Friday, June 03, 2005
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...