« ... and suddenly, an ordinary business day becomes a day of horrible visions… »
When he was introduced in 1951 (Star Spangled Comics no. 122), Dr. Terrance Thirteen was a perfect fit for the DC universe: a skeptic who, in the nominally-rational world he inhabited, got to elucidate and debunk all sorts of mock-supernatural shenanigans. When the ghost-breaker made his return in the late 60s (as a foil to his also-returning contemporary The Phantom Stranger), however, the world had changed. The editorial balance had shifted in favour of the mystical, and Dr. 13 wasn’t as fortunate as the kids from Scooby Doo: he now faced bonafide manifestations from the beyond, but he wouldn’t have any of it, becoming a blind, overbearing ideologue in the vein of filmic non-believers Dana Andrews in Night of the Demon (aka Curse of the Demon) or the fabulous Peter Wyngarde in Night of the Eagle (aka Burn, Witch, Burn… adapted from Fritz Leiber’s Conjure Wife).
And things got worse and worse over the years; by now Dr. 13 is treated as a joke and a punching bag (even Matt Howarth blew it, a rare misfire), but that’s the general climate in the modern mainstream: most long-running characters, even the heroes, with a scientific background (Henry Pym, Reed Richards, Tony Stark et al) are frequently depicted as arrogant, misguided and often downright insane.
For a brief time in the early 1970s, Dr. 13 was handled by a sympathetic and skillful writer who understood what the man stood for and what made him tick. For a full example, check out our earlier post on another Dr. 13 case, … and the Dog Howls Through the Night! (1974).
Scripter Skeates stated, a few years ago: « I quite like this story, especially the beautiful psychedelic scary artwork DeZuniga provided (an artist I very much enjoyed working with; he also illustrated a number of my Supergirl tales), plus the ending in which I somehow decided to treat this yarn as though it were a cautionary tale, the lesson learned being that one shouldn’t commit murder! For the longest time a copy of this comic wasn’t in my collection , but a couple of years ago I came upon a copy at a convention — the price-tag was a bit high due to the origin story that’s also in there! When I told my wife I had shelled out forty bucks for a comic with a story of mine in it that didn’t even have credits on it, she concluded that I was the one who was quite definitely insane!! »