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Doc Ardan returns

Posted by at 10:00 am Monday, February 1, 2016 in Doc Ardan, Doc Savage, French pulp, Review
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Doc Ardan returns

Doc Ardan: Two Thrilling NovelsFinally!

Back in 2004, Black Coat Press published the first Doc Ardan novel, The City of Gold and Lepers,” from 1928. Since then, many of us have been waiting for the final two original novels to also come out: “The Troglodytes of Mount Everest” (1929) and “The Giants of Dark Lake” (1931). And now we get then both in a single volume. We also learn that all 3 novels were serialized in French pulp magazines and were never reprinted in book form. “City” appeared in Sciences & Voyages, while the other two appeared in L’Intrépide. The original artwork is reprinted from these magazines.

So who is Doc Ardan? More properly, Doctor Ardan or Doctor Francis Ardan is a young doctor (fresh out of medical school in these two works) who is traveling the world and winds up going up against various pulp-like science villains. In the first novel, it was a Fu Manchu-like Dr. Natas. In these two (which are set before that one), we have new foes.

In “The Troglodytes of Mount Everest” (1929), the young Francis Ardan, who has just earned his title of doctor, embarks on a cruise around the world with his father. But instead is kidnapped by Captain Mendax, a science pirate, who plans on ransoming him for $100 million. Mendax has built a super-powered and automated flying machine/submarine named The Astaroth. He has also built a secret base in Mount Everest, with the assistance of another villain, Kyzyl Kaya, with plans of using the money they gain to raise an army and conquer central Asia. But Ardan is able to escape with the aid of a Tibetan princess who is also a prisoner, and after several adventures, he destroys Mendax’s base and Mendax is captured and executed. The Astaroth and its secrets are never found.

"The Giants of Black Lake" title illustrationIn “The Giants of Black Lake” (1931), Doc Ardan is exploring in Asia when he is kidnapped and turned over to Kyzyl Kaya, whom he had encountered in the previous story. Ruling a hidden city in Siberia, Ardan learns that he is really Comte de Bertheville, a 250-year-old alchemist who has created an army of giant spiders and other colossal creatures with plans on conquering the world. Again, Ardan escapes and after several adventures he meets a Mongolian princess. Together they have further adventures, including being captured and turned into giants, but soon are able to turn the tables on Kaya, defeating him.

Now, Doctor Ardan has some of the physical characteristics similar to Doc Savage, and Jean-Marc and Randy Lofficier of Black Coat Press have actually tweaked this in adapting these works to make that more obvious, as well as adding in a few other hints to Doc (and other characters) that should be obvious. So the impression is given is that Doc Ardan is Doc Savage, using a name based on distant French relatives, as he travels around the world before embarking on his fight against evil as stated in “The Man of Bronze.” They say these three stories are set around 1926/27.

That said, Black Coat Press has used this character to allow for new “Doc Savage” stories cloaked as “Doc Ardan” stories. So far in the 12 volumes of the Tales of the Shadowmen series, there have been Doc Ardan stories in eight of the volumes, written by several authors including Win Scott Ekert, Matthew Baugh<, and others. Some of these stories are set before the Doc Savage novels, some afterwards. One of the stories, from Tales #4 which introduced the Phantom Angel, is reprinted in this volume.

This volume also includes more information about the author of these stories, Guy d’Armen. And what little is known is that the name is probably a pseudonym for an unknown author who may have written under several aliases. We get information about some of the other works that appeared under the d’Armen alias and the others. And they speculate that perhaps the author did the translation of the Doc Savage novels into French, where he was renamed Frank Sauvage and appeared under the byline of Guy d’Antin.

I hope we continue to see more Doc Ardan stories in Tales of the Shadowmen. Maybe like Judex and others we’ll get a volume reprinting these and including several new ones.