Written by Mike W. Barr and illustrated by Norm Breyfogle, The Crime Doctor’s Crimson Clinic is a standalone Batman story about an ex-con who gets mixed up with a backstreet surgeon. Published by DC Comics in 1987, the story first appeared in Detective Comics issue #579 and boasted some truly great artwork that would influence a key piece of the Batman mythology (more on that shortly).
What happens in Batman: The Crime Doctor’s Crimson Clinic?
Batman and Robin are investigating the Crime Doctor – a mysterious medic who patches up the goons of Gotham. The Crime Doctor – aka Dr. Thorne – operates off the books; working as an underground surgeon for some of the biggest mobsters in the city.
One of Thorne’s patients is Mr. McAllister – a mobster in urgent need of heart surgery. In order for Thorne to perform the operation he enlists the services of Schuyler Reems – an ex-con desperate for cash.
In exchange for $100,000, Reems sells himself as a donor. He believes the money will provide for his wife and daughter in his absence, and it is worth more than his life.
While Reems prepares for the procedure, Batman and Robin are able to trace the Crime Doctor and halt the operation. It is at this moment that Reems sees how evil Thorne really is and he helps the Dynamic Duo capture the surgeon – even though it means saying goodbye to $100,000.
Understanding the desperate situation that Reems got himself into, Batman reaches out to offer assistance. He tells Commissioner Gordon that Reems helped him locate Thorne’s clinic, then informs Reems that he has been given a job by Bruce Wayne – a gesture to ensure the ex-Con continues to go straight.
Is Batman: The Crime Doctor’s Crimson Clinic worth a read?
The Crime Doctor’s Crimson Clinic is worth reading for two reasons.
The first reason to read this story is because it is a morality tale – one that shows the importance of doing the right thing at the right time. It looks at the desperate decisions that can be made for money, but the good that can prevail from making better choices.
In the story, Reems is helped by Batman, because he understands that the former criminal simply needs a helping hand to guide him towards prosperity. But the true reward comes from Reems doing the right thing – not for money, but because it is for the greater good.
The second reason to read The Crime Doctor’s Crimson Clinic is because of the artwork of legendary artist, Norm Breyfogle. Breyfogle’s art is superb and provided inspiration for Batman: The Animated Series – one of the best adaptations of the Batman mythology.
All-in-all, The Crime Doctor’s Crimson Clinic is a gem of a story. It often gets overlooked, but it is certainly worth reading (or re-reading).
Has The Crime Doctor’s Crimson Clinic been adapted for film?
The Crime Doctor’s Crimson Clinic has not been adapted for film, however, the story did provide the inspiration for two episodes of Batman: The Animated Series: Paging the Crime Doctor and Old Wounds.
Paging the Crime Doctor aired in 1993 and borrowed a number of elements from this comic book tale, although it did rework the character of Dr. Thorne so that he was no longer menacing. Meanwhile, Old Wounds aired in 1998, and borrowed just one element from the story – the ending.
Both Paging the Crime Doctor and Old Wounds are great episodes. If you have never seen them, my advice is to read The Crime Doctor’s Crimson Clinic then watch the two episodes to see what aspects of the story were repurposed for television.
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