I kick off a final plunge into Marvel Comics and their adaptation of the classic pulp hero Doc Savage to comics form. After the unsuccessful run of eight color comic issues back in the early 70's, Marvel took another crack at the character trying to take advantage of the buzz around the George Pal movie adaptation of the character. They reprinted the first two issues of their Man of Bronze adaptation in a one-shot giant-size comic, and they launched a new Black and White magazine series.
The first issue of Doc Savage the magazine sports a cover by Roger Kastel which is based on the artwork from the George Pal movie poster. Inside the front cover there's a great photo of Ron Ely who played Doc standing next to a print of classic "Man of Bronze" James Bama pose.
Following the table of contents there's an editorial from Marv Wolfman about the magazine and the character's history at Marvel called "An Editorial in Bronze". The facing page features an outstanding poster shot of Doc and his Fab Five by John Buscema and Tony DeZuniga. This team also produces the artwork for the sweeping epic of a story save for two full-page shots by John Romita. The writer is Doug Moench and this tale appears to be an original.
The story titled "The Doom on Thunder Isle" begin with the startling destruction of a NYC skyscraper by a lightning bolt. Cut to the Fab Five waiting for Doc to finish his two-hour training and we're off to the races. With the expanded page count they take time here to show us Doc's training as well as expanding on the feud between Monk Mayfair and Ham Brooks. A woman named Angelica Tremaine shows up to seek help on behalf of her brother Winston Tremaine an architect, and the pair had just escaped being killed in the destruction detailed on the first page. She presents Doc with a complex coded message from her brother, then they find an eavesdropper named Thomas J. Bolt who claims to have only Angelica's safety at heart. Suddenly costumed men break through the windows and a battle ensues. The villains use powerful and mysterious guns that throw electrical bolts. When they are defeated the villains kill themselves leaving Doc with only the coded message to decipher. He and his men set about to do just that and Moench really indulges himself here giving us a long and complex code that they spend several pages unwinding. They determine there is danger to Tremaine at a place called the Velvet Room and Doc hops aboard his auto-gyro and heads to that location. He finds the masked villains have already been there and abducted Tremaine but he discovers a hidden message. Then a witness comes forward but is immediately killed by more masked men who Doc then gives chase to.
Again he gets into the auto-gyro and follows he culprits who have disappeared into a strange moving cloud. He finds a zeppelin hidden in the cloud but before he can do anything but put a tracer on the airship, doors open and giant version of the electric gun juts out and destroys the Velvet Room. There then follows another section in the story where some mysterious clues are deciphered, a statue located and a paper found within it that points to the location of a distant Pacific island. Doc and his team board their own zeppelin the Amberjack but this time underneath attached magnetically is the submarine Hell-Diver. The team pursues the zeppelin but then Doc perpetrates a ruse by luring the enemy zeppelin to fire on the Amberjack and simultaneously releasing the Hell-Diver into the sea just masking their true means of following the tracer. Johnny stays behind to pilot the Amberjack.
Doc and his remaining men follow the zeppelin to the island and then slip on shore. The encounter many weird things including a tiger which glows with a blue light. The find more of the masked villains and another battle breaks out. Eventually among other things Doc is pitted in battle against the tiger but wins. He fought to save what he thought was a man but finds a man-beast who runs away. Doc then enters a great ziggurat which is in the center of the island and finds Angelica Tremaine threatened by the masked leader of the villains and her brother about to undergo some treatment. The villain is soon revealed to be Thomas Bolt, and it turns out that using his skills with electricity he's the mastermind behind the electric weapons as well as the mutated men who have been transformed into various man-beast combinations. These manlings are pitted against Doc and his men within an electric fence, but the man-beast that Doc had saved earlier reveals that he's actually Wiggens Tripp a rival architect they'd at first believed might be the villain. Tripp leads the manlings against the villains who have transformed and tortured them while the villain Bolt attempts to escape in the zeppelin. But the explosions resulting from the manling uprising capture the zeppelin and crashes into the pyramid headquarters destroying everyone presumably save for Doc, his men, and the Tremaines. The story ends with Tremaine regretting he'd thought ill of Tripp as the team sail home on the Amberjack.
Following that sweeping tale, there are two interviews with George Pal about the Doc Savage movie, in which he talks about the movie and the projected sequel tentatively titled "Doc Savage, Enemy of Evil". Pal relates how he came by the Doc Savage project and seems confident there will be sequels. Alas we all know now that was not to be.
All in all a really solid Doc Savage adventure. Moench might get a bit overwhelmed with the codes, slowing down the story, and the ending seems a bit underwhelming given the set-up, but it's certainly got that sprawling pulp feel. The artwork is solid, even excellent in places and frankly the B&W format suits this material very well.
More to come.