Monday, April 20, 2015

Faltered States!


Altered States: Doc Savage might well have the distinction of being the single worst Doc Savage story I've ever stumbled across. It's lousy. The story lies under a Billy Tan cover which seems unduly ugly and gives us one of weirdest renderings of Doc I've ever seen. What's Doc looking at? It ain't the caveman and the two girls. Is it the logo? Did he just fart? Odd!

The one-shot comic is written by David Avallone and drawn by Dave Acosta. I'll address Avallone's script in a moment, but first let me talk about Acosta's artwork which is typical of much stuff at Dynamite, harmless, hapless, but lacking depth. Characters, even those as visually distinctive as Doc's aides are hard to tell apart, but that's become normal for the Dynamite Doc outings. These are five of the most distinctive individuals in pop culture, designed to be recognized instantly at a distance, yet constantly in comics they end up looking much the dreary same. Pitiful!


The story pretty much rips off the plot of the movie Altered States. (I assume this where they got the title for this four comic promotion which features Doc along with the Shadow, Vampirella, and Red Sonja, though I don't remember reading that in the promos.) Doc  uses drugs obtained from the Mayans to cause himself to regress psychologically into a primitive state. But the drugs do more than that and actually change him physically and while under the influence of hallucinations in which he imagines himself to be wandering a prehistoric landscape he escapes the care of his aides and rampages through the city, much to the dismay of the locals.

And that's pretty much it. I knew it wasn't going to be a very good adventure, but the sheer aimlessness of the endeavor surprised me. The ending left me nonplussed and seemed totally out of character for Doc Savage, who despite his name is actually a pretty civilized guy.

The story has Pat Savage (she's in every Dynamite Doc story don't you know, even one like this in which her presence is completely pointless) ordering the "Fab Five" around as if she were Doc's second-in-command or something. Save as an excuse to showcase her bosom, I cannot imagine why they included her in this already crowded yarn. But for a company which has made a cottage industry out of the Barsoomian boobs of Dejah Thoris, I guess that's reason enough.

Don't waste your time or money on this one. It's just terrible.

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10 comments:

  1. "Did he just fart?" Good one. Sounds like a real stinker :)

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  2. The last decent run of Doc & crew in comix form was the Doug Moench/John Buscema/Tony DeZuniga black & white Marvel series a few decades back now. I believe that’s been collected – and I do need pick that up. Otherwise…I’m still working through the original pulp run along with the newer Will Murray books at a comfortable pace…

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    1. I've come to the conclusion that Doc just won't work in comics. The more of the pulps I read, the more it seems clear that the cast is just too much for modern creators.

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  3. Agreed. He may not ever work out in movies either for the same reasons…That’s ok by me though. Accessing Doc Savage tales via the original pulp/prose corridor (like his high-speed express elevator to the 86th floor) will always be the best way to go.

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    1. The original source is best most of the time.

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  4. "I've come to the conclusion that Doc just won't work in comics. The more of the pulps I read, the more it seems clear that the cast is just too much for modern creators."

    Unfortunately, you may be right.
    But, even the original 1940s S&S comics done by such greats as Bob Powell failed to capture the wild high-adventure feel of the pulps.
    I agree with RickM, the best comics were not four-color stories, but the Marvel b/w magazine tales.

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    1. Marvel got the closest, my affection for the character started with those. Since then comic adaptations have lacked the vigor of the pulps.

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  5. Remember that awful Ron Ely movie? That was pretty bad. I used to read and enjoy the books back in the '70s - must give them another go sometime soon.

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    1. I have an idiotic affection for the Ely movie. I like Ely and thought he looked a lot like Doc should look. The aides were regrettable and the storyline was classic but filled overmuch with camp and comedy. It's a shame.

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