Discovering Doc Savage, a renaissance man of the atomic age known as the Man of Bronze.
In the previous article, “Discovering Pulp Heroes”, I mentioned Doc Savage, one of the many pulp heroes I’m learning about for the first time including Miss Fury. It was fascinating to read about her in “Miss Fury: Joy Division“.
To be honest I had no idea where to start regarding Doc Savage. There is the movie from the 70s, the radio shows, the novels, the comic books, and of course the strips of the 30s and 40s.
Someone suggested looking for the Dynamite omnibus on Amazon or eBay which has stories that are perfect for beginners, and I opted to go with that option first. The omnibus collects issues #1 through #8 of the Dynamite Entertainment series Doc Savage as well as the Doc Savage 2014 annual and finalizes with various alternate covers of the Dynamite 8-issue 2014 series. Join me in my journey of discovering Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze.
MEETING DOC SAVAGE AND COMPANY
Doc Savage, a pulp magazine character, was created in 1933 by Lester Dent for Street & Smith Publications. The strip was published in pulp magazines from 1933 to 1949. He is the first world superhero who lived through the golden era, the silver age, the bronze age, the late bronze age, and the modern age.
Doc Savage was raised to be the pinnacle of human achievement both mentally and physically. He is a physician, surgeon, inventor, all-around scientist, and talented musician. He is called the Man of Bronze which is often attributed to the color of his skin but the real truth is that his father gave him the nickname.
He wanted to remind his son to dream, to imagine mankind in those darkest of days and the few who dared to reach into the earth and forge a new path to usher in an age of bronze when it would have been so much simpler to sit idly by.
Accompanied by a hand-picked team of highly-specialized men and women, Clark Savage Jr., also known as Doc, travels the world, using science and other resources to rights wrongs, aid the oppressed, and advance human civilization.
Developing treatments to prolong human life by decades, medically altering the behavior of criminals, and building a synchronized network to link all humanity, are the advancements that Doc Savage’s grand vision promises for Earth. It’s established that he is wealthy and can provide resources for him and his team to function. Doc Savage & Company are the targets of megalomaniacs, cultists, and many more enemies they find along the way.
THE FABULOUS MEN
Doc Savage is assisted by very talented men and women. We first meet his team, popularly known as the fabulous five, which I learned later, which consisted of 5 comrades he met during World War One:
- Colonel John Renwick, better known as Renny. Renny is a construction engineer and has the strength to knock down doors with his fists.
- Pvt. William Harper Littlejohn, better known as Johnny. He is an archaeologist and geologist of great renown.
- Lt. Colonel Andrew Blodgett Mayfair, better known as Monk. Monk got his name from his simian appearance, notably his long arms, and he was covered with coarse, red hair. His specialty is industrial chemistry.
- Brigadier General Theodore Marley Brooks, better known as Ham. Ham got his name after teaching Monk some French swear words to innocently use on a French general. Shortly afterward, a large joint of ham went missing and turned up among Brooks’ things, so he was blamed and got that nickname. Ham is a Harvard alumnus.
- Sgt. Thomas J. Roberts, better known as Long Tom. He is the electrical wizard of the group and got his nickname from an incident with a World War One cannon of that nickname. Long Tom was a sickly-looking character but fought like a wildcat.
Doc wasn’t supposed to go to war. He lied about his age to join the army during World War One. Being so young he depended a lot on his comrades to deal with the personal struggles he faced during the war.
THE FABULOUS WOMEN
Doc Savage not only works with fabulous men, but he also works with fabulous women. They are not specifically called fabulous women in the stories, but you get the idea. The first one I read about is Patricia Savage better known as Pat.
She is his cousin and has some of Doc Savage’s facial features, eye and skin color, and hair. She helps him during his missions. She knows her weapons and loves the action. In my research, she is referred to as the Woman of Bronze in “Doc Savage Special 2014: Woman of Bronze”. She is also referred to as the first lady of pulp adventure.
Esmeralda Fernandez is also known as Torchy. She is classy and badass. A lethal combination. There is also Tamsin Abbott also known as Roughneck. While I liked Pat a lot, Tamsin’s story is the one that got to me. How Clark was able to talk sense into her had changed her life completely for the better. And last but not least is Teresita. She is Doc’s love interest in the 2014 annual. She is funny and knows her way with guns.
BASE OF OPERATIONS
Doc Savage’s meeting place or base of operations for Doc’s team is a Penthouse Apartment on the 86th Floor of the Empire State Building. The building was designed by Doc and Renny Renwick to be the world’s tallest skyscraper, its construction began in early 1930.
A unique approach to the construction sequencing of structural steel, concrete, and stone masonry activities devised by Renny, accelerated the installation, and the building opened for business in record time on May 1st, 1931.
Doc Savage took occupancy of the 86th floor 3 weeks later. From a height of 1,050 feet above the street below, his offices command a view of all of Manhattan Island as well as the Hudson and East Rivers.
There is so much in the omnibus but there are several concepts that got my attention; the similarity with Superman, Captain America, Iron Man, and Indiana Jones, the radio waves, and the nazi satellite stories, Doc’s code of integrity, his moral compass and how he keeps it real. Finally, I will also share my first impressions of the hard copy version of the omnibus itself.
THE SUPERMAN, CAPTAIN AMERICA, IRON MAN, AND INDIANA JONES VIBES
Doc Savage has a forte for solitude where he spent most of his time working on his work and where he kept his most important discoveries. Clearly, this was an “inspiration” for Superman’s fortress. Doc has morals and a code to go by similar to Clark Kent and Steve Rogers. And he wants to make a difference and create inventions to help humanity.
His phone product line reminds me of the one from Iron Man. Doc Savage goes way beyond just creating the cellphones affordable for everyone but establishes and manages the phone’s network that later gets hijacked by his enemies. Every issue has an adventurous vibe that reminds me of Indiana Jones.
RADIO WAVES AND THE NAZI PROBLEM
The concepts and issues Doc Savage handles are too close to reality at times. The radio waves and the Nazi satellite station were interesting stories. The radio waves stories are told in the 1930s and in the modern era and the effects are devastating every time.
It makes you wonder how much damage the 4G/5G, Wi-Fi, and microwaves have caused, and how much of that data remains hidden? It also makes you wonder how much of that is true. I mean it would explain why everything is upside down and why it seems we are living in a clown world: ideologies and feelings are the norms, facts and common sense are controversial.
In the Nazi satellite storyline, we learn how some ideologies never go away and how people are easily manipulated when they have no moral base or support to depend on. I read about Nazis in Miss Fury and now in Doc Savage. Their ideology is always presented as destructive which it is. I find it really strange how it has become unpopular to denounce actual Nazis. It is a consequence of a certain group of people calling others Nazis because they have a different opinion or they just don’t like the success obtained?
Today there are real Nazi fractions within governments. It’s no secret that the Azov battalion has been a military fraction within the Ukraine military supporting the government. It is not because of the current war, that they suddenly appeared. They have been more notorious since 2014 and have been part of the society for a long time, so much so that the military has no problem bearing their symbols. What would be the consequence if they gain more power? It seems that is an unpopular question to ask these days.
THE CODE OF INTEGRITY
Doc Savage’s creed, or code of integrity as I call it, is as follows:
“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.”
He shortened it and recite it to the team as a reminder “Let us do right to all, and wrong no man.” The team took it as an oath that they continuously live by as time progresses.
Having integrity is unpopular in today’s pop culture which is molded by the corporate mainstream media. In the demoralization of society, there is no place for integrity, morals, and principles. Those who have any are immediately branded as right-wing, conservative, or even authoritarian.
American media thinks everyone in the world has their 2 party structure and follows their narratives blindingly. It’s crazy to think but if Clark Savage, Clark Kent, and Steven Rogers exist in today’s world they would be “canceled” just for having integrity.
MORAL COMPASS & KEEPING IT REAL
Clark can be very judgmental, but he has good intentions. He wants the people around him to be the best of themselves not just in their jobs but also in their beliefs. He wishes for everyone to be on the good side, but he also understands that evil exists. People can be easily corrupted and manipulated if they don’t have moral support to guide them.
Doc chose to embrace light rather than the shadows and has no desire to fight evil by impersonating it. He acknowledges that evil exists in all of us. We can succumb to it or despite its power, that darkness hiding in all of us can be found and we can make a choice. He chose to fight.
When you succumb to your darkness you are truly lucky if you have a friend to guide you out of it. Truly blessed are those fortunate enough to have more than one. Friends make battles worth fighting for. It’s been said that Doc doesn’t need them and that he is above them somehow. He believes that nothing could be further from the truth.
“Those that freely choose to bring evil upon this world, to hide behind their wealth and power, will find me and my associates there to bring justice upon them” – Doc Savage.
The omnibus was a great read. I just wish the omnibus was in hardcover or had a better binding for its price. I’m afraid it will fall apart.
The 8-issue series was written by Chris Roberson. The art was done by Bilquis Evely and colored by Daniela Miwa. The annual stories were written by Shannon Eric Denton, the art was done by Roberto Castro, and colored by Inlight Studios. Both the 8-issue series and the annual were lettered by Rob Steen. The omnibus was designed by Jason Ullmeyer and the cover for the omnibus was created by Alex Ross.
The art in the first 8-issue series is more detailed than the art in the annual. In the annual, you’ll get references to identify the characters on the first few panels and explanatory text from Doc’s point of view.
The stories are presented in narration style in the 8-issue series. The narration is done by Esmeralda’s daughter. The four short stories in the annual are narrated by Doc Savage. In the annual, you get the backstory of Doc Savage and his associates. You’ll learn about their friendship and about Doc’s past.
Further, you will see that the annual has an ending. The final issue of the 8-issue series has an open ending “Never The End” which I love because it means there is more to come and I find that is important for Doc Savage. His stories need to continue based on his original creed. He is the kind of hero we need today to look up to.
During my research on Doc Savage, I came across very informative documentaries and I also found some radio show recordings. I can’t seem to find the earlier versions from the golden era, but I found I few episodes to listen to. I liked the story of Doc Savage.
I like Superman (the movies and TV versions from the 80s and 90s) but sometimes he is too perfect. I like Steve Rogers (the MCU version) but sometimes he can be too judgmental. Clark Savage Jr. seems to be the perfect balance of both. He admits that even though he tries he is not perfect and sometimes he can be somewhat understanding and less judgmental.
Much like Miss Fury, Doc Savage has his loyal fans but both properties are not popular with the general public. Doc Savage is principled and has a moral compass. That attitude doesn’t suit the current mainstream pop culture and the topics that come up in the stories inspire you to do some self-reflection.
These days you are motivated by pop culture and the media to not think for yourself so it is understandable that they would prefer for his stories to remain on the shelves. I think that if more people discover Doc Savage, he will become more popular. If you like Superman and Captain America you will like Doc Savage.
The road of discovering pulp heroes so far has been very interesting. Which will be the next one?