The New Doc Savage Movie Idea Page
Archived Smaller Consideration Blog Posts
Oct 24, 2009 Update: Hory Clap! Big news on the Doc Savage movie front. According to Ain't It Cool News, as of October 24, 2009, Shane Black will write a script for the producing team of Orci & Kurtzman. I guess Michael E. Uslan is out of the picture, literally and figuratively.
Feb 20, 2010 Update: After two decades removed from collecting inflammable art I attended a comic book show in Long Beach, CA, where I picked up the new Batman/Doc Savage crossover "First Wave Begins". I don't like the photo-esque and blended pastel color schemes of today's comics, and this one has Doc minimally drawn to say the least. On the 29th page of art Doc looks like a middle-aged Swedish hippie in a white 99 Cent Store t-shirt not even trying to suck in his expanding girth. The story was conceived and then abandoned in the writer's mind. Doc does nothing a fan would recognize as distinctive, and having Doc be thought of as a glory seeker and in need of comforting is out of character and not an exciting new direction. What the world needs is Doc defined at his best from the original run of the pulps. That Doc says little yet commands all attention when he's in the room, and he always radiates physical prowess and intense focus. The back of the comic book has an idea section that expands on the secondary characters as I do below, but I at least don't picture Monk as a guy who unloads trailers at the Fulton Fish Market, or give Johnny a ponytail and a receding hairline that starts near the top of his head.
I read this again and don't like Doc at all. I'm glad this is a one-shot. Doc’s lost for a purpose. He'll do things “As long as the cameras are rolling”. Batman thinks of Doc: “His confidence borders on arrogance”. Doc doubts himself and mumbles to his dead father “Am I ready for the journey you chose for me?”. He makes a public speech and says “I’ll stake my considerable reputation on that claim”. Doc would never boast of having a "considerable reputation." Never. In the comic's character notes it says Doc “He has a dry sense of humor that many people find arrogant and off-putting”. Why make Doc a prick? To make him more "human"? Because he's too good to be true? Not everybody has to be a prick to be believable.
Nothing is more wrong than a shot of Doc Savage holding a gun - especially when it's a Buck Roger's toy. I'm also against Doc as a 55 year old steroidal marine with a head composed mostly of jaw.
I also picked up the 1988 run of Doc comics from DC, basically unreadable but maybe most comics are. Doc's gotta gat and check out Monk with his mustachio and remaining horseshoe of white hair. He looks like he just got back from babysitting the grandkids.
The highlight of the day was shaking hands with Bernie Wrightson. I failed to not stare as his crazy overgrown eyebrows.
March 20, 2010 Update: While a new Doc Savage movie trudges through development hell I bought a 120MM (4.7244 inches!) unpainted resin statue of Doc down on one knee proposing marriage to a python. He looks like Spock from the side. I'm thinking of spray-painting it day-glo orange and broiling it in the oven for 90 minutes.
I also picked up issue #1 of Dark Horse Comic's four-book "Curse Of The Fire God", continuing a trend of having the cover characters look abso-fuk-lutely nothing like how they're drawn inside. It's well written and I hope everything works out in the end. On the cover Monk looks like Charles Laughton in The Hunchback Of Notre Dame, and Doc's telegraphing his plan to punch a pair of flying fire cobras in the snoot. Doc's inhuman widow's peak doesn't look all that ridiculous for a change and the light reflections on his face are nicely realistic.
Inside Doc's an eleventy foot tall behemoth who in theory shouldn't be able to touch his own nose.
March 27, 2010 Update: From
Variety sometime in February: "Columbia Pictures has hired Shane Black (Kiss Kiss,
Bang Bang, Lethal Weapon) to direct Doc Savage, the Man of
Bronze who was originally published in American pulp magazines during the 1930s
Doc Savage was created by publisher Henry W. Ralston and editor John L. Nanovic at Street and Smith Publications, with additional material contributed by the series' main writer, Lester Dent.
Black will direct from a screenplay he is writing with Anthony Bagarozzi and Chuck Mondry. Neal Moritz will produce through his Sony-based Original Film.
'Doc Savage is an icon, a character with limitless possibilities,' said Columbia co-president Matt Tolmach, 'We have had a great experience working with Neal to bring another classic character of the era, the Green Hornet, to a new generation of fans, and we think he and Shane make the ideal team to bring Doc Savage back to the bigscreen.'
Ron Ely previously played Doc Savage in the 1975 Warner Bros Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze. That film was directed by Michael Anderson."
March 31, 2010 Update: I received a resin statue of Doc. I cleaned off as much of the extraneous resin pieces as I could without potentially breaking something important. I'm no rocket surgeon - how do I remove the gunk under Doc's boots without snapping off his feet in the process? Is that piece above the tiki idol's eye supposed to be there? My 120MM Doc statue wound up being random pieces of unfinished plaster that don't fit together. Nice hobby.
April 12, 2010 Update: If I were the betting sort I'd wager a new Doc Savage movie would succumb to the fate of the horrid 2008 Spirit film, which unlike the Doc Savage books can be affordably adapted as a tv series taken directly from the source materials. Director Frank Miller either had no clue what makes the characters work or he could only adapt them to his Sin City template by treating Denny Colt as a missing chapter from that film. Doc Savage is similarly a blank slate of whatever it is you think you remember him to be. Look at all the various depictions of him over the years.
Doc in the original pulps as based on Clark Gable, Tarzan, and Sherlock Homes. The paperback reprints has him as a slightly mummifed middle age man with a nuclear widow's peak, and more recent renderings has him as a steroidal, gun-toting marine with insanity behind his eyes. There's also a tendency to superimpose the face of an actor or maybe the artist's friend Stanley on Doc.
Since the pulps, fans, and artists can't agree who Doc Savage is or what he looks like I'm thinking a studio pitch for a new Doc Savage movie devolves into generic high concept adventure mongering that has little to do with Doc Savage, just like the Spirit abomination.
An angel gets shivved every time some internerd casting director/slash-fiction auteur throws in their stunt casting choices, this first one with Jack Black as Monk - as if that would happen and my god would that make the movie twelve layers of wrong. Job #1 is defining and then finding the best Doc Savage that's true to the best aspects of the novels. The other castings would then all be dependent on how well they fit the characters - not the other way around. Nothing personal but this guy's casting for a Buckaroo Banzai remake, not Doc Savage.
Doc – The Rock or Hugh Jackman
Monk - Jack Black or Oscar Gutierrez (aka Rey Mysterio)
Renny - Brad Garrett; (Everyone loves Raymond)
Long Tom - David Hyde Pierce (Fraser)
Ham - Charlie Sheen (Platoon, Two and a Half Men)
Johnny - Peter Stormare (Prison Break, VW Commercials, Constantine)
This set has David Faustino, Bud Bundy for crap's sake, playing Monk. Can you see now why puppies cry?
Doc Savage (6’-0”) – Dwayne Johnson (6’-4”)
Long Tom (thin, not tall) – Orlando Bloom (5’-10.5”)
Renny (6’-4”) – Brian Steele (6’-7”)
Monk (just over 5’) – David Faustino (5’-3”)
Johnny (tall, gaunt) – James or Oliver Phelps (6’-3”)
Ham (slender) – Jude Law (5’-11.5”)
If they make Doc Savage a generic action character from the 1930s it will stink, and it won't stop until the cows come home to say it doesn't have to stink any more. Stunt casting will make it even more. A Doc Savage movie needs to have the impact of the original Indiana Jones movie in the desert, Tarzan in the jungle, and Batman in New York City, and that will only come through a strong script and excellent character definitions and development. He's too old at this point but I keep on coming back to Brendon Fraser as Doc Savage because he looks like the original drawings and is listed as almost 6' 4". Add lifts and he's the 6' 7" of some of the better novels. Even bulked up his proportions would have been excellent. Cast everyone smaller except for the 7' tall, 500 pound Paul Wight as his nemesis. A Doc Savage movie should exist on a higher scale of size and physicality. I have Long Tom's character as human scale but the rest are mental and fighting skill aberrations. Nothing Doc does is small scale and attention centers on him in any scene he's in.
I'd also like a Doc Savage movie to have as much live action as possible and only use CGI when mandatory. It would be a nice throwback to a time when movies didn't just look impressive but were impressive. Lastly, I'd like a pony.
April 21, 2010 Update: I bought two recent Doc Savage-related "First Wave" comics. The first features Doc Savage and The Spirit while the other is simply titled “Doc Savage”. It’s the one with Doc on the cover as Ray Liotta looking like he’s been slurping ‘roids while training heavy on PX90. Behind him, Monk, Renny and Long Tom are straight outta The Boondock Saints while Ham looks like Batman’s butler Alfred and Johnny’s got a bony nazi German scientist face. The other book has Doc with a gun in his hand, again. Today’s word is “douche”. Only a douche puts a gun in Doc’s hand. Why not have The Spirit carry a gun? There's another character the book gets all wrong. From now on Bruce Lee should always be depicted carrying a machete.
They’re both First Wave books but the Doc Savages within have nothing to do with each other. The solo book is faint praise better than the other. At least he doesn’t have a gun. They have him slowing his descent down an elevator shaft by clawing at one wall with his bare hands – which cause no subsequent damage to his hands. Besides defying all laws of mechanics, he’s human, not Superman. His fingers should have been ground down to nubs even if were possible to do what he did. Doc’s also given the gift of clever quips, like Arnold. Ugh. Instead of talking to himself there should be narration as to what he might be thinking. Doc doesn’t speak unless he has something vital to say. Remember? From the books?
It’s bad to focus on Doc Savage’s inner feelings. It makes him whiny. They get some facts right but there’s nothing particularly Doc Savage about it, which has a needlessly long and simple action scene taking up most of its length. This one takes place in the present day, destroying a solid half of the zeitgeist and appeal of the characters. Doc Savage's era is the future of the past, and it's his only natural setting.
The threesome book is similar to the last First Wave book with Doc and Batman where they interact. In this one Doc’s not a lumpy ex-hippie but he’s still a brooding playboy. That’s so wrong. A reporter asks him “Any truth to the rumors ‘bout you and the President’s wife?” This is a sad trend. It's as if the writer glanced at the Doc Savage Wikipedia page and then decided to douchebag it up good. The book also bogs down in the “What kind of hero do we worship” question, which is how clever funny book writers have been turning the genre over on its head since what, 1985’s The Dark Knight Returns?
The last thing the world needs is Doc Savage subjected to anti-hero existentialism. I'm also noticing a lot of Doc Savage drawings where his great intellect appears to be buried in a bottomless pit of muscle-bound aggression.
May 9, 2010 Update: If you haven't seen it there's an interesting comment thread at an article titled "Dammit, Sony, Nobody Wants A New Doc Savage Movie". I don't want a new Doc Savage movie if it'll be generic high concept hero crap inspired by the original characters. The Spirit movie killed The Spirit. The George Pal Doc movie wounded Doc Savage in the 70s. There's no reason to reanimate the corpse only to butcher it again.
I bought the 1991 Millennium Comics first issue. I originally called this the Doc Of Finland cover but on closer inspection it could also be Doctor George Hamilton making a frumpy face. He's holding what should be an art deco megaphone. I know, it's a gun, from the future, of 1938. The story's not bad, especially compared to most recent books that double up on postmodern hero/anti-hero existentialism because the writers have only a cursory understanding of Doc Savage and don't have the talent to think up an original mystery story.
A successful Doc Savage movie would serve the greater purpose of settling what Doc Savage should look like in comic books. Every comic I find has their own take on it, making him ultimately look like nothing. He's been around since 1933 and there's no agreement on what he looks like? Can that be said about any other major character who's been around for many years? This book has Doc in a Ron Ely mold but with a harder face. His facial expressions are strangely all over the map, along with everyone else's. The art's not every good and they use watercolors in every open space. Captain Canuck lives. They get the proportions wrong when they have a villainous henchman who's supposed to be exactly Doc's size and shape look twice as large.
It's heavy on exposition from Doc's mouth like he's in a confessional. I don't want him to give a I'm-Damaged-Goods speech. Doc's hyper-emotional, which isn't him at all. In the opening there's a blatant rip-off of The Rocketeer that diminishes the Doc brand as a copycat. Who came first is secondary, just like you can't have a Doc movie now saying he's at the Fortress Of Solitude.
May 16, 2010 Update: If you know where to look, pirates have scanned all kinds of comic books into the .cbr format. You then need a CBR program to view the pages. I own the 1966 Gold Key Doc Savage comic. I found this info on it, and I forgot there was to be a 1966 or so Doc Savage movie starring Chuck Connors:
966 Gold Key comic book with cover by James Bama as co-creator of Doc
Savage, author Lester Dent retained the radio, film, and television rights to
the character as part of his contract with Street and Smith Publications,
publishers of the Doc Savage pulp magazine. Although Dent succeeded in launching
a short-lived radio program, he was never able to interest Hollywood in a Doc
Savage film. Upon Dent's death in 1959, his widow, Norma Dent, acquired the
radio, film, and television rights to Doc Savage.
The production team of Mark Goodson and Bill Todman announced the intention to produce a Doc Savage film to cash in on the popularity of the re-issued pulp novels by Bantam Books and the James Bond craze sweeping the movies.
The film would be based on the July 1934 pulp novel The Thousand-Headed Man, with Chuck Connors as Doc, for a 1966 release.
Unfortunately, the producers and Condé Nast Publications, the new copyright owner to Doc Savage brand, failed to secure the film rights from the estate of Lester Dent. By the time the legal issues had been resolved, the production team and cast had moved on to do the offbeat western Ride Beyond Vengeance.
Only the now-rare, one-shot comic book movie tie-in published by Gold Key, with cover artwork by James Bama, remains to mark this aborted film undertaking.
It’s a 36-page rendering of the 17th Doc Savage novel, mainly true to the original but not immune to short-cuts only a child would let pass, like a hypno-ring Doc wears that puts three thugs in a trance. There’s a lot of plot in a short span, and even though it’s truncated to hell the story is much better than recent Doc books that don’t even try to recreate the feel of the pulps, which were period mystery novels with strange characters doing weird things and who knows who’s good, bad or faking it.
Lester Dent and the other Kenneth Robesons generally did a decent job conjuring up new and different science-fiction-mystery-adventure premises. I don’t like the Freudian-crisis Doc of the later novels because they make him out to be a bumbling worry-wart who only wins through luck and leftover courage, inventions, and planning from before he became cripplingly introspective. What makes a number of the better pulps less than what they should be are mysteries resolved with silliness. The endings can’t cash the checks the beginnings set up (like your typical Saturday Night Live sketch where they have no idea how to end a scene). A great example is the one where giant prehistoric lizards are actually small lizards seen through a magnifying glass panel set in a door. The Derrick Devil also resolved itself poorly as the killer goo honestly did seem to have a mind of its own.
What I dislike about most of the new Doc Savage comic books is that whoever is writing them either doesn’t know or doesn’t care to know anything about the characters and stories beyond a launching point for his own surface sketches of attitude, style, and generic action scenes that don’t hide the fact there’s no creative plot or mystery story being created. Doc Savage stories are an archetype of escapist literature that nobody’s making an effort to recreate. Everyone has Doc packing heat for Buddha’s sake!
In this 1966 comic most faces appear to be added after the fact by a different artist, creating distorted proportions and angles. Will Eisner did that with The Spirit but his results weren’t comical like here. In close-ups they’ll have Doc look like the James Bama prototype with a nicely rendered look, but otherwise he’s a Chuck Connors/Kirk Douglas/Frank Gorshin thing with most facial features squished together. His Eddie Munster widow’s peak goes all the way down to his etebrows. Doc’s sixty years old, speaks out loud, and thinks in full sentences, as when he notes “The heat-ray melted that lock like butter.” Doc Savage stories need to have narration that doesn’t read his mind but describes his actions. He’s more the quiet type. There’s nothing wrong with a character like that, and that’s who and what Doc Savage is.
May 23, 2010 Update: This week’s comic review is of 1992’s Doc Savage: Manual Of Bronze, a one-shot from Millennium Publications that well enough sums up the main characters and settings. Fourteen people contributed and company founders Mark Ellis and Paul Davis put it together. They thank Norma Dent and Will Murray. It’s a neat little compendium of things Doc Savage.
The cover’s creepy and gets more so as you consider it. Doc’s in what looks like an underground cinder block bunker (maybe it's the public storage locker he lives in), and cheap wood shelving holds what’s either rockets or eggplants on pedestals. He's a millionaire many times over, so he's hardcore nuts for living in what most consider mom's basement. The framed picture of his whimsical helicopter-plane is chintzy while the soldier of fortune arsenal (including a Buck Rogers ray zapper) and single heavy bag scream Travis Bickle meets steroids meets self-hating homophobia. Doc’s squatting in the manspreading position, and thankfully they didn’t bless him with moose knuckles. Doc’s gangsta posing with his fetish gun... Did I mention it's creepy?
It gets better. There’s spec sheets on all the major characters and they toss in three villains for flavor. The underwhelming John Sunlight is there as he’s appeared twice. Cadwiller Olden from “Repel” is a great choice but not especially Mo-Gwei from “Meteor Menace”. Doc villains either die, go to prison forever or get the ‘ol Doc Savage lobotomy special.
Doc’s listed as 6’ 8”, 270 lbs; Monk’s 5’ 2”, 260 lbs; Ham’s 5’ 10”, 160 lbs; Pat’s 5’ 9”, 140 lbs; Renny’s 6’ 4”, 250 lbs; Johnny’s 6’ 2 ½’s, 150 lbs; and Long Tom is 5’ 4”, 140 lbs. I like these heights and weights (Johnny's originally almost 7' tall. I wouldn’t have Pat in a film as there’s too many main characters to start with. The concise character histories are fun to read. Keep in mind the characters changed constantly depending on the writers' mood and memory, so characters templates were to me never set in stone beyond basic guidelines. Poor Renny is illustrated with massive green hulk hands.
There’s a trivial cross-section diagram for the Helldiver sub and floor plans to Doc’s HQ. The equipment vest they have is too Banana Republic and there’s only six pockets to it. The vest was like an undershirt that didn’t bulge out in any way, and it had many pockets that held enough chemicals and explosives to take out lower Manhattan. The body armor they wore was bullet-proof Long Johns. The Superfirer Pistol looks right but the barrel is ugly. The end of the comic has seven pages of various talented fanboy-level comic art renderings of Doc and his Kooky Krew.
The money shot of the comic are five pages of a proposed Doc Savage newspaper comic strip Lester Dent and illustrator Paul Orban created in 1936, based on the very good Doc book “The Sargasso Ogre”. It seems standard issue for the era. The first panel has portraits Doc and his men, and then the next panel has the villain look exactly like Monk. It took me a few seconds to figure it out.
June 6, 2010 Update:
On eBay I won the hardcover edition of Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life, Phillip
Jose Farmer’s 1973 fictionalized biography of the fictional character Doc
Savage. I recall
receiving it and asking myself “Why did I have to have this again? That’s right,
I'm bored and compulsive.” Surprisingly it's
not about Doc defeating the Antichrist in the battle of Armageddon. I read it in the 70s as a paperback. I liked
the researched parts but thought it went off the rails pretending Doc Savage was
both a real person and a real person related to other
real characters like Sherlock Holmes and Tarzan. It's slash fiction without the
sex. I’ve never cared to know Doc’s back story beyond what’s given in the
books. The last thing Doc Savage needs is Freudian analysis...
FINALLY a Doc Savage comic book with the right feel and characterizations. It’s the two-issue The Shadow And Doc Savage from Dark Horse Comics, released in 1995. The tone of the art is nice but figures, angles, and faces are all screwed up. Body sizes change constantly and in one frame The Shadow’s driver Shrevvy has a platypus' nose. The colors are vibrant, the heavy shadow motif works well, and the clothing and setting choices are perfect. The series gets a lot right in 54 pages.
The first shot of Doc is how I pictured him in my idea section. You immediately learn most of what you need to know about Doc’s size, strength and training. Monk is as the books depict him, for a change, but Ham looks like a Spanish gigolo with his leetle waxed moostache. The nuances of their friendship are nicely portrayed in this comic but the raging anger part should be removed in a feature film. The other three assistants are mentioned at the end, but in this case they’d be overkill. A new movie would need them all.
This one has everything: mutated monsters, nazis, a scientist father and his pretty daughter, the mastermind in disguise, Doc’s trick heal and fake teeth, the flea run, the black light lantern, underworld placement agency thugs, anesthetic pellets, Doc gives the bad guys a warning of their impending doom, Doc’s generally stoic, he doesn’t carry a gun, the Hindenburg! Doc's first and foremost a surgeon, inventor and master planner. On top of that he’s built like a tank. That’s what the other Doc comics get wrong. They have him as a paramilitary gun freak who might as well be a high school dropout. Either that or he has a fragile and solemn mind.
Doc trills a few times. I understand it from reading the novels but it’s silly. Explain it to a loved one and imitate the sound. They’ll look at you like you’re a moron. Trill louder as they back away slowly. The Shadow gains the strength of The Hulk in order to save Doc with his fifty foot scarf, but I hear comic book physics are story driven.
The Shadow and Doc Savage is a great funny book. Have an older kid read it to you today!
June 13, 2010 Update: I’m the new owner of a 100 piece Doc Savage jigsaw puzzle, commemorating the smash 1975 film starring Ron Ely. There’s not much to add except it has 104 pieces. It will sit proudly on my Ikea bookcase Shelf Of Honor until the reading of my will...
week’s Doc Savage funny book review is of the two comic Doom Dynasty series from
Millennium, published in 1991. Hot steaming crap on a platter, Doc appears
periodically, mostly with his shirt off, in a story more about the villain’s
hate hard-on for Doc’s dead pop and grandpap. The bright watercolors are a cheap
distraction from ugly, ugly art, and there’s nothing particularly Doc Savage
about Clark Jr. and the three aids on hand (Monk, Ham and Renny). It must be hard to write a new and interesting Doc
Savage tale since these are another one where Somehow Important Action Guy and his pals generically get out of
a jam and save the world. There’s some backstory of Doc and his father, an
archetype of angst that strives for a resolution that’s 1) not needed, and 2)
not asked for. Later, whiny, fumbling, introspective Doc Savage books are
garbage. The high concept sell of Doc Savage is of the heroic early books, a rare
case of high concept being the best and most accurate.
I guess a Doc Savage story is too much to ask so comic writer's visions of him are rehashed plots with the usual anti-hero and anti-American themes d-bag industry nerds find edgy. Then there’s the covers. Issue two has Doc as Hamlet - thematically clever but again it’s irrelevant to the character's central appeal. Issue one is Doc discovering his own studliness in a mirror while flexing and holding his megaphone raygun in the ever useful Down Position. Man cleavage wins the day, again.
June 20, 2010 Update:
I watched 2005's Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
as it's the only film directed (he also produced and adapted from
the novel) by new Doc Savage movie producer Shane Black, who championed
the buddy action-comedy by writing the Lethal Weapon films, The Last
Boy Scout, and The Long Kiss Goodbye, all of which I like but
I hope he doesn't intend to make a new Doc Savage movie where everyone
is clever and hip, and the actors wink at the camera while the film
winks at the audience. That would be bad. Nothing about Doc Savage is
campy, or even self-aware, except for the detrimental 1975 George Pal film.
Director Of Photography Michael Barrett and Production Designer Aaron Osborne did an amazing job lighting and furnishing colorful indoor and outdoor sets, creating a modern, colorful Los Angeles noir landscape. Black knows action and his way around a crane. The script is funny but also too cute for its own good, especially when the decent narration by Robery Downey Jr. not only breaks the fourth wall but piles on absurdities, as when Elvis and Lincoln storm into a hospital room. I laughed, but the film was madcap enough without Val Kilmer talking to the audience. It's a unique mix of styles and attitudes, I'll grant it that, but it would have benefited from choosing only two offbeat conventions and combining them flawlessly.
Doc Savage tried it a few times in the beginning of the pulps, but as a rule he's incapable of sarcasm and clever retorts, and I'd hate to hear hipster colloquialisms coming from the mouths of scholarly 1930's characters. Monk and Ham can and maybe should talk to each other cleverly, but then not that way to Doc, Renny, Long Tom, and Johnny. I have Lee Ving as the bad guy's #1 henchman, and he should be a fast-talking wise guy.
Please don't have Doc "invent" extreme skateboarding to a shredding techno soundtrack. I had to throw that in.
June 27, 2010 Update: Internet Dream Castings:
Doc - Daniel Craig
Monk - Michael Chiklis
Ham - George Clooney
Renny - Adam Baldwin
Long Tom - Neil Patrick Harris
Johnny - Sam Worthington
Doc – The Rock or Hugh Jackman
Monk - Jack Black or Oscar Gutierrez (aka Rey Mysterio)
Renny - Brad Garrett; (Everyone loves Raymond)
Long Tom - David Hyde Pierce (Fraser)
Ham - Charlie Sheen (Platoon, Two and a Half Men)
Johnny - Peter Stormare (Prison Break, VW Commercials, Constantine)
Doc Savage (6’-0”) – Dwayne Johnson (6’-4”)
Long Tom (thin, not tall) – Orlando Bloom (5’-10.5”)
Renny (6’-4”) – Brian Steele (6’-7”)
Monk (just over 5’) – David Faustino (5’-3”)
Johnny (tall, gaunt) – James or Oliver Phelps (6’-3”)
Ham (slender) – Jude Law (5’-11.5”)
I don't get dream casting. Is it a goof or is this supposed to be taken seriously? Since when is a new Doc Savage movie A-list material? America's not clamoring for a Doc Savage movie. He lives only in the hearts of middle age men. A Doc Savage movie has great potential only if they get it right, and high-concept Hollywood numbnuttery won't allow that to happen. Nobody seems to know what he even looks like, and he's seen as so generic by the comic book industry they have no problem portraying him as an enraged, steroidal, mouth-foaming gun freak with a black ops military background that psychologically didn't end well.
That third dream cast has Bud Bundy as Monk, so whoever came up with it should sit next to the whiz kid from list #2 who thinks Monk should be played by a Mexican wrestler, or Jack Black, who'd love to be a secondary character in a Doc Savage film. Maybe David Hyde Pierce will take a break from Broadway to be the fourth or fifth lead in a Doc Savage movie. A new Doc Savage movie needs one known actor and the rest should be perfectly cast based on a feasible portrayal of the pulp characters. Daniel Craig is British and listed 5'10", so in real life he must be at best 5'9". They can cast everyone around him from the Lollipop Guild.
I've suggested three actors specifically, and Lee Ving is one of them only because he's sadistic and has a great operatic yell. Brendan Fraser is too old at this point but he's 6'3" and has classic American good looks. He's done lightweight material but also good action and drama pictures. He can be Doc Savage the scientist, the jungle-top vaulter, the desert adventurer, and the fight action hero. I like Dwayne Johnson but people would laugh at him in a lab coat, just like they did with Denise Richards as a scientist in The World Is Not Enough. My villain is wrestling's The Big Show mainly because of his look and massive size. To make it work he'd have to be taught to chew the scenery less strenuously, but otherwise he can obviously handle his own stunts.
Who should play Monk? Someone who looks like an ape and is short, muscular, and hairy. Ham should have a suit models' body and look like a lawyer from the 1930s. I have Johnny as something like Johnny Depp in Sleepy Hollow, but not Johnny Depp himself because I don't dream cast elbow deep in the rectum of dementia. Long Tom I have as a completely different character than in the pulps because the film needs one major character the audience can see as normal/themselves. I picked a younger character based on the Dr. Daniel Jackson character from Stargate SG-1.
A new Doc Savage movie should operate on a peak human scale when it comes to the main characters. You can't have a repeat of the 1975 film where Monk is fat, goofy, and has cheap red mutton chop sideburns glued onto his head, and Ham looks like inbred fop aristocracy.
Make the scale big, the action big and the characters big. That's how a Doc Savage movie will stand out.
July 11, 2010 Update: This week’s funnybook review is issue #2 (of 6) of DC’s First Wave Series, featuring Batman, Doc Savage, The Spirit, and The Avenger. Batman appears not at all in the first issue and only for one panel in this one, iconically enveloping a thug in his cape. The Spirit is featured, but Monk and Ham open the book and Doc himself literally crashes in to save the day, looking like a werewolf seeking a kill. Doc’s size is bigger than in the last book, a welcome upgrade. He needs to be as muscular as possible while still looking athletic. A muscular swimmer/gymnast build best reflects the novels.
The plot’s still working itself out but it’s complicated and at this point a seemingly unrelated series of events. Something tells me I’ll enjoy them more if I wait until they all come out and read them in a row. This should be a decent series if all the plates they’re spinning don’t crash down later.
It’s set in the present day but most scenes look like it could be the 30s or 40s. The artwork is better on this second book, with a much nicer color palette and slightly better face renderings. Some panels have a nicely blurred motion effect for flying bodies. I laughed when Monk says “I’m not down with this job.” Wasn’t “Down With It” an urban expression from the 1960s? Here Ebony is a woman with a stripper’s body. I liked her personality and it did solve the problem of the original character’s Stepin Fetchit issue. The Spirit is more of a putz than he needs to be, and I wish they didn’t depict Commissioner Dolan as twelve ways corrupt. I had no idea at times who was providing the narrations in the square boxes.
August 15, 2010 Update: I bought a 1930s Doc Savage hardcover of the first novel on eBay because it's old, and bidding on things I don't need rarely but sometimes becomes my equivalence of degenerate gambling.
The thing's 7 1/2" tall, 5 1/4ish" wide and 1 1/2" thick, a compromise between a regular book and a Big Little Book. There were similar editions for "Quest Of The Spider" and "The Land Of Terror". The copyright says 1933 but until I'm told otherwise I doubt these were printed in the same year the pulp series began.
Someone named Jean Michael, whose artwork is very nice, is working on his own Doc novel that comes with this caveat: "As much as I do love Doc Savage, I am currently adapting this storyline in to it's own separate universe with it's own original characters of my own devising." I used the Find function to check for slash fiction and came up empty. Here's Doc Savage And The Sinister Plot Of Helmut Faust (!)
August 28, 2010 Update: My latest Doc Savage acquisition is a faux-bronze19" Reelart statue made exclusively for BigBadToyStore.com.
It's a re-working of an earlier 19" statue also from Reelart. 1,000 units of the older one were made. The faux-bronze one is limited to 50 units, and not only is it being sold at a clearance price, I received the first statue of the run. Is there no market for it or is it too weird looking?
The new one has Doc with an ancient vampire look and creepy little silver eyes recessed in a metallic face that looks dipped in a bucket of spray-on tan. There's a lump of what looks like a wad of chewing tobacco in his mouth. Doc also has a smallish head and Renny-sized hands, coming from the forced perspective of the art it was based on, translating poorly onto a 19", 3-D statue. Maybe the proportions look better on top of a tall cabinet.
The Doc Savage of the paperbacks and these two statues were based on actor and model Steve Holland, who in a short career played Flash Gordan in the 1950s. Artists James Bama and Bob Larkin pictured Doc as a middle age man. A throwback aspect of the statue is Doc's barrel chest, reminiscent of the Strongman era when men drank milk and beer when they weren't pulling plows or lifting large weights in the shape of bells with handles, or bars with round weights on each end painted with large block numbers. They sucked in their guts when posing, forcing out the area where the chest meets the stomach. I doubt barrel-chested men had six-pack abs, so Doc's were added in post-production, along with two diamond-shaped muscle clusters science can't explain.
I don't mind the faux-bronze statue I bought but I'm sure the older one is easier on the eyes. I call mine "Count Docula".
September 12, 2010 Update: I had an epiphany as to why there's so many renderings of Doc Savage as a crazed, steroidal Marine maniac, and my eyes rolled because of the high-concept douchiness of the artists who draw him like that.
The marine look comes from the close-cropped hair of the paperbacks, which at least makes visual sense. The rest is derived from his last name of "Savage". Get it? He's savage, a Doctor of Savageness. He's blind with rage and can't possibly have intelligence beyond savagery. Grrr!!!! Forget that in the source materials he possesses the most controlled personality in the world and deplores death unless it's the only way out (putting aside the first few novels). Following this douche logic Dr. Kildare killed his patients because he was dared to do so.
September 26, 2010 Update: This morning I was undressing eBay with my eyes when I caught a listing for the 1992 Graphitti Designs replica of the original 1930s Doc Savage Club pin, up for bid at $59.99. The seller notes: "This is an Original Doc Savage Club pin from Graphitti Designs. It was released in 1992 and is long out of print. It measures 1" high and appears to be made out of bronze. It is in Excellent condition!". Strangely enough you can still buy it for $7.95 plus shipping directly from Graphitti. This pin is made out of bronze as much as it is of diamond-encrusted platinum.
October 10, 2010 Update: Someone on EBay was selling this movie promo statue for $250. They couldn't unload it so after a while I wrote them that if they couldn't get a higher price I'd pay $100. I won it.
Today's Doc Savage funny book review is of the first five comics in a new DC series called First Wave: Doc Savage. I wrote about the first issue on April 21st. It was so bad they screeched the story to a halt and moved on with new writers and artists with issue 6.
There's alternate covers for each issue to make fanboys pay twice for the same horrible art and meaningless storyline. I never imagined comic art could be this ugly, combining the wooden aspects of Thunderbirds puppets and defective Cabbage Patch Dolls. Characters' chins disappear willy-nilly and on the third page of art in issue five Doc's head shrinks so he resembles Pinhead from the film Puppet Master.
The matching leather coats and Boondock Saints vibe you see in this series is horrific. In issue one Doc beats up lions that look like werewolves and spends most of the issue working his way out of a single building, along the way defecating on the laws of physics. In issue two Ham's sword cane is a Samurai sword, which is fine. Pat is a news reporter. Johnny keeps his long hair in a ponytail. The HQ is destroyed and Renny says "We needed a fresh start anyway." Our boys are anti-hero losers again. Issue three pounds home that the mix of modern day and 1930s elements fails hard. Lucky for Doc the city is dense with blimp traffic. Long Tom has a wife. Doc rides a blimp like it's a runaway horse. In book three Monk's told he's a hostage for his knowledge of chemistry, but forgets by issue four when he asks why they haven't killed him yet. The Military-Industrial-Complex is invoked as original storytelling takes a dive in the second round. In book five Doc calls Long Tom "Tom", and while you know Ham's life has been spared by a bullet proof vest it's neither seen nor referenced.
It's sad the original pulps are maligned as bad literature when most Doc Savage comic books couldn't come up with an original idea at gunpoint. If you can't write a decent Doc Savage comic book story don't write one at all. This First Wave series are not graphic novels but badly written and horribly drawn funny books. Doc's a generic action guy only because those assigned to write the books have either never read the source materials or feel they have to update the characters to appeal to cynical adult children dazzled by weather-beaten clichés. Doc Savage is specific to the 1930s and 1940s and should stay there without being weighed down by douchery euphamized as postmodernism.
October 24, 2010 Update: The Tao Of Doc Savage:
"Doc Savage seemed not to hear the inquiry, which was another of his traits. The bronze man, as those who came in contact with him soon learned, rarely voiced a theory; only what were in his own mind proven facts. Rather than make evasive answers, or indulge in a long argument about what might or might not be the facts, he simply became deaf to inquiries"
In August of 2009 I noted Ain't It Cool News reported that producer Michael Uslan was no longer involved in a possible new Doc Savage film, but here's something from September of this year: "After what seems like a quiet period for movie rumors, producer Michael Uslan mentions that he’s still at work on a movie or movies for The Shadow and Doc Savage."
The reference comes toward the end of a short interview with Uslan promoting the Cincinnati Comic Expo, published over at the Cincinnati Enquirer‘s website:
Why in the World: Why was I involved with ‘Carmen Sandiego?’ I’m in the business of building branded franchises. Carmen Sandiego was a hot computer game. Now I’m working with the Shadow, Doc Savage (both 1930s pulp fiction and radio serials) and Captain Marvel (a 1930s character revived for 1970s TV as Shazam). They’re all great brands."
November 6, 2010 Update: I eBay-victored a few more items and have never felt so proud of my middle-age ennui. First up is a gently used 1975 Doc Savage 7-11 Slurpee cup, kitchen tested to hold 12 ounces of liquid, which today is more a sample size than a serving. The front has Doc punching out an invisible toddler and the back has Doc's face, looking like the Sub-Mariner for some reason, with the word-bubble "My first name is Clark, but that has been forgotten by most men. I have devoted my life to the destruction of crime and the preservation of justice... So anyone in need of help may turn to DOC SAVAGE!" Doc's screaming about himself in the third person. $8 with $3 shipping.
I also won a copy of the self-published 1974 tribute to Lester Dent titled The Man Behind Doc Savage. The text might come from an actual typewriter and is too small for me to read. The author's writings on Lester Dent take up four pages and the rest comes from Will Murray, Robert Sampson, and Lester Dent himself. Of note is Dent's formula to writing pulp fiction, titled "The Pulp Paper Master Fiction Plot". There's some pulp cover reprints and drawings thrown in for visual flair. My copy has a layer of clear tape on the cover, which might be the way it came. It's kinda neat in a ham radio kinda way. The author, Robert Weinberg, is a pulp-fiction fanatic whose son studied to be a chef. Robert writes about himself entirely in the third person. I'd like to write about myself in the third person because the person who writes this site is awesome! $12 with $3.00 shipping.
A 1930's penny postcard advertisement to news vendors sold for $676.66 to some rich, lonely bastard.
November 21, 2010 Update: I picked up another statue and a 1945 pulp. In August I bought the shiny Reelart faux-bronze 19" Count Docula statue. I found on eBay the earlier Doc Savage - All American Reelart statue painted in five shades of brown. Besides the paint they're the same statue from the same mold. The coloring on Count Docula makes his face look thinner and older. The earlier one is much better looking, especially the details of his ripped shirt. The base on The Count is marbled. Doc Savage - All American set me back $252.00.
I won the 1945 pulp "Violent Night". Hitler's terrified of a six-shooter and a fingerprint in the shape of a shoe. Cost: $30.00.
December 05, 2010 Update: An eBay seller had a Doc fighting a snake on a fallen dead tree statue listed for $999 but cut back to $599 fairly quickly. It's obviously based on Robert Z'Dar. The thing's only nine inches tall. "It was sculpted by JOE DEVITO and released by GRAPHITTI DESIGNS circa 1993. It is solid, weighing 7 lbs. measuring 9" tall, 14" wide and 7 " deep. It is made out of solid cold-cast porcelain." For that price it should be metal.
December 19, 2010 Update: I won a 1930s Doc Savage club pin for $158.00 including shipping. I don't have the original backing card so I swiped an image and copied it onto a piece of thick stock paper so I can display it thusly at the Museum Of Grown Child Patheticism.
(Read the article from Doc Savage Organized) In August of this year micro-esoterica specialist Will Murray announced at a convention that he will write seven new Doc Savage novels based on crumpled wads of paper found in a wastebasket under the utility sink in Lester Dent's garage. "Wild Adventures" sounds desperate. I'm leery of the part where Murray says he found a discarded chapter that "introduced Doc in a whole different way". The original pulps have two basic Docs - the early heroic Doc Savage and the later, Freudian-crippled Doc. Which is better? There might be a new Doc Savage movie in the works so now isn't the time to dilute and diminish the characters even more than has already been done by comic books that have taken Doc in whole different ways that prove the comics formula is wrong, especially where he's a gun fetishist and as smart as your average rich guy comic book character...
Doc was supposedly born around 1900. The first novel was from 1933 and Doc sounds right at 33 years old. They end sixteen years later with Doc at 49. Theoretically. So why is Doc mostly rendered as the toughest cat in Leisure World? Is it because the fan boys are old themselves? Does the scale of action figures make people look older? Is it the paperback covers are all that matter anymore because of the dumb widow's peak? I'd like to see a new Doc Savage movie made so I don't want him pitched as the AARP Avenger. I also don't want him portrayed as the generic action hero of the comic books. I've made some adjustments myself to the characters of the pulps so they'll make some sense to the audience, but Doc Savage as a legendary hero is set in stone in the early books and you shouldn't screw him out of that out of cleverness or ignorance.
January 2, 2011 Update: I think I can safely call BS on the marketing of the faux-bronze Count Docula statue.
My Count Docula has a marble base. There's a new series coming out this month with a solid black base. The sellers seemingly are exclusive distributors of a limited series of fifty pieces. Mine, bought at clearance (!) came with a Certificate Of Authenticity claiming it was #1 of 50. I wonder if every one they sold was #1 of 50. Divine in Pink Flamingos famously said "I smell deep, dark trouble" ("Someone has sent me a bowel movement!"), and here I'm smelling a marketing scam...
What does this have to do with 6' 8" Amazon
Eve, the world's tallest model and
this article she says "I make everybody look short, but when I'm alone, I
look like a regular girl. I'm proportionate. It's only when I stand next to
somebody that it looks unusual." That's a Doc Savage thing! At his
tallest I think Doc was 6' 7".
January 16, 2011 Update: The Onion's AV Club had an article on Shane Black's directorial attachment to a manga project called Death Note. Here's the Doc Savage reference: "There’s no word on which film the suddenly-very-busy Black plans to do first, but judging from this Collider interview with producer Neal Moritz, Doc Savage is much closer to becoming a reality—and definitely much closer than Black’s long-discussed attempt to revive the Lethal Weapon franchise, for obvious reasons." The only problem is the linked article is from April, 2010, otherwise known in the movie biz as a century ago.
March 27, 2011 Update: When I'm not hated I'm beloved:
"Hi there...just wondering why it bother's you so much about Custom made Doc Savage figures? Or the people that make them? I ask because I make custom figures in 12" to 13" size and do small runs of 10 figures and then I move on to another favorite pulp character that I like. I made a small run of Shadow figures now I'm making one of Doc. I don't do it to turn a huge profit but to gear up for the next character I'll make. I'm not cranking out some Star Wars/Trek, Batman, Flavor of the month figures but of characters I grew up with and cared about...and truth be told that none of the big companys will ever touch or produce because it won't be a cash cow for them. Anyway...I found your page because I was looking up infomation on the Reelart Doc Savage statue and Google led me to it. Couldn't help reading some of your stuff which I thought was pretty funny as well as informative....but I couldn't help wondering about your distain over custom figures or the people that make them. Anyway not that you would like what I do...you could always check my figures out."
In regards to a couple of your blog posts 04-12-10, 06-27-10. I’m sorry I made your puppies cry. It was not a goof or to be taken seriously. The list was just some ideas of an ensemble cast for the possible movie. It was posed to generate some discussion, not as the only viable option.
The polite response to a disagreement with an actor choice would be to suggest an alternative. The Faustino pick was just an actor close to the height described to Monk. I’m sure that “Dudley Do-Right” could possibly play Doc Savage.
Here’s a different possible ensemble list for you to contemplate.
Doc Savage - Coby Bell 6’-3” 6'-0", Brendan Fraiser 6’-3”,
Long Tom - Jeffery Donovan 6’-0”, Jackie Earl Haley 5’-5.5”
Renny - 6’-6”, 6’-9”
Monk - Scott Caan 5'-5"
Johnny - 6'-2", James Phelps 6’-3”
Ham - Mark Decascos 5’-9”
Patrica Savage - Laura Vandervoort 5’-7”
April 10, 2011 Update: Q: What's 36.2 linear feet and 1 video cassette? A: The Lester Dent collection at The State Historical Society Of Missouri! "The Lester B. Dent Collection contains the manuscripts, publications, correspondence, personal papers, research notes, scrapbooks, and photographs of a native Missouri fiction writer, explorer, aerial photographer, and dairy farmer." It's worth reading both for the cool nerd esoterica and unintentional comedy: "Dent, Lester B., Collection, (WUNP5115), 9 linear feet INVENTORY. Addition of manuscripts, correspondence, publications, and other materials to papers of a science fiction writer. Includes over 15,000 jokes collected by Norma Dent." and "The Miscellaneous series consists of a jigsaw puzzle and a film. The puzzle depicts actor Ron Ely portraying the character of Doc Savage in the 1975 movie Doc Savage: Man of Bronze." I too have that jigsaw puzzle, also restricted and available only through formal research requests.
April 24, 2011 Update: I'm a winner, baby, and all it took was money: I had to have this, a 1960's Japanese Doc Savage softcover reprint of The Monsters, packaged in a cardboard case with a bookmark. It's a shade smaller than 7 1/2 inches high and 4 1/2 inches wide. The picture on the box reads "The Squeaking Goblin" but as there were at least two in the series I assume the case was generic. There's a square hole in the back to display which book was inside. I imagine the whole thing was wrapped in ceremonial white paper, five deep bows were involved in each sale, and both parties said "Hai" quite often. I paid $76.00 plus $5.00 shipping. I'd love to know how they butchered the translation.
The fine folks at Nostalgia Ventures/RadioArchives.com were for a while putting up volume fourteen of their reprint series at a starting price of 99 cents, either as a loss-leader or because they printed too many of the one with the first two titles of the series, The Man Of Bronze and The Land Of Terror. I bought it to see the original illustration conceptions of the characters, which in the origin add up to three and gives Doc the body of Abe Lincoln. The second novel committed to rendering the major characters in isolation.
Doc is literally Clark Gable. The Land Of Terror has Monk with the face of Ernest Borgnine, gives Ham a deformed bird-face with a ski-slope nose, makes Long Tom look like a shocked Bill Maher, gets Johnny right as a nerdy Ichabod Crane, and has Renny's stern face appear incomplete without a large, smelly pipe in his mouth. These later etchings do a better job capturing their appearances, which might just mean the artist had more talent and didn't make everyone look weird and ugly. Monk's rendered as he's supposed to like an ape and not the artists' uncle Morty with a mustache and horseshoe of white hair, most likely with a tiny ponytail in the back.
Over the years Doc Savage grew into a 6'7" or so tall behemoth of excellent proportions. Here's how he was introduced in The Man Of Bronze: "Seated there by the immense desk, he did not seem to be a large man. An onlooker would have doubted his six feet height - and would have been astounded to learn he weighed every ounce of two hundred pounds."
May 22, 2011 Update: Doc Savage has aides: I bought the Pulp Letterzine for $3.00 plus $2.00 shipping to stick a toe in the waters of Doc Savage fanzines. It came directly from the writer, Bill Laidlaw, not to be confused with Bob Loblaw of the Bob Loblaw Law Blog. It was printed on a 15" X 20" piece of newspaper stock and folded three times. Excuse me while I read it with a magnifying glass as the print is tiny....
It's a supplement to a magazine Bill wrote called Doc Savage Quest, and content-wise it's a blog, Twitter feed, and lonely guy diary all in one. I skipped around as the ideas bounce between random, esoteric, trivial, cryptic and unrelated. There's not much to it but the guy put the effort into it so there's that.
I live in my mom's basement: I don't, but my paper collectables do, and I looked through everything on my last visit. I had the first issue of Comixscene, a folded-over newspaper 11 3/4" wide and 16" high. It ran for six issues and the first was the "Doc Savage Issue!". It's only one page of rote promotional text along with three pages of graphic filler. They're pushing the launch of the Marvel Comics comic book series which lasted eight issues and had Doc drawn as Stretch Armstrong with a pointy crew cut and a collared, sleeveless vest that barely reached his navel. The article references The Shadow almost as much as it does Doc Savage. This is actually not very good.
June 5, 2011 Update: I spent the last few hours listening to the 1985 Variety Arts Radio Theatre presentation of Fear Cay, originally produced for NPR. I bought The Radio Archives Box Set of The Adventures Of Doc Savage for a few dollars less than the $25 retail. It also has an adaptation of The Thousand Headed Man, which I'll listen to if a gun of a certain caliber is put to my head. I have bootleg copies of both from way back and took my first Bataan Death Listen long ago. Pat Savage looks to be based on Crystal Bernard from Wings.
The eighth cd is a sampler of Philip Marlowe and Michael Shayne adventures, and my set came with another sampler they toss in with every purchase. The seventh disc is a making of featurette where pretty much everyone involved admits they knew little or nothing about Doc Savage before taking the job. The featurette pats the production on the back for shunning a narrator in favor of stilted and repetitive exposition which weighs down the show like lead shoes. Doc is a chatty fellow and his aides talk to each other like they have no shared experiences. The henchmen at the opening of Fear Cay lay out enough background info on Doc to where they might as well break out folding chairs. Narration would have helped greatly in this production but I assume talking to yourself and others like the homeless was considered true to the genre by those involved. Which it isn't, if you latch onto a good series like Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar. I also wonder if anyone involved thought bad writing was retro-campy and somehow cute.
Trilling happens only once and the effect is a warbling theramin note. A number of bird sounds were tried and rejected as silly and comical, proving my point a Doc Savage film shouldn't go down that road unless it wants to be mocked.
Fear Cay is in seven chapters that open with a sound clip from the episode along with the same longish intro. Each aide is introduced, with Monk yelling "Blazes!", Ham saying "Take That!", Renny bellowing "Holy Cow!" Long Tom complaining "Pipe down you guys" and Johnny saying "I'll be superamalgamated!", which he says often. The voice acting is generally decent with Doc sometimes being a few shades away from sounding like a Harvard Dudley Do-Right. The foreign accents fade in and out, with the Italian villain Santani lapsing into Count Dracula.
Fear Cay goes on forever and suffers from a lack of cliff-hangers. The same questions are asked ad nauseam, and how tough of a mystery can it be when the bad guys are said to be the Fountain Of Youth Gang? The weakest part was saying the 135 year old guy with superhuman strength and speed was that way because he lived in isolation from the modern world.
The original Lester Dent radio show scripts were considered but rejected due to their fifteen minute run time and usually only having Monk as an assistant. The featurette also claims the writing style wasn't "modern" enough, which is a joke you'll get if you listen to the new ones.
It Came From The Basement, Part 2: I probably bought this soon after its release in 1982. It contains fourteen scripts written by Lester Dent starting early in the run of the pulps. This book has maybe all of them, and I'd like to see it as the early scripts are knee-capped by time and character limitations, along with Lester Dent's newness to writing radio scripts. Mostly it's Doc and Monk, with Doc the cool detective and Monk the violence-happy muscle and comic relief. There's a mystery Doc solves with science sleuthing and Monk beats people up. Repeat. This book has a nice intro by Will Murray which details how little is known about the original broadcasts lost forever by the same people (at least in spirit) who tossed out tons of classic animation cells thinking they had no future value. Murray includes a letter Lester Dent sent to the radio show producers complaining of a few things, my favorite that a siren sound was used for Doc's trilling. I hate being right that trilling is a loser on all fronts.
Dent writes assuming the listener has always been blind, and there's other weirdness. In one episode Doc says to a group "I'm going to put some of this paraffin in your hands", to which a woman responds "You're going to put that warm, soft paraffin on my hands?" Doc replies "Exactly" when he should have said "Yes, I am going to put this warm, soft paraffin directly onto your hands, which have been extended to me, by you, who is standing directly in front on me now."
Today's Random Doc Savage Link: Rip Jagger's Dojo posted a tribute to artist Dave Cockrum's efforts create a Doc Savage comic strip:
Doc looks like Prince Namor and Monk has The Hulk's face. Monk's turtleneck sweater and Renny's shirt collar over his jacket collar scream 1970s, and that's when these were made.
2011 Update: We only have to sell one: An
eBay seller reduced the price of a Marvel 1972 Doc Savage comic book from
$1,700.00 to $1,450.00 (plus $9 shipping). The inflated dealer's price at comicspriceguide.com has a 9.4 (near mint) book valued at $16.00. This one was
rated 9.8 near mint/mint) by the CGC,
a group of retired nuclear scientists who use particle accelerators and plasma
microscopes to grade each comic on a sub-atomic level based on binding flaws and
color variations. Just kidding, it's just a fat guy who's never flossed
squinting and grunting at it for a few minutes while wearing latex gloves barely
containing the taco grease sweat that oozes from his hands like honey. Pro-Tip
#1: Someone that stupid wouldn't
even have $5.00
to spend on a
$20 $1,700 comic book.
Pro Tip #2: Buy one in VG+ condition for less than ten dollars since it's just a
Doc Savage comic book.
I only bought it for the articles and acres of pubic hair: The August 1975 sexual desire crushing issue of Topper Magazine carried the exclusive article: "James Bond Vs. The Man Of Bronze". I'm sure it's the same barely researched movie promo filler piece the studio sent to 300 other publishers. Landing it at Topper was a coup for Warner Bros. Who would win in a fight between Doc Savage and James Bond? The reader, of course.
Some Thing I Bought: Three French Doc Savage novels for about $12.00 postpaid: "L'Oasis Perdue" ("The Lost Oasis", not "The Oasis of Frank Perdue"), "Les Cagoules Vertes" (bablefishes as "Green Hoods" but it's "The Czar Of Fear") and "Le Crane Rouge" (bablefishes as "The Red Cranium" but it's "The Red Skull"). They seem to be from the late 60s and early 70s. They don't use quotation marks for dialogue, opting for a long dash, which isn't correct either according to this. I thought I'd see if I could catch a "Holy Cow" (Vache Sainte") or an "I'll be superamalgamated!" ("Superbe-Amalgame!") but the pages appeared to be filled with random groupings of letters with no rhyme or reason.
For The Children: Doc Wilde and The Frogs Of Doom
July 3, 2011 Update: The greatest thing ever in the history of ever: Clayguy.com offers a line of eccentric and charming hand-painted resin statues that will both awe and convince you he still lives with his mom. He falls short of Mad Monster Party professionalism but his default facial renderings combining old Joan Crawford and Ray Walston grow on you, and I respect the WTF aspect dedicating your life to making these things and offering them at conventions. Anyone can have a table of old magazines and action figures, but this is one-of-a-kind special.
Doc's played by Jonathan Harris, Renny is Gary Cooper, Monk is a Brooklyn version of Charles Laughton, Johnny is Basil Rathbone, Ham is some old stage actor guy who appeared in Hammer films, and Pat is a dame found in Dashiell Hammett novels. Her shirt is shredded just like Docs, exposing her unmentionables, and Monk's only a one-fisted brawler as he's choking his piggie, a 1930's euphemism...
The Onion recently considered the 1975 movie as one of the Films That Time Forgot. They give it an honest assessment by calling it crap. In the comments section it's written producer Shane Black wants The Rock to play Doc Savage. Another commenter is convinced Doc is half black. At a recent comic book convention I was told Doc's African American.
Doc On MST3K: Doc Savage is a meaningless throw-away line in an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Outlaw was episode 519 and in the opening scene the blond star, Cabot, wearing dated owl glasses, is sitting alone at a singles bar. During a close-up Crow T. Robot yells "It's Doc Savage!", followed by silence as the joke goes nowhere and slinks out of the room.
I Bought This: #1 of the Golden Press hardcover reprint of six Doc Savage novels, for $7 including shipping. Why he has Grandpa Munster's hairstyle is anyone's guess.
I had the other five volumes growing up and it drove me nuts I couldn't find this one. Today you click a mouse and it shows up at your door. Released in 1975 as children's books they're filled with neat illustrations by Ron Villani. I wonder if the stories were edited for violence. I don't know why these don't sell for more.
July 17, 2011 Update: The only comic book to get Doc Savage right at all is the two-issue The Shadow and Doc Savage from 1995. Doc wears suits (for a while), the story takes place in the correct era, the plot is close to a real Doc Savage pulp, and Doc utilizes his brains and surgical skills. He's not just Captain Bicep.
Looking over the many Doc Savage comic books they're too often horrible, unreadable crap created by people who only know how to churn out formulaic superhero and anti-hero plotlines for readers with no expectations except to have something to do for a few minutes and maybe live out some irrational fantasies. A new Doc Savage movie is doomed if it draws any inspiration from the comic book industry. Doc Savage is an amazing creation of the pulp era, not a bendable action figure with awesome weapons sold separately. That's why I'm against The Rock as Doc, who I generally like and admire. It would then be a comic book movie.
Some fantasy casting genius wants Dolph Lundgren as Doc Savage. #1 he's much too old now. He played He-Man and The Punisher, speaks in a growly Swedish accent, and even though he gives no indication of it he once earned a master's degree in chemical engineering. That last part can be in the press release to explain away why he talks like all his teeth are loose. Then you can have Mickey Rourke as Renny, Sylvester Stallone as Monk, Steve Buscemi as Long Tom, Michael Berryman as Johnny, Lyle Lovett as Ham and Jocelyn Wildenstein as Pat.
July 31, 2011 Update: I now hold a Doctorate in Savagery, auto-penned by Doc Savage himself. I just need to fill in my name, Doc Honey Snuggims. "Nolite Timere Doc Savage Adest" is Latin-esque for "Don't fear, Doc Savage is here". I paid too much for this promotional item from the 1975 film of shame. It also came with a customized letter from the auto-pen of George Pal. It would have been that much better if it was addressed "Dear pal, from your pal, George Pal".
USPS Savage: This oddity was won by somebody for $51.00:
"Three Items; a local post (Xanadu Local Post) dated 17 Feb 1993, commemorating the 60th Anniversary of the first appearance of Doc Savage-The Man of Bronze (1933 Feb 17-1993) a pair of $.02 stamps featuring Doc Savage, and the Doc Savage insert that was mailed in the first day cover. First Class Postage $1.00." I e-mailed the seller and he came back with this: "Can't give you much info. I purchased a number of local post envelopes at an auction years ago. They were all different. The Savage envelope is postmarked Stayton, Oregon 97383 17 Feb 1993. The local postmaster, not the USD Post Office postmaster, but the local guy is Dale Goble, PO Box G. Slayton Oregon. Goble obviously had a local post business as the Savage item is 4 of 25. Go to my listings, all these local posts were from the same address but different names."
I know only a little about First Day Covers but this seems non-governmental to say the least. Fake Doc Savage postage stamps on a letter with an unrelated real postage stamp on it? The Slayton, Oregon postmaster must have been making money on the side. The internet yielded up two other fake Doc Savage postage stamps.
August 28, 2011 Update: Oh Ron, You're A Card: For $10 total I ebayed a 5" by 7"cardboard promo card from the 1975 film. Ron Ely's airbrushed head is pasted over someone else's highly painted body, and he's either on a round rock or he's a mile tall and standing on Mars. The card reads "Best - Ron Ely". The back of the card states Ely's 6"5" and weighs 235 lbs. He didn't look an ounce over 200 lbs. but who am I to argue with the Warner Bros publicity department?
September 25, 2011 Update: Toys For Boys Bring Joys To Nobody: I don't get my quarterly check from The Organization Of Concerned Wives Of America unless I deliver grief to their men who escape their fates by manufacturing Doc Savage dolls as a "hobby", the air-quotes signifying something unspeakable and best not looked at directly. The latest eBay offering is this cute feller:
consideration: A 1/6 scale Custom Doc Savage "The Man of Bronze" action figure
from a 1996 Hasbro GI Joe. Custom painted bronze with "AOK" grip hands. Comes
with accessories shown.
Please consider the time invested before placing your bid.
Own a great antique collectible toy set today!"
I'm stuck on "for your consideration" as it's both a Rod Serling and a academy award reference. His other offerings make more sense. This thing's a travesty mostly because Doc's holding both a sword and a gun, and he's sporting bondage straps on his legs while only wearing a miniscule leather vest. That and the fact a grown man spent time and money to create it in the first place for purposes best left unexplored. Do you think Doc removes bullets from his forearm holster with his teeth and spits them into his gun while turning a cartwheel? Wouldn't that be awesome?!
For your consideration, heard from the basement of a typical amateur Doc Savage toy maker:
(fake girl's voice) "I love you Doc Savage. Give me a kiss right now (followed by kissing sounds "smooch smooch smooch").
(fake heroic voice) "You're a rock, Strawberry Shortcake, but I have to go now and fight Stretch Armstrong, COBRA Commander and Megatron before they take over the world and destroy stuff using science disguised as magic or monsters or something like that!"
(fake evil voices) "No you don't Clark "Doc" Savage Jr.! Take this (Pow!), and that (Crunch!). "How do you like them apples!" "Yeah, apples!"
(fake heroic voice) "Not very much, thank you. I'm going to call my men by trilling ("tweet tweet krawwwwwwwk!") and we'll teach you a lesson or two or even three! Like this (Blam! Kablooie! Yargggh!)
(child's voice in hallway) "Why are you crying again Mommy? Why are our suitcases packed? Are we staying with Aunt Linda again?"
(fake heroic voice) "You're a naughty robot, aren't you Megatron. I know why you need - a spanking! Come here and take it like a machine!" (70s funk soundtrack rises in volume)
October 9, 2011 Update: Reading the pulps I never pictured Doc with a cleft chin, but then again he was the only character I never could visualize since the descriptions of Doc in the books are unrelated to the paperback covers and the horrendous comic book renderings. The inside art of the pulps utilize no style guide so Doc's either Clark Gable, a young Abe Lincoln, some kind of Dick Tracy person, or something so generic as to exude nothing at all. A strong chin and standing firmly is all you can bank on in the pulps.
November 6, 2011
Update: Shane Black Speaks And It's Not Good News: The man
with direct stewardship of a new Doc film spoke at the recent Long Beach, CA
comic book convention. Black spoke on Saturday. He's
spinning a lot of plates with Iron Man 3, a
mange manga thing
called Death Note, and Doc
Savage. He spoke to
had this to say:
"I think it's just what got offered to me. It's interesting, because it represents what I liked in my childhood. Now, if we did "Death Note," the challenge is make it real world and adult; if we do "Doc Savage," the challenge is make it adult. I think that there are so few practitioners of action movies these days who are doing worthwhile stuff that it behooves me to try to weigh in and try to do the "Raiders Of The Lost Ark"-type stuff, to try to recapture the magic. When I stood in line for a summer movie when I was coming up at eighteen, nineteen, twenty years old, I stood in line for two and a half, three hours and you got the goods! They delivered! And if they didn't, you went outside and said, "Arg, 'Indiana Jones 2' wasn't that good, I stood in line for three hours!" Now, you don't know what you're getting!
There's just, I think, a decrease in the quality of these types of comic book action movies, and so it's almost irresistible, sometimes, to try and shore that up a little, or weigh in at least with my opinion about what's wrong and how it should be. It's not the next thing I want to do. I want to do something more serious, a smaller movie at some point. I'm sure there's a "Winter's Bone" in my future. But for now, I've immersed myself in comics. I do want to do "Doc Savage." The script is still evolving and I'm kind of busy, but I want to get it right and I want to do it."
Did you get that? Doc Savage was put in front of him by his agent like he wasn't doing anything important so do this until something better comes along - which it did with Iron Man 3. Then there's "It's not the next thing I want to do" and the development hell damnation of "The script is still evolving and I'm kind of busy", with a bear-farting-sadness disclaimer of "I want to get it right and I want to do it". "Still evolving" means nobody has a clue what kind of script to write or even who Doc Savage is.
There's no fictional character I can think of that suffers the Blind Men And The Elephant dilemma as strongly as Doc Savage. Lester Dent evolved the character from superman to Freudian wreck and back and forth during his tenure, but readers decided which Doc Savage was best. This being the smartest, strongest, most fearless version. I don't know if the 1975 movie or the various Doc Savage comic books are more responsible for rendering Doc Savage generic and otherwise meaningless, but the stupid paperback covers didn't help either. If you want your Next Doc Savage movie I wager that will be when Conde Nast gets tired of waiting and punts the property to a hack director who'll manufacture a high concept, grade-B tax write-off and then move on the the next five films he has planned that year.
November 20, 2011 Update: The $3,050.00 Gold Ingot That Wasn't: I'll sometimes bid on eBay items just to track them and have a permanent record of things I find interesting. Case in point, this was for a Doc Savage Club pin and a coveted Doc Savage Award pendant. The pin comes up periodically and creeps above $100 on a regular basis. The pendant must be as rare as Jerry Sandusky saying no to pre-teen sodomy.
That can't be Doc Savage on the pendant, can it? It looks more like a young reader who says "Jeepers, Mister" and "Golly!" due to generations of mid-western inbreeding. The set sold for three thousand and fifty dollars American, and the club pin wasn't part of the equation, trust me. Damn, just damn.
December 18, 2011 Update: My three dollar bid came this close to winning: Someone paid $209.50 for a 1970s plastic toy gun called the Sonic Fazer, made by Kusan Inc. It was listed under Doc Savage on eBay because artist Bob Larkin used it in one of his Doc paintings.
January1, 2012 Update: For $25.00 total I bought this hand-made pin, and while it's rough around the edges it looks good in person. The seller made six one day when he was bored making resin statues. I wish I had someplace nice to wear this...
January 15, 2012 Update: Today In Great Literature That References Doc Savage: Doc's lobotomy factory/trade school/finishing school known as the Crime College (better article here) gets a solid referencing in Truman Capote's 1966 classic In Cold Blood, the modern era's first great non-fiction novel. They get a few things wrong. The facility was in upstate New York, not an island. There was no goal to kidnap all the world's criminals for treatment and Doc didn't do most of the surgeries.
"The Reverend Post, overhearing the conversation, joined in. 'Well,' he said, passing around a snapshot reproduction of Perry Smith's portrait of Jesus, 'any man who could paint this picture can't be one hundred percent bad. All the same it's hard to know what to do. Capital punishment is no answer: it doesn't give the sinner time enough to come to God. Sometimes I despair.' A jovial fellow with gold-filled teeth and a silvery widow's peak, he jovially repeated, 'Sometimes I despair. Sometimes I think old Doc Savage had the right idea.' The Doc Savage to whom he referred was a fictional hero popular among adolescent readers of pulp magazines a generation ago. 'If you boys remember, Doc Savage was a kind of superman. He'd made himself proficient in every field - medicine, science, philosophy, art. There wasn't much old Doc didn't know or couldn't do. One of his projects was, he decided to rid the world of criminals. First he bought a big island out in the ocean. Then he and his assistants - he had an army of trained assistants - kidnapped all the world's criminals and brought them to the island. And Doc Savage operated on their brains. He removed the part that holds wicked thoughts. And when they recovered they were all decent citizens. They couldn't commit crimes because that part of their brain was out. Now it strikes me that surgery of this nature might really be the answer to -
A bell, the signal that the jury was returning, interrupted him."
January 29, 2012 Update: It Came From My Mother's Basement: Duende: I think this is Will Murray's first foray into pulp fiction academia, and he may have hit it so hard it only lasted two issues. The first issue is from 1975 and the second in 1976. I mailed away for the first issue.
Murray appears to have done all the writing, and excellent research and writing it is. It's split between research on Doc Savage and The Shadow, with other pulp names tossed in. Issue one weighs in at 32 pages and issue two 48. Featured articles in #1 are a history of Lester Dent's detective characters and an interview with Graves Gladney, a short-term cover painter for The Shadow. Graves is a fantastic first name. Issue #2 covers the other writers of Doc Savage novels who all wrote under the house name Kenneth Robeson, plus there's an interview with Shadow writer Walter Gibson. The second issue came with a Corrections & Retractions pamphlet.
February 12, 2012 Update: I'm High On Adventure: I bought a reprint of the May, 1938 escapades of the Doc Savage-inspired Capt. Hazzard, a happily short fifty pages photocopied by Adventure House in Silver Spring, MD. When I write photocopied I mean an old pulp was put on a machine and scanned. The pages aren't even flat - the letters curve at the binding and some page bottoms are cut off mid-letter. The cover's neat.
I found it in issue 72 of a reprint series called High Adventure, filled out with random short stories from other pulps. The Lizard Man and Captain Hazzard have the same face and he's holding his gun wonky, but all-in-all it's a classic pulp cover. Dr. Hermes reviews it here so I don't have to. The title is "Python Men Of Lost City", which begs for an extra "The" or two but it reflects the first-draft nature of it, which as a genre-piece isn't all that bad. Author Paul Chadwick was asked for a Doc Savage clone and he did what he could. An editor could have requested he delineate the assistants better, the story's most obvious sign it was probably rushed to completion.
Cap's eyes turn from blue to grey, and as with Doc they mess with your mind: "The irises had the clearness of a blue flame, but when his mood varied, a wind seemed to blow across the frame, and darker glints glowed beneath." His back-story is that he was blind for the first fifteen years of life, and his other senses developed to compensate, like Daredevil without the barrel of radioactivity. Like the book says, "Darkness held no terrors for him. He had lived in the dark for too long to fear it." For one I imagine he'd be terrified of being blind again. He's a real military Captain, and everyone salutes him, and even amongst his own group of trusted aids his behind is constantly being smooched. Besides being strong and a mental marvel of industry, he's telepathic, along with most of his crew. More like Tele-Pathetic! Amiright people? It's "the new science of telepathy and clairvoyance, known collectively as 'parapsychology'". An assistant named Crawley contacts Hazzard by closing his eyes, looking bored, and falling into a trance. Hazzard senses danger and sees images. It gets somewhat vague but you work with what you're given.
Hazzard keeps his Doc Savage-type gadgets in pouches built into a wide leather belt, the weirdest one a bug-like thing that whizzes around and makes a distracting noise. He has a plane with a rocket option that rises up and makes the thing fly up to 380 mph, which was the landing speed of my last Jet Blue flight. He does have his own invention of note, the Telegraphic Compass, a series of transparent maps of the globe that fit together on a screen device to indicate locations.
There's no mystery per say as the machine that's doing all the killing is fairly straightforward. It's more a matter of finding the evil mastermind and escaping death before coming up the winner. The explanation of the science behind the machine sounds impressive enough. The story is an average Doc Savage adventure but it's not all that bad of a read, today made that much better by clunky prose such as "The magnetic power of Captain Hazzrad's brain and body seemed to be driving the clouds of horror from her mind", "Then Hazzard struck straight at that evil face", "Hatefully, ruthlessly he sent bullets into their eyes, into their chests", and "There was a bleak, hard smile on his face, like sunlight flashing over steel." What does that mean? My favorite is: "Hazzard pressed a button that sounded a gong on the ship... Hazzard's four assistants knew that gong meant deadly danger." Deadly Danger indeed.
The Doc Savage Press Kit: I've had this forever. I think the contents varied with the press kits so here's what's in mine: Seven 8"x9 1/2" B&W still photographs; the hysterical genealogical chart; a fold-out reprint of a 1971 Time Magazine article; a reprinted Newsweek article; plus fourteen bios, production notes, a synopsis, and a thing on "Movie Magic" - all printed on colorful official Doc Savage letterhead. It's everything the press needed to write a nice review even if they chose not to see it - which was the best way to have the film reviewed positively.
February 26, 2012 Update: Book Report for A History Of The Doc Savage Adventures: I lucked out finding this hardcover for about $38.00 including shipping. Released in 2009 by Robert Michael "Bobb" Cotter, a former fanzine writer and knowledgeable Doc enthusiast, its best feet forward are a comprehensive overview of how each of the original pulps added to the Doc Savage lore and a refreshing honesty on how Doc's been defiled but good by the comic book industry. His weak defense of the 1975 film is just that. It covers pretty much everything, including the many fanzines produced by people like himself.
His opening argument on the value and importance of Doc Savage is fairly awesome, making a winning case for Doc being the immediate precursor of both the modern superhero and action spy genres. For a moment I didn't feel so archaically nerdy. His only dud is saying there would be no Wonder Woman without Pat Savage. The Amazon legends go back to ancient Greece and Pat was a secondary character.
If you wanted to create a Doc Savage timeline of events, inventions, and inside-baseball trivia you can't go wrong using this book as your main reference. Cotter doesn't just recount each novel, he fully researches each and briefly tells you more than you can ever hope to remember.
You Can't Even Begin To Imagine My Suffering: I thought I'd sober-blog the seventeen issues of the most recent series of Doc Savage comic books from DC Comics, running from June 2010 thru October 2011. There was to be a last issue but someone higher up probably decided to actually read the thing and concluded even though trees are a renewable resource, like vegetables, this travesty must stop.
They're horrible, horrible funny books written by adult children who seemingly never even read a Doc Savage novel all the way through, and if they did they didn't have the ability to make him more than a generic action figure.
I've paid my dues a few times over when it comes to buying and reading comic books. I recently donated a seventeen foot stack of lesser issues to a comic book shop just because they seemed nice enough when I walked in the door. Comic books have a price guide value and an actual street value. Who needs another full-time job of selling these things with little return? I collected a long time ago. Do they all stink like these Doc Savage books? Maybe a goodly percentage, but not like this. This is horrid, and what a big slap to the face on the part of DC to the legacy of Doc Savage.
Issue One (2 shots of Lemonade): Oh Jeez, there's a Ray Liotta/Boondock Saints cover: After punching a lion in the face and wrestling another into tapping out, Doc rescues two kids by jumping down an elevator shaft and defying a law or two of basic physics. Everybody looks like a Cabbage Patch doll.
Issue Two (Mineral Water): Cabbage Patch Pat Savage is a TV reporter. Doc has no chin. Johnny has beautiful, long blond hair. Why are blimps all over modern New York? Monk looks like a taxi driver and Ham's like Zorro.
Issue Three (Mineral Water): Lucky for Doc a giant pillow happened to be floating by. That's how they wrote themselves out of a cliffhanger. Long Tom has a wife who might be Asian or Hispanic. Doc defies mechanical physics again by confusing a blimp with a horse.
Issue Four (back to Lemonade): The bad guy has a steampunk light saber! Crackling electricity takes a lot of room to draw well. The story ends quickly and is as inventive as the story itself. Even I could have written this - and then thrown it in the trash because nobody would ever publish it.
Issue Five (while urinating): The cabbage Patch factor is up to 8.3. A single story issue where I guess something is happening. The bar for comic book writing lies on the floor.
Issue Six (Apple Cider Vinegar shots): This is the third storyline so far, and the most ambitious, with nuclear war and deformed Siamese twin alien mutants. The art is darker but still cabbagy. They use the masturbatory "FAP" for the sound of bullets hitting a body. Has Doc Savage done anything super smart yet in the series? Mmmmmaybe. Apple cider vinegar is bitter.
Issue Seven (Standing outside taking a break): Doc and Renny on the cover have the same face. Now they're just mocking me for continuing to read this.
Issue Eight (Rice Milk): Great. Long Tom's knowledge of electricity makes him a Dim Mak expert now. There's no progression from any point A to point B. It's action stalling for time.
Issue Nine (Breathing with an oxygen tank): Ham's in the French Foreign Legion or something. Doc hits women for their own good. The story somehow ends. Do I win something if I can generalize what the plot might be?
Issue Ten (After nap time): The last book ends with "To be continued" but this is a whole new generic story possibly written on spec by the DC Comics mailroom supervisor.
Issue Eleven (folding laundry): We're back to the old storyline, making the last issue a one-off speed bump in the middle of nowhere. Doc dies at the end but I guess not really. It ends with "To be concluded." Liars.
Issue Twelve (eating crackers): Here's what I previously wrote about
"Thankfully, today, in 2011,we'll never see a Doc Savage comic book cover
as dumb as where
his chin and neck form a screaming bird's mouth while a small nuclear device
goes off in his translucent stomach as two paper jetfighters whizz by...
Oops, my not good. It also appears he's paused after a set of straight-bar curls
to finish with a few cheat reps. Feel the burn and the heartburn, generic
modernized action guy with bird mouth neck! Doc-y wanna cracker? SQUAWK!"
Anyhoo, Doc lives (is this a spoiler?) and defies physics once more by holding onto a rocket in flight.
Issue Thirteen (on the terlit): Another new story. Now everyone's a Cabbage Patch doll on steroids. Crocodiles. That can't be good.
Issue Thirteen (stretching post-terlit): Ugly, ugly art inspired by Rob Liefeld. Now Doc's wearing wet superhero tights accentuating his goods, bads, and uglies.
Issue Fourteen (V-8 intravenous drip): If someone read this thing cover-to-cover, including the writer, I'll eat my hat.
Issue Fifteen (Tap Water): Can barely look at the pages. Their repetitive cycles of nothingness batter my brain. Must do something more intellectual, like watch re-runs of Who's The Boss.
Issue Sixteen (Hyperventilating): At least there's some gratuitous cleavage and butt panels.
Issue Seventeen (sphincter unclenching): Bill Gates and Genghis Khan what? I'm glad it's over. Where do I pick up my check? It includes mileage, right?
March 11, 2012 Update: Which One Hurts Less: Anal retention forced me to buy two DC trade paperback reprints of comic books I already own. The Silver Pyramid was $8.73 including shipping and The Man Of Bronze set me back $7.49.
Cynical publishing at its best, both reprints are limp money grabs no doubt brought on by the now-not-so-recent rumors of a new Doc Savage film with Shane Black directing. The Silver Pyramid was the four issue series from 1987 by Dennis O'Neil, Andy Kubert, and Adam Kubert. The Man Of Bronze is the eight issue color series from '72-'73, the better of the two in that The Silver Pyramid is horrid and in 1972 I thought anything with Doc Savage was by default awesome. You'll recognize pulps like "The Monsters" and "Brand Of The Werewolf" in MOB while The Silver Pyramid is a glacial-moving, Freudian WWII Age Of Aquarius hippie romp with alternative character renderings, especially Doc, who's now Ron Ely Big - or Joe Namath Big - which means not much. His health regimen might have consisted of yoga and wheat germ.
The Silver Pyramid trips out of the gate with fashion choices from the Old West. Monk, Wilford Brimley's stumpy brother, wears a bowler hat and is dressed like he stepped off the steamer in High Noon. Ham's literally Snidely Whiplash. Long Tom and Johnny have the same build and Long Tom sports a hipster mustache, beard, and a line of hair going from the beard to the lower lip. Three of the aides have mustaches. After a few pages of 1864 fashion mayhem the comics settle into a 1970s Playboy-Penthouse fashion statement. On The cover of issue two Doc looks exactly like Bob Fosse. This is not good.
The Man Of Bronze is a harmless comic book series for children. Monk is a red-headed Incredible Hulklet and Doc looks like he's made of rubber and prefers a vest with no shirt. This series didn't help destroy the Doc Savage legacy. Neither did the DC Showcase reprints of the B&W magazine series. Most of the rest did.
March 25, 2012 Update: Can You Tell Me How To Get, How To Get To E. Doc Savage Drive: 2854 E. Doc Savage Drive, Langley WA 98260 is for sale. Selling for the reduced price of $619,000.00 you can live forty miles from Seattle, on an island. It's close to Grimm Road and Xanadu Lane, so you know whoever developed this area was a whimsical SOB.
April 22, 2012 Update: Doc Savage, Transhuman: Doc Savage made the internet last month in an article about the mind-numbing concept of Transhumanism, another endeavor where super smart people waste time and energy instead of bathing and knowing how to interact with most other humans. I enjoyed the article as it brought up the beginnings of modern "Physical Culture" and it may partly explain why a number of later years Doc books reverted him into a generic strong person sometimes plagued by insecurity and only winning through luck and the bad guys being crappy at what they do.
I operate under the assumption a number of these "lesser" books were adapted from other stories not originally intended as Doc Savage novels. They're standard detective tales with a name changed to Doc Savage and an aide or two added to follow him around. When WWII ended in 1945 I assume hero fatigue was also responsible. Did Lester Dent become a follower of Psychoanalysis and apply this to Doc Savage?
May 6, 2012 Update: The Avengers - Confusingly Good And Bad News For A New Doc Savage Movie: I'm somewhat a fan of Joss Whedon and books we call comic so I'm glad The Avengers is doing well at both the box office and toy store. I'm going back and forth on if this will be good for a new Doc Savage movie. It's good in that the demand for comic book movies will increase and bad in that Doc Savage is not a comic book character. The industry has done its best to nullify what made Doc great in the first place. I'll wager the odds will improve both for a new Doc Savage movie and that said film will most likely stink when forced through the studio high-concept gauntlet.
The newly very tan Nick Fury says in the film, “There was an idea to bring together a group of remarkable people, so when we needed them, they could fight the battles that we never could.” And what was the first such team? Doc and the Doc-ettes. Stan Lee admits as much. Will Hollywood pile on with more super teams? They'd like to. Iron Man 3 director Shane Black is in charge of a new Doc Savage film so maybe he'll have the backing and impetus to return to the Doc Savage character he admitted he didn't know what to do with. As The Avengers is a smartly scripted film it could open the door for a well-written Doc Savage one as long as he keeps the characters in the human realm and works towards the strengths of the original pulps seen in isolation. What I mean by that is the pulps were all over the place during the 181 book run and the best qualities of the characters are not always on display. The "ideal" Doc Savage is the nearly unstoppable force of the earlier pulps and his aides a unified team beside him. The aides need to be cleaned up and enhanced for their own good.
I conclude the success of The Avengers can only help the cause of a new Doc Savage movie but it doesn't in itself clear up the inherent problems of characters muddied by the childish comic book industry and the Doc Savage intelligentsia who crave any mention of Doc Savage but won't step up to defend or define the brand.
Peaking At The Uberman: Last Doc time, same Doc station I linked to an article titled "The First Transhumans, or Why Doc Savage Lost His Superpower", a good read even though it had little to do with Transhumanism. Doc Savage was Peak Human, not part of the Borg. He's the Übermensch in its most benign interpretation. Google "Peak Human" and "Doc Savage" and you'll wind up with a lot to read, but see how he's also under the category of "Competent Man". Look, up in the skyscraper, it's Competent Man! My story suggestions revolve around the Ubermensch as representing Peak Human Good Vs. Evil and it replaces the Shakespearean melodrama of Marvel films with a Nietzschean edge.
May 20, 2012 Update: The Clusterf--k That Is Kenneth Robeson: Kenneth Robeson wasn't a real person. It was Street & Smith's house namefor whoever wrote Doc Savage and later The Avenger. For Doc Savage it was mostly Lester Dent. Fan fiction writers since have vanity published their own Doc Savage books using the same nom de plume. It's annoying, wrong, and dishonest. If you're not Lester Dent or any other Street & Smith author from the era you shouldn't use that name. It denotes a brand and a set of qualities. It dilutes the brand to have a fanboy with literary aspirations and the vanity of vanity publishing put out a Doc Savage book as Kenneth Robeson. Use your own name or make one up. The same goes for Will Murray even if he is the executor of the Doc Savage estate. Don't make believe you're Lest Dent if you're not.
Challenger Storm: The Isle Of Blood: Here's something I picked up for $3 but didn't read. You can buy it as a print-on-demand book for $16.95 or download it as a PDF file for $3.00. An interview with the author is here. I thought it was a graphic novel but it's a 176 page book. The illustrations by Michael W. Kaluta are excellent.
Bigger Than Life: The Creator Of Doc Savage: I didn't read this cover-to-cover but I did read chunks of it. It was written by Marilyn E. Cannaday, whose other published work was Order Out Of Chaos: How To Simplify Your Life And Housework. The Doc book saw publication in 1990. She grew up in La Plata, MO, considered Lester Dent's home town, and she brings an insider's view on what it was like there. The one review on Amazon is pissy but her take on it, as what's obviously a project she took on because a micro-famous person came from her home town, is spot on. She seems to know the writer's process inside and out and understands what Dent was doing and what were his literary accomplishments.
I don't care if Lester Dent raised farm animals, had an aerial photography business, or took off on adventures searching for treasure on his boat "The Albatross". Besides reading what I consider the best quality Doc Savage books I'm not that interested in the makings of Doc Savage besides who the characters were based on and how they were developed. I'd definitely like to why Doc Savage changed over the years from Peak Human to introspective bumbler.
The book also contains the original rough draft of the character titled "Doc Savage: Supreme Adventurer" along with two dense articles Dent wrote on how to write pulp fiction - something called "Tag 'Em" and the famous "The Pulp Paper Master Fiction Plot". "Tag 'Em" is on how to write details, name characters, and define personality quirks in ways that hit immediately and stick in the mind. "The Pulp Paper Master Fiction Plot" is a step-by-step guide on how to frame your entire novel.
July 23, 2012 Update: A Shnook Looks At A Book: For $13 total I picked up a nice collection of pulp, paperback, and various other thing covers, along with a few articles to set the scene. Authors Larry Widen and Chris Miracle utilize photocopies of books in the condition they were found, but except for the bottom right of Meteor Menace being gone you get complete books with folds and rough edges. It's a fan appreciation the authors wanted to be professional enough to be considered a real book in the Library Of Congress. The articles are nicely done and not slavish fan-boyish, and the pulp summaries are all spoilers of varying severity. They note that Doc doesn't appear on any covers from 1945 to 1948, which is as sad as it is strange. Highly recommended because sure, why not.
November 4, 2012 Update: More Things Me Buy: The Collector's Handbook Of Bronze: For $19.00 total I won this book but my copy has a white cover with just the title and author's name in generic lettering. It's printed by the self-publishing empire Lulu.com, whose print-on-demand services are very professional.
It's a collector's checklist of most everything Doc Savage and it includes a number of home-brew fan creations. The attention to detail is impressive. From this book I now have a new Doc Savage holy grail item - the Pocket Marabout Key Ring, which may or may not exist as a finished product:
"It was proposed in the first books of the Marabout collection. You had to gather a given amount of coupons from several series and send them to Marabout. The key ring contained miniatures of the first book of each series (there were six of them). Each miniature had the original version and the text of the first chapter of the novel. The Doc Savage miniature was L'homme de bronze.".
December 30, 2012 Update: DC Loses Doc Savage: This informed me that DC Comics has decided to not renew the license rights to Doc, The Spirit, and The Avenger. They did a poor job at it so I'm not sad.
Look, Up On The 86th Floor! It's Multi-Cultural Man!!: Found in the comments section above is this:
really excited about Doc Savage when that Next Wave thing started a few years
ago. His superpower was that he was mixed race, which I guess was an exotic
thing back in the thirties. He represented the best qualities of his different
ethnicities creating a new superior hybrid human being. That’s why they call him
the man of bronze.
That’s a pretty clever concept if you ask me, and pretty edgy considering interracial marriage was still illegal in some states at the time. I was really hoping they would explore that in a modern context, but the Doc Savage title was so generic and poorly thought out. It was a missed opportunity."
Doc's superpower was that he was mixed race. That's Not Even Wrong. Do I care if Doc is Latino, Black, or Native American? Not in the least, but that had to come from Lester Dent and Street & Smith back in the day and not Philip Jose Farmer's Wold Newton Family dementia or the fantasies of self-described master class victim groups.
March 31, 2013 Update: More Like Jean-Claude God Damn: Jean-Claude Van Damme Facebooked the following on March 17th:
It was my pleasure to meet Mr.
Stan Lee (creator of "X-Men",
Incredible Hulk" and "Spider-Man")
back in 1994, along with Mr. Samuel & Mr. Victor Hadida!
I read that Chris Hemsworth (star of "Thor" and brother of Liam Hemsworth, "The Expendables 2") would like me to costar in "The Avengers 2" movie! Well, it would be fun to play one of these types of amazing comic book characters again.
By the way, I am a big fan of Marvel's superhero Silver Surfer and also another heroic fictional character known as Doc Savage - the Man of Bronze!
In the late 80's I met him at the ritzy gym where I worked in Washington DC. A very cocky person but he was on the top of the world then. He was preppy and had the musculature described in the original Doc Savage pulps. If Doc was short and from the Low Countries Jean-Claude would have been born to play the role back then.
April 14, 2013 Update: Doc Alf: I won/bought two pieces of original comic book art for $109.00 including shipping. Issue #41 of Marvel Comic's ALF, from 1991, features a story ribbing Doc Savage and his Alf-ized crew "Long Name", "Runny", "Port-A-Johnny", "Mink", and "Hammon Eggs", along with their pets "Suez" and "Roachclops". The classical music-derived jokes are funny, my favorite bit him being handed a freshly torn shirt on a hanger. These are by far my favorite Doc Savage items.
April 28, 2013 Update: Well, This Might Be Good News: Here (Pow!) and here (Bam!) are articles on Shane Black's enthusiastic desire to get hopping on a new Doc Savage film project:
"Right now I’ve got this thing at Warner Bros. called Death Note that I like a lot. It’s a Japanese Manga that’s very tense and really cool. And also something at Sony I’m really excited about, something that as a kid I loved. It’s Doc Savage, the old series of pulp novels and doing Doc Savage right, finding the way to get that script correct has been one of the guiding passions of my adult life. If I can get that script and make it happen in the next 90 days or so then I’d love to make that.
We would start writing a draft when I get back from this. Three months is about the time in which we get a draft. We should be able to do it in 90 days, me and Chuck Mondry and Anthony Baggarozzi, my writing partners.
Chuck wrote the The Cold Warrior and Anthony is working on something for him to direct. He’s been my friend forever and hes a co-writer on Doc Savage. He also wrote something with me called The Nice Guys which never got made but we did a reading in Austin with Tom Jane and we got a very good reaction from that."
May 12, 2013 Update: Now it's For Real Real, Not Play Play: My first post on a new Doc Savage film was dated October 24, 2009. I wrote "Shane Black will write a script for the producing team of Orci & Kurtzman. I guess Michael E. Uslan is out of the picture, literally and figuratively." Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci are now out, Ori Marmur and Neal H. Moritz are Producing, with Michael Uslan also listed as a Producer as he most likely still retains some rights to the property. Anthony Bagarozzi and Charles Mondry are on board as scriptwriters. Representing Columbia Pictures/Sony are Lauren Abrahams and Sam Dickerman.
It's important to look at these people's backgrounds to prognosticate the future of a now in-the-works Doc Savage film. I like Shane Black as he's first a Writer, then both a Producer and Director. As a professed fan of Doc Savage he might see himself as protector of the 1930s pulp fiction legend and not allow the film to be about an angry fifty year old army guy with a mutant widow's peak, riding pants, ripped button-down shirts, and a lust for guns. Maybe, or maybe not. His films have grit and his blockbuster scripts display commendable depths of character study. Marmur's produced some shlock while his partner Moritz has a longer list of shlock under his belt. Michael Uslan executive produced recent Batman films - which bodes well as far as set design and cinematography are concerned, but not if you're against large defining set pieces as I am.
Anthony Bagarozzi has few credits while Charles Mondry doesn't have a IMDB page. They're associates of Shane Black. Studio bean-counter/truant officer Abrahams is newish to the game while Dickerman's resume is crowded with light comedies. Production value-wise I have no concerns with the players involved. Now the question is what kind of film do they intend to make? Will it be true to what made the pulps of the 1930s great or will it be a high-concept, lowest common denominator crapshoot - by crap I mean excrement and by shoot I think you know what I mean.
The Name's Ardan... Docteur Ardan:
"Tibet, 1927. Intrepid explorer Doctor Ardan is taken prisoner by the diabolical Natas, who has discovered the secret of making gold through nuclear fusion, and rules over a city of slaves whom he controls with an unholy brand of leprosy. Can Doc Ardan, with the aid of beautiful Louise Ducharme, thwart the Oriental Mastermind's evil schemes and escape from the City of Gold and Lepers? Scientist and world-saving explorer Doctor Ardan was created in 1928, five years before Doc Savage. This ground-breaking SF adventure that predicted the use of nuclear energy16 years before the Manhattan Project has been translated by award-winning authors Jean-Marc & Randy Lofficier and includes original black & white illustrations and a historical foreword about the Ardan family, from Michel Ardan (From the Earth to the Moon) to Dale Arden (Flash Gordon)."
The French claim for inventing Doc Savage takes the form of Doc Ardan, a single story available from Amazon at the high price of $20.95. In the original his name isn't exactly "Doc Ardan" and the book is not only translated into English but also "Adapted And Retold". That's answers that question right there.
May 26, 2013 Update: I lean towards thinking Shane Black is capable of making a decent if not great Doc Savage film, and then it's pointed out that Producer Neil H. Moritz birthed the remake of The Green Hornet, which elicited this Netflix review that speaks directly to my fears:
"These reviews are completely missing the point. The Green Hornet was a radio show, then a tv show with Van Williams and Bruce Lee. In tone, the tv show was actually kind of close to (and probably an inspiration for) Nolan's "Dark Knight" movies - trying to create a realistic superhero - in a realistic environment. If they'd taken that approach, simply updating the tv show, they probably would've had at least a decent movie - instead virtually every creative choice was wrong, from the tone of the film, to the casting, to the director. The result is a horrible mess. This is what happens when you let an egomaniac actor, a lot of lawyers, accountants, and people that no love of or interest in movies (or taste), try and create a film 'franchise'."
Moritz produced seven titles in 2011, three in 2012, so far has four credits in 2013, and has seven future credits in the works. Does he have time to even care about Job #1 for Doc Savage fans who care and aren't just happy anything is being made? His father worked for Sam Arkoff for 23 years as head of advertising and publicity. Do you see my concerns with Art vs. Product?
In the coming months I'll add to my list of Signs of The Coming Doc Savage Apocalypse - factors which will lead to if not guarantee a future film failure starring my main man Sgt. AARP Eddie Munster and his crew of bland stereotypes:
01) Doc carries a gun
02) Doc sports a crew cut widow's peak.
03) Doc is played by an actor shorter than 6'2" (and I'm being generous here).
04) Doc displays a full range of emotion with anger and rage as needed.
05) Doc is played by an actor who looks like he should be starring on a TV show on The WB.
07) Doc is a stud (or is even aware of his looks and build).
08) Monk is played by a lumpy fat guy as comic relief.
09) Monk and Ham have pets.
10) Any scene designed to make ten year old boys feel like they're watching something from the X-Games.
11) Doc lifts weights, or even worse gets into a bench press contest with Renny and Monk.
12) Pat Savage is involved. There's too many charactersas is.
It's Ok To Peak, Human: As far as tone and style, it's paramount to remember Doc Savage is not a superhero. He's Peak Human, the highest level of achievement for someone of his size and mental capacity. Excellent physical and mental genetics was combined with a lifetime of training to create an Uberman. A serious film will always keep in mind the limits of what a peak human can do. Can someone 6'5", 250 pounds, and highly trained throw a 200 lb. opponent through the air fifteen yards across a room? Probably not. Can he do it if the other guy is already running in that direction? Maybe to probably. Highlight the capacities of Peak Human. Don't do anything a reasonable person can see is unreal. You have to stretch the limits of human physics sometimes to heighten cinematic thrills, but always know where the line is.
Doc Has Aides: I'm firmly against Doc in a new film being openly emotional. I see his focus, seriousness, and the burden of his training and mission in life keeping most of that in check with no damage to his psyche. That's where his five assistants come in. They're the full range of personality from comic relief to deep human connection to even fear. Where Doc needs to be rescued from paperback book covers and childish action figures to become what he was in the 1930s pulps, the aides need an overhaul for the sake of storytelling and audience relatability.
In the pulps they're ugly and half the time outright unlikable. They're misfits and maybe that's what binds them together under Doc Savage - a misfit who's the rare exception to the rule. Doc makes them all better and the assistants make Doc whole. Their characters and stories are as important to a successful new film as Doc himself and the mechanizations of the script.
In a new film they need to be friends who respect each other and work as a team where everyone knows their role. Monk and Ham's hate/love relationship should be toned down to an inside joke between the two. Monk needs to lose his cruelty and become a sympathetic character aware of his appearance. Ham should use his cane for a permanent limp and not be prissy about his clothing. Renny should be outgoing, friendly, and loud but turn serious when fighting, where it can be revealed that's when he's happiest of all. Johnny should be stuck as a big-word misfit for comic effect and to not have to focus on him as much. Long Tom should be a fully normal and audience-relatable character who can't fight well and is protected by the others as a younger brother.
June 9, 2013 Update: Sky Captain Crashes In Sin City On The Spirit's Dumb Face: Some are recommending a new Doc savage film receive the Sin City, The Spirit, or Sky Captain & The World Of Tomorrow visual treatment. Read here about Sky Captain's production and here for both Sin City and The Spirit. The operant term is "Digital Backlot".
I can see the appeal in creating a noire feel and rendering the weird occurrences in Doc Savage pulps in ways that seem natural to their own environment. I also realize its limitations and novelty. Sky Captain & The World of Tomorrow is beautiful to look at but couldn't sustain its 106 minute run time. There's only so much Blue Screen acting you can look at in one sitting. If they chose a similar mix of live set and animation used in 1929's Metropolis, Sky Captain would have been a classic.
Sin City succeeded partly because it looked like the comic books they were based on. The other 85% of its appeal to fans was its brutality, cruelty, and embrace of smug gutter d-baggery - like most Quentin Tarantino films.
The Spirit could have succeeded using the Sin City template if the story stuck to the storytelling format of Will Eisner's original seven-page story layouts. Instead they did everything wrong. A committee of experts couldn't come up with more ways to make this any worse than it is. The Spirit is worse than the 1975 Doc Savage film, and that's saying something.
July 21, 2013 Update: The Formula For Formulaic Filmmaking: Slate explains why so many movies look and feel the same. They blame/credit a book by Blake Snyder titled Save The Cat: The Last Book On Screenwriting You'll Ever Need.
Mr. Snyder wrote Blank Check and Stop! Or My Mother Will Shoot, the latter winning/losing three Razzies in 1993. Those that can't do, teach. A long time ago Lester Dent penned his "Pulp Paper Master Fiction Plot" guidelines. Snyder's book isn't the first, last, or possibly best book on the subject, but it's one of the easiest to understand, and maybe it appeals to the same people who rely on screenwriting software, whose templates by default rewards formulaic storytelling. Maybe screenwriting has become a computerized version of Mad Libs.
Crickets And Tumbleweed: There's a small annual science fiction and fantasy convention in Indianapolis called InConJunction. This year the following took place:
"The WCRS Radio Players recall the Golden Age of Radio with the production of an unproduced script for the pilot of the 1934 Doc Savage radio series, based on the novel "The Man of Bronze" by Lester Dent as Kenneth Robeson with additional dialogue and production by Mark C. Dooley. Our featured players are Terry O'Connell as Princess Monya, Michael Bryan Walt as Monk Mayfair and Renny Renwick, and Mark C. Dooley as Doc Savage, Ham Brooks, Long Tom Roberts, Johnny Littlejohn, King Chaac, the Feathered Serpent, and a variety of evil Mayans. Guest appearance by the Sonic Screwdriver as the Ultra Violet Ray. Performed July 7th at InConJunction 2013."
"Well, welcome, everybody!" I hope somebody was there besides the cameraperson.
August 10, 2013 Update: Philip Jose Farmer Had A Book, E I E I O, And In This Book He Combined Great Research With Nonsensical Irrelevancy, E I E I O: I received my signed copy of the reprint hardcover above with its least awesome cover ever! Pick up yours today from this link. Here's how they're promoting it:
The newly revised edition also features a brand new
foreword by Farmer and pulp expert Win Scott Eckert, updates to the “List of
Doc Savage Stories” including the latest novels, and rare Wold Newton Family
tree material culled from Mr. Farmer’s notes.
The deluxe hardcover edition, in addition to the above, features tributes by other Farmer and Doc experts, including John Allen Small, Keith Howell, Rick Lai, Art Sippo, Christopher Paul Carey, and current Doc Savage writer Will Murray, as well as other bonus materials not seen in prior editions, such as:
• Doc’s Coat of Arms, reconstructed by Win Scott Eckert and illustrated by Keith Howell, from notes by Philip José Farmer
• A List of Doc Savage Comics by Win Scott Eckert and John Allen Small, a rundown of authorized Doc Savage comics which supplements Mr. Farmer’s List of Doc Savage Stories
• Writing Doc’s Biography by Philip José Farmer
• Afterword to Doc Savage Omnibus #13 by Philip José Farmer
My negative thoughts on the Wold Newton Family uselessness aside, for the collector this is a nice book to add to your collection of things you probably shouldn't have bought in the first place. The guest articles lean towards idol worship of Philip Jose Farmer and Doc Savage.
Highbrow Fashion Meets Lowbrow Culture: Andy Warhol's Interview Magazine, on what must have been the slowest week of the century, weighed in with casting choices for the upcoming New York heroin-chic art-film Doc Savage: The Man Of Armani and Prada. It's an excuse to toss up random fashion stills from random actors. Here it is. I personally don't want to see a new film populated by male anorexics.
August 17, 2013 Update: I Earned My Doc(torate) Savage Diploma On-line In Six To Twelve Months: In 1943 Doc Savage creator Lester Dent sailed his boat, The Hum Dinger, to The Nestle Isles and ran aground on coals. While awaiting Triple Ocean-A he scripted a never published Doc Savage story about Doc tin-foiling a plot by unnamed enemies of the Allies to distribute radioactive condoms to American troops, making them easier to spot at night with their pants down in situations of prostitution. Dent took his ideas to his editor, Scott Millwork, and publisher, Clarence Stumpmuffin, who insisted all references to whores be replaced with "Strumpet", "Fallen Woman", "Harlot", "Woman Of The Streets", and "Mom?!". Dent assigned this task to his New York assistant, Betty McConicle, who wrote longhand with her right and could only type with her left. The story appeared in 1942 as "The Deadly Ghost Peni".
None of this really happened but that's how much I care about Doc Savage "academia". Even the stuff I find interesting evokes a small shrug. I can't think of anything less important than knowing the random names, places, and circumstances of the Doc Savage world. I also find the individual novels secondary to whatever good things you can take from then individually and combine into a superior whole of what makes Doc Savage good, great, and worthwhile.
Doc Savage is like Bazooka Joe - it's great because it's great (and here's why) but the particulars of the makings of this sausage I'm enjoying aren't of great interest to me. Do I care if someone finds all things Doc Savage interesting? No. Do I think it adds up to nothing beyond expertise in the depths of cultural trivia? Yes. I knew someone who proudly memorized literally everything about the Godzilla world monsters. It was an amazing use of intellectual ability.
September 22, 2013 Update: Shane Black Says All The Right Things: I watched this interview and am overjoyed that so far Shane Black gets Doc Savage. He's knows exactly what he's dealing with. An article about this article offers some quotes:
"Obviously in the books
there’s an element of ‘goody goody’ that we like," says Black. "But we
needed something more, so we beefed up the sort of rationale behind what it
would take to be a perfect person and to be trained as such from childhood
and how that would scar someone."
As for who might play the title role, Black isn't certain, although he does have a checklist of physical attributes that any prospective star would have to measure up to…
"Here’s the problem," explains Black, "they kind of gotta be tall. He’s the perfect physical specimen and when people look at him, they’re overawed by the sort of symmetry and perfection that he exudes."
"I don’t know that you could use, like, James McAvoy as Doc Savage. You couldn’t do it. He’s a fine actor, but we need someone big. Back in the day Schwarzenegger was talked about to play Doc Savage. I don’t know who we’d get."
One to watch then, although if you fancy a flutter, Black seemed very amenable to the idea of Chris Hemsworth, reacting to the suggestion by replying: "that's not a bad idea… what's he doing?"
September 29, 2013 Update: TV Tropes has a Doc Savage page where they look down their big list of clichés, categories, themes, etc. and figure out how Doc Savage fits the bill. Here you'll learn Monk is a "Kavorka Man" and that Doc Savage pulps adhere to the trope of "Exit, Pursued By A Bear". Fun stuff.
2013 Update: I Had A Meltdown This Week On The
Cheap: I checked out
Meltdown Comics in Los
Angeles and the friendly staff directed me to a few numbered Bama
prints they've had in stock for so long they were willing to have me
almost name my price. I bought three for $80. Each print
came in a large matching manila envelope that shows the print
number. I'm not a Bama fan (well why did you buy them then? Oh
shut up!). I don't like many of his choices, from the hair
to the elderly aging to always wearing the same ripped shirt to never
including Doc's assistants. I understand the need for a simple, uniform
style, and nobody loves giant floating faces more than I, but still.
THAT Went South Fast: A few weeks ago I was feeling good about the new Doc Savage comic book series coming in December from Dynamite Entertainment. Then this interview appeared and I'm fairly certain I'll be skimming the first issue in a store before putting it back and walking out backwards whistling in reverse. Read the whole thing but here's two quotes from Chris Roberson that need attention:
"I think it’s important to ground Doc in his original setting, in the 30s and 40s, to establish who he is and why he does what he does. But then rolling forward decade-by-decade to the present day, the trick is to keep the core of the character and his setup intact, while adding in new elements that make the character resonate in a contemporary setting."
"In the first few issues, we establish the explanation for how Doc is still running around 80 years after his first appearance. He ages, but very slowly, at about a quarter of the rate of other people, for reasons that will be explained. So he appears to be in his 20s in the first issue, and just a couple of decades older than that when we catch up to 2013 by issue 7. And the Fabulous Five and his cousin Patricia will be on hand, as well, aging at more normal rates, so that gradually new assistants and associates will be joining the team, replacing those who have retired as time goes on."
Doc Savage is not a
comic book character. If you can't write a pulp adventure that
reflects the aesthetics of the 1930s and Lester Dent's
characters, don't start a project like this. At best it will be
a generic comic book story with vaguely familiar characters some
will recognize as Doc Savage and the Forgotten Five. At
worst it will be another Doc Savage comic book.
Sampling The Dark Side of Doc Sidhe: For a few dollars I bought the 1995 paperback Doc Sidhe, by Aaron Allston. There was a sequel from 2001 titled Sidhe Devil. The author can be found at the Aaron Allston's Weblog. He's written novels, short stories, and even a book on how to write novels. Here he writes about getting back the rights for his two Doc books and his plans to re-write them "to conform to my current writing style."
November 24, 2013 Update: Doc Savage's (S)crappy Scientists: I'm not a purist when it comes to Doc Savage. The pulp run from 1933 to 1949 disallows purity. Doc evolved from 6' murder machine to 6'8" benevolent superman, and towards the end his personality and skill sets trended toward insecurity and dumb luck. Monk, Ham, Renny, Long Tom, and Johnny are consistent characters whose financial situations were the only real variable. I know what The Five look like. I honestly have no idea what Doc looks like. Dent provided specific descriptions but they never formed a face in my mind.
The Baumhofer covers are the best because Doc looks the most handsome and athletic. Later on he was a surfer, twink, proto-greaser - and soon enough they stopped having him on covers altogether. Internal illustrations are meaningless as there's no style guide in place or in force. The Bama paperback covers have informed the minds of a hardcore camp of fans to where they think Doc is a 54 year old man posing for covers in front of a blue screen recalling his adventures from decades earlier.
I know changes must be made in a new Doc Savage film. I insist these changes be minimal and necessary. Events from 1935 must stay in 1935. "Future" technology must be reasonable advances from 1935 shown in all their contextual glory. The aides have to be made less ugly and angry. My act of heresy is changing Long Tom into an audience-relatable character acting as a bridge between them and the world of Doc Savage. Doc is the best Doc Savage from the early pulps - quiet, thoughtful, smart, strong, graceful, and the epicenter of action and attention. He has no catch-phrases, quips, or standard-issue costumes.
Available for the art exhibition at Doc Con 2013
This 32 page 8 ½ x 11” landscape format book was produced as an art catalog to accompany the exhibition of the original art at Doc Con 2013
Collected are the two weeks’ worth of Dave Cockrum 's strips that were produced in 1978 as a proposal for an ongoing newpaper strip. Book also contains the new before seem thrid week of the strip newly illustrated by Ron Frenz and Bob McLeod . Daily strips are reproduced in black and white and for the first time ever, Dave’s Sunday strip will be presented in full color along with the newly drawn Sunday.
Book also contains writer Mark Hannerfeld’s essay on the strips history and illustrated with some never before seen thumbnail breakowns of the strip by Dave Cockrum and Ron Frenz.
This is a very nice item and a lot of work and affection went into it. The cover is thick and has a nice gloss. Buy one before they're gone. The comic strips are standard character introduction fare. The two "bad" things I noticed were Doc lifting weights and Monk looking like The Hulk. Doc's Prince Namor hair carpet is a bad cliche.
December 15, 2013 Update: Dynamite Entertainment Doc Savage #1 Review: [Spoilers Alert!] I had to visit three local stores to find the inaugural issue of Dynamite Entertainment's Doc Savage. The first two were sold out. That's gotta be good. The story is 22 pages and tells a short tale that equals the first chapter of a complete Doc Savage novel (assuming the run equals a complete pulp). The story is better than other Doc Savage comics but also falls short in a few ways. Is it the comic book medium itself to blame, or the storytellers? I assign a 25/75 split of responsibility.
The crew on the cover is not the one inside the comic. Doc is normal sized bulky and his features are clumped in the center of his face. He looks like a more handsome Zachery Ty Bryan. Monk looks like a formerly handsome football player whose face hit the turf once too often. Long Tom looks like Clark Kent and Ham is Basil Rathbone. Johnny's regular looking and Renny is a slightly larger fellow. Standing together on page fourteen they look fairly alike and Doc is the shortest! Illustrator Bilquis Evely renders most faces familial.
The good about the story is that writer Chris Roberson keeps it real and small "S" science-based, and focuses on the procedural aspects of a typical Doc Savage pulp. The bad guy's not dressed like a demented rodeo clown. It's good that it falls short instead of failing horribly as is the way with Doc Savage comic books. Faint praise.
On the bad side, a Doc Savage comic should use narration instead of making Doc chatty, and others resort to exposition they already know and would not normally speak out loud. At one point Doc says "My long years of meditation and mental exercises". Doc calls himself Doc. Ham and Monk's "feud" is expressed in one line from Ham given neither response nor context, so it comes across as childish and wildly inappropriate. Johnny's wordiness is interpreted in turn by others for the others. Another thing I didn't like was when Doc hurtles himself off a building and then figures out a way not to die. They should have had him secure the line first and then jump. No need to make him look suicidal the way they did.
I assume there's comic book tropes everyone involved feels must be met, for some reason. Comic books make pulp characters worse when they make them comic book characters. How about creating pulp fiction stories in graphic form instead of making a comic book about pulp fiction?
January 5, 2014 Update: Short Story Commentary: For $2.99 you can download two Doc Savage-inspired tales from William Preston: "Helping Them Take The Old Man Down" and "Clockworks". That's dirt cheap even as a charitable contribution to an 11th Grade English teacher. Here that would be William Preston. So far I've read "Helping Them Take The Old Man Down". I just ordered the third one, "Unearthed", for 99 cents. Nothing against words but there's nothing in a book you can't learn twice as fast on TV!
"Helping Them Take The Old Man Down" was first published in Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine in 2010, followed by a prequel, "Clockworks", in 2011. Another prequel, "Unearthed" came out 1/13. According to Preston's blog, "Each in His Prison, Thinking of the Key" appeared in Asimov's mid-year 2013. A 5th tale, "The World Will Be The World Again", has yet to be published (if even yet written) and is likely a sequel to the first story. To confuse things even more, Preston adds, "Though the stories jump around chronologically, they should be read in the order in which they were written: 'Helping Them Take the Old Man Down,' 'Clockworks,' and 'Unearthed,' which take place in 2001/2, 1962, and 1925, respectively. The new story takes place in 2006. As for the final story . . . you'll see."
The preface tries to have it both ways when it comes to how much Preston
bases the stories on Doc Savage. The first tale is so thinly veiled
it only has one
side, but afterwards I could take his word for it.
"Helping Them Take The Old Man Down" works as hard to be
not Doc Savage as it does being Doc Savage. Preston writes
"They are the first two stories in a chronologically disarranged series
of stories about a heroic man who, though first conceived of as an
homage to pulp hero Doc Savage, is in fact, as becomes increasingly
clear with each tale, not meant to be confused with that character.
Though there are repeated nods to Doc Savage’s raggedly constructed
“history,” no actual congruence between the two characters’ histories or
motivations is intended, leaving me free to do with my character as I
Before I get into my opinion of the story, I will and must say William Preston is very good at expressing concise and precise thoughts. Here's some examples:
"As for himself, he never used a gun. A master of disabling the most
solidly built enemy with a single blow, the Old Man believed in the
nobility of the human spirit but saw the human body as a machine rife
with 'off' switches."
"And for all the arcane weirdness most people associated with the Old Man, even our most bizarre cases had rational explanations— though I must say that my idea of 'rational' expanded profoundly while in the Old Man’s service."
William Preston should attempt an original, straight-on 1930's Doc Savage pulp actioner within the template established by Lester Dent. Preston has a way with words and he should give it a try.
I don't want to get into what's Doc Savage-y or not, but the narrator by vocation is based on Johnny, Doc is seventy years old, his organization shadows The Shadow, and The Old Man's slow aging might be the basis for the new comic book series from Dynamite Entertainment. The story of "Helping Them Take The Old Man Down" is standard hero deconstruction fare, written from a detached perspective that's nicely introspective and "Meta", but also distant and removed. The narrator sees the story's big action scene far in the distance through binoculars, while immediate events are experienced in a stupor fog. Was he lobotomized at Doc's college? Did he recently come out of a coma? There's a whiff of Kafka too, which is impressive in itself but the story lacks immediacy while the narrator thinks and acts in slow motion.
"Helping Them Take The Old Man Down" sets up a decent basis for a series of stories, and William Preston is talented, but hopefully for me as a reader the stories that follow are less existential, and experienced by a lead character of clear mind who acts and reacts instead of slowly looking around and figuring out what's happened in retrospect.
January 26, 2014 Update: Dynamite Entertainment Doc Savage #2 Review: Dynamite prints a variety of variant covers. One is "worth" $175.00. By worth I mean good luck finding someone that stupid.
Issue #2's 22 pages went by quickly. Its first five pages were a marked improvement over the first issue and I figured the premier was all-in exposition to set up a more nuanced run for the rest of the series, where Doc ages slowly and the story shifts to modern times. There's hints of that set-up but starting with page six it's once again random comic book filler with nods to the deconstructed horror of Doc's "college" and various means of transport. Doc crashes in for a quick resolution and some medical Deus ex machina. This wasn't good. I've read free comic books with Spider-Man and Superman promoting tooth-brushing and literacy that were more complicated than this.
On page three Monk and Ham look sixty years old, which doesn't jibe with any progression from the last book. On the last page they're back to around forty and Monk resembles Ernest Borgnine. Pat is Laura Dern at age 23. Facial features aren't as scrunched into the middle as before but as with another Doc Savage comic book series I read there's a Cabbage Patch thing going on with faces.
Doc uses the guns he never carried outside of comic books and statues, Johnny's use of larger yet perfectly understandable words are translated as if they're Sanskrit, and Doc defies all laws of physics but not splatting into a bony paste on his way into the College. Either Dynamite is stupid, I'm stupid, or they assume I must be stupid if I'll spend $3.99 for a comic book. I spent $3.99 plus tax and the price of a bag and board so I must be $4.69 worth of stupid.
February 23, 2014 Update: Doc Savage Is Six People: Doc Savage would have not have been as successful if the pulps did not include Monk, Ham, Renny, Long Tom, and Johnny. Doc Savage is the story of an organization of six members. As Doc lacked a full range of emotion the others were needed to create personality, humor, and shared purpose. It's not easy writing six major characters and as time went on aides were utilized more on an as-needed basis. Johnny stood out as the least distinctive character and was hampered by his vocabulary affectation, which is why he should be remade into a character the audience can directly relate to. Monk and Ham were the go-to Heckle and Jeckle team, and in the radio scripts it was just Doc and Monk as sounding board and comic relief.
You can't make a Doc Savage movie without all six major characters adding major contributions. A major motion picture should be able to accomplish this. Write Doc Savage as a team, not as Doc Savage and these other guys.
March 2, 2014 Update: The Father, The Son, And The Holy F Why Am I Still Buying These?: I can't say this is the worst Doc Savage comic book of all time, but you can and you'd probably be right. Issue #3 of Dynamite Entertainment's Doc Savage is horrible. Did I mention it's horrible, and that Doc Savage fans will think it's great because it stars Doc Savage? Issue #2, for maybe three pages, tried to make up for shortcomings in the premiere issue, while this one projectile vomits to 1961 to do nothing more than trial balloon moral questions and quandaries in heavy-handed ways so rote Bertolt Brecht is frowning up from hell as I type this.
There's no action to speak of and everything else is wrong. Writer Chris Roberson took plot elements from Fear Cay and tossed it into a wilted salad of evil drug company economics and improper planning that dooms the success of the project in the face of capitalist evil. The bad guy's a bit of Lex Luthor and The Kingpin. Doc's eternal youth serum is given the clumsy name of Panacea, and old man Monk thinks he's going to be twenty again. That his body will regress to the age of twenty and then stop. Doc's not aged a day since 1934 and nobody on the 86th floor noticed? If parents feed Panacea to their children at their cutest age will they stay that age indefinitely? Will the earth's population grow to 50 billion twenty year olds? Will everyone want to work forever?
Then there's how Renny, Long Tom, and Johnny don't appear. Writing's hard. Monk and Ham sit on a couch like Statler and Waldorf while Doc's new crew makes their entrance. Going forward Monk and Ham will remain old and in the way while a new-and-improved set of assistants take over. Nice move on the part of Dynamite. There's nothing wrong about Doc Savage except everything, so let's change all that and make More Relevant.
I'm done with this series. I can't see how it can possibly get worse.
And Another (Yet Similar) Thing: On the down-low the second draft of a movie script for Frank Darabont's Arnold Schwarzenegger was printed as a trade paperback. It's impossible to read it all the way through as it's generic garbage. All Arnold needed to know was a basic outline of the character, to which he quickly added "And he smokes cigars and smiles as he makes scene-stealing wise cracks on a basis to be determined by my manager".
It's not even that only Frick (Monk) and Frack (Ham) appear as aides. Out of the gate the script introduces two new major characters, Captain Simon Wolf (French Legionnaire) and equal co-star Corporal Jack Sparks - rakish and dark-haired, to be played by Johnny Depp? The movie's Arnold being Arnold and new characters enabling Arnold. Monk and Ham are window dressing.
March 23, 2014 Update: This March 17th article on Sony execs Mike De Luca and Hannah Minghella contains this quote from Mr. De Luca, "I'm managing the next Dan Brown book, 'Inferno', with Imagine, and Shane Black's follow-up to 'Iron Man 3', 'Doc Savage', which is an original franchise." It's both odd and encouraging to call the new film the first of a franchise. Remember how the 1975 Film Of Shame was the first film of a franchise?
Here's 10 Pulp Comic Book Heroes Who Deserve An Epic Movie Comeback. Doc is #6. I was turned off by the writer calling pulp fiction characters "Comic Book Heroes" but his list also includes comic book, comic strip, and radio heroes, so the title might just be an unfortunate way of condensing the idea down to a few words. It does annoy me that anyone would think comic books and pulp fiction novels are the same thing.
Here's a free pdf file of a thing called "The Man Of Bronze: Doc Savage In Print And On Film", by John A. Small. You can find other Doc Savage pdf files on this page.
I Read Slow And Big Words Hurt: I'm on page 86 (of 204) of the delightful young adult adventure tale "Doc Wilde And The Frogs Of Doom". So far it's great and I have no idea what age it's written for but I'm assuming the kids have to be smart to follow the goings on. Author Tim Byrd blogs and Doc Wilde would make a fantastic show for kids' cable television or ABC Family.
April 6, 2014 Update: A learned man by the name of Tony Jones posted a blog piece titled "Doc Savage – what can we learn from 181 pulp magazines?" As a writing instructor he attempts to reduce Lester Dent's Fiction Master Plot writer's guide to something even I can understand. He gets the "First 1,500 Words" part wrong heavily due to not having read any of the books himself and relying on outside sources which don't know their elbows from their elbow macaronis.
Did You Know Lester Dent and H.P. Lovecraft Were Pen-Pals?: Well, now you do.
April 20, 2014 Update: It's Not Much, But It's Something, Maybe: New Doc Savage movie Producer Michael Uslan is writing the first issue of Dynamite Entertainment's upcoming Justice Inc #1, which will make even betterer The Avenger by directly involving his fathers The Shadow and Doc Savage. Mr. Uslan must be itching to get the Doc Savage juggernaut rolling so we'll see if he has a decent vision on what a Doc Savage is or if he sees Doc as another high-concept roll of the creative dice that helps you fail upwards.
Who Is Volunteering To Play Doc Savage These Days?: Ivan "Doc" Holiday, soon-to-be star of the reality TV show Roadhouse Rehab, coming this Spring! According to his comment on Screenrant, "I’d like a shot at the Doc Savage lead. 5’8..225. I look like him..talk like him…& i have a Mensa IQ of 144." Not capitalizing "I" kept Mr. Holiday from scoring 145 Mensa points, and Doc Savage should be the age of how many years Mr. Holiday has worked as a scum-bar bouncer, but you can tell him these things. I'm walkin' that way.
April 27, 2014 Update: Writer's Room Writer Calls Doc Savage A Vigilante: Sundance TV airs a wonky show called The Writer's Room, and Season 1, Episode 3 covers Dexter, a show filmed largely in Long Beach, CA.
Later seasons Executive Producer Manny Coto says "I'm a huge fan of comics and pulps, and I came to it from a bit of a shallower perspective to Dexter, but I saw Dexter as the latter day pulp hero. Pulp heroes from the 30s from the Shadow and Doc Savage on were vigilantes outside the law. Well Dexter looked to me like the 21st century version of those characters. He has a secret identity... he has super powers... his serial killing ability is a super (power)..."
Doc Savage wasn't a vigilante even though this definition is on its surface accurate, "A member of a self-appointed group of citizens who undertake law enforcement in their community without legal authority, typically because the legal agencies are thought to be inadequate." Doc Savage tackled dangers the "legal agencies" knew damn well they were ill-equipped to deal with, and they thanked their lucky stars Doc Savage was around to take care of things. Was Mighty Mouse a vigilante? Scooby Doo? Hell no, and neither was Doc Savage.
May 4, 2014 Update: I Like This Because I Agree With It: Here someone of high moral fiber takes on the post-modern nonsense that Doc Savage has to be portrayed as a flailing failure. Others seem to agree. I know I do, and so should you.
May 25, 2014 Update: On January 6, 2014 someone visited my site from The William Morris Agency seeking "Doc Savage Wanted". Well that's something maybe
The Horror Of Disco And The 1975 Film Of Shame Remembered: From Bruce Hennigan:
"In 1975, two tragedies occurred. First, disco took over my world of rock and roll music. And, the movie adaptation of Doc Savage starring Ron Ely premiered. I stood in line at the Strand Theater in downtown Shreveport. Fans of Doc Savage stretched down and around the block. I was stunned. I had no idea anyone knew who Doc Savage was. But, those fans were just as dismayed and disappointed with the movie as I was. It was horrible; campy; downright stupid; and an insult to anyone who loved the pulpy thriller stories of Doc Savage."
June 25, 2014 Update: Shane Black Wants Chris Hemsworth to Play Doc Savage: He would be an excellent choice, all things considered. It's also good the film is getting mentioned again in something approximating moving forward. I've often stated it would be best not to go for a gargantuan budget and then be bound to it with huge sets and CGI up the ying-yang. The idea is to make an excellent Doc Savage movie, not a hugely-budgeted film about a guy named Doc Savage.
I liked the line "Basically, he was the original Most Interesting Man in the World."
September 13, 2014 Update: Megaton Man was cool in its day. It had bright primary colors all over the place. They're all worthless now. 1988's The Return Of Megaton Man #2 contains a short parody of Doc Savage - here Megaton Man's grandpop "Doc Megaton":
"And who can forget his five fabulous assistants -- The Quintessential Quintet..? I can only remember two of them: Percy Hollybrooks, The Learning Annex's most brilliant lawyer, and Gorilla Gamble, who used to do something or other... And, well, I forget the other three..."
"The only thing those two loved more than fighting alongside ol' Doc was chasing skirts..! Of course, it was all a cover..."
"Actually, Percy was a self-loathing closet gay -- while Gorilla was a really ugly woman..."
November 09, 2014 Update: The "Concept" Of Doc Savage: David Logsdon started a thread on Flearun that reads:
"I devoured the Doc Savage paperbacks when I was a youngster. But now that I am in my 6th decade, I REALLY struggle with completing any of them. Does anyone else want to confess to the same thing?"
The answers covered the globe but there was a trend towards this response: "I find I like the idea of pulp heroes more than the stories." This is completely legitimate and also a reflection on the status of Doc Savage fandom, which on the high end has offered too many chases after the butterflies of artistic fabrication. At the proletariat level I detect a core group of collectors who know Doc Savage fairly well, at least in comparison to the pool below them who seemingly operate off a vague memory of liking something called Doc Savage enough to join a Facebook group.
Getting back to liking the "idea" of pulp stories more than the stories themselves, Doc Savage books are not much different in form and function than romance novels or serial films. Doc pulps were written for kids and working class men whose vocabularies weren't spectacular. Repetition and familiarities were both necessary and demanded. The point was cheap escapist entertainment, and mission accomplished. The pulps offered neither continuity nor consistency, and creative checks written in the first chapters too often bounced hard. I imagine nobody cared along the entire food chain from producer to consumer. All there was were deadlines and sales numbers.
It's not about the best ten pulps or even the best story ever written. It's the characters, ideas, context, inventions, style, pacing, and everything else that works best and presents the best of Doc Savage. Sadly there's no consensus on who or what Doc Savage is, and the collective fandom cares as little now as Street & Smith did when they didn't assign a concrete visual style guide to the pulp run.
I hope the Doc Savage fan community gets around to creating a database of all things Doc Savage so the vagueness of memory about Doc Savage can be replaced by facts and substance. I assigned hard-core Doc fans qualified expertise mostly because the books are too many, too contradictory, and too packed with tidbits to be known very well. Will Murray is the acknowledged expert on Doc Savage so seek out his articles.
Pat Savage And The Childish, Creepy Sexual Shortcomings Of Men: BleedingCool.com sums it up nicely in the title of this article: "I Fell In Love With Pat Savage When I Was About 10 Years Old". I find the recurring interest in this secondary character to be juvenile pandering to the geeky sexual fantasies of creepy old men with beards caked in dried soup and sprinkled with cracker crumbs.
November 23, 2014 Update: A Doc Savage Code To Live By:
"Let me strive every moment of my life to make myself better and
better, to the best of my ability,
that all may profit by it.
Let me think of the right and lend all my assistance to those who need it, with no regard for anything but justice.
Let me take what comes with a smile, without loss of courage.
Let me be considerate of my country, of my fellow citizens and my associates in everything I say and do.
Let me do right to all, and wrong no man."
January 10, 2015 Update: I recently watched The Rocketeer, a fun comic book series from 1982 and a fun kid's movie from 1991. Doc Savage, Monk, and Ham appear in the comics and are handled well. In a few panels writer-artist Dave Stevens visually presents an optimal Doc Savage of great power, intelligence, poise, speed, and deceptively large size. Ham is nicely professional, and while Monk is clownish in an impotent "Why I oughta!" fashion, that's not far from the truth and serves as comic relief in a comic book.
As a film The Rocketeer is a kid's film in the same way George Lucas intended Star Wars for twelve year old boys and Indiana Jones possibly the same. It's not even close to real 30s and 40s serial films (watch some here) and my soul dies a little more when I read someone insist a Doc Savage movie should be like The Rocketeer. We already had that, but worse, in 1975.
They might as well have used a slide whistle during the club scene brawl. Jennifer Connelly and her chest are always worth seeing. Extra points for having a Rondo Hatton character and making Alan Arkin look like Geppetto. A Doc Savage movie should not look like The Rocketeer.
For yuks a Doc Savage film should hire the Production Designers from The Artist and have them create gritty and real visual concepts. The pulps are Ubermensch Sherlock Holmes meets Dick Tracy and Angels With Dirty Faces, and to be effective as pulp fiction that's how it should be presented.
March 21, 2015 Review - Altered States: Doc Savage: Flearun members hated this but I didn't mind it so much as I saw it as a comic book for ten year olds, and in that context it's a small story making small points and filling up a kid's time with colors and action. If this comic book was written for adults specifically I feel bad for everyone involved in the creative process, but I still enjoyed this better than past efforts by Dynamite. There's bloody faces and mention of psychotropic drugs, but I have no idea what qualifies for reading ages these days.
Justice, Inc. was impressive in effort and research but the story was grossly overcomplicated and tied up in historical name-dropping and working through long lists of character bullet points. Everything else calling itself Doc Savage from Dynamite has been Failure piled on top of Unreadable and sprinkled with Wrong. At one point they stopped telling a story and started a new one because the old one was that bad.
The artist scrunches facial features into the middle of faces and Doc is the same height as Ham. Long Tom's freaked me out with his haunted doll eyes. Is Johnny Clark Kent now? and Ham a butler?
As I turn each page all I can think of is "eh" and I feel no need to harp on anything except a general disgust with using John Sunlight as Doc's default nemesis. He's supposedly Doc's equal and he appeared in two pulps. Otherwise he's bland and not interesting. Using him is lazy and mundane.
March 28, 2015
Anarchy Reprint Capitalism In The UK: Starting in
1972 Marvel Comics
repackaged American men-in-tights funny books for the UK market. In 1975
they put out a series titled "The Super-Heroes" and threw in reprints
from the Curtis B&W Doc Savage magazines in issues 23-27.
April 4, 2015 Update: Every Doc Savage Novel Can Be An Audio Book As Read By Stephen Hawking: The end results fall short in a Uncanny Valley fashion but there's a way to turn Doc Savage novels into MP3s.
If you have the text files from Blackmask, cut, paste, and save them in Word, then used Zamar.com (free) to convert it into an audio file. Simple as that but the end result is annoying unless you slow it down with something like the VLC Media Player (free). The droning monotone goes from cute to not so much in a minute but it's worth doing for the experience.
April 18, 2015 Update: The hacked Sony e-mails are available on-line if you know where to look. I'm not going to link to them or get into specifics on their contents as that whole episode was a nasty piece of e-terrorism and everyone talks badly about everyone in the privacy of their own communications. I read the e-mails and generally the take on Doc Savage is positive. There's one huge casting mistake and one I could live with if he was presented as taller via casting other actors. I don't like the villain on principle and I fear they might be adding a character under the assumption Doc and his five assistants aren't enough on the side of good and interesting. You may recall Captain Simon Wolf and Corporal Jack Sparks from Frank Darabont's Y2K-era Arnold Schwarzenegger script. If you can't make a Doc Savage movie with the given good guys you're not trying. Everyone can be improved upon but the answers are not whole new characters. If you can't respect the source materials on that, a new Doc Savage movie should not be made.
April 25, 2015 Update: Walter Baumhofer - Personal Hero: Notes in the Sanctum Books reprint #77 contain a short history on Baumhofer's involvement with Doc Savage, which lasted for the series' first forty-three covers and should be the only style guide to what Doc Savage looks like. Baumhofer was not a fan of James Bama's paperback covers, and is quoted as saying:
"Apparently they wanted more of a Science Fiction approach than the adventure approach which I used - Hence Jim Bama's 85 year old Doc, with a pointed head. James Bama was and is an excellent artist, but as I hinted previously, I didn't like his portrayal of Doc, which was probably dictated by Bantam."
Hmmm, Which One Would Make A Better Film Franchise Hero? Hmmm...
Bama responded with:
"You can't compare them. It was a different time and a different approach. They were very good for what they were. People think of Doc Savage as a science fiction hero, which he was not. He was patterned more on Neil Hamilton, the Arrow Shirt man. That was the look in those days. The way Baumhofer conceived the covers was very different. They were so literal. They're not that strong on design, but pretty strong on the image of Doc Savage. I was someone who was trained to design."
I've never heard of the Arrow Shirt Collar Man angle, and thankfully Baumhofer made his choices. The Arrow Shirt Collar Man was Neil Hamilton - Commissioner Gordon from the 1960s Batman show, a performance notable for its campy one-note stiffness. Walter painted portraits while Bama cranked out template design illustrations with \"Green Screen" juxtapositions.
May 9, 2015 Update: Re-Writes Are All-Right: Fan edits of films are both legitimate and needed, but the same is rarely done with books. Doc Savage books could stand for editing. Not fan editing, as that's the sound of a bear farting sadness, but professional editing. It's not as if Lester Dent wrote them all or even cared enough to remember how he portrayed major players the month before. I would do it just to tighten the narration and make things more consistent. My two cents on improving Doc and his five (in practice two to five) assistants are...
Monk shouldn't be nearly-illiterate in how he speaks and seemingly thinks, Ham shouldn't be a snooty priss fussbucket, Monk and Ham should not squabble like children in the back of a station wagon, Johnny's big-word, small-word mix (and who in the group understands him) needs to be locked down, Long Tom should be given a distinct personality that's not snippy, and Renny should be used sparingly but everything he says has impact. Not everyone has to, or even should, contribute equally, but each should shine in the spotlight.
There's two basic Doc Savages - the Uberman of earlier books and the Secret Agent-Spy Catcher of the War and Cold War years. Some of these later novels are barely "Doc Savage" so either rebuild these from the basement up or shun them from active consideration. I greatly prefer the non-chatty Uber Doc but the Doc of Terror Wears No Shoes works well as an alternative Doc universe. Remove from these later novels Doc's stumbling towards victory, the running fear and insecurity inventories of his skittish inner mind, and anything out of his mouth ending with an exclamation point unless he's yelling. Of the 7 Narrator Types, the Third Person Omniscient fails Doc completely. Third Person Limited to Detached Observer is the way to go. I'd also get rid of the dumb pets and Doc's trilling.
June 20, 2015 Update: Someone should write a story about what happens to people who show up looking for Doc's help when he's off on an adventure in Peru. Short chapters, long chapters, simple declarations they were killed in the lobby on the way out. I'd read that.