Doc Savage

From Academic Kids

Missing image
Doc Savage Magazine, March 1933

Doc Savage is a fictional character, one of the most enduring pulp heroes of the 1930s and 1940s.

The character was created by Street and Smith Publications executive Henry Ralston and editor John Nanovic, but fully realized by Lester Dent, who wrote most of the 190 short novels in the series, which originally ran from 1933 to 1949, published by Street and Smith and now owned by Condé Nast Publications. The "house name" of the author was Kenneth Robeson. The final eight novels were written in the early 1990s by novelist Will Murray and published under the house name.

Doc Savage, who is really Doctor Clark Savage, Jr., also known as "the Man of Bronze", is a surgeon, scientist, adventurer, inventor, explorer and musician. A team of scientists (assembled by his father) trained his mind and body to near-superhuman abilities almost from birth, giving him great strength and endurance, a photographic memory, many fighting skills, and vast knowledge of the sciences. "He rights wrongs and punishes evildoers."

He resides on the top floor of a New York City skyscraper, implicitly the Empire State Building, and owns a fleet of cars, trucks, aircraft, and boats. He sometimes retreats to his Fortress of Solitude in the Arctic. All of this is paid for with gold from a Central American mine the natives gave his father and his father left to him.

Dent based the look of Doc Savage on the film actor Clark Gable. His height and weight varied, with most of the books listing his height as 6'6". Reprint book covers by illustrator James Bama depict Doc as a muscular man with bronze skin and a crew cut with a pronounced widow's peak, usually wearing a partially ripped shirt. Bama based his version of Doc on model/actor Steve Holland.

Doc's companions in his adventures (the "Fabulous Five") are:

Doc's cousin Patricia "Pat" Savage also joins Savage for many of his adventures, despite Doc's best efforts to keep her away from danger. Pat chafes under these restrictions, or indeed any effort to protect her simply because she is female.

Doc's greatest foe, and the only one to appear in more than one book, was the Russian-born John Sunlight. Early villains were bent on ruling the world, but a late change in format had Savage operating more as a private investigator breaking up smaller crime rings.

In early stories some of the criminals captured by Doc received "a delicate brain operation" to cure their criminal tendencies. The criminals returned to society fully productive and unaware of their criminal past. A non-canonical comic book series published in the 1980s states these were actually lobotomies.

Dent, the series' creator and principal author, had a mixed regard for his own creations. Though usually protective of his creations he could be derisive of his pulp output. In interviews, he stated that he harbored no illusions of being a high-quality author of literature; for him, the Doc Savage series was simply a job, a way to earn a living by "churning out reams and reams of sellable crap."

All of the original stories were reprinted in paperback form by Bantam Books in the 1960s through 1990s. The first 96 paperbacks reprinted one of the original novels per book. The next 15 paperbacks were "doubles", reprinting two novels each. The last of the original novels were reprinted in a numbered series of 13 "omnibus" volumes of four to five stories each. It was one of the few pulp series to be completely reprinted in paperback form. There is an active market for used Doc Savage reprints in all formats, on eBay and elsewhere. There are also dozens of fan pages and discussion groups on the Internet. Blackmask Online ( is currently reprinting Doc Savage's adventures with the original magazine illustrations.

A camp Doc Savage movie was made in 1975, starring Ron Ely as Doc who confronts smuggler Captain Seas. It was the last film directed by George Pal. A sequel, Doc Savage: The Arch-Nemesis of Evil, was announced but was never filmed.

Also notable is that some of the gadgets described in the series became reality, including telephone answering machines and hand-held automatic weapons.

Cultural references

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