration of much deserving popular fiction of the past.
Decades later tribute stories would be written by other authors depicting the Moon Man taking on Doctor Satan, the title figure of one of the short-lived Supervillain Pulps as well as depicting him teaming up with Agent X, another neglected pulp hero. This wraps up my examination of the Moon Man stories from the 1930s.
IN THE NEAR FUTURE BALLADEER’S BLOG WILL BEGIN A NEW STORY-BY-STORY EXAMINATION OF ANOTHER NEGLECTED PULP HERO.
FOR SIMILAR ARTICLES AND MORE OF THE TOP LISTS FROM BALLADEER’S BLOG CLICK HERE: https://glitternight.com/top-lists/
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