Every Sunday morning we showcase a classic comic cover, complete with compelling pop culture commentary, for your cordial contemplation. It’s the Classic Comic Cover Corner!
Doc Savage #1 – October, 1972
Cover art by John Buscema
Did you make it to Doc Con 18 in Glendale (AZ) this weekend? If not, you missed the most superamalgamated pulp hero celebration in the country (probably in the world.) But don’t fret or fear or feel like you lost out on all the fun – the CCCC has you covered!
It seems that everyone has a story about how they were first introduced to the “Man of Bronze” (heck, this might even be your first look at the classic hero), but for me it was finding the early-seventies Marvel Comics run featuring Doc and his team of misfit scientists and engineers: Ham, Johnny, Long Tom, Renny and my favorite, the ape-like chemist, Monk.
While many novice students of pop culture consider Superman to be the first American superhero, most pulp fans believe that the depression era’s Doc Savage is the classic protagonist that should truly hold that distinction. The folks at Marvel Comics certainly thought so, as proclaimed on the cover of Doc Savage #1, from back in 1972.
While Savage and his exploits (as written by Lester Dent under the pen name, Kenneth Robeson) undoubtedly influenced the creation of Supes, Batman, the Fantastic Four and dozens of other forgotten comic superheroes, I argue that the title of “first superhero of ‘em all” should go to Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter. Of course we can start digging into ancient mythology if we really want to split hairs.
Marvel had an eight-issue run of the Doc comic from 1972 – 74 (you can read about Doc’s history and his very first  comic HERE), and each two-issue increment included an adaptation of a classic Doc Savage story, starting with “The Man of Bronze,” and followed by “Death in Silver,” “The Monsters” and “Brand of the Werewolf.”
In 1975, following the release of the Doc Savage, The Man of Bronze film, Marvel re-printed their first two issues of Doc Savage in a Giant-Size “Mind Boggling Movie Issue” that was, in delayed effect, an adaptation of the movie, which was a loosely based adaptation of the original 1933 pulp magazine story, “The Man of Bronze.”
Also in the seventies, through various tortured time-travel storylines, Doc would be featured with Spider-Man in Marvel’s Giant-Sized Spider-Man #3 (though the heroes never actually meet), and with The Thing in Marvel Two-in-One #21.
Marvel also had a B&W magazine sized comic series that was published under their Curtis Magazine imprint and featured Doc and his crew in original new stories. Eventually DC Comics ended up with the rights to Doc Savage and they reprinted most of the Marvel books (and mags) in trade paperback form.
One last thought on the Doc Savage movie: It was released in 1975 and was co-written and produced by George Pal (best known for the classic films War of the Worlds and The Time Machine); and while it was widely lambasted for being ultra-campy (except for those, like me, who love it anyway), it did pre-date the first Superman movie by three years – not unlike the way Doc predated Supes way back in the thirties.
Enjoy the Doc Savage movie theme below (probably the greatest superhero theme ever), and while you’re at it, feel free not take the Doc Savage oath:
“Let me strive every moment of my life to make myself better, that all may profit by it. Let me think of the right and lend all my assistance to those who need it, with no regard for anything but justice. Let me take what comes with a smile, without loss of courage. Let me be considerate of my country, of my fellow citizens and my associates in everything I say and do. Let me do right to all, and wrong no man.”
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