RUPERT WALDO:
THE WONDER-MAN

by Mark Hodder

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

Rupert Waldo possesses extraordinary strength and cannot feel pain. He is impervious to heat and cold. Over the course of his stories he becomes increasingly honourable, gradually transforming from a villain into a hero.

Rupert Waldo

Over the course of time, many of Sexton Blake's opponents experienced a change of character. Some, such as George Marsden Plummer and Aubrey Dexter, became ever more villainous. Others, like Mademoiselle Yvonne Cartier and Dirk Dolland (aka The Bat), overcame their criminal tendencies and became Blake's friends and staunchest supporters. However, perhaps the greatest transformation of all was that which occurred to Rupert 'the Wonder-Man' Waldo.

When Blake first encounters him, Waldo is the strongman act in a circus and is the perpetrator of a cold-blooded murder. Furthermore, he is revealed to be an escaped convict whose real name is William Waldron.

During their initial encounters, Blake and Waldo are very definitely on opposite sides of the fence. However, slowly but surely, Waldo starts to display his more humane side until, eventually, he becomes somewhat akin to the Hon. John Lawless — an adventurer who operates outside of the law but on the side of justice. Blake recognises Waldo's better qualities, gives him every chance to reform, and they become rather wary allies.

There are a couple of traits that set Waldo apart from the more common run of criminals. The first is that he is possessed of truly amazing physical strength, sufficient to throw a fully grown man high into the air. The second is that he was born with a genetic inability to feel pain, heat or cold (modern medical science has named this condition CIPA — Congenital Insensitivity to Pain with Anhidrosis). This places him among the most extraordinary personages in the pantheon of characters encountered by Sexton Blake.

Though his first appearance in 1918 is a brutal affair, Rupert Waldo's reformation progresses at a steady pace through the subsequent years. In fact, though not mentioned in the Blake saga, there is a suggestion that Waldo finally changed his identity in order to put the past to rest and live a more honourable existence. If this is true, then his further adventures might be found in the series of Norman Conquest novels by Berkeley Gray (Edwy Searles Brooks).

Chronology:

1. Waldo the Wonder-Man (UNION JACK issue 794, 1918)
A murder is committed at a circus and an innocent man is accused of the crime. Sexton Blake sets a trap and, when the real killer falls into it, the detective tries to catch him but the villain proves to be immensely strong and eludes him. Blake identifies him as the circus strong-man, Rupert Waldo, who is actually an escaped prisoner named William Waldron. After being captured by the police, Waldo escapes again and promises to begin a campaign of crime.

2. The Clue of the Five Hairs (UNION JACK issue 799, 1919)
A safe is taken from a house, carried to a nearby grove of trees, broken into and money stolen from it. Detective-Inspector Lennard thinks four men committed the crime. However, clues lead Sexton Blake to surmise that one man — Rupert Waldo — was responsible. Waldo evades the detective but loses the money.

3. The Shanghaied Detective (UNION JACK issue 801, 1919)
An unscrupulous diamond merchant is robbed of fifty-thousand pounds worth of gems, which he, in turn, had stolen from someone else. Sexton Blake identifies Waldo as the culprit but Waldo traps the detective, drugs him, and puts him on a departing ship to get him out of the way. Tinker recruits Nelson Lee and Nipper to help rescue Blake. They then go after Waldo but he manages to escape. A few days later, the original owner of the gems receives them in the post. This is the first sign of the more honourable side of Waldo's character.

4. The Case of the Stacey Rubies (UNION JACK issue 805, 1919)
Tinker realises that one of Earl Stacey's friends — a Canadian millionaire — is, in fact, a disguised Rupert Waldo. The crook is planning to steal the Earl's collection of rubies. Sexton Blake and Nelson Lee try to stop him and, after an initial failure, they succeed. Waldo is captured and arrested.

5. The Great Spiritualism Case (UNION JACK issue 817, 1919)
A young woman named Helen Manners is mysteriously kidnapped during a seance. Sexton Blake agrees to investigate and attends a second seance during which he and Tinker are attacked by a huge headless apparition. When Detective-Inspector Lennard informs Blake that Waldo has escaped from prison, the detective realises that the crook is behind Miss Manners' disappearance and is scheming with her wicked uncle. Tinker discovers that the girl is imprisoned in a sewer. When it begins to flood, Waldo rushes to her rescue before escaping.

6. The Clue of the Green Stain (UNION JACK issue 865, 1920)
Waldo interrupts a murder and gains a formula through which very convincing fake gold can be manufactured. He sets about swindling jewellers and gains £40,000 before Blake steps in and spoils the scheme. Waldo is handed over to the police and promptly escapes from custody.

7. The Human Link (UNION JACK issue 888, 1920)
Rupert Waldo helps a crook to steal a safe. He then lures Sexton Blake into a trap to keep him out of the way while stolen gems, which Waldo has received in payment, are processed by a fence. However, Tinker manages to surprise the Wonder Man, who is left bound hand and foot while Blake is lowered to a barge in a bucket by a crane, there to surprise the crook's cohorts. When one of Waldo's henchmen gloats that the chain on which the bucket is suspended has a weak link and is about to snap, Waldo breaks his bonds, leaps out of a window, and grabs each end of the snapping chain, forming a human link. In return for his life being saved, Blake allows Waldo to escape.

8. The Mystery of the Chinese Antique (UNION JACK issue 892, 1920)
Waldo hatches an ingenious plan to steal a priceless collection of rubies. At the last moment, his plot goes awry when Sexton Blake arrives upon the scene. Waldo manages to get away but is recaptured and the rubies are taken from him. Though denied his prize, he manages to escape once more and flees.

9. In the Grip of Waldo (UNION JACK issue 942, 1921)
Waldo invents a fake secret society — the Clan of the Seven Heads — in order to part rich men from their cash. When Sexton Blake gets wind of the scheme, the Wonder Man comes up with an elaborate plan to get the detective out of the way for a few days. Blake, though, foresees every move and puts a counterplot into action. Waldo is defeated but when the police come to arrest him, he uses his brute strength to escape.

10. The Wonder Man's Challenge (UNION JACK issue 948, 1921)

11. Rupert Waldo — Stuntist (UNION JACK issue 962, 1922)

12. The Flaming Spectre of Cloombe (UNION JACK issue 1,054, 1923)

13. The Electric Man (UNION JACK issue 1,077, 1924)

14. The Leopard of Droone (UNION JACK issue 1,104, 1924)

15. The Night Watch (SEXTON BLAKE LIBRARY 1st series, issue 374, 1925)

16. The Affair of the Roman Relics (UNION JACK issue 1,118, 1925)

17. The Pauper of Pengarth Castle (UNION JACK issue 1,131, 1925)

18. The Curse of Pengarth Castle (UNION JACK issue 1,132, 1925)

19. The Great Stadium Sensation (UNION JACK issue 1,135, 1925)

20. The Impersonators (SEXTON BLAKE LIBRARY 2nd series, issue 33, 1925)

More to come... ...