By: Kenneth Roberts (Lester Dent)
Appeared in: Doc Savage Magazine (March, 1933)
Character/Series: Doc Savage
Both Superman and Indiana Jones owe a debt to this classic pulp character created by publisher Henry W. Ralston and editor John L. Nanovic of Street & Smith Publications. Hoping to replicate the success of their recent hit The Shadow magazine, the series was handed to Lester Dent who churned out over 150 Doc Savage novels between 1933 and 1949 under the house name Kenneth Robeson (changed from Roberts after the first issue). A too-good-to-be-true hero of almost superhuman strength, Clark ‘Doc’ Savage Jr. is a bronze (literally) giant with gold eyes and hair. An adventurer, scientist and detective combined, Doc was trained from the cradle by his father (a wealthy philanthropist and all-round do-gooder) in martial arts, medicine and surgery to follow in his footsteps of righting wrongs throughout the world. Living on the 86th floor of a skyscraper in Manhattan, Doc’s pad is penthouse and research lab combined. A high speed underground train leads from Doc’s apartment to a vehicle hangar on the Hudson River filled with trucks, boats and planes. Doc also has a ‘fortress of solitude’ in the arctic which he occasionally uses as a retreat to meditate and train his mind (hello Superman).
The Man of Bronze being the first Doc Savage novel, opens in the wake of Clark Savage Sr.’s death from a suspicious malady. Doc is visited by Monk, Long Tom, Johnny, Renny and Ham; friends he met during the war who become his companions throughout the series, each a specialist in a particular field (archaeologist, chemist, attorney etc.). Doc discovers hidden papers pertaining to his inheritance; a concession of several hundred acres of land from the government of Hidalgo to his father. An assassin who speaks only ancient Mayan tries to kill Doc by sniping at him from a nearby skyscraper before jumping to his death telling us that not everybody wants our hero to get his hands on his inheritance. Setting off for Central America the companions discover a lost Mayan city populated by a people living in fear of the mysterious ‘Red Death’. Aerial dogfights, fisticuffs, princess-rescuing and killer sharks are all present and correct making this a quintessential pulp story.
A fairly tongue-in-cheek movie called ‘Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze’ was released in 1975 and is largely forgotten but there is talk of ‘The Rock’ himself, Dwayne Johnson taking on the role in the near future.