Thursday, June 30, 2022

James Bama's Top Ten Doc Savage Covers!

Number 10
Number 9
Number 8
Number 7
Number 6
Number 5
Number 4
Number 3
Number 2
Number 1

Sanctum Books, Anthony Tollin and the gang featured an interview with James Bama in one of those tasty reprints they treated us to some years ago. Of course. James Bama is the artist who elevated Doc's reputation with a new generation of readers in the 60's and 70's with his stunning covers for the Bantam reprints. The core of that interview (conducted by Brian M.Kane) was Bama's picks from among his awesome sixty-two covers for his top ten. Above you see the results with volume thirty-two's "Dust of Death" winning the number one slot. Among the comments Bama added was that the number two cover "World's Fair Goblin" was his chance to do a King Kong cover. These aren't necessarily the same covers I'd have picked. But it's interesting to read what the artist himself thinks about the work. He says now he was sad to leave the gig since Bantam left him alone to design the covers which were he said almost exclusively symbolic to help elevate Doc's mythic status.

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Doc Savage - The Crimson Plague!

I conclude my look at Marvel's Bronze Age Black and White Doc Savage magazines. Doc Savage #8 features one last Ken Barr cover. The inside cover image is by Tom Sutton. The story this time is one developed as a fill-in and features a script developed in tandem by John Warner, Jim Whitmore and Doug Moench. The art is by Ernie Chan. 

"The Crimson Plague" begins in New York where Doc appears to his men and tells them of his recent trip to Acapulco where he went looking for Miguel Hernandez a biologist. He found Hernandez in a daze and later he sees a giant red floating octopus threaten Hernandez and himself befor it disappears leaving the biologist dead. Then we cut to Brooklyn where another scientist a physicist named Scott Merril is likewise attacked by a red octopus and saved by a beat cop. The police call Doc who investigates learning of a connection to several cities including Los Angeles (where Renny and Ham had already gone), London, and Paris. Doc calls Renny but he's already been attacked by masked men who seem to be Hollywood stuntmen. Ham appears but is subdued also. Doc splits his men up and he goes to Hollywood, while Johnny and Long Tom go to London and Monk heads to Paris. In London the men find another masked gang pouring some sort of gas into a room and they attack to save the scientist Winston Veldt an astronomer. They find Veldt and the attempt an escape aboard the auto-gyro, but a plane attacks and only some tricky flying by Long Tom saves the day. 

In Paris Monk meets a Professor Lemonde who is a scientist talking about the ecology. Another masked gang appears and after a skirmish Monk is beaten but the gang recognize him as one of the men on their list so they take both with them. Doc in Hollywood meets a mogul named Randolph Dorn who lies to him about not having seen Renny or Ham. Doc learns the truth and investigates running up against yet another gang of stuntmen. He finds some of his missing friends and the scientists in cages and releases them. They then invade the main underground lab and find Dorn at the center of an elaborate machine which is seemingly sucking the minds of great men such as Renny and Ham who are currently hooked into the machine. Doc shorts out the machine and engages the maniacal Dorn who is to his "Brain Bank" and consequently quite powerful. Doc ends up throwing the villain into his own equipment destroying the connection and destroying Dorn's mind at the same time. Later Doc revives all the men under Dorn's control and story ends quietly as they discuss the narrow miss in the hospital room. The explanation for the floating octopi was that they were literally projected into the mist which was poured into the atmosphere and appeared to move as the mist moved. So the movie producer literally attacked using a movie of sorts. 

There's not text piece in this issue but there is an editorial announcing the end of the run. Ed Davis offers up a poster-style shot of Long Tom and the team of Bob Layton and Dick Giordano close the magazine with a poster shot of Doc Savage himself. The series was a bit weaker in these last few issues. The main team was away and the vigor of the early efforts seemed to have dwindled. Doubtless the early enthusiasm for the George Pal movie had gone by this time and it was clear that Doc Savage was perhaps needing a slight rest before he was given another shot at the comics. On the upside while I found the Val Mayerik work back in #7 less effective it was still pretty good and Ernie Chan's work in #8 was very good, though the story was more clever than truly engaging. 

It would be quite a while indeed before DC did bring Doc back. 

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Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Doc Savage - The Mayan Mutations!

I continue with my examination of Doc Savage's B&W adventures. Doc Savage #7 has yet another lush Ken Barr cover. The story written as usual by Doug Moench is titled "The Mayan Mutations" and it's illustrated this time by Val Mayerik on pencils with Tony DeZuniga on inks. 

The story begins with a giant moth attacking a boar in South America. Cut to New York City and the headquarters of Doc Savage where we find Doc's men interviewing folks looking for another worthy case. The first meet a Mutt and Jeff duo named Hanson and Harridan who talk about treasure in the South America, but since it's a seemingly for-profit venture they are sent away. Next is a man looking for help with his wife who he feels is cheating on him, and after some confusion he's also sent packing. Finally, two beautiful women appear, Vesper Hope and a silent beauty named Myrrana. They speak of strange culture in South America populated by Myrrana's folk and of attacks there which prompted her husband to investigate but never return and they talk of a giant moth. 

Doc takes the case, and they head off to board the Amberjack moored on the top of the skyscraper. A giant moth attacks but Doc kills it. The team of Harridan and Hanson show up and reveal themselves to be the villains of the story as they retrieve the moth. The team fly to South America and find a strange round plateau which is overcome with riotous plant growth along with select giant insects and animals. They encounter Myranna's people and discover a great arboreal society in which these descendants of the Mayans live totally within and off the giant trees. After some more investigation a pool is found in an abandoned city which seems to be the source of the radiation which makes the fantastic growth possible. Doc and his men investigate and discover a tale which Johnny extrapolates from the hieroglyphs to be a tale of ancient astronauts who left behind the stuff that has caused this plateau to exist. Then the villains appear and shoot Long Tom. Doc rushes him to a small surgery in the Amberjack and he and Vesper Hope (a nurse) operate using and using an artificial heart valve save his life. Doc then seeks out the rogues and instead encounters a mutated man-beast who turns out to be Myranna's husband who reluctantly she kills with Ham's sword-cane. Doc and his men round up the scoundrels and somberly head back to civilization leaving the Arboreans to their beautiful society. 

There is an article by Bob Sampson on Johnny which is typically detailed. This issue also features several poster-style images by Ed Davis of Doc and crew. These really have a great pulp feel. 

 More to come. 

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Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Doc Savage - The Sky Stealers!

I continue my look at the Black and White Marvel magazines featuring Doc Savage and his team. Beneath another dynamic Ken Barr cover is a story titled "The Sky Stealers" by Doug Moench and Tony DeZuniga. 

The saga begins with an old prospector running into the town of Plainville, Utah and screaming about the sky being stolen. The people dismiss him but later the town is wiped out and everyone seemingly suffocated. Cut to New York and we meet Monk Mayfair's comely secretary Monica who is invited to meet Monk at Doc Savage's headquarters. But news of the destroyed town causes Doc and Renny to investigate and they find the town's bank ransacked and all the uranium in the mining town missing. A mysterious ankh symbol is found on site. Monk and Ham are feuding when Monica appears and seems most interested in Ham's gentlemanly ways much to Monk's chagrin. We cut another Utah town which is suddenly enveloped by darkness and the people begin to strangle as the air is gone. Bizarre figures descend from the sky looking for all the world like ancient Egyptian gods and these figures rob the bank and ascend into their zeppelin and leave. Cut to Renny investigating the ankh symbol at the museum when he is attacked. Cut to the headquarters and Doc's men have found news of one Johnathan Wilde, an archeologist dismissed for his wild theories about the power-giving traits of pyramids and such. 

Doc and his team become worried about Renny and investigate only to be confronted by a walking mummy possessed of immense strength. It turns out to be a hypnotized Renny. Doc defeats and revives him. Meanwhile the Egyptian "gods" have returned and are attacking New York and it is up to Ham to destroy the zeppelin before anyone suffocates. Doc at the same time defeats one of the gang, the crocodile-headed god Sebet. The team then heads to Egypt at the same time analyzing the equipment which makes the "gods" possible. They explore the pyramid of Cheops and find a hidden high-tech operation inside. The surviving zeppelin returns and the "gods" attack. Doc and his men put on oxygen masks and survive. The "gods" bring a kidnapped Monica into the pyramid headquarters and apply the treatments which give them all super-strength to her. Seeing his girl captured is more than Monk can stand and the battle begins. Doc confronts the leader Horus who wants Monica as his bride and after much confusion and mayhem they rescue Monica and flee the pyramid complex which is destroying itself. The gang led by Wilde is left for dead inside the now defunct criminal operation. Monica on the other hand still possessed for a time with super-strength gives both Ham and Monk more than they bargained floor when she snatches both of them up in the story's final panel. 

Also in this issue is a text piece by Bob Sampson on Renny. It's very detailed and covers his whole career. It's illustrated with art by Frank Cirocco and Bill Anderson. There's a poster-shot of Doc by Mike Nasser. There's a wonderfully evocative drawing of Doc and his team on the inside front cover, but it's not attributed. Anyone know the artist for this? This story began great, but kind of fell apart at the end with the visual storytelling becoming somewhat clumsy. There's a blurb saying that the next issue will have a guest artist to give DeZuniga some more time, but on this issue he seems to have been rushing it quite a bit. 

 More next time. 

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Monday, June 27, 2022

Doc Savage - The Earth-Wreckers!

I continue with my reviews of the Doc Savage Black and White magazine from the 70's. Doc Savage #5 sports another lush Ken Barr cover. The inside front cover features a Neal Adams drawing of the Man of Bronze alongside Doc's oath. 

The story is titled "The Earth-Wreckers!" and it's written by Doug Moench and illustrated by Tony DeZuniga. The story begins in Australia on June 12, 1933. A mysterious plane approaches a distant outpost, crashes but the pilot escapes and attacks the location manned by thugs. The attacker is revealed to be Doc himself and he's careful to break open a safe and the contents cause him to trill. Next, we're taken to Antartica two days later and Doc again attacks a cabin full of thugs to retrieve something hidden under the floor. Cut to Africa the next day and again we follow Doc as he attacks a distant gang of thugs to find a mysterious something. Two days later the same in Eurasia. The next day in Manhattan we meet Doc's aides assembled in the headquarters curious about some large crates sent their to Doc but addressed in Doc's handwriting. They open one up and find a weird mechanical device shaped like Australia. Next we meet the meek Hiram Meeker on his way to locate Pat Savage as a means to meet Doc himself. After telling her his tale, she agrees to take him. Meanwhile in South America Doc again attacks some thugs to get yet another crate. At the headquarters Doc's men have assembled the pieces from the crates have created a bizarre over-sized globe of the world surrounding bizarre mechanical and electrical workings. 

We cut to North America and Doc again attacks to get hold of some mysterious object. We go to the headquarters and at last Doc arrives with his latest find and his mildly miffed to see his aides have already broken out the crates. He adds his new piece, but Monk accidently activates the devices and the burn out the electrical equipment around them. Pat then shows up with Hiram who claims to know more about the weird equipment, and we learn of a mysterious leader called "Iron Mask" and his scheme to blackmail the world or blow it up using the peculiar devices Doc has been collecting. Cut to a hidden scientific base and we meet Iron Mask, a strange armored criminal who threatens the life of Hiram who has left his organization. Pat wants to go with Doc, he refuses and she grabs Hiram and leaves, but almost immediately the come under attack. She drives to avoid the attackers ultimately causing them to crash. Next we follow Doc and his men as they use the flea run to get to the Amberjack in the Hidalgo Trading Company, but find Pat and Hiram there. Doc reluctantly allows them to come as the team heads to Scotland, specifically Inverness. Once there they become familiar with the legend of Loch Ness and the Monster, which Monk promptly sees. The equip themselves with underwater gear and head into the Loch and all of them see the giant creature, appearing to be a plesiosaur. The surface in an underground secret base and battle erupts against Iron Mask's men. After much battle the creature is revealed to be a disguised submarine. Doc press the attack, defeat the criminals and Iron Mask revealed to be a man with a ruined face attempts to escape in a small boat only to encounter the real Nessy who destroys his small craft. The team triumphant head back to New York. 

Also in this issue is a wonderfully compact yet detailed overview of Doc's pulp history by Bob Sampson. There's also a small interview with Norma Dent, the wife of Lester Dent. Both of these articles are decorated with stills from the George Pal movie. This issue's lead story really started with a bang, creating a real mystery as to why Doc was rounding the world looking for things and beating up people. The payoff was pretty good, but the Loch Ness sections seemed a bit rushed. But often I find the pulps have the same feel. Pat is really gorgeous and exotic in this issue. We see Chemistry this time too, but he's a little monkey. 
 More next time. 

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Sunday, June 26, 2022

Sunday Of Stone - Turok Volume Ten!

With its tenth volume Dark Horse ceased its reprinting of Turok Son of Stone. It's a shame they didn't complete the run but truth told the quality of the reprints in the final three volumes is somewhat suspect with bindings that are not all that reliable. Not something one wants to find in an "archive" item. The stories in this collection take Turok and Andar nearly into the 70's and as the series closes out the 60's it is a mature comic with a settled format. Underneath solid George Wilson painted covers we get stories by Paul S. Newman that offer clever alterations of the vintage scenario. Turok and Andar are not full characters but are not just stereotypes either. Both demonstrate degrees of wisdom and bravery which benefits the other and while it falls most often to the younger Andar to play the naive partner it is not always the case. The art buy Giovanni Ticci and Alberto Giolitti is rock solid if and for me a major lure in the days when I collected the comic off the stands. 

Issue sixty offers up "Scourge of the Sea Serpents" in which Turok and Andar attempt a deadly water crossing amongst a multitude of water-going Honkers. "The Lost Key" is a text item discussing a strange, wooden tablets which give clues to ancient lost languages. The "Young Earth" story "The Giant Conquerors" describes how ancient man battled against even more bestial tribes for dominance in the world. "Guardian of the Pit" finds Turok forced to explore a deadly cavern to save Andar from a murderous tribe. 

"Survive --Alone" is a powerful story in which Andar thinks that Turok has actually been killed and he spends much of the tale relying on himself and the things Turok taught him. Eventually of course he learns that Turok is still alive, but that's not a great surprise. "Eskimo City" is the text item discussing a settlement of Eskimos who lived in a larger village contrary to the norm. "Young Earth" features the "The Reindeer Hunters" who have to develop spear throwing technology to succeed in the hunt. "Dinosauria: Styracosaurus" initiates this vintage series showcasing various dinosaurs. "Prisoner" is a tale in which both Turok and Andar are captured by a tribe of Vine Men who want the pair to burn down a grove next to their enemies the Hill Men. But the rub is the poison berry patch which the duo rely on to slay the deadly Honkers is in that very grove. 

Issue sixty-two dated July 1968 gives the reader a strange two-part tale in which Turok and Andar encounter a strange drug which might show them the way out of Lost Valley. The tale told in two parts is titled "Terrors of the Dream". The first half titled "The Dangerous Temptation" has the pair encounter a tribe in which a medicine man claims his drug gives him the ability to see into the future among other things. Andar is anxious to try this drug. He does in "Andar's Nightmare World" and he is at the mercy of his altered state when he encounters many deadly Honkers who are changed into even more deadly beasts in his vision. "Prehistoric Voyagers" is a text item about how Japanese islanders might have been the first to find the New World. "Young Earth" tells the story of the Elasmosuar, a dominant aquatic dinosaur. "Dinosauria: Iquanodon" continues this feature. 

A rare treat is found in the sixty-third issue, a non-painted cover by the Giolitti studio. That's the good news, the bad is that the price per issue jumps to fifteen cents, at the time a twenty-five percent increase. In "Honker Alive--Or Andar Dead" Turok is forced by yet another hostile tribe to find a strange dinosaur to help guard their swampy territory after he and Andar kill the original. Andar is held hostage by these Swamp Men. "The Desert Conquerors" is a text item about Indians who likely migrated from Mexico and brought great skills with them. "Young Earth" describes "The Coming of the Reptiles" when the Earth became too dry for amphibians. "Dinosauria: Proteceratops" describes this ancient creature. "The Peak of Peril" is the second Turok and Andar adventure and has the pair in search of water. They follow an old man they rescue who claims to know where some can be found but it's a dangerous journey up steep cliffs and Andar disagrees with Turok about the reliability of their guide. 

"The Lost City" is a different kind of Turok adventure which finds our two heroes discovering a strange, abandoned city which is well beyond the capacities of any of the primitive tribes they've  so far encountered in Lost Valley. In part one title "The Silent Menace" they come across a strange Honker statue and then the city itself. Andar sees a place they can stay a while to recuperate but Turok remains steadfast that they should keep looking for an escape from the valley. Later while they explore Andar becomes locked in a room. "The Maze of Death" is part two of this different adventure and finds Andar in a strange thorny maze confronted by Honkers. Turok does find him eventually but the mystery of the city remains. "Prehistoric Sports" examines long-lost games sometimes deadly one in a text item. "Young Earth" presents "The Natural Trap" and shows how Neanderthals might've learned to trap the elusive Ibex. "Dinosauria: Ankylosaurus" closes out the issue. 

The sixty-fifth issue gives us "The Burial Ground". In part one titled "Turn Back or Die!" Turok and Andar strike upon the notion that they've seen relatively few dinosaur bones in Lost Valley and speculate that there might be a dinosaur burial ground. They follow a wounded dinosaur for a time but are attacked by a cave tribe which worships the area. "The Secret of the Sacred Place" is part two of this adventure and Turok and Andar find the misty region they are seeking but alas it is not what they expected which turns out to be a good thing for Turok. The text item is "The Neanderthal Funeral" which speculates how these ancient peoples might've had regard for their dead. "Young Earth" tells the long story of glaciers and how multiple Ice Ages impacted life on the planet. 

In "The Trap of Flames" Turok and Andar must confront not only the menace of two battling tribes but the arrival of a volcano which threatens the lives of everyone. In the first part titled "The Trap Closes" the duo find themselves caught between two battling clans, but the eruption of a volcano changes the scenario and everyone looks to Turok for salvation. "Death by Spear or by Fire" the second part sees Turok and Andar helping both tribes to save themselves from lava but then the untrustworthy primitives try to bend the pair by making them leaders so as to use their technology. The text item "Prehistoric Americans" examines some of the different ways ancient peoples lived in the New World. The "Young Earth" features "The Vanished Ones" and focuses on strange mammals which thrived then disappeared before the advent of man. "Prehistoria: Neanderthal Man" closes out the issue. 

The sixty-seventh issue of Turok Son of Stone dated October of 1969 is the final issue in this final archive edition and ironically it's also the very first issue of this venerable series that I bought off the stands for myself. It's a standout installment which presents our Native American duo a unique challenge. "Two Kinds of Terror" tells the story of what happens when Turok and Andar are made small in Lost Valley. The first part of the tale titled "Andar the Hostage" sees our duo after they've entered a remote canyon by crawling through a small opening. They soon encounter pint-size Honkers and later pint-size people. After drinking from tubs from the tribe both Turok and Andar shrink to fit this strange new canyon. In the second part title "The Magic Weapon" Turok uses his wits to make use of his bow to bring down a threatening Honker. Soon after the pair escape the canyon but run into more trouble when their small size makes them vulnerable to other cave men. It takes some clever thinking for the two to get back their weapons. Eventually of course they regain their normal size. "Prehistoric Americans" is the text piece that talks about various early peoples of the land. And the "Young Earth" revealed that animals in prehistoric times often found greater safety in herds. 

And that's a wrap my fellow Turok fans -- almost.

Turok Son of Stone rumbled along throughout the 1970's and last into the 1980's until its one hundred and thirtieth issue dated April, 1982. Turok even outlasted Gold Key itself  when Western Publishing dropped the noble brand and went with Whitman for its final comics. 

Then in the 90's along came Jim Shooter who got the licenses to the then defunct Gold Key heroes and used them as the core of the launch of Valiant Comics. I was great admirer of what Shooter and his team tried to do with Valiant, seeing it at the time as a smarter version of the disruptive Image Comics. Marvel and DC were on their heels and the direct sales market was ripe for the taking and Valiant was a heavy hitter in the incursion. After the revival of Magnus Robot Fighter and Solar Man of the Atom it eventually was Turok Son of Stone's turn for a revival in the pages of Magnus Robot Fighter number twelve. The lost Valley was reimagined as another dimension and became the hub for the Valiant "Unity" event. Turok and Andar showed up to take part. 

Later Turok Dinosaur Hunter became a "hot" number one issue and featured Turok in our modern world, a savage warrior who was more than capable of dealing with strange smart Honkers which had invaded our dimension. The series lasted around fifty issues or so with a bunch of special editions as well under both the Valiant and the later Acclaim brands. Turok captured the imagination of a new generation and had success as a video game and even popped up as animated movie. 

Now the "Turok" in some of these venues is not the Turok I know, but the name still has power. It did for me when I first stumbled across it on the newsstands and saw two small Native American braves trying to launch a giant arrow at a threatening dinosaur. Great stuff indeed. 

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Saturday, June 25, 2022

Doc Savage - His Apocalyptic Life!

Doc Savage - His Apocalyptic Life is the sequel of sorts to Philip Jose Farmer's Tarzan Alive - A Definitive Biography of Lord Greystoke. The latter work told the life story (up to a point) of the great King of the Jungle popularized by Edgar Rice Burroughs in his extensive series of novels. Lord Greystoke though is only one member of an illustrious family dubbed by Farmer and other modern researchers as the "Wold Newton Family". These are descendants of a curious band of folks who happened to be present in Wold Newton when a meteor dropped and bathed them all in a special ionized radiation which seemed by inference to have a profound effect on their progeny. And Farmer tells the story of Lord Greystoke, the epitome of the savage feral human and in this later work focusing on the crime-fighter Doc Savage he does likewise for the epitome of the modern technological man. 

The subtitle refers to Farmer's opinion that the threats to mankind which required Doc Savage's intervention were of such earth-shaking quality as to earn the term "apocalyptic". Doc Savage is no less than a supremely trained superman who saves the planet on a nigh regular basis -- monthly in fact as revealed by Street and Smith's publication schedule for the popular pulp hero. Farmer spends a good deal of time in the early chapters connecting Savage to the work of writers like William S. Burroughs and Henry Miller, suggesting that the works of these writers share in many respects Savage's apocalyptic framework. The details of Doc's life are explored and a timeline is suggested, one which is often at odds with the sequence of the novels. Then Farmer explores the life and times of Savage's "biographer" Lester Dent who with a few other pulp mavens detailed the stunning events in Savage's life adding in necessary fictional elements where necessary. 

Then Farmer goes to extensive lengths to talk geography and architecture, specifically the location and layout of Doc's skyscaper headquarters in the Empire State Building. It is revealed by Doc had played a seminal part in its construction allowing for his future offices and even an elaborate tube system for quick transportation to the Hidalgo Trading Company, a false business where many of Doc's amazing machines reside. Farmer is meticulous in his examination of the location referring constantly to the "super sagas" for information on how the sites changed over time. Tarzan is a man who is ideal when reduced to his most basic needing only his father's knife to cleave his way to success. Doc Savage in contrast is a man of technological marvels which enhance his own ideal physical gifts. Tarzan and Doc are two sides of a coin, superior in their ways but always perhaps best understood in contrast. As it turns out they are also cousins. 

Also identified as a member of the elaborate Wold Newton clan is Monk Mayfair, Doc's ape-like associate who just so happens to be a famed chemist as well. His rough exterior is contrasted in the tales by his best mate and rival Ham Brooks a dapper lawyer. These two are the primary agents of Doc's "Fabulous Five" but are joined by Renny Renwick an engineer of renown, Long Tom Roberts an electronics wizard, and Johnny Littlejohn an archeologist and geologist of note. These five men are loyal to Doc and often hungry for the adventure they find by association with him. Farmer dedicates a chapter to each of the five men, plucking the "true" from the fictional. Getting special treatment is Doc's cousin Patricia Savage who shares many of Doc's singular physical gifts. One gets the feeling that PJF has a crush on Pat, or at the very least he implies that Doc might. 

Doc Savage - His Apocalyptic Life is a grandly entertaining book for Doc Savage fans or for fans of the Wold Newton Family itself. We get not only what has been described but chronologies of the "super sagas" and expansive family trees to show the connections among the many disparate personalities in the Wold Newton Family. In the Altus edition which I read this time we are treated to a forward titled "Book of Magic" by Win Scott Eckert in which he details how he came across this tome and how it became a linchpin work for his imagination. I identify with much of what Eckert describes as I was discovering many of these same works at the same time such as The Rocketeer by Dave Stevens which treats the reader to some unofficial Doc Savage action. 

When I first read this book by Farmer I'd read only a smattering of the "super sagas" but thanks to Anthony Tollin's reprint program from a few years back I now have read them all. Armed with that detailed knowledge this book by Philip Jose Farmer is even more enjoyable. 

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Friday, June 24, 2022

Doc Savage - Ghost Pirates From The Beyond!

I continue my examination of the 70's Marvel Black and White Doc Savage magazine. Under a lush Ken Barr cover is a story written by Doug Moench titled "Ghost Pirates From The Beyond". The art is by Marie Severin (first eight pages) and Tony DeZuniga. 

The tale begins with the abrupt and gruesome murder of two policemen in Casablanca and the burning of some documents. Cut to NYC and Doc's headquarters where Monk takes a call from one Charles Villiers who himself is then stabbed and murdered. Witnesses see a ghostly apparition leave the scene of the crime, the top of the Chrysler Building. Doc and his team race to the scene and find clues in an invitation Villiers had left for them to attend a party given by Darryl LeVay. At this party they meet a designer named Hulot who is promptly poisoned apparently by LeVay who takes hostage a woman named Trina Valley. Doc and his men battled some masked thugs, defeat them and get to Hulot who utters a clue that leads them Casablanca. They head to Casablanca in the Helldiver and then meet a police chief named Verdoux who takes them to the scene of the first two murders, thought by police to have been accidental deaths by fire. Doc uncovers a clue in the ashes leading to a place called "The Blue Parrot" which he sends his men to investigate while he and Renny investigate a ghost ship which turns out to be quite real and hiding a very high-tech interior. 

In the Blue Parrot Monk, Ham, Johnny, and Long Tom find a mysterious story of pirates who occupied the city of Anfa which stood where Casablanca stands. There's discussion of a treasure and much destruction. After more scuffling about Doc and his men eventually head into the desert following a map and discover a minaret again hiding a very high-tech interior, they free the captured Trina Valley a treacherous Verdoux, and the dead Darryl LaVey. They further discover underneath the tower a network of caves hiding a gang of men taking the treasure lorded over by a glowing figure calling himself the "Demon Reaver". There's a great battle, during which Doc and the Reaver confront one another. The Reaver turns out to be Hulot who had faked his death by poison earlier. Doc and the team give the treasure to the people of Casablanca and head for home on which trip sadly Monk and Ham who had been competing for the attention of Trina are told by her that she' very happily married. Even Doc smiles. 

There is only this one story this time out, as apparently Marvel had trimmed the page count in their B&W magazines at this time. No text features and no solo tale. 

More next time. 

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Thursday, June 23, 2022

Doc Savage - The Inferno Scheme!

I continue with my review of Marvel's B&W Doc Savage magazine from the mid 70's. The third issue of Marvel's B&W Doc Savage magazine sports a fantastic cover image by Ken Barr of Doc atop jet-powered skis, the green background here is wild. Love this cover. The inside front cover has a bit of text on Doc around a pretty nice poster shot by Rich Buckler. This issue has a letters page called "Mail of Bronze" that includes among other things a notice about Steranko's "Doc Savage Brotherhood of Bronze" an "authorized" Doc organization. I wish I'd joined. 

The first story is titled "The Inferno Scheme" and it's written by Doug Moench and illustrated by John Buscema and Tony DeZuniga. It begins quietly enough with a flying shadow crashing into a jewelry store and stealing several gems. The thief is a robotic eagle remotely operated. Cut to the next day and a museum exhibit for the Stavros Diamond. A woman shows up to warn the police the exhibit must be closed, but then a robot bear appears to rob the gem. Renny has been close by in disguise and he engages the bear in a fight, which unsurprisingly he loses. The bear is later hoisted into the air by a autogyro-type aircraft and escapes with the diamond. Renny then meets the woman named Contessa De Chabrol who tells him of her brother, a man who calls himself Inferno and is the mastermind behind the robotic thieves. It seems he wants the diamonds for research he's doing trying to focus light. Doc is consulted and he and his team (minus Monk) hear out the Contessa's story. There's a small mystery about Ham's trousers which are torn on the bottom, but that's for the other story. 

Doc sends Renny with the Contessa to infiltrate Inferno's hideout and promises to come himself with the team in eighteen hours. The Contessa tells of her rise from rags to riches and her plan to return to rags and she and Renny share a romantic moment. Renny sets out to infiltrate the mountaintop hideout but is discovered quickly and captured. He escapes, runs through the mountain mansion and then encounters Inferno who has captured the Contessa and will kill his sister if Renny doesn't assist him in making some adjustments to his light-ray weapon. Renny agrees reluctantly. Doc and his team follow up on schedule, meanwhile Renny has uses the ray cannon to escape but brought up short when he discovers Inferno and the Contessa kissing, clearly not brother and sister. He's been deceived and he's both ashamed and furious. Doc and and his team meanwhile launch an attack on the stronghold. Much battle ensues, during which Doc uses jet-powered skis. Eventually to save Renny from a sulphur pit Doc descends into the caves beneath the fortress where he must engage and defeat many of the mechanoids (eagle, bear, gargoyle, lion, griffin, and spiked man thing). He and Renny compare notes, Renny informs Doc he's sabotaged the ray cannon and the next use will cause it to explode. They leave the stronghold while the Contesa uses the cannon. Renny tries to stop her, but she continues to try and kill them eventually blowing herself and the entire installation up. Renny weeps.

The second story features Monk, who was missing from the lead feature. It's titled "A Most Singular Writ of Habeus Corpus" and is written by Moench and illustrated by Rico Rival. The story begins with Monk and Ham engaging in a swordfight. Monk has hidden Ham's suit which is revealed ultimately to have been used as a nest for Monk's pig Habeus Corpus. Ham is furious but retrieves his suit, but not before Monk's secretary Marla ushers in a woman named Veronica Curtis. Ham goes to get dressed while Veronica tells Monk she liked for him to come and assist her brother who needs some research work done. While Monk smears some chemicals on Habeus Ham returns and Habeus immediately chews up his trousers (explaining the small mystery from the first story). Monk and Curtis leave to find that her brother Frank Curtis who Monk immediately recognizes as the gangster "Masher Miller", a murderer and ganglord. Veronica thought he hid his identity for other reasons. Monk and Veronica are captured and put in a backroom. Miller wants Monk to create a potion that will render his rivals booze non-alcoholic, but Monk claims this is impossible. Habeus shows up and using the chemical he'd smeared on his back earlier, Monk creates an explosive they use to escape. Some fisticuffs later the duo escape the waterfront hideout just as the explosive gets loose and the whole shebang explodes. Doc and Veronica and Habeus walk off into the mist leaving the clean up to the cops. And that's that. 

More next time. 

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Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Doc Savage - Hell-Reapers At The Heart Of Paradise!

I continue today with the second issue of Marvel's Black & White magazine adaptation of Doc Savage from the middle 70's. Doc Savage #2 sports a lush Ken Barr cover painting pitting a brawny Doc against a man-serpent with a baleful masked figure in the background. Underneath that cover is the editorial titled "The Great Doc Savage Interview or Why Couldn't Ron Ely Be Short and Ugly!!!" by Marv Wolfman and it essentially announces the Ron Ely interview in the back of the issue and talks about the talent in the magazine. The original script this time out is again written by Doug Moench and illustrated by Tony DeZuniga, though it looks like many Tribe members might've had a hand in the artwork at some point. 

The story is titled "Hell-Reapers at the Heart of Paradise" and it begins with a businessman named Thorne Shaw suddenly being confronted with a giant Mad Viking who attacks him announcing they are to return to the "Lost Valley of Hell". Cut to Doc's men who are assembling at the headquarters and then enter a mysterious stranger called Sandy Taine deeply covered by a hat, glasses and a large coat and accompanied by a large dog. Taine tells of a doomed Spanish galleon that was lost and sunk seeking the Northwest Passage in 1505 and then speaks of a later expedition on which Taine's father sailed only five years earlier. Of the crew that left the ship two did not return and Taine's father left no trace making him the number one suspect now that the surviving members of that expedition are disappearing. Doc overhears this tale, and soon confronts Taine revealing "Sandy Taine" to be a woman. Getting the names of the two expedition members not yet disappeared, Doc and his team race to the mansion estate of one but find only evidence of Uranium-238. Later Doc encounters the Mad Viking and after a brief fight which ends with the kidnapping of the last expedition member, Doc finds only a single clue, a gold coin. The coin proves to be fake but does hide a map to a singular location off the coast of Greenland. Doc and his team along with Taine race to the Hildalgo Trading Company warehouse and breakout a unique plane capable of flying in all terrains called the Hydro-Glider. 

Off they go and soon they are landed and cutting through the ice and find sunken ships and golden treasure strangely untouched. Next they find themselves in a natural funnel that pulls them down into a weird underworld lit by diffused Uranium. They encounter the missing expedition members who are seemingly under attack by strange lizard men. After a brief skirmish one of the members shoots a lizard man and Doc is furious. But then the Mad Viking appears, takes Long Tom hostage and reveals that he and expedition members are in cahoots to take the Uranium. Doc and his remaining team are sent down into the village of the "Reptilians" where they find Sandy Taine's father who tells them that he stood up to the rest when they wanted to steal that which made the Reptilians' life possible, the Uranium. Hence he was abandoned. He further reveals that he is changing into a Reptilian himself like the sailors who had long ago transformed and were the basis for the Reptilian society itself. Doc makes plans to rescue Long Tom while sending Renny topside to fly the Hydro-Glider into the underworld by means of a passage they discover. There's a climatic battle with the Mad Viking and his cohorts which results in the destruction of the delicate balance that made the underworld possible and water rushes in destroying all. Doc and his aides along with Sandy Taine escape via the Hydro-Glider while Taine's father chooses to die with his people believing himself to be a god. 

This main story is followed by an interview with "Ron Ely: The Man of Bronze". Ely discusses his early life, his role as Tarzan, and what he thinks of the Doc movie, being particularly unapologetic for the humor so many Doc fans find so irritating in the movie. Again, there seems to have been discussion of a second Doc movie as Ely talks about it briefly. This issue was a solid Doc story, with all the elements. The ending is a bit nihilistic for Doc with the whole civilization destroyed, but everyone seems in character. The artwork is good, but shows signs of deadline pressures in the latter pages. DeZuniga's rendering of Doc in particular is excellent most times. 

 More next time. 

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Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Doc Savage - The Doom On Thunder Island!

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. 

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Monday, June 20, 2022

Doc Savage - The Movie!

[This review of Doc Savage - The Man of Bronze was first cobbled together a decade ago. After giving it a good going over I found little had changed in my assessment.]

Yesterday was a very pleasant day. I was sitting on my front porch (the carport really) in a comfortable chair, ideal weather, aromatic cigar smoke wafting around my face, while I read a dandy Doc Savage adventure. I've been catching up on my Doc Savage reading since school has been out. While I sat there, the UPS man arrived and delivered to my eager mitts the Warner Archives Doc Savage movie on DVD. I've long had a copy on VHS, but I've been meaning to upgrade to the DVD for years. I splurged this week. Ironically, I was reading a Doug Murray essay on the movie as it arrived at my door. I took the flick and later yesterday got around to viewing it. 

It's been quite a few years and I've read many a Doc Savage adventure since I saw it. Before, my interest in Doc was mostly from the comics by Marvel and the fact the great Ron Ely was playing the role. At the time I knew a little about Doc from a few novels, but I had read precious few of them before Anthony Tollin made it possible with his current line of great reprints. Having read over a hundred of those at this point, I am better able to evaluate how effectively the movie evokes the Lester Dent stories. [Note: I have since finished he whole of the original 182 Doc pulp novels plus more than a few of the yarns written since.] And I must say, I was impressed. The campy nature of the movie is regrettable still, but after reading how Doc seems so tongue-tied around women in the novels, it sure makes his "Mona, you're a brick." line go down a bit easier. And by the way, I never realized that Mona is played by Pamela Hensley who went on to play the evil Princess Ardalla on Buck Rogers, a neat fanboy double play there.

The John Phillip Sousa theme still annoys a bit, but mostly because it's used inappropriately at times, such as when Doc and his Fab Five are on the journey to the Edge of the World. The Fab Five themselves are reasonably well cast for the most part, though I do think both Ham and Monk are a bit too clownish for the roles in places. Habeas Corpus annoys me in the books and continues to do so in the movie, so no change there. 

The villain, Captain Seas, seems much more typical of a Doc baddie than I realized, and even his over-the-top henchman Gorro is more in keeping than I suspected, though that satiric element does undercut the movie in places. The battle-of-a-dozen-fighting-styles at the end is cute, but it lasts too long. On the upside, the brawl on the yacht seemed pure classic Doc to me. I'm still annoyed by the sometimes slickness of the production, the nasty habit of labeling every piece of equipment Doc uses with his name seemed stupid when I saw this movie in the 70's and every time since. The movie does seem at times to be more interested in branding a toy line or something than telling a good story. 

This isn't the Doc movie I'd have made then, and certainly not the one I'd make now. But I still argue the first half-hour of the flick is pretty dang good as Doc chases the Mayan gunman across the skyscraper while the Fab Five rush to help. There is a good sense of how the books unfold. More of this would've been a great help to the overall feel of the movie. 

I'd still love to see a new Doc movie made, one with a real respect for the vitality of the character and not just for the surface features. Seeing the trailer for the first time in my memory is a treat (see below), as well as the fact the movie looks great on DVD, widescreen is excellent. If you haven't seen this Doc, see it. But if you're a fan of the books, don't judge it too harshly, but rather try to love what is best. It's a movie with mostly good intentions if not always good delivery.

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