Last week we began an examination of one truly twisted tale from 1941’s Daredevil Comics #6: “The Human Beast”, in which a gangster’s brain was transplanted into a wolf’s body. If you need a refresher on Part One (or didn’t read it in the first place – shame on you!), go back and have a look – I’ll wait…

Before we proceed, we need to dispense with the quaint notion that the mass media of the 1930’s-1940’s didn’t deal with sex on any terms. That’s dead wrong, as a look at the 1937 classic movie The Awful Truth will clearly show. Acknowledged today as the first “screwball comedy”, The Awful Truth starred Cary Grant and Irene Dunn as a well-to-do couple who each learns of the other’s infidelity; they decide to divorce, then do their level best to screw up each others’ new relationships. (Some viewers argue that neither of the two was actually messing around on their spouse and that the whole thing was a misunderstanding, but I contend that the evidence of adultery, though subtle, was pretty damn clear). An even earlier example of “sex in cinema” was Lonely Wives (from 1931, starring the always-great Edward Everett Horton), a movie which is still falling-down funny today, and is pretty much “in your face” about its content: the movie is plainly, simply, and clearly all about extramarital sex, and the movie’s humor is often pretty bawdy (even by today’s far more relaxed standards).

Today “sex sells”, and the same was definitely true back when “The Human Beast” was published. Tuck that fact away in the back of your mind for a minute or two as we continue with the story.

We left off last time with Daredevil’s girlfriend, the red-smokin’-hot Tonia Saunders, finding the wolf on a snowy street and “adopting” it (in the mistaken notion that the wolf is a German Shepherd):

At this point we flip the page and come to a sequence which caused a circuit breaker or ten to painfully go “pop” in my head:


This sequence of panels completely fried a bunch of my poor brain’s neurons (or a bunch of my brain’s poor neurons – take your pick).

First, and most obviously, is the “good girl art” aspect of that last panel. Holy guacamole – that gal is hot!

But if that wasn’t enough to fry one’s brain, there’s the implication of what happened between panels three and four of that sequence. Tonia hasn’t let that “dog” out of her sight since she adopted it; the strong implication is that she undressed for bed in front of the wolf, meaning that Wolf Carson definitely got an eyeful.

There’s no way to be 100% certain that this was Charles Biro’s intent. But judging by his other work (as well as the work of other writers and artists) in Daredevil Comics, I would be more than willing to bet a substantial amount of money that I’m right about this. It’s one of those fairly sophisticated subtexts which writers and artists would frequently “sneak” into the comics of the era, twists which would be lost on juvenile readers but which adults would understand. Keep in mind, too, that the typical comic writer/artist of the Golden and Silver Ages tended to be a talent who was frustrated by an inability to find creative work in more “legitimate” (for the time) publications. So these guys would often try to see what they could “get away with” in the comics they wrote and drew – and this sequence appears to be a prime example of that.

But Biro wasn’t nearly done with this twisted story – not by a longshot.

As the yarn continues, we discover that the attempt on Carson’s life (back at the story’s start) was an inside job, planned and carried out by his own lieutenants. Carson somehow senses this (through some kind of “animal cunning” perhaps?) and, while Tonia sleeps, leaves her house through an open window and begins to bump off his former confederates one by one:

One down...


...and it's a hat trick!

While Carson is still out on the prowl, Bart Hill (a.k.a. Daredevil) shows up at Tonia’s place:

And while Tonia is greeting Bart at the door, the Carson/wolf hybrid shows up:

That’s right, boys and girls – Tonia sides with the wolf against her own boyfriend, which takes this story to a whole new Freudian level of sheer wrongness (and makes me very glad I don’t have a degree in psychology, otherwise I’d understand a whole lot more than I care to know about this story).

Tonia puts the boot to Bart, but he plays a hunch and hangs around (as Daredevil) to get the lowdown on what’s really happening:

Daredevil shows up just a moment too late to stop Carson from tearing out Willis’ throat with his canine incisors. Our hero gets into a big honkin’ fight with the wolf, who beats a hasty retreat back to Tonia’s house (pursued all the way by Daredevil and the police [who did a lousy job of protecting Willis in the first place, by the way]). Tonia spots the blood dripping from Carson’s lupine muzzle and figures out the truth:

Daredevil’s boomerangs to the rescue! Daredevil subdues Carson (and blows Tonia off in the process):

(Note the coloring error on Daredevil’s costume. This was a pretty common occurrence throughout the book’s run; in fact this is the second or third time it’s happened so far in this story.)

Daredevil takes Carson to the police station. End of story? No way! Charles Biro proceeds to crank the “weirdness button” right up to “11”:

You got it – the wolf is going to stand trial for murder. Tonia, of course, has had a change of heart about her adopted “pet” and testifies against the wolf. But it’s Carson who actually does himself in, by answering to his real name when called in the courtroom:

Geeze, what a dumbass. Based on evidence provided by Bart Hill (who, as Daredevil, discovered the mad doctor’s secret lab [as we saw in an earlier panel]), the prosecution proves that Carson’s brain had been transplanted into a wolf’s body; Wolf Carson is convicted of murder.

Meanwhile, Bart has refused to speak to (or even acknowledge) Tonia during the trial, upsetting her terribly. But we soon find out that he’s just pranking his gorgeous girlfriend:

Remember, guys – when you get a gal’s dog sent to the electric chair, simple etiquette dictates that you should buy her a new one.

The last panel is contextually awesome: “Keep those cards and letters coming in, boys and girls! Please do write and let us know what your parents said when you asked them to explain the numerous Freudian sexual connotations, subtexts, and innuendos which appeared in this month’s exciting Daredevil story!”

May the God of your choice bless Charles Biro for providing us with one of the wildest, most entertaining, and most crazily warped Golden Age comic stories I’ve ever seen.

Have fun! – Steve

Copyright 2011, Steven A. Lopez. All rights reserved.