Saturday, March 31, 2012

Book Review: Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze

This particular edition of Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze is somewhat interesting. The book is a DC Comics trade paperback reprint of a Marvel Comics series. The strange world of trademarking and licensing brought this about, as DC now has the rights to the Doc Savage character again and was using him in their "First Wave" event, which was a re-imaging of Doc, the Avenger, the Spirit, Batman, Black Canary, Rima the Jungle Girl and the Blackhawks in the same universe. It wasn't too bad, and the nearly two-year long Doc Savage comic book that it spawned was enjoyable. Unfortunately, that stuff has all taken a back seat to the "New 52" hullaballoo.

Doc Savage was one of the first "super-heroes", appearing in pulp magazines like such early crime fighters as the Shadow, the Avenger, G-8 and his Battle Aces and even Tarzan. For those who've never read the pulps, or watched the 1976 movie, Doc was trained since birth to be a literal superhuman physically and mentally, to fight evil all over the world. His "Fabulous Five" were a group of his friends who were also the tops in their fields (law, chemistry, engineering, electricity and geology/archeaology). Doc has virtually unlimited wealth and a near-unlimited supply of technological gadgets and vehicles at his disposal.

This trade paperback reprints the eight-issue Doc Savage comic book that Marvel published in the mid-seventies, as a promotional tie-in to the George Pal movie of the same name. Unfortunately, the campish quality of that film sent ticket holders home in droves, and Doc was relegated back to the pulps and hasn't been seen on a screen anywhere since.

The eight-issues represent four two-issue adaptations of Doc Savage pulp magazine stories, beginning with the first, The Man of Bronze. The scripts were handled fairly ably by long-time comic writer Steve Englehart, and most of the art was provided by the team of Ross Andru and Tom Palmer. Andru was a good choice for the book, considering the many years he worked on adventure titles and war comics like Suicide Squad and The War that Time Forgot over at DC and handled Spider-Man in his own book and the pages of Marvel Team-Up. The final issue in the book was penciled by relative newcomer Rich Buckler. John Buscema, the omnipresent Gil Kane and Jim Steranko also supply some covers. The only bad thing about the art is that Jack Abel handled some of the inking when Tom Palmer's brush wasn't available. Hopefully his near-Vinnie Colletta lack of quality won't turn you off from the book too much.

The other three stories adapted were Death in Silver, The Monsters and Brand of the Werewolf, which was the story that introduced Doc's beautiful cousin Pat. As stated before, they were fairly good adaptations. I think one of the problems of the series, besides the lack of a decent film to draw fans from, was the way Doc himself was depicted. He always wore a skimpy blue vest, white jodhpurs and books. In the books, he was famous for wearing his vest full of gadgetry, but it just doesn't come over with the flimsy thing shown here. The first two issues were reprinted in Giant-Size Doc Savage #1 a year later and Doc's vest was redrawn to appear more like what was envisioned by most from the pulps. It's a shame that the artwork from that book wasn't substituted for the original issues here.

DC also published a Showcase Presents Doc Savage collection in which the eight issues of the black-and-white magazine were reprinted. Those are some great original stories with Doc and his team, and I hope to nab a copy soon for review.

In the meantime, Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze is a good primer for the pulp adventures of Doc Savage. If you like it, try picking up one of the many pulp reprints that have been slowly been reissued over the past few years, and enter a world of adventure that predates comic books and most popular heroes.

by Rich Meyer

Well, since you folks seem to like them, here's another quiz book e-book: THE TV QUIZ SHOW BOOK, VOLUME 3. 

This third volume in the series again has 301 questions (and answers) about all things television: The shows, the actors, the creators, the sponsors and loads more. 

From Apple's Way to the Zoo Gang, there's sure to be some odd facts you'll know or want to know about some of your favorite shows in this e-book.

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