When the five aides of Doc Savage were introduced in the 1933 novel The Man of Bronze, they were featured more or less equally, but it did not take long for a favorite to emerge from among them. The apish chemist Andrew Blodgett “Monk” Mayfair, usually in tandem with his friend and intellectual sparring partner Ham, became spotlighted in almost every novel throughout the Street & Smith run of pulps.
Monk’s character went through an evolution over time. All of the aides were competent and depicted in ways that allowed them to display their areas of expertise. As the series progressed they tended to slip into caricature, being defined instead by signature quirks of personality. Their competence as adventurers slipped somewhat as well, as they were given to being captured, kidnapped, blundering into near-deathtraps, and requiring rescue from Doc. Monk and Ham, with their perpetual quarrel, became something of a device for comedy relief. Later in the series, in the 1940’s, their dialogue and behavior became more realistic, less cartoonish.
However, no matter the tone of the stories, it was rare for any of the aides to appear solo in more than periodic chapters in the novels. But Monk did have a few occasions of standing alone. He appeared by himself on the cover of the pulp magazine once, in 1940. A uniquely thoughtful pose, working with his chemical apparatus.
And in the January 1976 issue of Marvel Comics’ Doc Savage black and white magazine, they tried an intriguing experiment. Monk was left out of the main story (The Inferno Scheme, featured here in an earlier blog post) and instead appeared in a solo adventure later in the magazine. Marvel had planned to feature each of the aides in similar tales, but the magazine was discontinued after issue #8, and only the Monk story saw the light of day in that format.
But it’s interesting (and fun)…a blend of Monk’s special idiosyncrasies, his rough humor, his charm, as well as his intelligence and superlative skills as a chemist. A memorable fellow indeed, Mr. Mayfair.