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

Pulp comics: Marvel’s Doc Savage

Posted by at 10:00 am Friday, August 29, 2014 in Comics, Doc Savage
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Marvel's Doc SavageIn the 1970s, Marvel Comics got the rights to do a Doc Savage comic. They actually wound up doing two different series.

From 1972-74, Marvel did a color comic. In two issues each, they adapted one of the Doc Savage stories. The comic lasted for eight issues, so four stories were adapted: “The Man of Bronze” (#1 & 2), “Death in Silver” (#3 & 4), “The Monsters” (#5 & 6), and “Brand of the Werewolf ” (#7 & 8). Roy Thomas (first issue only), Steve Englehart and later Gardner Fox and Tony Isabella did the writing, with art by Ross Andru and others. Jim Steranko did the covers for the second and third issues. They gave Doc the Bama haircut, and had him run around in white tight pants and boots and a little skimpy blue vest. No shirt.

Apparently, due to poor sales, they canceled the title. When the George Pal movie came out in 1975, they did a “Giant-Size Doc Savage” #1 that reprinted the first two issues as a movie tie-in. They did make some changes in the artwork to more match the black & white magazine, giving him the same open shirt look as the magazine and no vest.

They would also have Doc team up with two of their characters in their then-current team-up titles. First, Spider-Man in “Giant-Size Spider-Man” #3 (January 1975) and then the Thing in “Marvel Two-in-One” #21 (November 1976). Due to Doc being set in the 1930s and Spider-Man and the Thing being in modern times, they had to come up with some kind of menace that the characters could fight while separated by decades. Spider-Man didn’t get to met Doc Savage, but the Thing was able to.

As neither team-up story has been reprinted, and is unlikely to be, if you don’t have a copy, the Diversions of the Groovy Kind blog has scans: the Spider-Man team up; and the Thing team up.

In 1975-77, Marvel did a black & white magazine, under their “Curtis Magazine” imprint. This was done after the George Pal movie came out earlier in 1975. Unlike the color comics, these had original Doc savage stories written by Doug Monech with artwork by Tony DeZuniga and others. Except for the first cover, a movie-in tie by Roger Kastel, the rest were by Ken Barr.

Doc again has the Bama helmet hair, but they at least give him a shirt unlike the color comics, though it was worn unbuttoned. Most people feel the original stories in this series are among the best Doc Savage comics, if not the best. While I agree they are among the best, I do prefer some that come later.

When DC Comics had the Doc Savage rights recently for their First Wave run, they reprinted the two Marvel series. They did the eight-issue color comic series in one trade paperback. But obviously couldn’t reprint the two team-up issues. Then they reprinted the black and white series as part of their “Showcase Presents” series.  However, this didn’t include the handful of text pieces that also ran in a few of the issues.

Now that Dynamite has the rights, they plan a hardback archive reprint of the black and white series.  No idea if they will include the text pieces that DC left out.  It’s also unclear what other Doc comics they might reprint.