By Henry Gade (Raymond A. Palmer, 1910-77).
First appearance: Amazing Stories, July 1941.
Novelette (26 pages).
Online at Archive.org (HERE).
"It's a pretty rotten break to be thrust into the role of superman when your invincibility is only skin deep."Chapter I: "Why—that would mean—oh heavens! Battleships plated with such a metal would be indestructible!"
Chapter II: "Marie Gets an Idea"
Chapter III: "John Doe, Enemy of Crime"
Chapter IV: "The Crime-Buster in Action"
Chapter V: "Trouble for Marie"
Chapter VI: "Hands Off!"
When the Bard penned these words—"Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them"—he certainly didn't have Daniel Ovid Ellsworth in mind; but thanks to a freaky laboratory accident and a fireball female reporter, Daniel Ovid Ellsworth is going to be great whether he wants it or not. Move over, Lamont Cranston;
stand aside, Doc Savage; here comes John Doe, The Crime-Buster, fearsome Scourge of
the Underworld—as long as he doesn't get a tummy ache . . .
~ Dr. Edgar Cramer, a research scientist:
"I've simply got to find a solution to that boy's difficulty! That girl's going to be too much for him!"
~ Marie Gerling, reporter for the Herald and Lois Lane wannabe:
"The great Dr. Edgar Cramer wouldn't really send a poor little reporter-girl away without a science story, would he? Just one teeny-weeny Sunday Supplement article . . ."
~ Daniel Ovid Ellsworth, reluctant hero:
"I told you I wasn't a scientist. It's been that way every time I tried to do something. Even my own experiments go wrong because I'm so clumsy."
~ Dawson, editor of the Herald:
"It's a contract. And it's also a release. We contract to buy your stories, and give you a by-line, at a stipulated salary. You release us from any responsibility for personal damage to your pretty physique—which you'll no doubt get, monkeying around with the crime ring in this city!"
~ Burke, Dawson's assistant:
"I was one of the victims. Mr. John Doe, the Enemy of Crime, saved my weekly stipend for me."
~ Mrs. Schaeffer, the landlady:
"Oh, Mr. Ellsworth! I'm so proud of you. It was simply wonderful. To think that one of my boarders is famous!"
~ Kelly, a cop:
"Mike, you clean up this mess. I wanta rest. I been reading too many of them fantastic adventures!"
Comment: If a screwball comedy should mate with an off-the-wall science fantasy, the result might bear a strong resemblance to this story.
- "Henry Gade" was one of the aliases used by Ray Palmer (not the TV character), who we think was serious when he championed the idea that flying saucers originated in an under-ground civilization—but with Palmer, who could tell? See Wikipedia (HERE), the SFE (HERE), and the ISFDb (HERE) for the scoop on him.
The bottom line: "The police officer who puts their life on the line with no superpowers, no X-ray vision, no super-strength, no ability to fly, and above all no invulnerability to bullets, reveals far greater virtue than Superman—who is only a mere superhero."
― Eliezer Yudkowsky
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