Profiles in Courage: The Tiger Man
Ah, the Golden Age of Comics. When a masked crimefighter dressed as a hobo clown could carry a story.
It was, to say the least, a different time. This guy, for instance, probably wouldn't fly today:
Yes, friends: The Armless Tiger Man. Forget about Daredevil, this guy held his own against the Angel and--in case you missed it--he doesn't have any arms.
Not that beating the Golden Age Angel was that hard, mind you. Also known as Thomas Halloway, he wasn't much more than a flamboyantly-dressed private eye who, according to Jess Nevins, was taught "everything" in his youth and occasionally had the power to fly. Still, that's more than I can do, and you've got to respect that dude's slick moustache.
He runs across the Tiger Man in story from December, 1941's Marvel Mystery #26--reprinted for your convenience in 1999's Marvel Mystery #1--which was beautifully pencilled by Paul Gustavson. It opens with the Tiger Man, sporting a cloak and hat to hide his missing limbs, chilling in a bar and ordering a nice tall glass of (I swear to God) "Chateau Quim." I thought it might've been a typo, but his taste in wine is actually a plot point later in the story and, nope, that's it: Chateau Quim.
Anyway, after exchanging some money with a defense plant worker, the Tiger Man leads him to a back alley and, well, see for yourself:
He bites him and then dances on his body until he's dead. That's pretty much what makes the Tiger Man the most awesome Golden Age villain of all time: He will kill you with his bare hands--and he doesn't even have any hands.
Anyway, after reading about the murder in the newspaper, the Angel sets out to track the Tiger Man down, using his taste in wine to track him to a hotel. Disguised as a waiter, he brings him some room service--on a tray covered by a dome, which seems needlessly cruel--but the Tiger Man sees through the ruse when the Angel doesn't wait around for a tip and gives him a nice kick to the face for his trouble. That's when the Angel explains why it's generally better to have arms than not have them, in a language we can all understand: The Uppercut.
What follows is one of the best chase scenes I've ever seen, as the Tiger Man makes the leap from an inner balcony to the chain of a chandelier hanging above the lobby, grabbing it with his teeth and fending off the Angel with a few well-placed roundhouse kicks. And it doesn't stop there:
The Angel hits the floor after a three-story drop, only to wake up to the aftermath of a No-Armed Rampage through the lobby. Due to the Tiger Man's German accent, the Angel has him pegged as a Ratzi saboteur, and figures he's gone to the defense plant. He has, as we find out in a panel that shows the Amazingly Armless Tiger Man getting out of his car, which he presumably drove to the factory. What follows can only be described as "Inspirationally Awesome."
Without the use of his arms, the Tiger Man uses his teeth--his teeth!--to dig under a fence, steal a guard's keys, use the keys to open a lock, and turn a pressure valve. Then he grabs a hammer with his toes and commences to wrecking some machinery.
The Angel shows up--possibly flying--and is in imminent danger of having his throat ripped out in the Tiger Man's powerful jaws, but is saved when he wedges a piece of metal in the guy's mouth, buying himself time to put him in the ankle-lock and tie him up. Then he casually plops down next to the Tiger Man and strikes up a conversation, and we get his amazing origin story.
See, he was a factory worker in Munich when he lost his arms in an industrial accident, and the doctor gave him a book on how to use his feet and teeth instead of his hands, which he put into practice by bending iron bars with his teeth and throwing knives with his toes. Then, and this is the best part, he swears vengeance on all machines. He's the Batman of industrial accidents. It's beautiful. Anyway, the Gestapo don't take too kindly to his actions, but when he explains his solemn mission, they just ship him off to America so he can wreck factories there.
Of course, that doesn't stop the Angel from sending him back to Jail with a hearty "There'll be plenty of quiet where you're going! Maybe that mad obsession will leave you! If it doesn't, we might unleash you on the Nazis! That is, if the R.A.F. has left any factories left standing in Germany!"
Way to go, Angel. Shipping the mentally ill off to perform terrorist actions. It's the American Way!