DOC SAVAGE AT 70
by Tim Lasiuta
Before Superman, before The Phantom, before Batman, there was Doc Savage.
He was unlike any other hero before him. Part adventurer, part scientist, humanitarian, and defender of the innocent, he was all that, and more. And this year, he celebrates his 70th anniversary!
It's hard to believe that The Man of Bronze is 70.
It only seems like yesterday...
My first encounter with Doc Savage, the Man of Bronze was memorable. I had been looking through my father's bookshelf, and The Quest of Qui by Kenneth Robeson caught my eye. I pulled it out, looked at the James Bama cover, flipped the book open, and was soon caught up in a rapidly paced EXCITING adventure story like I'd not read before.
I must have been weak, after reading only one Doc Savage, I was hooked!
Many Doc adventures followed Quest. Today, my collection is almost complete, and includes autographed Will Murray and Philip Jose Farmer editions. I have followed Doc Savage in the comics, and of course Doc of the movies. More than 30 years later, I still see a little bit of Doc in me.
Doc Savage, the Man of Bronze, was born on the newsstands on February 15, 1933, and the world of adventure has never been the same. Adolescents and adults everywhere flocked to the adventures of Doc Savage Jr, Monk, Renny, Long Tom, Johnny, and Ham.
The Man of Bronze, the first novel of the series, tells the story of the Clark Savage Jr.'s investigation into his father's death. After numerous near death escapes and rescues, and the subsequent discovery of a lost Mayan culture, Doc Savage solves the mystery and becomes heir to the treasure of the lost valley.
What a concept.
A good, selfless main character.
A physically perfect specimen.
Deus ex machina gadgets.
A skilled and enthusiastic supporting cast.
Add to this mix, the possession of incredible skills in all areas, a life free of attachments, and you have the attributes of a modern day technological saviour.
If we then consider his six "helpers", who each possess special skills, you have a group of men without equal, a "super-team" if you will, long before super was part of everyday vocabulary.
You would have Doc Savage and his Fabulous Five.
Doc Savage was more than a superhero. In the era of the depression, he was an inspiration, and a symbol of all that was good. To guide his hero, Lester Dent composed the Doc Savage Creed.
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.
Not only did Doc Savage challenge his readers to be men and women of value, honor, and integrity, but he also gave them an example of physical and mental conditioning. According to the sagas, Doc spent 2 hours every day honing and expanding his abilities. He also spent time away at the Fortress of Solitude in research and mediation.
The influence of Lester Dent's masterful creation of Doc Savage will never die. Young men studied harder, and developed their bodies. Grown men, growing disenchanted with life's struggles, found hope in the altruistic adventures of Doc Savage. Generations of readers, and writers were and still are inspired by Doc and his associates.
A Short Doc Savage History
Doc Savage was created and written by Lester Dent, under the house name of Kenneth Robeson, for Street and Smith publishers, who, in the previous year, had released The Shadow on the world. For 181 issues, Doc Savage and his associates traveled the globe aiding those in trouble. The adventures of Doc Savage, although primarily penned by Lester Dent, were also written by William Bogart, Norman Danberg, Allan Hathaway for the pulps. In the pulp format, Doc "lived" from 1933 to 1949.
Bantam Books, in an arrangement with Norma Dent, and Conde Nast, published ALL 181 adventures from 1964 to 1990 in paperback. Golden Books, after the Doc Savage movie in 1975, also released six hardcover books. In 1991, Philip Jose Farmer took up the mantle of Kenneth Robeson for a single novel, Escape from Loki, and was followed by Will Murray, who produced an additional seven from Lester Dents unfinished outlines. Sadly, Will Murray, finished his last novel in 1992 and, due to poor sales, Bantam ceased publishing new Doc Savage material. The remaining 7 unfinished Dent plots may yet see new life, as ongoing negotiations with Conde Naste are hopeful.
Philip Jose Farmer, in addition to writing Escape From Loki, also wrote the scholarly work Doc Savage, His Apocalyptic Life. Examining the life of Clark Savage Junior from a factual basis, he has constructed a World Newton family tree (which includes Tarzan, The Scarlet Pimpernel, The Avenger, The Shadow, and many other heroes), biographical sketches of Doc and his aides, a chronological time-line of his pulp exploits, and detailed information on the Fortress of Solitude, the 86th floor, and his gadgets and gizmos!
Street and Smith (1941-9), Gold Key (1966), Marvel Comics (1972-77), DC Comics (1987-90), Millenium Comics (1991-2), and Dark Horse (1995) have all published comic book adventures of our favourite adventurers, chronicled by legends such as Denny O'Neil, Roy Thomas and Len Wein, and illustrated by many of the artists listed above. Doc Savage also appeared briefly on the radio in 1943, and again in 1983 to celebrate his 50th anniversary.
George Pal, known for his fantasy films, produced the first (and only) Doc Savage Movie in 1975. Ron Ely starred as Doc Savage, and an appropriate supporting cast brought the original story to life. Ron Ely, who also starred as Tarzan on television, easily stepped into the role as The Man of Bronze. Largely panned by the critics, is has since become a cult classic. A second film script was written and never produced. Rumors of a new Doc Savage film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger have run rampant over the last 4 years.
Doc Savage never became a merchandising bonanza. What has been produced is sought after, and highly valued. Graphiti Productions has released James Bama prints (signed and unsigned), a 60th anniversary bust, and many other great items. The pulp magazines, paperbacks, early comics, and hardcovers are highly sought, and difficult to find.
70th Anniversary Convention In the Works
Today even, a convention is in the planing stages to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Doc Savage. Now in its sixth year, Jay Ryan and the Arizona Fans of Bronze are planning a celebration like no other! A Doc Savage time capsule, a radio show recreation, and who knows what else is going to transpire between now and November 8, 2003.
To find out more information on this event, click on:
Doc Con Main Page
or contact him at:
8631 W Foothill Dr
Peoria, AZ 85383
Doc Savage Web Links
Doc Savage can also be found on the internet at:
Great Doc Stuff
The Doc Savage Movie Photo Novel
The movie broken down into stills.
Doc Savage novel downloads
The Future of Bronze
Doc Savage will never die.
Through those who have tried to live by his example, those who have taken the "Oath" seriously, and those who have based new characters on Doc and his friends, Doc will live.
Doc Savage is a copyright feature of Conde Nast Publications
Article copyright Tim Lasiuta 2003