Jimmie Dale cover art

Jimmie Dale

(The Gray Seal)


Frank Packard (1877-1942) was a Canadian adventure-and-mystery novelist. He mostly published during the early XXth century.

Though there were film adaptations and everything (not a small deal during the 1910s !) he’s now obscure.

Jimmie “the Gray Seal” Dale was his best-known character. Dale is particularly interesting in that he has many characteristics of the pulps  heroes that would come later.

He’s thus one of the “ancestors” of The Shadow, and from there the Batman and a large chunk of the super-hero genre.


  • Real Name: James “Jimmie” Dale.
  • Other Aliases: Larry the Bat.
  • Marital Status: Single.
  • Known Relatives: Unnamed Father (deceased), Unnamed Mother (deceased).
  • Group Affiliation: None.
  • Base Of Operations: New York City (circa 1915-1920).
  • Height: 6’0” Weight: 165lbs.
  • Eyes: Unrevealed, but dark. Hair: Unrevealed, but also dark.


Powers and Abilities

Jimmie “Gray Seal” Dale is, quite possibly, the top burglar ever to find himself in New York, or perhaps anywhere else. No measure of security, no lock, nothing prevents the Gray Seal from entering where he wishes and taking what he likes.

Nobody will be any the wiser, either, until they arrive the following morning to find the adhesive gray seal affixed in plain sight at the crime scene.

Adding to that is information. Jimmie Dale, one of the cream of society, is well-loved among New York’s elite, most of whom spend their leisure time at the exclusive St. James Gentlemens’ Club. Jimmie Dale’s alter ego, Larry the Bat, holds a similar distinction in the underworld.

Finally, when a case requires the delicate attention of the Gray Seal, a mysterious woman (Marie “Tocsin” LaSalle) provides him with a letter detailing everything related to his next crime.

To top all that off, Jimmie Dale:

  • Is a crack shot.
  • Is a fair artist of many media.
  • Knows the specifications of every safe on the market.
  • Is a fair hand at amateur detective work.



Born to a father who made his millions in the course of designing and manufacturing safes, Jimmie Dale finished his degree at Harvard  at 21. he then found that his father was passing him the family business.

Having more artistic than business leanings, Jimmie Dale followed along loyally, but secretly wished for something far more than this. He did, however, throw himself whole-heartedly into his new line of work.

In order to learn the trade more fully, the inheritor-to-be began studying crime, both real and fictional. That was to better understand the mindset against which he would be defending. What he learned fascinated him, and called out to him.

A wild seal appears

The younger Dale, then, settled upon a brilliant prank that would set the police by the ears. In the months that followed, Jimmie Dale, calling himself “the Gray Seal,” would perform the most spectacular burglaries ever devised. The police were, indeed, baffled, and moreso, because the “burglar” never actually stole anything.

As an added barb, Dale would leave, at the scene of every crime, a paper seal. The seal would also serve to “sign” the pseudo-crime in such a way as to keep the denizens of the underworld—innocent, for once—from taking the blame for Dale’s exploits.

To help him to gather information, and also to give him another hiding place, he established the identity of Larry the Bat for himself. Larry quickly became known across the underworld as a harmless, but occasionally useful, dope fiend.

With his normal identity in tune with the upper crust of New York society and Larry the Bat a celebrity among the upper crust of the New York’s underworld, combined with his native intelligence and skill, the Gray Seal blazed a trail across police and news reports alike.

He was vilified by all, except for one Herman Carruthers, reporter for the Morning News-Argus. And, by purest coincidence, a friend of Dale’s from their days as classmates at Harvard.

Seal and pearls

Then came the expedition into Marx’s, the jeweler’s on Maiden Lane. The entry was flawless. But when examining a string of pearls, Dale became surprised by another entry. Unable to loosen the pearls from his wrist, he was forced to carry them with him in his desperate escape.

The following morning, rather than the morning paper, a letter arrived in a feminine script. It held an ultimatum: “The cleverness, the originality of the Gray Seal as a crook lacked but one thing, and that one thing was that his crookedness required a leading string to guide it into channels that were worthy of his genius.”

The choice was to be revealed through a personal in the next morning’s News-Argus. A single word, “yes” to fold to the blackmail, or “no” to have his secret life revealed, his family name tarnished, and jail time, even after the pearls had been replaced.

Enraged, but practical, Jimmie Dale chose subservience. He knew that he could always foul a job, if he were pushed too far.

Life of crime

And then Jimmie Dale found himself surprised. First, his missions were planned out to the minutest detail—he only needed to follow those directions, and he would be completely successful. Second, he learned that there were more to this mysterious woman’s motives than initially met the eye.

Each of these crimes, in reality, traced the steps of a more inept criminal. Invariably, it was a needy person gone astray. The Gray Seal’s role was to shift blame away from the potential criminal, then to meet with him and “convince” him to go straight. For all the public harassment the Gray Seal faced, there were those who more privately sung his praises.

Meanwhile, Jimmie Dale desperately wanted to learn about this woman who apparently knew everything about him and the underworld. Each mission kept being announced by a simple letter, just like the first, slipped to him as he went about his business for the day.

Find the lady

At times, Mr. Dale would put in full weeks as Larry the Bat for the search, under the (faulty) assumption she did not know of that identity. And, once, too, he even tried to get the media and police to do the searching for him. He thus left a note for Carruthers simply saying, “find the lady, old chap; and you’ll get me.”

Probably a good plan, too, except that Carruthers assumed it to be a blind to throw the police *off* his trail.

And then, Jimmie Dale went a bit too far in his taunting. It is unknown, exactly, what happened. But the police and the newsmen stirred themselves into a frenzy over the Gray Seal, and the mysterious woman sent a simple message: “Things are a little too warm, aren’t they, Jimmie? Let’s let them cool for a year.”

And, for a year to the day, the woman vanished from Jimmie Dale’s life. The Gray Seal vanished from the public eye. He was thought dead by even Herman Carruthers, now editor of the News-Argus.

One year later

The year elapsed and, as mentioned before, to the day, the letters began anew. One after the next, Jimmie “Gray Seal” Dale solved crimes by committing crimes to replace them. In fallow months, he immersed himself in Larry the Bat’s world, desperately hoping to find the woman who had such a hold over him.

In either identity, there would be an occasional break, but never anything of consequence… Until he found a ring, in which was inscribed “Sonnez le tocsin” (“blow the alarm horn”). Incredibly appropriate, since his only contact with the woman had been to metaphorically sound the alarm.

Time passed, relatively uneventfully for one such as the Gray Seal, when the final letter arrived. The Tocsin, as Dale now called her, would send him on his final mission as the Gray Seal. It was simple mission, no less, to simply collect a package from a courier and deliver it. Then their arrangement would be ended, and Jimmie Dale would learn all about his situation.

The Crime Club

Of course, his opponents in this mission were the notorious Crime Club. This was an association of felonious men, each the foremost expert in his particular specialty.

They killed the courier and captured Jimmie Dale. Letting Dale free, they followed his every move until his top servants—Jason, his butler and Benson, his driver—helped him to effect an escape from his own home.

From here, he met with the Tocsin, in her guise as the homeless “Silver Mag”. Which is when he learned her full story—of her, Marie LaSalle’s, family’s move from the west, of her vanishing uncle, of her dead father, and of the decade-long plot of the Crime Club to kill her entire family to steal the LaSalle fortune.

For the woman he had grown to love, he was willing to kill the vile men. But fate intervened, and Larry the Bat managed to turn a crime gone wrong into the death-knell of the Crime Club’s top men.


Unfortunately, though, the manipulated criminal connected Larry with the Gray Seal. They ran off to collect the rewards from news and police agencies, and to participate in the presumed underworld mob that would be coming to kill Larry.

In a race against time, Jimmie Dale made for the Sanctuary. He arrived and changed back to his Jimmie Dale clothes just in time for Marie LaSalle to arrive. She was followed shortly by the predicted mob, intent on burning down the tenement in which Larry the Bat lived. Dale and LaSalle just barely escaped, while the tenement was destroyed. The Gray Seal was dead!

Well, except that there are four more books in the series.

To be continued… maybe.


Packard describes him as “Six feet he stood, muscular in every line of his body, like a well-trained athlete with no single ounce of superfluous fat about him—the grace and ease of power in his poise. His strong, clean-shaven face, as the light fell upon it now, was serious—a mood that became him well—the firm lips closed, the dark, reliant eyes a little narrowed, a frown on the broad forehead, the square jaw clamped.”

Generally speaking, Jimmie Dale wears the finest suits money can buy, except when disguised as Larry the Bat. Then, his wardrobe varies more, but is then centered around clothing of a much lower class. Larry the Bat is also, through the magic of makeup, of darker skin and heavier build.

In either case, when working as the Gray Seal, Jimmie Dale often wears a light silk mask over his head. He also frequently wears a hat, appropriate to his other identity, with the brim leaving most of his face in shadow.


Outwardly, Jimmie Dale is a devil-may-care adventurer, ready to pursue any “mission” at a moment’s notice. Inwardly, he’s a devil-may-care adventurer with a mission.

It’s all artistry to him. He’ll pick locks just for show, or drill them in the profile of famous people, if he has time. Likewise, he’ll always make sure that the proper people receive the proper spoils of his jobs.

And, of course, placed prominently at every crime scene, is the adhesive gray seal, “signing” his work, as it were.

Larry the Bat, by contrast, is a heroin fiend, uninterested in anything around him unless it might net him his drug of choice, or the means to get it himself. At least, that’s the cover. He also rarely appears in daylight, giving him his nickname.

Noteworthy, in any identity, is that Jimmie Dale will not actively take a life. Like many heroes that succeeded him in the Golden Age , he would rarely, if ever, lift a finger to save a vile man from certain doom. But, even with his revolver in hand, he rarely pulls the trigger, and never does so to take a life. Trick shots are far more common.


“It’s so far from a joke that I want your word you’ll get that photograph into my hands by tomorrow afternoon, no matter what transpires in the meantime. And look here, Carruthers, don’t think I’m playing the silly thickhead, and trying to mystify you. I’m no detective or anything like that. I’ve just got an idea that apparently hasn’t occurred to any one else—and, of course, I may be all wrong. If I am, I’m not going to say a word even to you, because it wouldn’t be playing fair with some one else ; if I’m right the Morning New Argus gets the biggest scoop of the century. Will you go in on that basis ?”

“You are a despicable hound ! Here—keep him covered, Carruthers. You’re going to the CHAIR for this, Clayton. The chair! You can’t send another there in your place—this time. Shall I draw you now— true to life? You’ve been grafting for years on every disreputable den in your district. Metzer was going to show you up; and so, Metzer being in the road, you removed him. And you seized on the fact of Stace Morse having paid a visit to him this afternoon to fix the crime on—Stace Morse. Proofs? Oh, yes, I know you’ve manufactured proofs enough to convict him—if there weren’t stronger proofs to convict YOU.”

“I am going to do something that I should advise no other man to do—I am going to put you on your honour ! For the next fifteen minutes you are not to utter a sound. Do you understand ? … Let me be painfully explicit. If you break your vow of silence by so much as a second, then tomorrow, or the next day, or the day after, at my convenience, Markel, you and I will meet again—for the LAST time. There can be no possible misapprehension on your part now.”

“Nix ! I just blew in from Chicago. Used to know de Wowzer dere. He said dis place was on de level, an’ I could always find him here, dat’s all.”

DC Universe History

For the most part, the DCU of the 1910s is barren. So, there’s no reason not to add the Gray Seal to either of Gotham or New York Cities of the era.

It is also noteworthy that Jimmie Dale is a contemporary of Hugo Danner, from Philip Wylie’s novel Gladiator.

If one wished, a GM could create an interesting team in the “early Pulp era” around these two. See also “Gibberne’s Nervous Accelerator” (a drug granting superspeed out of an H.G. Wells story), Tom Swift, Doc Savage, and/or one of the “Holmes-alikes.”

Either way, if Jimmie Dale does exist in the DCU, then he most assuredly either trained or fathered one or more of DC’s Golden Age heroes.

Other possibilities

Not strictly the DCU, but my pet concept is that Jimmie and Marie marry and have a child, Selene, to whom he teaches his skills (for an amusement). Dale takes his teenage daughter on travels throughout the world, but their plane goes down, leaving Selene amnesiac and the only survivor. Selene marries a rich but abusive man, mostly for survival.

She soon divorces him, but he threatens her life. To get away, Selene breaks into his home, and steals some of her jewelry. Feeling a thrill at the break-in, she strikes off to become the Cat, effectively the Golden Age Catwoman.

Typical of the comics, this is all a set-up, a revenge scheme by the remnants of the Crime Club (William suggests placing Ra’s al Ghul at the helm) to destroy Dale’s family, by killing him and guiding his daughter to a life of crime.

In either case, in the 1950s, Selene would go to prison for her crimes, reform, and marry… well, that’s a story best told in Marie’s profile.

Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG

Tell me more about the game stats

The Gray Seal

Dex: 05 Str: 04 Bod: 04 Motivation: Upholding the Good/ Blackmail
Int: 10 Wil: 07 Min: 06 Occupation: Amateur Businessman
Inf: 05 Aur: 06 Spi: 05 Resources {or Wealth}: 012
Init: 022 HP: 045

Artist (Actor): 10, Artist (Musician, Painter, Sculptor, Writer): 03, Charisma (Intimidation): 07, Detective: 08, Gadgetry: 03, Military Science (Camouflage, Tracking): 04, Scientist: 03, Thief (Locks and Safes, Stealth): 13, Thief (Security Systems): 10, Thief (Escape Artist, Forgery, Pickpocketing)*: 05, Vehicles (Land, Water): 05, Weaponry (Firearms): 08

Area Knowledge (New York), Confined HQ (his den and The Sanctuary), Connoisseur, Lightning Reflexes, Popularity (as Jimmie Dale among society types, and as Larry the Bat, among criminals), Scholar (Safes), Sharp Eye, Misc. (The Tocsin will supply him with all knowable information for his mission, including the identities of those involved, maps of the relevant locations, and so on).

St. James Club [High], News-Argus Paper [High, via Herman Carruthers], Street [High].

Dark Secret (multiple identities), Mistrust.


  • “Automatic Revolver” [BODY 04, EV (Clubbing): 02, Flash (Area Effect): 05, Projectile Weapons: 03, R#5]. This likely meant a small, semi-automatic pistol. Perhaps something like a Savage 1915 Automatic Pistol .32 ACP)
  • Flashlight [BODY 02, Flash: 01, R#2; Flash can create a steady glow].
  • Jimmie Dale also carries a wide variety of “tools of the trade” (lockpicks), a black, silk mask, and a thin, flat metal case. Within the case are small sheets of oil paper, protecting gray, adhesive, diamond-shaped seal stickers.
  • This equipment is stored in a light leather vest, which Jimmie wears underneath his normal outer clothes without it being noticeable. The vest can also be rolled into a short, think bundle tied together with thongs, for convenient storage of the picks.

Previous Statistics

Earliest in his career, Jimmie Dale’s motivation was Thrillseeker. After he is given his first mission, he develops an MIA (finding his confederate). This, obviously, is eliminated when they begin working together directly.

Design notes

I went with Dark Secret rather than Secret Identity because, should any two of his identities become linked, it is a sure death sentence for him, whether it is the literal death penalty law or an assassination by the underworld that comes. This very nearly happens, too.

By John Colagioia.

Source of Character: The Adventures of Jimmie Dale by Frank L. Packard (these are public domain and can be found online).

Helper(s): Sébastien Andrivet, Vincent Paul Bartilucci, Jay Myers, William A. Peterson.