Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Great Moments: The Boy Comics Amputation Scheme

Welcome to another episode of Great Moments in Comics. For those of you looking for an update on my Quest to earn the title of Fearless Front Facer, there will be an exciting announcement later this week. In the meantime, I thought we'd take a step back and look at one of the forgotten great moments in comics history. Previously we've explored such legendary topics as The Strange Death of Dr. Synne, The Jon Sable Dance-Off and Sgt. Fury's Casablanca. Today, though, we look at a story that may top all of them in sheer epicness, The Boy Comics Amputation Scheme.

Now, I know I've been teasing a full review of Boy Comics for months, but while that is still in the works, this great Moment will give you a little preview of why the Crimebuster strip from Boy Comics is one of the great comics of the Golden Age.

Appearing in Boy Comics #19, with a cover date of December, 1944, we have the sad and moving tale of a double amputee by the name of Pete and his erstwhile friend Biff. Now, Biff, as we soon learn, isn't much of a friend to poor Pete at all; in fact, he's a straight up con man working his angle. Pete, as it happens, is a very wealthy double amputee, and Biff's plan is simple; by ingratiating himself in Pete's life and acting as Pete's personal chauffeur and companion, he'll be sure to get a windfall from Pete's will when Pete dies.

Unfortunately for Biff, other than missing both his legs Pete is in perfect health. And after years of toting Pete around town and carrying him up and down the long New York subway stairways every day, Biff has just about had it. So he comes up with a cunning new plan to get his money: murder. The question is, though, how to do it while escaping the consequences.

Finally, Biff comes up with an inspired ploy. Hiring a thug to act as hitman, Biff stages an accident. Lugging Pete down to his daily train ride, Biff starts a loud argument with Pete, making sure that witnesses see him, as this is his alibi. Storming off in apparent anger, Biff flicks his cigarette away, which is actually a signal to his accomplice, who "accidentally" bumps Pete while passing by, just as a train approaches the station:

"Oww," indeed. Biff's plan works perfectly; Pete is gone, it looks like an accident and a dozen witnesses are there to prove that Biff wasn't involved with the deed. All that's left for Biff to do is collect the money, so he heads over to the lawyer's office for the reading of the will. Once there, the lawyer tells him that, just as he thought, Pete had left him a fortune of $1,000,000. However, what Biff didn't know is that Pete was onto him all along. He wasn't sure how Biff would do it, but he knew that Biff would eventually not only kill him, but would do it in a way that was untraceable.

Knowing this, then, Pete put his own little scheme into play in his will. Biff would get the money, but only under very specific circumstances, namely:

Unfortunately for Biff it does say exactly that. Now Biff is in a major quandary, as the only way he can get the million dollars -- and mind you, this is a million 1944 dollars -- is to lose his legs. So, naturally, he does what any right thinking man would do -- he decides to have his legs amputated.

Apparently Biff didn't agree with the old saw that if you don't have your health you don't have anything; after all, he would, in fact, have a million clams. Sure enough, the doctor saws his legs clean off right at the hip, and after convalescing, Biff is ready to get his money. Strapping himself to a board, Biff hauls himself up to the lawyer's office again to get his money.

Just one problem: there isn't a million dollars ot get. See, it turns out that there are some major taxes that need to be paid first, not to mention lawyers fees and other deductibles. The final result of this? Biff has only $150,000 left to receive. Not exactly chump change, but hardly the fortune he had anticipated. And worse, he had already promised to pay the doctor $100k for the operation and his hitman accomplice the other $50k!

Infuriated, Biff wheels himself back to the doctor's office with the hundred G's he owes the doc. He gives the money over, but demands that the least the doctor can do in this situation is fit him with some prosthetic legs. But now Biff receives another jolt of bad news: the doctor amputated his legs too far up to attach fake legs to them, so he's doomed to spend the rest of his life strapped to the skateboard.

Unfortunately for the doctor, he delivers this news just a little to close to a giant window -- and with his ankles too close to Biff's ground level hands. Just one second and the principle of leverage is all Biff needs to reclaim his dough and get revenge for the loss of his legs:

Now there's just one loose end left for Biff to tie up: his accomplice, who is still owed $50,000. Flush from his success with the doc, Biff decides to take out the thug as well and waits for him in his apartment, gun drawn. When the guy finally arrives, Biff gets the drop on him and threatens to shoot him.

But that's where he makes his big mistake, because one second is all the time the goon needs to step forward and smack the gun away from Biff. Unable to get away due to having no legs, Biff begs for mercy, pointing out that he's a legless cripple. The thug's reply? "So you are! That's just going to make things easier!"

And saying this, he proceeds to pick Biff's legless torso up and starts throwing him around the apartment like a football!

"This is what happens to guys who hire guys to kill another guy!"

And that, sadly, is the end for Biff. Leaving Biff's bloody body on the floor, the thug grabs the cash and scrams, which is where the hero of the comic, Crimebuster, finally makes an appearance, only 14 pages into the tale. He gets to Biff just in time to hear Biff describe his assailant with his dying breath. Crimebuster recognizes the description as the man he just passed coming into the building, so he rushes out and chases the thug through Central Park, eventually tackling him into a nearby fountain and pummeling him until the thug confesses his crime.

But it's too late for Biff, who learns too late that greed can not only cost you your life -- it can also cost you your legs and your dignity.

Be here next time for another Great Moment in Comics!

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I enjoy old Golden Age tales like this. Good choice!! Base betrayal and revenge from the grave. LOVE it!