Friday, June 03, 2005

Crime Doctor!

crime doctor
Originally uploaded by Scipio1.
I've had a request for more information about the Crime Doctor. Happy to; I love the Crime Doctor!

The Crime Doctor started operating in July 1943 in TEC#77 ("The Crime Clinic"). He was both a "doctor of medicine and doctor of crime". As a physician, he helped patch up criminals injured on the job. As an expert diagnostician, he was paid by criminals to analyze their difficulties in pulling off a job and he would "prescribe a cure" for their ills. You could even buy a "house call" and he would accompany you on your crime to make sure it succeeded. His first story is contained in the Batman Archives Volume 3.

The Crime Doctor (Dr. Matthew Thorne, by name) was cool enough to reappear a month later in the August 1943 issue of Batman (#18, "The Crime Surgeon"). As in his first story, Dr. Thorne's criminal tendencies came into conflict with his oath as a physician. When Robin is shot by his thugs, the Crime Doctor stops and performs emergency surgery to save the boy's life. Thorne himself is shot to death at the end of the story by an angry client, because in those days there were no malpractice suits.

Doc T had it all going on. He was a surgeon to the underworld. He was an expert crime consultant. He was a "gimmick" criminal and combatant in his own right, using his medical equipment as his weapons of choice. The inner conflict between his two chosen careers added character depth.

But you can't keep a good villain down forever. A short 44 years later (1987), writer Mike W. Barr reintroduced the Crime Doctor into continuity in TEC#579. Dr. Thorne's return in this post-Crisis period was part of a conscious editorial attempt to freshen Batman's Rogues Gallery (this is period that gave us Abbattoir, the Corrosive Man, Kadaver, Scarface & the Ventriloquist, the Ratcatcher, the Reaper, a reduxed Mad Hatter and Clayface).

Six years later (1993), the second season finale of Batman The Animated Series was "Paging the Crime Doctor", starring Dr. Matt Thorne (again by Mike Barr). This version was a fairly innocent physician, forced into crime by his brother, Mob Boss Rupert Thorne (a character who had originally appeared in Batman comic books in the later '70s). Connecting the Thornes was a nice idea, but the innocent characterization of Matthew was much less interesting than his original comic book version. In fact, the plot of this episode was more like a reprise of the "The Underworld Surgeon" (TEC 131, Jan 1948), which was not a Crime Doctor story (you can read that one in the recently released Batman Archives Volume 6).

I think the next time the Crime Doctor appeared was in May 2004, when (as discussed by the eminent H at Comic Treadmill) he was brought to justice by Dr. Mid-Nite, for whom he would be a perfect arch enemy. This Crime Doctor is FAR from innocent; icky. I was afraid his scuffle with Dr. Mid-Nite was a throwaway, but given his role in Villains United 2, I think he'll be an on-going character, not easily forgotten. Not by Catman, at least...


Scipio said...

But Batwoman's on to him...

Anonymous said...

I'm afraid you're missing one of the Crime Doctor's incarnations. I have Detective 495 (cover dated Oct. 1980). It is the story of the crime doctor (Dr. Bradford Thorne here). It concludes a story that had evidently been running for awhile in the series (this is the only comic I have with him, though).

The oppening scene summarizes the cliffhanger from the previous issue(s). The crime doctor had been working with some crooks when the Batman showed up. When Batman's uniform is torn, he recognizes a bandage underneath as one he had applied to Bruce Wayne in his civilian identity. The crime doctor loudly (and foolishly) exclaimed he knows the Batman's identity in front of a bunch of criminals.

Anyway, to make a long story short, the Doctor's interesting morals are on display here. He tries to flee the country, but, when a medical emergency happens in the airport, he stops to save the person's life, revealing who he is to the criminals searching for him. Then, he refuses to reveal the Batman's secret identity, partly because the Batman saved him, partly because he learned it as part of the Doctor-patient relationship which he feels must be kept secret. At the end of the story, he's left as a brain-damaged vegetable, but there was a small door left open that he might one day be revived, with or without knowledge of Batman's secret identity.

All in all, it was an interesting story, and I'm sure there are other people here who'll give you the more complete range of his appearances in this era. Sounds like it was one of the many things ignored in the post-chrisis reboot(s).

Anonymous said...


Just pulled out my old copies of Who's Who, because I was interested if the Doctor was listed there. In volume 5 (July 85) it has an entry for this version of the Crime Doctor. It lists his first appearance as Detective 494, so evidently he only lasted 2 issues! This is also the only version listed in Who's Who, so the old Earth-2 doctor didn't make the cut.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the explanation. I bow in honor to your superior geekery.