by Dan S.
1942: Bulletman & Bulletgirl face Dr. Boom, seemingly a criminal from a popular comicbook
|Complete story is here: http://forum.5earths.com/thread/619/return-dr-boom
Bulletman and Bulletgirl Comic Extravaganza, Published May 1942
Bulletman and Bulletgirl, soaring through the air, holding hands, with the Hollywood sign on a cliff behind them
First page, full page Panel
Bulletman logo across the top. Below the logo, to the left, Bulletgirl is zooming from the sky to the rescue, while a costumed figure is about to press a plunger to detonate a half dozen sticks of dynamite, piled next to the unconscious figure of Bulletman, who is bound to a railroad track. The costumed figure is a woman, wearing a yellow/brown tunic over chain mail armor and wearing a helmet that looks like a cartoon bomb - the bowling ball with a fuse kind of bomb. There is a mushroom cloud emblem on her chest.
Text panel at the top of the page:
A mysterious saboteur is blowing up Hollywood movie production companies. Even mighty Bulletman and Bulletgirl nearly meet disaster as they seek to solve the mystery of Dr. Boom!
Inset panel at the bottom, the same shape as the bomb/helmet
There is text above this panel: Jim Barr and Susan Kent have travelled to Hollywood, where Jim been hired as a technical consultant on the latest Public Pictures Studio serial thriller: Mr. Fast vs. Dr. Boom
In this panel, Jim Barr and Susan Kent are standing on a movie production set, complete with a camera and a director sitting in a director's chair.
Today was the first day of filming for the next Public Pictures Saturday serial, "Mr. Fast vs. Dr. Boom and the Minions of Devastation". Jim Barr inspected the set closely. The set design was loosely based on his own police laboratory back East, with areas set up for chemistry, electronics, ballistics, and instrumentation. Unlike his own lab, there were big, boldly printed labels on everything, labels that would be easily readable by the audience in big screen theaters. Some of the labels were outrageously science fictionish: Universal Solvent, Element Transmuter, Crime Scene Automatic Television, Anti-Gravitic Ballistic Trajectory Analyzer, High Speed Digital Computer, Iota Ray Projector, etc. Most of these futuristic gadgets would play important roles later in the movie.
The first scenes to be filmed involved the origins of Mr. Fast. Mr. Fast was already well known to the public from his long running, hugely popular radio series, the "Mr. Fast/Suzie Whirlwind Adventure Hour". The movie scriptwriters had adapted his origin story but added some exciting elements to make it more interesting to moviegoers.
Susan sighed when the swarthy, handsome, but vaguely sinister lead actor Aaron Glynn walked on stage, surrounded by a fawning posse "Isn't he dashing! And so handsome."
"He'd be better cast as the villain," Jim growled. "He doesn't look at all like a hero to me! And just listen to him! He's been signed for this role for over a month, and had the script for a week, but he hasn't looked at it until this morning." In a meeting earlier today, he'd tried to talk to Glynn about being convincing in the role of a shy police scientist who was somewhat of a bookworm, but the actor wasn't interested.
Glyyn was carrying a rolled up copy of the script, stabbing the air with it as if it were a dagger and yelling at everyone around him. "This script is garbage! It makes my character sound like an idiot. That bimbo Barri gets better lines than I do!" Flynn was playing the lead, the brilliant but frail police scientist Cary Crabgrass, who gets transformed into the dashing superhero Mr. Fast, while beautiful curvy brunette Lynnette Barri played his lab assistant, Cassie Sassafrass, who could barely stand Crabgrass but would quickly become Mr. Fast's love interest.
Jim stomped away into the studio canteen. Susan followed him, and tried to lighten his mood. "Isn't Hollywood exciting? I really enjoyed that silent movie festival last night. Thanks for taking me. When I grew up, Annie Cavanaugh and Carole Lombardi were my favorites, and I had such a crush on Tim Mix. It was so good to see them again last night. But there are so many of them who haven't been in movies in years."
"I heard that Cavanaugh always sounded like she was reciting from the script when she had to speak on camera. But she's still in movie, she works on the special effects team for Public. I met her yesterday, and I'll bet she'd love to meet a fan! But Lombardi was even more famous for her talking movies than she was in the silents. And Mix would still be a star if he hadn't passed away."
Susan started to reply, then paused, listening intently. Faintly, she could make out the screaming of a siren. Before she could comment, another joined in, and then a much louder one, closer. "It sounds like we might be needed outside," she told her partner. The two pushed out the rear door of the canteen, shedding clothing as they went, donned their gravity helmets, and the heroic figures of Bulletman and Bulletgirl launched into the air like rockets. The spotted a police car tearing through the streets to the south, so they headed in that direction. And almost instantly saw that on the campus of Columbus Pictures, a section of one of the buildings had been damaged by an explosion.
There was something in the air above the studio, swooping down toward the giant building that housed most of the stages and sets. Jim put on a burst of speed, but the flier was too far ahead, and it slammed into the building and exploded. Jim pulled out of his dive and was trying to climb away, but the blast wave of the explosion caught him and tossed him even higher into the air, his arms and legs flapping randomly, apparently having been knocked unconscious. Susan raced after him and caught him as he started to fall back to earth. He was just coming round.
"Sue, honey, that was a knockout," he said dreamily, then shook his head and snapped wide awake.
"I don't know what you were dreaming about, but it's a good thing it was me!" she quipped. "Can you fly? We have work to do!" He answered by flying away on his own power. Sue hovered and spun slowly in place, carefully scanning the skies around them. "I don't see any more of those flying bombs. Let's help the firemen!" Both exploded buildings were burning, and the streets around the block were filling with firetrucks, police cars, and ambulances.
The next hour was filled with incredibly hard work, firefighting, a lot of incredibly depressing digging through rubble, interspersed with some rare triumphs as a few survivors were discovered and rescued. Finally the civilian authorities had the scene under control, as much as any disaster scene could be said to be under control, and the sweaty, grimy heroes were able to tell their story to the police and the Civil Air Patrol.
"It was a small single wing airplane about the size of a person, with a propeller in the nose," Jim reported, for about the 12th time. "It was definitely under remote control; I watched it change directions before it finally smashed into the building and exploded. And no, there were no markings on it, no Rising Sun flags and no swastikas."
And finally, the two heroes had had enough. "Look, boys, there's no more we can tell you. We'll be around for a while, so maybe we'll run into you again. See ya!" Bulletgirl lifted into the air, followed by her partner. "I hope nobody missed us!" she joked with her partner as they headed back to the Public Pictures Studio lot. "Wouldn't do for Jim Barr to get fired!"
"I think once filming is over for the day, Jim Barr is going to head over to police headquarters and see what their lab rats have found out. I wonder if there was anything left of that bomb to study?" Bulletman mused.
There hadn't been much going on while they had been 'out'. Everyone had gone outside to see what was happening, and one of the stagehands had been called by a friend from the rival studio, so everyone had at least heard rumors. It was a somber crew that the production crew eventually managed to gather on the set - everyone knew people who worked for Columbus Pictures, and the news so far had been sketchy at best. Only the producer, director, and Glynnn seemed cheerful. Columbus serials were the biggest competitor to those produced here, and the serial currently in production at Columbus, General Glory vs. the Atomic Mole Men from Mars, was widely expected to be the most thrilling action adventure picture every filmed. Without competition, Mr. Fast vs. Dr. Boom and the Minions of Devastation would be a blockbuster!
The director could see that there wouldn't be much life from his actors today, so he gave the team the day off. "But you better come ready for hard work tomorrow, 'cause we're gonna make up for missing a day." He turned to Glynnn. "You damn well better know your lines tomorrow, or you're fired!" Glynnn didn't reply, merely "harumphed", turned and stomped out. The rest of the crew filed out, their moods subdued.
Jim grabbed Susan by the hand. "C'mon, let's get down to police headquarters!"
She pulled away. "This is supposed to be a vacation for me, big boy. I'm off for a tour. Let's meet for a late dinner and you can tell me what you found out."
This afternoon, Susan was taking the Studio Grand Tour; tomorrow she planned to take the tour of the palatial homes of the Hollywood's riches denizens. Even before the tour bus loaded, the guide, a very sexy starlet wannabe, was apologizing that today's tour would have to skip Columbus Pictures. There was a lot of buzz and gossip aboard the bus about it being a Japanese attack, and there were rumors that a flying man and woman had intervened. Most people still believed super powered heroes only existed in the funnies and the serials. There were some worried folks as well, but the tour guide pointed out that there were extra Civil Air Patrol planes flying tonight, so there was nothing to worry about.
Susan had been a big movie buff growing up, and she'd thought it would be exciting seeing all the studios where her favorites had been filmed, but being Bulletgirl had quite altered her ideas of exciting. The older guy with a beer belly in the seat next to her not very successfully tried to slip his wedding ring into a pocket before she saw it, and his chatter was more of the same she heard practically every time she walked by herself. She wasn't paying much attention to the guide as they walked through the closed and now-empty lot of Paragon Pictures - and she noted a small plane, maybe half a mile away, headed for the studio! She ducked into an empty doorway, and Bulletgirl, still wearing Susan's dress, zoomed into the air!
The incoming plane looked exactly like the one she'd seen earlier. Mounted where the pilot would sit if this had been a manned airplane was a camera, and as soon as she zoomed into its field of vision, the tiny plane made a couple of turns to try and get past her to the studio. She was vastly more maneuverable, and much faster, and quickly, whoever was remotely controlling the plane just gave up and headed for the studio. If she stayed in front of it, eventually she'd get caught in the spinning propeller, or maybe it would blow up when it hit her. Neither option interested her very much. But she had to stop it somehow!
The camera was fixed; if she was behind it, the pilot couldn't see her. She got behind it, wrapped her arms around the fuselage, and spun in place as fast as she could, three times, then, when she was facing the waterfront, she let go, throwing the plane like a hammer thrower. She'd been worried that the pilot could explode the plane from afar, but apparently not; the plane tumbled across the sky and exploded when it hit the water a hundred yards from shore. There was a geyser of water, but all in all, it was a pretty harmless explosion. Bulletgirl changed into her costume and cruised the skies for a half hour after that, waving at some of the CAP planes, but didn't see any other guided buzz bombs, so she went off keep her dinner date with Jim Barr.
He'd left a message for her at the desk of their hotel, asking her to meet him at Police Headquarters and providing the address. She was miffed - she'd hoped that they could get dressed to the nines tonight and spend time at a night club where they might mingle with the stars, but the way Jim dressed when he was doing lab work they'd get thrown out of a cheap diner! At least he'd remembered to call her, and she thought maybe she might surprise him with some things she knew that he probably didn't. She asked the hotel to prepare her a couple of sandwiches, overpaid for four bottles of beer from the hotel bar, then stopped at a newsstand where she dug the funnybook racks and purchased the last copy of a 2 month old issue of Terrific Two, the funnybook shared by Mr. Fast and Suzie Whirlwind. The cover was ripped and the pages had been thumbed through, which is probably why it was still there, and the nice young man running the stand gave it to her for half price.
The cops showed her to the lab; she wasn't surprised that Jim was the only police scientist still working, or that he'd made himself at home in someone else's lab. It was much larger than their own lab, but not nearly as well equipped. Which wasn't surprising, as she and Jim (mostly Jim) had built a lot of their own scientific instrumentation. That had actually caused them problems in a case last year when defense attorneys had challenged results from a test by a scientific instrument nobody else had ever heard of yet, calling them 'hand waving voodoo magic'. They'd been forced to provide alternate proof, and eventually, the bad guy was convicted.
Jim was typing when she walked in, much faster than even the best secretary could achieve, and he didn't notice her until she slammed a brown bottle of Schpitz beer on the desk. "I paid half a buck for that beer - you had better drink it and at least pretend you enjoy it! Or else, buster!" she threatened in her sternest voice. "And then you better tell me what's more interesting to you than a date with the hottest flame in Hollywood!" That was the best line she'd heard from that guy on the bus and she really liked it. Too bad he'd been older than her father…
Jim casually popped the top off his beer bottle with his thumb, and she did likewise. He raised the bottle for a toast. "To the hottest flame in Hollywood!" They clinked bottles and took a drink, then Susan set a bag down on the desk. "I brought sandwiches too."
"Not hungry." Jim took another pull from the bottle and went back to typing. He talked as he typed. "The explosion in the flying bomb that caught me was much weaker than the first one, and we recovered some wreckage." His voice dropped to a mumble, barely heard above the clatter of the keys."
Susan began reciting facts. "Radio controlled, with a television camera and transmitter so the pilot knew where to go."
"some shattered vacuum tubes… mutter mutter…"
"Propeller driven by an electric motor and most of the body of the plane is a battery."
"half melted by battery acid… mumble mumble…"
"Contact detonator for the explosives. Explosive force about 3 sticks of dynamite."
"Uh huh… unexploded blasting cap… chitter chatter…"
"Fuselage is mostly aluminum, total weight about 170 pounds."
"Wait! Say WHAT?" He jerked his hands back from the keys as he sat bolt upright. "WHAT did you say? How do you know all that? I haven't even got that stuff down on paper yet!"
"I'm sorry, are you talking to me? It's about time you paid attention!" Susan was definitely miffed. She pointed to the bag of sandwiches. "I can't take you out anywhere; you look like Hobo Willie. But I’m starved, and I want some decent conversation while I eat. And NOT about flying buzz bombs, or police lab work, or Bulletman and Bulletgirl. So are you gonna act like a gentleman or am I gonna have to go share a sandwich with that cute young cop at the front desk? I'll bet he knows how to treat the hottest flame in Holllywood right!"
"But Susan, how do you know so much about…"
She stood, gathered up 3 beer bottles and the sandwich bag. "I saw his badge on the way in, Zack Bannister, I think. I'll see you on the set tomorrow… unless Zack keeps me awake all night!"
"Aw, gee, Susan, I'm sorry. Don't leave, please, what can I do to make it up to you?" He at least sounded sorry.
"Two things. You can apologize for all the times you went off adventuring as Bulletman and left me behind - and you can promise never to do it again!"
"I'm sorry, I promise, what kind of sandwiches do you have? I'm starved!" When she turned back, he sighed in relief.
"I know you mean it now, and I also know you'll forget in a week, big boy, but I'm half starved too." She laid out the sandwiches, and then took out the tattered issue of Mr. Fast #35. "What do you think about this?" She dropped the open funnybook in front of him. One full page panel showed a detailed breakaway drawing of the buzz bombs they'd encountered earlier, with labels.
"What is this?" Jim was stunned. "How did you find it?"
"I read the Suzie Whirlwind stories every month. She's known as 'the girl who does what she wants', and she's a lot like me. Anyway, when I was tangling with one of these buzz bombs an hour ago, I suddenly remembered seeing this panel."
"You did WHAT? Susan, those things are dangerous!" Jim exclaimed sternly.
"Too dangerous for a girl, you mean? Piss off, Buster Brown! I've got all the same powers you have, and you'd better not forget it again!" Jim raised both hands in a gesture of surrender, and she continued. "So some inventive genius here in Hollywood reads Terrific Two comics, and decided to build copies of Dr. Boom's buzz bombs - and did a pretty good job of it, too!"
Jim had been about to suggest that the real bombs had been built by the writer or artist for Terrific Two, but quickly thought better of it. He was realizing that he had better mind his p's and q's or his angry girlfriend might still go check on Zack Bannister!
They discussed the day's events at length and decided whoever had sent the buzz bombs might not be done yet. Since Jim had to be present at the filming, they decided that Bulletgirl should spend some time patrolling the skies above Hollywood tomorrow. A while later, they departed the police station, bid goodnight to Zack, who never knew he'd been a bone of contention, and strolled back to their hotel, arm in arm.
Today was to be the filming of 'The Origin of Mr. Fast'.
In the comics, absent-minded bookwormish Police Scientist Cary Crabgrass was puttering in his police lab in Turquoise, New Mexico, early in the morning before everyone else started work, when his bouncy lab assistant Cassie Sassafrass stuck her head in. "Breakfast in the break room, right now! I stopped at the Desert Diner and got your favorite! " she announced brightly while suppressing a shudder. "Road Runner eggs omelet, smothered in Mexican jumping bean chilli!" (Her own choice was a New Mexico omelet.) In his rush, Crabgrass forgot to shut down the Iota Ray Projector, and a beam of Iota Rays had passed through the wall and irradiated both Cary and his omelet. A couple of hours later, he'd discovered he had super speed powers, and after a few hours learning to sew, he'd put together a costume and made his first appearance as Mr. Fast!
The script writers had determined that his wouldn't be exciting enough for a serial. The scene started with Cary and Cassie eating breakfast in the break room. Suddenly, there was a loud 'thoom!" sound, and the room shook, and then and again, each time the thooms becoming louder and the shaking more violent. Something crashed through the wall, and from the debris strode a figure, short and wide, the villain who would soon become Mr. Fast's nemesis, Dr. Boom. 5'6", body covered in gray chain mail, wearing an ugly grayish brown tunic. There was a mushroom cloud emblem on the chest of the tunic, and Dr. Boom wore a spherical black helmet, with a small black cylinder sticking out of the top, and sticking out of that was a sputtering fuse.
"Your forensic lab work put me in prison, Crabgrass, but I've escaped and returned for my revenge!" Dr. Boom announced, in a weirdly distorted voice so loud there must have been an amplifier in the helmet.
Cassie Sassafrass ran screaming from the room. "I don't want to die!"
Boom only laughed. "I don't care about that coward - I want you, Crabby. You're going to suffer before you die - not as much as I suffered in prison, but you're going to die in agony!"
Crabgrass ducked under the table. Boom laughed again, and pointed, and a weird, oscillating sound wailed, and about a second later, the table exploded. Meanwhile, Cassie poked through the hole in the wall, struggling to carry the Iota Ray Projector. She was barely able to aim and fire. There was another weird sound, and after about a second, Dr. Boom suddenly flew across the room and crashed into the wall above the table, then crashed down on the table, which collapsed. Cassie dropped the Iota Ray projector. Dr. Boom was suddenly thrust violently aside, and rising out of the cloud of dust and rubble was Cary Crabgrass.
Jim knew that special effects would be added to the film - a white spiraling ray would spring from Dr. Boom's hand, the spiral growing bigger until it reached the table, which would be outlined in white for an instant before it exploded, a pulsating red beam would spring from the Iota Ray Projector, reflecting from Dr. Boom's form and illuminating the cloud of that had once been the table under which Crabgrass was hiding, and then when Crabgrass exploded from the rubble, his body would be blurry and surrounded by a faint white aura.
"You can terrorize that weakling Crabgrass, but Mr. FAST is a different story!" Glynnn sounded overly pompous to Jim, and for an instant, he wondered if perhaps Bulletman ever sounded the same? Then his interest was drawn back to the scene. There were a number of ropes tied to Dr. Boom, out of sight of the camera, and the stuntman playing the villain was jerked this way and that around the room, while flailing and striking out at the air. A number of other items on the set exploded, and then the villain went flying, smashed into a wall, and slid to the floor. The camera was shut off for a second, Glynnn crossed the room and stood over the slumped body, and the camera was turned on again.
"Well, Dr. Boom, I guess you'll think twice about terrorizing innocent people again! And if you do, you'll have to answer to Dr. Fast!"
"My hero!" Cassie rushed toward the hero.
"CUT! That's a WRAP!" the director shouted!
Bulletgirl on Patrol
A lot of people in Hollywood still didn't believe in super heroes or flying people, no matter what the papers, magazines and newsreels said. Today a lot of them changed their minds, when they saw a flying figure cruising slowly above the city. Susan had studied the studio tour map last night and figured out some loops that took her over all the major studios. She took a quick breakfast break at a diner she'd spotted yesterday, and was flattered when the owner offered her a free meal in exchange for letting him take a photo for his celebrity wall, which he promised to have developed today, if she would return tomorrow to autograph it. Of course she would!
Shortly before noon, she had just completed her third loop and seen no signs of any flying buzz bombs. She took a short break, sitting on top of the first O in the big, mountainside Hollywood sign when she heard a distant explosion, in the direction of Warren Brothers Studios. She was there in less than half a minute, and there were a couple of more explosions in that time. With still no sign of buzz bombs.
People were running screaming from the main office building so that's where she went. Inside, she followed a path of devastation towards the main business offices and quickly caught up with... Dr. Boom?
There was no doubt that it was Dr. Boom… same costume, same bowling ball bomb with a sputtering fuse, costume drawn directly from the pages of Mr. Fast comics and identical to the one the stunt double was wearing in the Public Studios filming going on right now across town. And this version's weapons weren't just special effects.
As Bulletgirl flew into the giant reception room, Dr. Boom pointed at a desk. "Boom!" the word was weirdly distorted and amplified. A glow of white light sprang into existence, an impossible beam that moved in a slow spiral, the spiral glowing in size as it crossed the room and struck a desk. The desk was instantly outlined with a white aura which pulsed ones, and then the desk exploded violently with a BOOM! Boom turned, looking for other targets, and saw the female flying detective.
"Ah, Bulletgirl, I had heard you were in town. I am Dr. Boom, straight from the pages of Terrific Two comics. Too bad for you I didn't bring Mr. Fast with me! You will have the honor of being the first hero I defeat in this world!" It was difficult to puzzle out what the words, which were distorted, stilted, and overly amplified. "I was hoping your partner would try to stop me, but I suppose you'll do for a warmup. BOOM!" She pointed at her red and yellow-clad foe, and a white nimbus formed around her hand, but before the slow moving spiral could grow more than a couple of inches, the Ruby Rockette flashed away. Dr. Boom turned, breaking her connection with the destructive spiral of light, which continued to spin leisurely across the room, expanding and growing dimmer as it moved. Though both combatants were otherwise occupied by then, when it reached the far wall there was a disappointed sigh and a small curved crease was carved into the plaster as the fading light vanished entirely.
Bulletgirl scoffed as she flashed across the room. "You'll be cooling off soon… in JAIL!" Her outstretched fists encountered resistance about a half a foot from Boom, initially barely a tingle and then quickly growing more resistant, and an inch before contact, Boom was tossed backward through the air. She did a strangely slow flip and then landed on her feet.
As she landed, she pointed both arms at her foe, fingers outstretched. "Impact absorbing force field and gyro-stabilized armor," she crowed. "BOOOOM!" The white nimbus formed and the spiral sprang forth again, much brighter, spinning madly and moving forward much faster than the prior blast. Before the Ruby Rockette could move, it reached her. The leading edge fizzled away several inches from the stunned heroine.
"CURSES!" Boom shouted, then squeezed her hands tightly into fists and shouted again: "KABOOM! Take that, you red-clad bimbo!" A brilliant pulse of bright blue raced forward, spiraling towards Bulletgirl, who was now starting to react. The pulse reached her, and there was a 'Whoomph!" and she felt as if she'd been hit by a fire hose, and she was knocked backward into the wall.
"BOOM!" A much tighter spiral launched from Boom's hand, striking the corner of the ceiling and wall directly above Bulletgirl, showering her with debris. "We'll meet again, you red witch! And I shall not be as merciful the next time." the weirdly distorted voice blasted through the room, followed by "BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!" Two nearby explosion dropped more rubble on the Ruby Rockette, though she was partially shielded by the power of her gravity helmet. The third explosion blew a hole through another wall, and Dr. Boom quickly stepped through. In the other room, she stopped and suddenly was lifted several inches off the floor, as small wheels extended from the bottoms of her boots. She leaned slightly forward and started rolling in that direction, quickly gaining speed, and in only instants, she had blown a hole in the outer wall of the building, leaped through, and was racing away from the wrecked studio building at over 60 mph. By the time Bulletgirl was clear of the rubble, and had searched the building for survivors, Dr. Boom had vanished. Later police reports from drivers and pedestrians she'd zoomed by estimated her speed at over a hundred miles an hour, and she'd been headed towards some of the other major Hollywood studios, but though Bulletgirl doubled the speed or her sweeps, Dr. Boom made no more appearances that day.