Yet anther big debut this week for Dynamite with the new DOC SAVAGE written by the always insightful Chris Roberson. Robert Napton asks the questions:
Q: Hi, Chris, Doc Savage has a long history: pulps, radio, novels, comics, film. What influences did you decide to draw upon for this new comic series?
ROBERSON: The principle and most significant influence are the original pulp novels written by Lester Dent. I’ve read, watched, and enjoyed a lot of the later stuff over the years, but it’s the original version that caused me to fall in love with the character in the first place, and that’s the one that I wanted to showcase.
Q: Like a lot of pulp heroes, John Carter for example, Doc is utterly capable — meaning he has almost super human strength, intelligence, goodness — I find that a challenging aspect of writing Warlord of Mars stories. Is it difficult to approach a character that seems to have no inherent flaws?
ROBERSON: I don’t find it difficult, as such, just another set of challenges. I think the main aspect of Doc’s character isn’t his strength or his smarts, as much as it is his moral code. There are courses of action that simply aren’t available to Doc because they would run counter to his personal morality. And so one way to find drama is to put Doc in situations where his options are limited for that very reason, and then he’s forced to use his strength and intelligence to try to come up with clever solutions.
Q: Will we see characters and locations from the canon — such as Doc’s sidekicks, “Fabulous Five,” or his headquarters on the 86th floor of the World’s Tallest Building — will readers see any of these elements coming back?
ROBERSON: We see all of them in the first issue, actually! The only principle we don’t feature in the first 22 pages is Patricia Savage, since she hadn’t yet been introduced in the pulps in the time period in which that issue is set. But she shows up in issue two!
Q: Obviously Doc had a huge resurgence in the 60s thanks to those great Bantam paperback covers by artist James Bama. Was that iconic Doc Savage from the 60s the guiding image for artist Bilquis Evely or did you decide to take another visual approach?
ROBERSON: Bama is obviously a huge influence, but I also pointed Bilquis at the original Walter M. Baumhofer cover illustrations. The approach we’re taking is to start with Doc as a younger man in 1933 looking like a Baumhofer illustration, and as he ages he gradually bulks up a bit until he looks something more like the Bama figure.
Q: Gadgets and inventions are a part of Doc’s skill set and I know we have some notable scientist cameos in the first issue. His scientific knowledge is always central to the character, correct?
ROBERSON: I think Doc’s pursuit of knowledge and dedication to process are just as important to his character as his crime fighting, and in fact the one is often (if not almost always) in service of the other. So yeah, always a lot of science going on!
Q: And finally, what do you hope this new vision of Doc Savage will add to the rich history of this great character?
ROBERSON: As always when dealing with such classic characters, the goal is to tell new and entertaining stories that long time readers will enjoy, but also ideally introduce new readers to the character, so that perhaps they will be inspired to go back and seek out the original material. And it probably goes without saying, but as a Doc Savage fanatic since childhood, this is obviously a dream come true for me!
Robert Place Napton is currently writing the monthly series WARLORD OF MARS: DEJAH THORIS 9In stores this week) for Dynamite. His past work includes WARLORD OF MARS: FALL OF BARSOOM, WARRIORS OF MARS, THUN’DA, and BATTLESTAR GALACTICA: ADAMA also for Dynamite. His other recent projects include SON OF MERLIN for TOP COW and he wrote the graphic novel adaptation for Terry Brook’s story DARK WRAITH OF SHANNARA for Del Rey/Random House.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.