Blog: Commentary from the den of a pulp super-fan

Modern Doc Savage pastiches

Posted by at 10:00 am Friday, July 5, 2013 in Comics, Doc Savage, Hero Pulps, New Pulp, Pastiche, Pulps
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Doc AtlasPreviously, I wrote a posting on Doc Savage pastiches and imitations created during the original pulp era. This time I look at some (note: some) of the modern Doc Savage pastiches that have been created since the pulp era.

Most Doc Savage pastiches fall into one of two broad categories. One is a character created to be a thinly disguised Doc Savage. This allows the author to create new Doc Savage stories without having to worry about copyright issues. We are supposed to know, wink wink, that this is really Doc. Some go with the idea that they are writing stories with the “real Doc,” and that the pulp stories were just “fictionalized” stories of the “real Doc” (i.e. “Doc Savage” is just a fictional name for the “real Doc”).

Others are original characters who are just inspired by Doc. This allows for the author to create a more original character, but one clearly inspired by Doc.

Now, a problem with looking for Doc pastiches is that some pulp fans let their imagination run wild, and so when they encounter any character with a name like “Doc Something” they want to think he’s a Doc clone, when he may not be. It takes more than a name to be a Doc clone. Does the character have any characteristics of Doc? Is he a larger-than-life adventurer? A physical and mental marvel? Then he may be a Doc clone. If not, maybe not (or probably not).

Also, as some of the classic pulp characters, including some who are Doc imitations, are now public domain, some writers use these Doc imitations to create basically modern Doc pastiches. These include characters such as Doc Ardan (being used to tell stories of the “real Doc” before and after the published stories), Jim Anthony, Thunder Jim Wade, and Captain Hazzard.

As to original Doc pastiches and imitations, these include:

  • Doc Atlas
  • Doc Brass
  • Doc Sidhe
  • Doc Wilde
  • Doc Wildman
  • Doc Caliban
  • Doc Samson
  • Doc Thunder
  • Doc Titan
  • Professor Stone
  • Tom Strong
  • The Old Man

Doc Atlas is an original character, inspired by Doc Savage, created by Michael A. Black and Ray Lovato. He has appeared in several short stories and one novel. Doc Atlas and friends are all World War II veterans (which is when they met), and most of the stories are set post-WWII. He has just two assistants, plus a girlfriend (which Doc Savage didn’t have). One assistant is a lawyer like Ham Brooks, the other is physically like Monk Mayfair, but it’s not clear what other talents he brings in. His girlfriend is a reporter, who writes up his adventures (under a pseudonym) and publishes them in the pulp magazines. Interesting idea, except this was the twilight of the pulp magazines. Atlas is a doctor, inventor and explorer. Big, blonde, and with yellow eyes (dark amber). But he is not emotionless like Doc, plus he has a girlfriend. He’s not above killing his opponents if forced. No mercy bullets or the like.

Doc Brass appeared in the Plantary comics series as a clear Doc Savage analog. His back story is a little different, as he’s the product of a multi-generation selective breeding program. He is part of a group of pulp hero analogs in the 1940s who fire up a quantum computer to try to figure out how to solve WWII. In the process, a group of superhero analogs from another world come through and the two groups fight and kill each other, leaving a crippled Doc to guard against further incursions. Doc Brass is rescued and makes a few other appearances in the story line, along with a few of his associates in flashback stories.

Sidhe DevilDoc Sidhe was created by Aaron Allston as a Doc Savage analog, but one on a parallel Earth where fairytale creatures exist, but the time is more like the 1930s and ’40s. This story is “dieselpunk” before that term was coined. Doc Sidhe is actually fey, or elven. He fights against evil in his world, some of which might threaten ours. Only two novels have appeared so far, and I keep hoping for another. A revised omnibus reprint of the two novels is planned, with a very Doc Savage-esque cover.

Doc Wilde, by Tim Byrd, is meant (I think) to be Doc’s son. He has two young children, Brian and Wren, and so the adventures he and his extended family have are meant to be more “kid friendly.” A novel has been put out (“Frogs of Doom”), with a revamped edition coming, along with a new adventure.

Doc Wildman was created by Phillip José Farmer as a Doc analog meant to be the “real Doc.” I am not sure where (or if) he has been used, but stories of his daughter, Patricia, have appeared recently from Meteor House.

Doc Caliban, also by Farmer, is another Doc pastiche, tho set in an alternate universe. He appeared in his series with the “real Tarzan,” Lord Grandrith, in their battle against the Nine. He has a cousin (Trish Wilde), and two of his aides help him in the first novel: “Porky” Rivers (Ham), and “Jocko” Simmons (Monk). In the second novel, they are replaced with their sons. Caliban appeared in the soft porn novel, “A Feast Unknown,” then in “Mad Goblin” (both recently reprinted). It’s unclear if the concluding story will see print (it was not finished by Farmer), though a preview, “The Monster on Hold” has been published (in “Pearls from Peoria“).

Doc Samson is an example of a Doc imitator who is not much of a Doc imitation. He is a Marvel Comics creation, part of the overall Hulk cast. A psychologist, he exposed himself to gamma radiation turning his hair green (a sign of gamma radiation, don’t you know), giving himself super strength and durability. He first appeared in an outfit more like that of Captain Marvel (or maybe Captain Tootsie). He also appeared in the second Hulk movie, but not yet in superhero form.

Doc ThunderDoc Thunder is a Doc Savage analog in the universe of “Pax Brittania,” an alternate reality featured in books by several authors published by Abaddon Books. Doc was created and featured in a few stories by Al Ewing. Thunder first appeared in the novel “The Gods of Manhattan,” then a short story in the “Pax Omega” collection. The product of a genetics experiement, similar to Hugo Danner, Thunder is a blond, bearded superman of Manhattan, seen as a symbol of good. He has two associates: Maya (an immortal jungle goddess) who is similiar to Monja, and Monk Olsen, the Gorilla Reporter (similar to Doc’s Monk, however, he really is a gorilla whom Doc has given intelligence to). Plus, there is a “relationship” between the three. These works by Ewing contain a few other pulp hero homages.

Doc Titan is the Doc Savage analog in Wayne Reinagel‘s Pulp Heroes epic. He is a little different, being bald and having a goatee, but he does have a cousin, Pam Titan, as well. His backstory is a bit different, as his father is really Dr. Frankenstein, who is somehow immortal.

Professor Stone is a Doc Savage-like character created by Wayne Skiver. He has appeared in several stories from Wild Cat Books, which has recently cut back on their output and let several works go out of print. Prof. William Henry Stone is an archaeologist, adventurer and inventor. His edge is the “Granite Disciple” that makes his skin invulnerable for a few minutes. This he learned from Hok Fu, his assistant and aide.

Tom StrongTom Strong was created by Alan Moore as part of DC/Wildstorm’s America’s Best Comics line. Not a pure Doc pastiche, he has strong Doc elements. As a child, he was raised by his parents in a high-gravity environment, and his diet included a rare herb, which gives one health and long life, found on the remote island they lived on. Orphaned at a young age, Tom is a mental and physical marvel. He has a wife and daughter, and is mainly an adventurer. He is assisted by Pneuman, a steam-powered robot, and King Solomon, a gorilla that he operated on and who now has human intelligence.

The Old Man is Doc Savage unnamed in a series of interesting short stories by William Preston. For obvious reasons, he can’t be named, but it’s clear who he is. So far three stories have appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine (though you should be able to purchase them for the Kindle at Amazon.com), which are set at different times of his life. The first is set in modern times, where government agents are after him in the wake of Sept. 11. We learn that after the adventures recorded in the pulp stories he continued to help people, but at a lower profile. Over time he collected a broader group of aides who help him, and depending on who has the right skills for the job, they are brought in to help him out. The Old Man seems either immortal or long lived, unlike his aides. The author plans two more stories, then hopes to have them collected into a book.

So there you have several Doc imitators and pastiches. A few of these I’ll be writing up more complete postings on.

8 Comments

  1. What about Buckaroo Banzai? It obvious he’s a Doc pastiche from the get go.

    • What did I say at the begining of my post?

      This was a look as SOME Doc pastiches. Was never intended to be a complete or exhaustive list.

  2. I know this isn’t a complete list, but I think you’ve missed a really BIG one:

    • I think a lot of pulp fans may not be familiar with this one. I only heard of him thru discussions on FB.

  3. Good, informative article!

  4. Very good overview of some of the modern avatars of Doc. I’ve read others not listed here, but names and titles elude me. It’s interesting how the archetype of the lone hero, as smart as he is strong, refuses to die, even in this cynical age. How far back does this yearning for a truly noble ubermensch go? I would think at least to Odysseus. Herakles?

    • Am thinking of doing a follow up posting on further modern Doc pastiches, if I find enough.

  5. Also my one Doc Wylie, 2nd lead in the novel THE STING OF THE SILVER MANTICORE.