Doc Savage #1 or how I learned to love the Pulp

There are two different definitions of pulp that are apt descriptors of the world that Doc Savage revolves around, and the era it once inhabited[1]. They are as follows:

1. A mixture of cellulose material, such as wood, paper, and rags, ground up and moistened to make paper.

7. A publication, such as a magazine or book, containing lurid subject matter.

Doc Savage was first printed as a pulp magazine (on pulp paper) in America during the 1930s and 1940s. The character itself was first created by Henry W. Ralston and John L. Nanovic. When the character of Doc Savage was created, it almost immediately became an icon. In essence, Savage is a symbol of nostalgia.

What Savage also represents is the human desire to achieve the unachievable. Savage was a number of things, including a physician, scientist, explorer and researcher; but most importantly, he was human. Savage was our conscious desire to become more than just man and woman. Savage was the embodiment of both physical and mental perfection.

So it goes to show that Savage served as an inspiration for the creation of Superman. According to the Steranko History of Comics, comics writer and historian Jim Steranko mentions the similarities between Doc Savage and Superman that Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster put into their initial sketches. The inspiration goes deeper on to a thematic level in that [early] Superman and Savage are representative of humanity’s natural ability to achieve anything so long as we push and strive towards those goals. We can become anything we want to be. We can become superhuman.

Why Doc Savage #1 is so evocative of this era of pulp printing and adventurers who can do damn near anything is that it is inherently steeped in nostalgia[2] for the era whilst delving into the world of the future, if only in spades. Writer Chris Roberson (Masks) and artist Bilquis Evely create a world that looks and feels like the 30s and 40s, but is ingrained with futuristic technology and conventional science fiction trappings to keep it modern and relevant (meaning that fiction is, on some level, all about progression. The actual comic itself is firmly rooted in the past). Even the narration and the dialogue evoke the literary styles pulp writers used, with aforementioned writing devices being used to mask laborious expository information.

Doc Savage #1 is the embodiment of the golden age of pulp, bringing back to life an era that was long thought dead by readers and historians alike (aren’t they one in the same though?). It is Man of Bronze rejuvenated. It’s a shame that this won’t see more readers, given Dynamite’s typical sales numbers (as provided by Diamond) but anyone with even a modicum of interest in the pulp era should look into this.

 


[1] This would be, as mentioned later, the 1930s-1940s, when pulp magazines were widely available and printed cheaply on namely, pulp paper. More often than not the subject matter was delegated to “adult themes”, not quite mature but not quite suitable enough for children to read. Genres that were operated in covered a wide spectrum of styles. More often than not the writing was simplistic and crude.

[2] Dynamite Comics, as a whole, frequently takes old, criminally underused characters of the pulp era and breathes new life into them. Among those they have worked on includes The Green Hornet, The Shadow, Black Bat, and Miss Fury.