Monday, September 7, 2015

Comics – Doc Savage, Man of Bronze Magazine Archives

Doc by Artist James Bama
It’s a shame some of the classic pulp heroes of the past have fallen into obscurity. The old Doc Savage novel reissues in the 1970s (with those wonderful James Bama covers) hit me at exactly the right age for permanent imprinting: 11 or 12. I thrilled to the exploits of Dr. Clark Savage, Jr., the perfect man with skin bronzed by the tropical sun, and his five inseparable aides. Doc was a genius; a surgeon, inventor, detective, martial arts expert and bodybuilder. I was never sure why he needed his aides, but loved the antics of Monk the chemist, his irascible companion and foil Ham, a lawyer I can’t remember setting foot in a courtroom, Johnny, an archaeologist/geologist, Renny, a two-fisted architect and builder and Long Tom, an electrical engineer. Together, these six heroes fought secret societies, found lost civilizations and saved hundreds of damsels in distress. They made the crazy 1930s a safe place for fellow New Yorkers and the world. 

Doc Savage Movie Cast
In the mid’70s, Marvel Comics, through their Curtis magazine imprint, released eight issues of a classic Doc Savage black & white magazine. Dynamite recently collected all eight issues in a beautifully designed, long-lasting hardcover that really elevates the material. The first issue coincides with the 1975 Doc Savage movie starring Ron Ely. It was plain from the articles in the first issue the Doc movie was meant to start a major franchise, but that never happened. The movie was mediocre and part of an era where every super hero vehicle was camp, because the Batman TV show was camp. Producers couldn’t imagine taking this stuff seriously, and it was another 14 years or so, with the 1989 Batman theatrical movie, before anyone could. 

Doc Savage Magazine #3
The stories in this collection are gems. Doug Moench is the writer for all eight issues, and it’s plain he grew up with and loved Doc Savage. There are no adaptations of Lester Dent’s original novels, Moench sticks with original stories, paced and created for the comic medium. They’re wonderful. Moench perfectly captures the “voices” of Monk, Ham, Renny, Johnny, Long Tom and Doc himself. Even Doc’s equally perfect cousin Pat Savage is featured in a few of the stories, and Moench does her justice as a female adventurer. Moench puts Doc and the crew through their paces, flying to exotic locales, fighting megalomaniacs and monsters, solving mysteries and punching bad guys in the face. It’s everything you can ask of a pulp hero. 

What’s more, all of the original supplemental material is included, including editorials, articles on Doc and his aides, interviews about the movie, ads and lots of other stuff. The original magazines were obviously a labor of love, as is this collection. 

Alas, the magazine only lasted eight issues, and even though the cover says “Volume 1,” this will probably be the only such compilation. Personally, I would welcome new or reprinted Doc Savage tales in any medium. This one was a blast to read, and was reminiscent of both the 1930s when the stories are set and the 1970s when they were written. A beautiful collection. 

Rating: ***** out of 5 stars

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