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Doc Ardan: A Doc Savage predecessor

Posted by at 12:15 pm Tuesday, April 9, 2013 in Doc Ardan, Doc Savage, French pulp, New Pulp, Pulps
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Doc Ardan: A Doc Savage predecessor

Doc ArdanThere seems to be a phenomenon with popular characters. People start to look for other characters that inspired that character. Sometimes authors are forthcoming about the influences in creating their characters, sometimes not. Sometimes the influence may be unseen by the authors.

But too often fans go a little overboard, latching onto very early and often very obscure characters that preceded the popular character that are unlikely to have been an influence. Or sometimes they go in the opposite direction and claim characters who were published almost at the same time and which couldn’t have been an influence (for example, the Black Bat and Batman).

In a previous posting, I touched on a character that preceded The Shadow, Judex, who despite the numerous similarities, probably had no influence on the creation of The Shadow. This time we will look at a similar character that preceded Doc Savage: Doc Ardan.

Doc Ardan (or probably more proper, Doctor Ardan or Doctor Francis Ardan, as it’s doubtful he was referred to as “Doc Ardan” in the original stories) appeared in a trio of French sf-adventure novels by Guy d’Armen: “The City of Gold and Lepers” (1928), “The Troglodytes of Mount Everest” (1929) and “The Giants of Dark Lake” (1931). The first novel has been translated and adapted by Jean-Marc and Randy Lofficier and published by Black Coat Press, with the other two promised soon. It is due to Black Coat Press that we know about this character.

The first novel introduces the character, a young doctor traveling in Asia who comes up against a Fu Manchu-like villain, Dr. Natas. Some of the physical characteristics of Doctor Ardan are similar to Doc Savage, and the Lofficiers have actually tweaked this in adapting the work to make that more obvious. The Doc Ardan stories are very similar to what we expect from the early Doc Savage stories: a scientist-adventurer looking for lost cities and defeating mad scientists armed with deadly super-science weapons. But frankly, it’s doubtful that this obscure French sf series, which wasn’t translated into English, could have had an influence on the creation of Doc Savage, who came out in 1933.

We know from interviews with Lester Dent and the editors at Street & Smith what influenced the development of Doc Savage: Nick Carter (the original character was trained from birth by his father and turned into a physical and mental superman), adventurer Col. Richard Henry Savage, science-detective Craig Kennedy, and the gadget heroes of Dent, among others.

Tales of the ShadowmenThat said, Black Coat Press has used this character to create new “Doc Savage” stories cloaked as “Doc Ardan” stories. The idea being that Doc Ardan is Doc Savage, that before he started on his crusade against evil and was traveling the world as a young doctor, he took the alias of Francis Ardan, based on distant French relatives. So the trio of Doc Ardan novels are meant to be adventures he had before the events of “The Man of Bronze.”

New Doc Ardan stories that have appeared in the “Tales of the Shadowmen” anthologies seem to be set after the original Doc Savage canon, when he again used the “Francis Ardan” alias. I think that’s a creative way to use the character. It’s also interesting to see authors create their own take on Doc Savage that is more their character (such as Prof. Stone, Doc Atlas, Doc Titan, etc).

I’ve read the first Doc Ardan story. I’ve been waiting a long time for Black Coat Press to publish the following two. They keep pushing it off on their schedule. In the second one, Doc Ardan fights Mendax, a science pirate who is master of a super-powered flying machine (sounds like Robur the Conqueror) and in the third one Doc Ardan go up against the villainous Khyzil Kaya who rules a secret city protected by giant spiders, microbes and mutants. Based on those descriptions, I can’t wait to read them!

4 Comments

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed that book. A fun read. I’m looking forward to the next one, too!

  2. Very interesting piece, Michael. Who knows, maybe there’s a market for new Doc Arden books.

  3. The “Black Bat” introduced at about the same time as Batman was the second character with that name.

    • Yes, I know that. But I’m not going to muddy the waters by bringing up the earlier and very obscure character. Am hoping Atlus Press will do a complete reprint of that one.