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

Doc Atlas: an overview

Posted by at 10:00 am Thursday, July 25, 2013 in Doc Savage, Hero Pulps, New Pulp, Pastiche, Pulps
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Double Danger Tales, No. 5Doc Atlas was created by Michael A. Black and Ray Lovato as a clear homage to Doc Savage. While it’s easy to spot the similarities, it’s clear though that these are meant to be separate characters.

Somebody claimed (not sure who) that idea is that Doc Atlas is the “real” Doc Savage, and that his adventures were turned into the larger-than-life Doc Savage. But that just doesn’t fly.

Doc Savage and friends were all World War I veterans (which is when they met), and the heyday of their adventures was the 1930s and ’40s. Doc Atlas and friends are all World War II veterans (which is when they met), and most of the stories are set post-WWII. So Atlas is not a total copy (similar the way Solar Pons was created as a Sherlock Holmes pastiche, but set in the Edwardian period).

Doc Atlas has just two assistants, plus a girlfriend (which Doc Savage didn’t have). One assistant is a lawyer like Ham, the other is physically like Monk, but it’s not clear what other talents he brings in. The Ham analog is named “Ace” Assante, a former captain in the Army Air Force and bomber pilot. The Monk analog is “Mad Dog” Deagan, a former lieutenant colonel in either the Army or Marines (not sure).

Atlas’s girlfriend is a reporter, Penelope Cartier, who writes up his adventures (under a pseudonym) and sells them to the pulp magazines. Interesting idea, except this was the twilight of the pulp magazines.

Doc Atlas also has a group of secretaries running his office (the main one “Mad Dog” hits on), and some kind of computer. Missing is the equivalent of Doc Savage’s special “Flearun” elevator from his Empire State Building headquarters to his Hudson River warehouse of vehicles, as well as Doc Savage’s “special commissions” from police to aid in his work.

Bottom-line, Doc Atlas is a Doc Savage pastiche which the authors decided not to place exactly in the same time period as and be a total mirror of the Man of Bronze. And that is good, as Black and Lovato can make Atlas more original. He is a doctor, inventor and explorer; big, blonde, and with yellow eyes (dark amber). But he is not as emotionless as Doc Savage, and has a relationship with Penny (something the earlier Doc avoided). He’s not above killing his opponents if forced. No mercy bullets or the like.

So far, Doc Atlas has appeared in one novel, a collection of previously published short stories, and two (so far) further stories.

Melody of VengeanceThe novel, “Melody of Vengeance,” was first serialized in Fading Shadows’ Double Danger Tales fanzine (issues #4-6). This story, set in 1947, has Atlas and associates confront a Shadow-style vigilante. Also there are a few other pastiches as well in the novel. We see a character who is based on Bruce Wayne (though a little before he started being Batman), another based on Edgar Cayce, the “sleeping prophet.” There may be others, but they weren’t clear to me. Overall, I thought it a great story and a great intro to the character. As far as I know, you can still order this from Amazon.

The collection, “The Incredible Adventures of Doc Atlas,” has stories that were first serialized in several fanzines. They were originally credited to only Black. Lovato had a hand in them as well, and so is finally credited.

“The Riddle of the Sphinx” appeared in Double Danger Tales #52. This tale is a standard one of Mayan treasure that would easily be an Indiana Jones story. Also introduced is a childhood sweetheart of Doc Atlas (again, showing the differences between Atlas and Savage).

“Desert Shadows” appeared in Double Danger Tales #34, and is a tale dealing with Roswell, N.M., and stories of crashed alien spacecraft.

“Killer Gorilla” first appeared as “Gorilla Killer” in Double Danger Tales #16, and was later reprinted in the book “Tales of Masks and Mayhem, Vol. 1” (still available from Altus Press). Atlas has to deal with a case of a dead mobster whose brain has been transplanted into a gorilla.

“Arctic Terror” first appeared in Gryphon Double #9 (Gryphon Books, 1994) and later reprinted in Fading Shadows’ Exciting UFO Stories #3 and later still “Tales of Masks and Mayhem, Vol. 2.” This story is set in 1951, and pits Doc Atlas against something like the Thing (from the old b/w movie). Or does it?

“Satan Plague” first appeared in Gryphon Double #19 (Gryphon Books, 1999) and later reprinted in “Tales of Masks and Mayhem, Vol. 3.” This one is set during the McCarthy era, and reveals some info on Atlas’s background.

Artwork from the original fanzine appearances are included, which is great. And the cover by Geof Darrow is a great coup.

Since that collection, two additional stories have come out.

“His Master’s Voice” appeared in the book “Tales of Masks and Mayhem, Vol. 4.” This story is set during WWII, and shows Atlas as an already known character, who is working with his two assistants. Here he battles a Nazi scientist. Atlas and friends are about to rescue what appears to be a Captain America analog.

“The Green Death” appeared in the recent “Tales from the Pulp Side” anthology. I have not read it, so have no idea what it’s about.

I hope we see further stories of Doc Atlas.

One Comment

  1. I’ve read “The Green Death” story. Its set in 1948 in South America, and deals with neo-Nazis trying to setup shop.

    We are promised that the next story is “The Howl of the Werewolf”. No idea where. I look forward to.