DOCTOR SATIRA

by Mark Hodder

  • An introduction to this popular old character for the benefit of new readers.

Doctor Satira is ruthless, ingenious, murderous and evil. He is able to control animals by means of chemical scents. His significant others are Darzu the Ape-Man, Schumann the Slasher, Cropper, Joel Polado, and John Cruller.

Doctor Satira

In 1926, after the destruction of the Criminals' Confederation, Dirk Dolland and John Fade, lusting for fresh adventures, journey to the Himalayas where they discover a hidden valley named Khurdan inhabited by intelligent apes — Darwin's 'Missing Link'. These creatures are ruled over by a white man of extraordinary intellect who boasts degrees in practically every branch of science, from medicine to mesmerism. His name is Dr. Satira and he is as hideous as he is evil: 'he has the eyes of a snake, the head of a vulture, the face of a fiend, and the voice of a cooing-dove.'

Satira has been in Khurdan for two years and has learned that the apemen possess a huge fortune in gems. After persuading them to allow him to use some of these jewels to decorate a small statue of their god, Darsha, he plans to flee to Europe with the idol. However, this scheme is foiled when Dolland and Fade escape with the idol in their possession. Satira pursues them and is thus let loose in England; soon to become Scotland Yard's 'MOST WANTED'.

Of all Sexton Blake's many opponents, none is more murderous than the sinister Satira. Initially, his many killings are performed by ape-men and other animals which he directs by use of a chemical spray. After being captured and sent for trial, though, Satira escapes and more or less abandons his use of animals, preferring, instead, to kill by his own hand. While on the run, he leaves a trail of corpses in his wake, yet, despite these grisly signs of his passing, he remains frustratingly elusive thanks to his superior cunning. His feats of villainy include injecting an informer with rabies, burning down a mental institution, kidnapping Chief Commissioner Sir Henry Fairfax, and bombing Sexton Blake's Baker Street apartments. The criminal also survives a number of disasters: he is badly burned after setting fire to the institution; is almost drowned during a terrific storm at sea; and is involved in a terrible train accident.

Halfway through the series, Satira is forced to abandon his quest for the idol and is fully occupied in evading capture; moving from one opportunistic crime to the next, always with Sexton Blake, Tinker and Detective-Inspector Coutts hard on his heels. Then, after his tenth adventure, the story is left hanging. For nearly two years, Satira's creator — Robert Murray Graydon — abandoned this most wicked of villains and worked on his Paul Cynos series instead, leaving readers wondering what had become of the Doctor. They eventually found out when, in 1929, Graydon wrote of Satira's final capture.

Chronology:

1. The Mystery of the Mandarin's Idol (SEXTON BLAKE LIBRARY 2nd series, issue 162, 1928)
Doctor Satira is trying to get his hands on an idol which is rumoured to be the key to a hidden treasure. When a petty thief gains possession of it and sells it to a curio dealer, Satira sends his gang to recover it. Unfortunately a 'gentleman cracksman' gets there first and inadvertently takes the idol with a haul of jewels. Satira eventually traces this man to a hotel and regains the loot but Sexton Blake is on the same trail and both Satira and the cracksman end up in police custody. Though this is the penultimate Satira story that the author wrote, it actually recounts the first encounter between Sexton Blake and Doctor Satira. The events related do not, however, tally with the next story.

2. Lord of the Ape-Men (UNION JACK issue 1,206, 1926)
At the scene of a burglary, Sexton Blake finds himself attacked by a giant ape. When, later, he's attacked again, this time by Pedro, he realises that the animals are responding to a chemical that's been sprayed onto his clothes. Dirk Dolland and John Fade also fall victim to an assault by a 'missing-link'. They reveal to Blake that they're being hunted by Dr. Satira, from whom they stole a jewel-encrusted idol. Satira directs a further attempt on Blake's life but the detective shoots the chemical spray from the villain's hand and Satira is drenched with it. The ape-man — Darzu — attacks and kills its master before being captured. However, John Fade discovers that the dead criminal was wearing a mask and is not Satira. The villain is still at large.

3. The Mystery of the Masked Magician (UNION JACK issue 1,207, 1926)
Satira informs Sexton Blake and the police that he will hand over the many jewels he has stolen in return for the idol and Darzu's freedom. Before they can respond, the missing link escapes. When an animal trainer is mauled by his own panthers, his dying words are "The Masked Magician". This leads Blake to a performer billed as 'Mysto, the Masked Magician'. Realising that this man is Satira, he organises a raid on the theatre but the villain gets away.

4. From Information Received (UNION JACK issue 1,209, 1926)
A petty criminal named Harry informs Blake and Detective-Inspector Coutts that Satira is hiding in a house in the suburbs. A raid is organised but they find the house is empty. Inexplicably, Tinker and Harry disappear from it and are taken to another location where they are held prisoner by the evil doctor. He injects Harry with rabies then ruthlessly takes over a private mental institution, imprisoning Tinker in one of the cells. Blake's wily assistant manages to get a message to his master, who comes to the rescue with the police. Satira sets fire to the building, Tinker is freed and Darzu falls to his death. Satira's fate remains a mystery — did he escape or die in the inferno?

5. The Quest of the Limping Man (UNION JACK issue 1,211, 1927)
Having been injured in the fire, Dr Satira limps to a village doctor's house during the dead of night, receives treatment, and kills the medical man. An American named Claban Cragg arrives and explains that he's in Britain to claim a large inheritance. Satira murders him, adopts his identity, then meets with the man's lawyers and receives the inheritance of £100,000 a year, a house in London, an estate in the country, and the remote Cragg Island off the coast of Cornwall. Blake soon gets on his trail but Satira, with a henchman named Cropper, races to Cornwall and sets off for the island in a small boat. Blake watches as a storm sinks the vessel, apparently killing the criminal.

6. The Lair of the Limping Man (UNION JACK issue 1,217, 1927)
Satira survives the storm and falls in with a circus owner named Joel Polado, who was once in the Criminals' Confederation. Using his chemical skills, Satira causes the circus wolf to attack Sexton Blake, who's staying at the local inn while waiting to see whether Satira's body will be washed ashore after his apparent drowning. The doctor uses a plane owned by the circus to parachute onto Cragg Island. Blake, Tinker and Coutts follow but are captured and bound knee-deep in concrete with nooses around their necks. Satira escapes with three henchmen and sails across the Channel.

7. The Adventure of the Dummy's Double (UNION JACK issue 1,246, 1927)
The Chief Commissioner of Police, Sir Henry Fairfax, is kidnapped by Dr. Satira. Meanwhile, Blake realises that the criminal has re-entered the country disguised as a waxwork dummy being delivered to Madam Boutard's Waxworks Museum. Satira kills Blake's primary witness then bombs his Baker Street quarters. He threatens to murder Sir Henry unless the jewelled idol is handed over. Blake sets a trap which Satira falls into. The villain is finally captured.

8. Justice Defied! (UNION JACK issue 1,248, 1927)
On the day of Dr. Satira's trial, posters appear all over London warning that everyone concerned with proceedings against him will be hung by the neck. Sure enough, the prosecuting lawyer and the judge are both found hanging. Nevertheless, the trial proceeds but, as Satira is driven to court, a great many fire engines arrive and block the route. During the confusion, Satira is broken out of his prison van and driven away. Blake gives chase but loses the trail. When he returns to Baker Street, he and Tinker fall into the villain's clutches and are left bound hand and foot beside a soon-to-explode petrol can. They escape but cannot recapture their quarry.

9. The Mystery Man of Marl House (UNION JACK issue 1,249, 1927)
With a massive manhunt underway, Doctor Satira takes refuge in the house of a hermit named Matthew Marl. Unfortunately for him, information received by Sexton Blake suggests that Marl is wanted for a bank robbery committed some years ago, so the detective, with Coutts, arrives to investigate. They settle in a building opposite to keep watch, not realising that it belongs to one of Satira's gang. When the villain discovers Marl's stash of stolen money, he telephones the building to speak with a henchman only to find his call being answered by Blake. Realising that he is close to being captured, Satira takes the money and makes a getaway through a secret passage.

10. Sexton Blake, Convict (UNION JACK issue 1,250, 1927)
Dr. Satira kills a blackmailer and gains access to documents used to bribe Lord Powers. Visiting the victim's home, he demands to be allowed to stay there. When Detective-Inspector Coutts is informed that the Powers Diamonds have been stolen, he visits the home and promptly vanishes. Blake follows to investigate and also disappears. The two detectives awake to find themselves incarcerated in an abandoned prison which has been purchased by Dr. Satira. Together, they manage to escape and are aided by Tinker, who has traced them to the prison. Rousing the local police, they lead a raid to capture Satira but he escapes in a hot air balloon.

11. The Trail of the Bandaged Man (UNION JACK issue 1,251, 1927)
While on the run, Doctor Satira is involved in a train crash. He takes the identity of a dead passenger — a detective named Shrood — and bandages his face to avoid recognition. Travelling to the home of Shrood's client, Satira decides to steal as much as he can. The client's valet has the same idea, so Satira kills him. Sexton Blake, Tinker and Detective-Inspector Coutts come to investigate the murder and are told that it is Shrood who has died. However, the detectives aren't fooled and realise that Satira is somewhere in the house. A search reveals nothing but, after a night spent playing cat and mouse, they uncover a secret passage. Of Satira, though, there is no sign; he has escaped once again.

12. Dead Man's Plunder (UNION JACK issue 1,326, 1929)
The events of this finale occur just 48 hours after the previous tale. Satira runs over a thief and takes his stolen money and jewels. Seeking refuge in a tiny village police station, he is horrified to find Sexton Blake, Tinker and Detective-Inspector Coutts on his doorstep. They have encountered the victim of the theft and are delivering him to the station to report the crime. Satira's henchman, Cruller, masquerades as a constable and imprisons the detectives before Satira then sets fire to the station and makes his getaway in Blake's car, the Grey Panther. The following day, in London, he hides in a warehouse while an associate seeks to sell the jewels via a fence. However, the fence turns out to be the victim of the crime, who leads a double life as a criminal. Confronted with his own property, this man informs Blake (who escaped from the burning police station) of Satira's whereabouts. The detective leads a raid and Satira is finally captured and sent to prison where he will hang for his many crimes.

This marks the end of Doctor Satira.