Story file: Secrets of the Demon Dwarf
A gothic tale combining WWI warfare, a cackling supervillain and bizarre, monstrous attacks on the good folk of the British countryside, Secrets of the Demon Dwarf is as close as one might get to the archetypal early-1970s Lion story. It was a sequel to the better-remembered Black Max, starting the week after Black Max ended and running for twenty-one episodes. Catalan artist Alfonso Font drew Secrets of the Demon Dwarf for most of its run, bringing a classy Spanish flourish to this otherwise most British of yarns.
The demon dwarf of the title was one Doktor Gratz, a crazed German scientist of the Great War who forged an uneasy alliance with Max and was last seen scuttling towards a bleak chateau in No Man’s Land on the Western Front during heavy conflict in 1918. His body was never found by British troops but the sinister scientist was presumed dead. Secrets of the Demon Dwarf opened in 1972, as a team of French construction workers discovered a vault beneath the ruins of the chateau, and the body of Gratz – not dead but in suspended animation.
Doktor Gratz was revived and was distraught to discover the war was lost fifty-three years previously. He travelled to Britain and tunnelled beneath our green and pleasant land in an Iron Cross-adorned mole-borer, from which he vowed to destroy us all. The story continues with a series of Gratz’s attacks on British towns and military centres using eccentric inventions such as a fiery, giant, robotic WWI German soldier, bomb-laden model aircraft, a mind-controlling airship disguised as a giant Christmas cracker, and – for the series finale – a cache of deadly spinning discs that opened up into enormous springs that could wreak damage with the power of tornados.
The supporting cast included: dashing RAF Squadron leader Bill Wilson, grandson of Black Max’s nemesis Tim Wilson, who was assigned to investigate Gratz; Grilla the jungle-man, a muscle-bound Tarzan-a-like whom Gratz kidnapped from the circus to be his muscle; a retired British general whose country mansion – full of WWI museum pieces – Gratz appropriates as a base of operations; and Wilson’s boss, named only as ‘the head of internal security’.
Secrets of the Demon Dwarf’s final episode saw Gratz and Grilla crushed by the falling pillar of a town hall, but the story was left open-ended. One day, the demon dwarf may return …