The Thirties began with another clash between the Nyctalope and an Asian operative of the Nine Unknown. In 1930 the Gorillard, aka the Mastodon, aka Dan Arlem, aka Domic de Soto, put into motion a plot to conquer the world. The Gorillard was seen to be the leader of the Power House, the "Nine Living Buddhas of Urga" (Tibet), but I believe the reverse was the case, that the Nine Living Buddhas were superpowered lamas in the employ of the Nine Unknown who were seconded to Gorillard to aid his attempt at world conquest.
Following this, the Nine Unknown launched a major offensive against the world and JimGrim battled them for a third and final time. Dorje, the Tibetan mystic who in 1880 had discovered one of the underground bases of the Nine Unknown, had spent the intervening decades rising in the ranks of the Nine’s organisation, until he was high up in the organisation’s structure and trusted by the Nine. Thanks to the Nine’s immortality serum Dorje was as young and vital as the day he discovered the Nine’s base. They had appointed him the head of one of their overseas organisations, and Dorje had spent years building and refining it. Finally, in 1931, the time was right, and Dorje and the organisation, with the direct blessing of and help of the Nine Unknown, launched their attack. Numerous world capitals and navies were attacked, although the damage to them was overstated for rhetorical effect by JimGrim’s biographer, Talbot Mundy. The attack was eventually halted, Dorje killed, and the Nine’s underground base destroyed, although at the cost of JimGrim’s life. Although Talbot Mundy did not (for understandable reasons) mention it, the aftermath of JimGrim's defeat of Dorje proved to be a setback for British Intelligence as well. British Intelligence was involved in JimGrim's efforts to attack Dorje, and one of JimGrim's mission directives had been to recover as much of Dorje's technology as possible for British Intelligence. Unfortunately, thanks to the sudden appearance of the French aviator known as Fifi (in the guise of "Captain Henri de la Fontaine Coq"), it was the French SDECE (Service de Documentation Extérieure et de Contre-Espionnage) who benefited from the encounter. Chullunder Ghose, Jeff Ramsden, and Major Crosby, JimGrim's three friends, were all fooled into thinking that "Captain Coq" and "Princess Baltis" took Dorje's airship to the moon, and this was the story told to Talbot Mundy, who in turn printed it. However, what actually happened was that Fifi and "Baltis" (another agent for the French) returned to France and turned the ship over to the SDECE, who gained much by studying its technology.
During the early 1930s an Indian detective came to attention in America. His name was Deen Bradley, and he was called the "Cobra" by friends and enemies alike, in part because of his cigarette holder, which shot darts dipped in cobra venom, and in part because of his hypnotic, cobra-like gaze. I believe that Bradley was the product of Mr. Am's lamaseries, and his hypnotic gaze a simple mental ability. Interestingly, Deen Bradley later took on the name "The Asp." Perhaps this was a clue as to what Bradley was doing before he struck off on his own? Perhaps he was so successful in his opening days as a private eye because he was funded by Oliver Warbucks--his former employer?
In 1931 the French public began to hear and read stories about a new figure, "Oscar-Bill." Oscar-Bill was a small, bespectacled man of unprepossessing looks and a thin physique. However, Oscar-Bill was a tenacious, skilled, and very ingenious detective who quite rapidly solved a number of difficult cases, aided by his friend Toukrak and his dog Flok (a product of the European branch of the Wold Newton canines). Two of Oscar-Bill's cases involved the battle between the Nine Unknown and Mr. Am; the first was Oscar-Bill's investigation of the so-called "phantom submarine," Submarine Omega (which will be the subject of the next article in this series) and the second was Oscar-Bill's clash with the "vanishing fakir," one of the Nine Unknown's agents in Paris.
In 1932 the American detective Harry Dickson uncovered another centuries-old conspiracy of the Nine Unknown when he clashed with the "Chevaliers de la Lune," the Moon Knights, a group founded during the Ming dynasty, perhaps by Monsieur Ming himself. The Moon Knights were led by Thâ, who was revealed by Dickson to be the British Lord Chislewood. The Chevaliers were not completely defeated by Dickson, for they returned the following year, led by a Hindu calling himself "Mr. Hingle."
In that same year, as already mentioned in the "Secret Wars" article, Tony Quinn, an Assistant District Attorney in Chicago, was blinded by a gang of thugs. He began training himself to fight without his sight, but at the last moment he had his sight restored in a mysterious operation, and with his new skills and newly restored sight he began fighting crime as the "Bat." I do not believe that Quinn was trained by Mr. Am's organisation, but I do find it interesting that this "operation" in some ways parallels what happened with Michael Traille. I believe that Mr. Am's organisation somehow became aware of Tony Quinn's desires and sent a lama to Chicago. I believe this lama, posing as a medical doctor, used his powers to restore Quinn's sight.
In 1933 Colin Gray, an agent of the British Secret Service and winner of the Victoria's Cross, began his term of service in Central Asia. Over the next several years Gray was active in India, Tibet and Afghanistan, fighting against the enemies of the Crown and of world peace. Through the 1930s he fought against various supernaturally-powered threats, including astrally-projecting yogis, a giant python-commanding priestess (of a subterranean race of blind humanoids), and a group of evil, immortal lamas. Gray managed in each case to defeat the forces of the Nine Unknown--for such they were--but like James Grim before him never confronted the Nine themselves, only their agents. Gray was assisted in these battles by Samdad Chiemba, a lama of great mental and "occult" powers; Chiemba was undoubtedly one of Mr. Am's prized operatives, being extremely powerful and dedicated to the side of good.
1933 also revealed to the world one of the hidden cities in which Mr. Am and his lamas operated. Robert Conway, a British diplomat, and a group of civilians were flying over the Himalayas when their plane crashed. They were rescued by a group of men and brought to the hidden valley of Shangri-La, where they discovered a perfect, advanced civlisation that many of them compared to Eden. The journalist who wrote about this, James Hilton, felt the need to obscure certain details when he published his account later that year, but to those skilled in reading between the lines the implications are clear. And given the positive personalities and temperaments of the citizens of Shangri-La, it is clear that they were Mr Am's people, not those of the Nine Unknown. Presumably Dr. Indiana Jones, the American explorer, felt the same way when he discovered Shangri-La some years previously.
Later in 1933 a teenaged American adventurer, exploring the Sahara, discovered a lost civilisation of blue-eyed Aryans there. It was revealed to him there that he was the reincarnation of their foremost mystic, "Tahara." Tahara then began a series of adventures around the world, accompanied by Mahatma Sikandar, an Indian mystic who joined Tahara soon after the revelation of Tahara's true identity. Sikandar took Tahara to his home, a "lost city" high in the Tibetan Himalayas which, given the description of it provided by Tahara's biographer, Harold Sherman, was one of Mr. Am's bases, and might possibly have been Shangri-La itself. Many of Tahara's adventures involved clashes with the forces of the Nine Unknown, whether fighting an evil mystic and worshiper of the Dark Earth Mother Kali-Ma (the patron goddess of the Thuggees) in India or battling a group of evil, superpowered immortals in the jungles of the Yucatan. During one of his battles Tahara seemed to be visited by the Hindu gods themselves, a trick of mental projection which the Nine Unknown had used with the Thuggees of the Black Jungle and would use again that same year when the American detective Harry Dickson fought against what he believed to be the Hindu god Hanuman but was in reality an insane, mutated British scientist.
In 1934 Jim Bradley, an American animal trapper and tamer, began operating in India and Africa. His adventures soon took him around the world, and he became known for his globe-trotting battles against evil and the lengths to which he would go to trap an animal. In all of this he was assisted by a Kolu, a taciturn and deadly Hindu whose many skills and abilities helped out "Jungle Jim" on numerous occasions. I believe that Kolu was a plant by Mr. Am et al, to make sure that Jim did good rather than harm. Another big game trapper, Ted Towers (better known as the "Animal Master"), began work that same year, and like Jungle Jim (with whom he had a flourishing, if good-natured, rivalry) he worked out of India and was assisted by a native, Ali, who seems, like Kolu, to have ultimately been in the employ of Mr. Am.
In that same year a casual act of malice by the Nine Unknown led to a string of violent deaths in England. Wilfred Glendon, a British botanist, was visiting Tibet, collecting rare specimens, when he was attacked by a werewolf, one of the Nine Unknowns' favorite kinds of creatures. The werewolf infected Glendon, and when he returned to England he became the infamous "Werewolf of London."
Finally, in 1934 the French hero the Nyctalope battled a third time with an Asian member of the Nine Unknown's network of evil. The Nyctalope uncovered a plot at conquering the world led by the Chinese Imperatrix Alouh T'Ho, an immortal born in 1852. She led a sect of Asians who used a mental power, no doubt taught to them by the Nine Unknown, to steal the lifeforce from living humans.
In 1935 the American flier and adventuress Connie Kurridge, with her pilot Jack Bird, uncovered a base of the Nine Unknown in the "lost city" Lahkpoor, in the Tibetan Himalayas. The leaders of Lahkpoor, at the bidding of the Nine Unknown, were planning to use the atomic technology to rule the world, and Kurridge and Bird barely managed to defeat them and destroy Lahkpoor.
In that same year the American adventurer Jack Armstrong was summoned by a mysterious Tibetan lama and asked to recover a lost manuscript. Armstrong succeeded, of course, as he always did. After his return to America secrets began to circulate that the document contained blueprints to advanced technology. Currently it is suspected that the lama was Mr. Am’s, testing Armstrong’s fitness.
Also in 1935, the American soldier of fortune Gordon Fife traveled to the tiny Central European country of Kovnia. He took with him his Hindu ward Ali, and the pair became protectors of Nicholas III, the child king of Kovnia. Fife managed to keep Kovnia independent and Nicholas alive despite the best efforts of the fascist Prince Karl and the anarchist criminal organisation the Markala. I believe that Ali was a plant by Mr. Am's forces, to establish a base for themselves in Central Europe. Regrettably, Kovnia was overrun during World War Two by the Germans, and Fife and Ali died during the invasion.
In 1937 Norman Conquest began operating in England as an adventurer and vigilante. He quickly rose to prominence as a fighter against unjustice and those criminals, rich and powerful, who preyed on the innocent and were beyond the law. During the War he waged a one-man campaign against Germany, making use of clever and technologically advanced gadgets as well as his enormous native skills, and after the War continued to gain fame for his actions. Conquest, who traced his lineage back to the Border Wars, was born and raised in India and came to England to avenge his parents.
That, at least, was the story which he told everyone and which his biographer, Edwy Searles Brooks, repeated. Even MN, in his "All-Aces Squad" article, repeated this story without checking its veracity. The truth, however, is not so straightforward or so innocent.
The truth is that "Norman Conquest" was a man of many personalities, some positive and some negative. To fully understand him, however, two other individuals must be examined, and I trust the reader will patiently read this digression.
The first was Rupert Waldo, aka "the Wonder Man." For those reading this who are British and of a certain age, that name will bring back horrible memories, for Rupert Waldo was for almost a decade one of the worst criminals England ever knew. He first came to the public's attention at the end of 1918, when--with the war not even a month over–he clashed with Sexton Blake, having murdered a blackmailer who threatened to reveal a shameful deed from Waldo's past. (This is one of several signs that Waldo came from a socially heightened background, perhaps even nobility.) Waldo then went on to a long career of crime, jousting with Blake, and the famous detectives Falcon Swift and Nelson Lee on a number of occasions. Waldo used gadgets that were advanced, technologically, but he was most remarkable for his extraordinary. superhuman strength and endurance. He was said to have the strength of six men, and there are numerous accounts of his surviving and even barely acknowledging otherwise crippling injuries, including gunshot wounds, hanging, and third-degree burns.
As the years went by, however, Waldo's deeds became less vile, and by the mid-1930s he was something of a hero, working on the right side of the law, welcome in the homes of Sexton Blake and Nelson Lee, and even winning, for a short while, the position of Assistant Commissioner of Scotland Yard. However, by 1937 Waldo had disappeared, never to reappear again.
The second individual to be examined is "Marko the Miracle Man." Marko is less well-known than Waldo, but not for a lack of trying. From 1923, when he first appeared, through 1937, when he disappeared, he carried out a long string of successful crimes, ranging from murder to blackmail to simple burglary. Marko did this using his exceptional (even superhuman) strength and an array of very advanced weapons. His main enemy was the detective Dixon Hawke.
The fact that both Waldo and Marko disappeared in 1937, just before "Norman Conquest" appeared, is not a coincidence, nor is the fact that several of the stories about Rupert Waldo are extremely similar to stories about Marko and about Norman Conquest. I believe that Edwy Searles Brooks, the writer of all three sets of stories, was privy to certain facts of Conquest's life, facts which (for whatever reason) Brooks did not share with the reading public. I believe I have reconstructed Conquest's life and can now present the facts here.
Norman Conquest was born in 1897 in India, the child of the Conquests, the last in a long line of English nobility. Conquest's great-grandparents had gone to India to restore the flagging fortunes of the Conquest line but had lost much of it in the Mutiny and never recovered from it. When in 1905 a corrupt lawyer back in England swindled the Conquests out of their remaining money and their real estate in England, the Conquests, left bankrupt and with no means or method to support themselves, committed suicide. Norman, then eight years old, was given to an orphanage. He was unusually tall and strong, even then, with the build and strength of a full-grown man, and because of this he quickly came to the notice of Mr. Am’s organisation. They adopted him and began training him, in the hopes that he might become another Green Lama, a weapon against evil. His training took him around Asia, and he learned from Mr. Am’s lamas many languages and skills as well as how to use his nascent mental ability to augment his physical strength.
Unfortunately, the need for revenge against the destroyer of his family burned in Conquest’s breast and dwarfed the lessons of moderation and calm which the lamas attempted to instill in him. In 1918 Conquest ran away from Mr. Am’s organisation, taking with him an array of advanced weapons. He traveled to England and killed the lawyer who had forced his parents to suicide. Unfortunately for Conquest, his act of revenge was witnessed by a member of the lawyer’s firm, and that man, investigating the matter, discovered Conquest’s identity. He then tried to blackmail Conquest. Conquest killed his would-be blackmailer, but that act drew the attention of Sexton Blake, and the two began their duel. Conquest, forced into a life of crime, decided to become the best criminal possible, and for the next five years was a familiar, if dreaded, figure on the English crime scene. However, Conquest had no desire to shame his parents or soil the good name of the Conquest family, and so assumed a false name, that of “Rupert Waldo.”
In 1923 Conquest found that he had made himself, as “Waldo the Wonder Man,” so notorious that every policeman, consulting detective, vigilante and adventurer in England was looking for him. Rather than deal with the likes of Bulldog Drummond Conquest took on another identity, that of “Marko the Miracle Man.” As Marko he began a new crime wave, making use of the weapons he’d taken with him from Tibet. As Waldo he had mostly abstained from their use for fear of signaling to the watching eyes of Mr. Am’s organisation who he was. But as Marko he felt free to make the fullest use possible of them, because no one knew there was any connection between Waldo and Marko, while a clever detective could, in theory, figure out that Waldo was Conquest.
Fortunately for Conquest the connection between Marko and Waldo and Conquest was never made, and his skill at disguise was enough so that even those detectives like Dixon Hawke and Sexton Blake who fought both Marko and Waldo never realised that they were fighting a familiar enemy. Conquest, seeing this, decided to maintain both personalities, so that if one were captured he could resume the other, and so it was for the next several years that both Marko and Waldo terrorized England. But eventually Conquest sickened of his long life of crime—a life that, thanks to his early treatment with the immortality elixir, would extend for many more decades than that of normal men—and began to want to fight for justice, and so, as Waldo, he slowly transformed himself into a fighter for good. He kept the Marko personality active, just in case he was revealed as Waldo, but he spent most of his time as Waldo rather than as Marko.
Then, in early 1937, something happened to cause Conquest to abandon both personalities. It is unknown what prompted this change; perhaps some piece of information he received about Mr. Am’s organisation or about the Nine Unknown, or it may have been the changing situation in European politics and in Germany. Whatever it was, it led Conquest to completely forswear crime, and he took on his true identity and became a private adventurer, warring on the types of men that he himself had been only a few short months previous.
Later in 1937 Speed Gibson, a teenaged American, began work for the "International Secret Police," fighting against the ruthless criminal mastermind the Octopus. This war ranged across the world and did not end until 1938, when Gibson captured the Octopus.
The Octopus is actually an interesting case, and I again beg the reader’s indulgence to explore it for a moment. There were actually several Octopi active in the years before World War Two. There was the international crime lord which Speed Gibson fought and defeated in 1938. There was the bizarre, costumed criminal who fought the “Skull Killer” in 1939, first as the “Octopus” and later as the “Scorpion,” and who worked with the Coalition during and after World War Two, as per MN’s “Secret Wars” article. (Note: the Octopus’ appearance during his first duel with the Skull Killer was so outré as to make one suspect that he was wearing a particularly outrageous costume. This theory is supported by the Octopus’ later appearance as the “Scorpion,” where he was quite visibly human. Yet the Octopus’ first costume, if such it was, is strikingly similar to the description given by witnesses of an idol found in the swamps of Louisiana in 1908 by Inspector Legrasse of the New Orleans Police Department. The similarity is so pronounced as to almost rule out coincidence.)
There was the Japanese spy who battled Mandrake the Magician during World War Two. And there was the Axis spy–perhaps the same individual Mandrake the Magician fought against–who the teenaged American adventurer Tim Tyler clashed with during World War Two. Tyler, perhaps not coincidentally, had brushed up against Mr. Am’s organization when he met his future wife, Mary, a “white princess of the jungle,” in a hidden city in the “jungle heart of India;” Mary was, in all likelihood, one of the many orphans raised in Mr. Am’s bases, and the hidden city one of Mr. Am’s.
It may be that all of these individuals chose the same name through sheer coincidence; evil, after all, lacks not for cunning but for imagination. But I believe that the Octopi were part of an international criminal conspiracy whose arms spread like the sea creature they named themselves after. I believe that this organisation worked for (and were perhaps funded by) the Coaltion, and later the Four, as detailed in the “Secret Wars” article. I believe that the “Scorpia” who was the nemesis of the American intelligence agent Don Winslow was a branch of this conspiracy, or perhaps was allied with it, and that the fakir called "the Spider" who fought Winslow was not only a member of this conspiracy but was also directly involved with the NIne Unknown. I believe that this conspiracy predated the Coaltion and may have had links to, or even sprung from, the notorious “Black Coats” conspiracy in France in the 18th and 19th centuries–an organisation which had its own ties to the infamous Illuminati, as my colleague Dr. Lofficier showed in his “Conspiracy” article and which my colleagues Professors Bollman and Carbis intend to explore in a forthcoming article of their own. I believe several other international crime conspiracies, including THRUSH and "SMOG," the enemy of Bob Morane, had alliances with or were perhaps branches of this overall conspiracy.
(As a parenthetical aside, Dr. Lai has raised the possibility that MN’s research was incorrect, and that the conclusion reached in the “Secret Wars” article regarding the man MN called “Hark” was incorrect. MN’s deduction was that “Hark,” for decades a Chinese patriot and devoted enemy of the West, had fought against various Western heroes in a variety of guises and had posed as a man named “Wu Fang” to fight against several men. Dr. Lai maintains that there were several actual Wu Fangs, and that they were part of a secret conspiracy of crime, made up of the descendants of the dreaded Wu Fang Choi, a pirate and crime lord in China in the first half of the 19th century. I am in no position to check Dr. Lai’s sources or not and so cannot verify his statements. If Dr. Lai is correct, then perhaps the organisation of the Octopi had links to the organisation of the Wu Fangs.)
In 1939 an American explorer and adventurer, trekking through the Himalayas in an attempt to travel into China and join the fight against the Japanese, stumbled upon a hidden city of fantastic technology, ruled over by the “Council of Seven Lamas,” a group of men of unheard-of mental abilities. The Council gave the American a variety of mental powers, including telepathy, and sent him out into the world to fight crime, using his new powers as the crime fighter “Mr. Mystic.” I believe that the “Council of Seven Lamas” which Mr. Mystic discovered was none other than Mr. Am’s seven closest advisors, and that Mr. Mystic came closest of any Western adventurer to seeing the true headquarters of Mr. Am’s organization. I believe that these seven lamas were in fact the same seven who taught Doctor Occult, and that the hidden city where Mr. Mystic learned his arts was the "Citadel of the Seven" where Doctor Occult was raised. I also believe that the Citadel of the Seven was Agartha, the legendary kingdom originally visited in the 19th century by the French traveler Saint-Yves d'Alveydre which I believe serves as the true headquarters of Mr. Am's organisation.
Before the Twentieth Century
The Twentieth Century
The 1940s & Afterward
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