Doc Savage Was Born on…

Nov 8, 2009 by

Doc Savage Was Born on…

When was Doc Savage born?

Philip Jose Farmer chose a day.

Will Murray thought PJF might have been thinking of the day Lester Dent starting writing the first novel.

But neither answer the question: What was the day Clark Savage, Jr. was born?

Determining the birth date of a fictional character is not a simple task. I began my quest to find Clark Savage’s birth date after reading about the confusion regarding the exact day and time in I had no idea where to start or the path to take, but that never stopped me before.

First, I looked to Doc Savage’s parents. No, not Clark Savage Senior and his wife, but Henry Ralston and Lester Dent. As Doc’s “creators” they had the perfect opportunity to set his birth date in stone.

They didn’t.

Nor did any of the numerous “Kenneth Robesons” who followed Dent (including the latest Robeson, Will Murray.) As Doc’s “mentors” these authors had the chance to give us Doc’s birthday. Oh, they hinted, but never a clear cut date.

Finally, Doc’s biographer, Phillip Jose Farmer, set the matter to rest by declaring Doc’s birth date to be November 12, 1901 based on evidence in the novels.

Unfortunately, he was mistaken.

He was close, very close, but in the rush to meet a deadline Farmer missed a few key clues. Just enough key clues to throw him off the track. Let’s look at Farmer’s path to the day and where he went astray.

The Search Begins in Ernest (er, Lester)

In “Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life” Farmer mentions that the editorial page of the May-June 1947 issue of Doc Savage states that “This thing started November 12, 1932. This brusque notation, so it happens, was made the day the writing of the first Doc Savage novel began….”

Farmer continues by relating that the notebook actually reads “This thing started December 10, 1932.” He proposes that “Dent was actually thinking of Doc’s birth date, November 12, when he told the editor about the first day of writing the Man of Bronze.”

In that one clue Farmer decides that Dent’s poor memory pointed to Doc’s birthday. Farmer was so sure that he didn’t investigate further. He took a little trouble to unearth 1901 as the year Doc was born.

That left fans everywhere with the belief that Doc was born November 12, 1901. Simple and end of story. Except, as I said, Farmer missed a couple of clues.

I went back to the canon to check Farmer’s work: the 180 odd novels published between 1933 to 1949.

Consulting them we find that only two mention Doc’s birth. In Peril in the North, Pat Savage mentions that “Monk, Ham, Johnny, Long Tom, and Renny are all getting ready to throw you a birthday party. They have everything all set. The trouble is, they haven’t been able to find you. Where have you been? They thought you’d be at that doings at the Ritz-Astoria.”

The “doings” Pat mentioned was described by Doc to Snooker as “reception for foreign notables and army commanders here at the hotel, and I am supposed to be in the receiving line.” Remember this, it’ll be important.

Of course, Peril in the North doesn’t mention the month or year. We can deduce the latest the events could have occurred though. Peril in the North was published in November 1941. We know it takes awhile to write a novel, edit it, and publish it. So, Doc’s birthday party wasn’t in November 1941. Farmer places the novel in his fine chronology in November 1940. It fits our available facts and with a little more digging we can set the day. Again, remember this, we’ll get back to it.

As an aside:

Doc does have an unusual reaction to hearing about the party.

“Doc Savage did not ordinarily talk a great deal. Now that he thought of it, he had talked more tonight than was his custom. He felt, for some reason or other, more free. It might be because it was his birthday. But the truth was that he had completely overlooked the fact that this was his birthday.”

Now we know why there are so few mentions of Doc’s birthday.

He just rarely noticed.

The Golden Man Knows Where to Start

The other novel that mentioned Doc’s birth was The Golden Man, published in March 1941. (By the way, Bantam published these two novels as a double: #117/#118. Weren’t they just the most considerate company?)

In the novel Doc has his world rocked by the “Golden Man.” Doc meets the Golden Man for the first time and the man recognizes Doc Savage on sight before any introductions are made. Doc is “amazed” and asks the man, “You know me?” Obviously, Doc was being sarcastic. After all, who wouldn’t know a bronze man well over 6 feet tall who has been mentioned in almost every major newspaper of the world for the past decade?

That aside, the Golden Man does let slip an important piece of info for our quest: “Since that stormy night when you were born on the tiny schooner Orion in the shallow cove at the north end of Andros Island, you have done much good, and many things that are great.” Wow, not exactly an impressive piece of biography, is it? But “Doc was floored, figuratively.” Doc knew of no living person who knew of his birthplace. It wasn’t even something he had shared with his crew.

So add two mentions in the novels to some generous research and add a smidgen of conjecture and, viola, Doc’s birth date! We’ve given you the novel excerpts. Let’s move on to Farmer’s conjecture. Though much research recounted in his book, Farmer set Doc’s birth year as 1901. The clues seem solid. We’ll leave it to you to investigate his reasoning. We’ll call this one a given.

The Golden Man states Doc’s birthplace is Andros Island. There are actually two islands called Andros. The first is off the coast of Greece. The second is one of the Bahama Islands. Farmer believes it is the latter island. He barely explains his reasoning for that decision. We can’t call the location a given. We’ll leave it to another article to decide this question.

I consulted world weather patterns and as many weather records for the time as I could find. I wasn’t able to unearth weather records for 1901 for either island and had to rely on seasonal averages. Both islands have a rainy season in November. According to the Climate Advisor (Gilbert Schwartz, 1977) this is the end of the season for the Bahama islands. The mean annual rainfall there ranges from more than 150 cm for the Northern islands to less than 65 cm for the Southern. Hurricanes occur primarily from May to September. The gist of the weather information is: a storm is easily possible on both islands in early November.

What about 1940?

Now on to the fun stuff. Just what was happening in New York City in November 1940? (Remember, we set that month as the “true date” for the events written as Peril in the North.) Let’s look first at November 12th, 1940 in NYC. There were showers and the weather report mentioned that it was “colder” than it had been. The New York Times reported that the forecast was for “rather cold” on the 13th. In the news there was still talk about the death of Neville Chamberlain on November 9th, and reports on the activities during the 22nd anniversary of Armistice Day (November 11th).

Nowhere in Peril in the North is any of this mentioned. The weather doesn’t seem to be cold. No one is mentioned wearing coats. There is not a hint of the cold causing breath to be visible. And especially, no mention of the death of one of the world’s leaders just days before.

Why? The answer is simple. Doc’s birthday is not November 12th. Farmer didn’t have the time to check every fact while writing the book. Some things he just had to propose and let history debate the question.

So when was Doc born? Well, Farmer was close. Very close. I started investigating the events of the city for the month of November. Some days fit the weather, some had events that were close, but no day fit as well as November 7, 1940.

Remember the “Ritz-Astoria” we mentioned earlier as the site for the conference? Street and Smith had no desire to allow a mention of THE Waldorf that might bring a lawsuit. Obviously, the various Robeson’s were instructed to tweak the names of actual locations. So, enter the actual location for the conference: on November 7, 1940 there were two conferences at the Waldorf-Astoria.

The first was the First Annual Medical Meeting of the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis. The agenda included information by Dr. Herbert Hipps regarding their new operation to “improve the strength of selected muscles in victims of infantile paralysis that have failed to improve with rest.”

Can you imagine Doc, one of the world’s foremost surgeons, not attending that event? Immediately after the medical meeting was a meeting of the Allied Relief Fund and British War Relief Fund at the same hotel.

Remember that Peril in the North mentioned that Doc was at a meeting of foreign dignitaries and war types at the hotel. A war relief fund meeting would certainly attract “foreign dignitaries and war types.” Not to mention one of America’s leading citizens: Doc Savage. These two conferences are perfect for the events as related in Peril in the North.

Moving on to the weather for the 7th: The New York Times reported that the weather was mild for the day and the forecast was simply for “partly cloudy.” Sounds like another match for the 7th.

And so we conclude…

No date fits better than November 7th, 1901. It fits everything we know about Doc’s birthday. The possibility for storms exist at Andros Island in 1901. Moving to 1940 we find the reception that Doc attends in Peril in the North. The weather is just as was described in the novel. The facts simply favor the 7th. I guess you owe him a belated birthday card.

Any questions?

Doc Savage Film News – Shane Black Edition

Oct 25, 2009 by

Harry Knowles (Ain’t it Cool News) recently spoke to Shane Black (Lethal Weapon) : “When I asked him what he was working on, he shocked me with the revelation that he was going to be writing a script for DOC SAVAGE, which Orci & Kurtzman (those STAR TREK, EAGLE EYE, TRANSFORMERS guys) were producing.”

Of course, that set Flearun abuzz. There’s more speculation at (Shane Black Scribing a Doc Savage Movie for Star Trek Producers) and (Shane Black Bringing ‘Doc Savage’ Back To The Big Screen?)

In the tradition of Doc Savage newsgroups, here’s my cast (at least, who I’d pick this afternoon):

Doc: Jason Statham
Monk: Phillip Seymour Hoffman
Ham: Christian Bale
Johnny: Neil Patrick Harris
Renny: Mekhi Phifer
Long Tom: Jim Sturgess

Doc’s Father: Bruce Willis
Patricia Savage: Liv Tyler

Female Lead: Claire Danes
Antagonist: Tim Roth



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Mark Golden Addresses Canon and Comics

Sep 14, 2009 by

Editor’s Note: For over 10 years and 20,000+ messages, the Flearun group has discussed all that is Doc Savage. From plots, themes, authors, illustrators, to what is, and is not, canon. Recently, news of Doc Savage at a central part of a new DC comic series sparked discussion about comics changing the beloved character. Member Mark J. Golden had a well-written take that he agreed to republish here…

This, of course is not unique to Doc Savage.

Think of some of the other immortal, even iconic figures in popular fiction. Then go back to their original sources.

Frankenstein is the most obvious example. Say the name, people think immediately of Boris Karloff’s brilliant portrayal on film in Jack Pearce make up (or some derivation thereof) … even though Frankenstein is the scientist, not his creation. Who is referred to as “the creature” and not a monster. And far from the inarticulate being with a damaged brain so characteristic of most people’s imaginations, this creature actually taught himself to read, write and speak, and is the narrator of a good part of the original book.

Likewise Tarzan. Self taught. literate and articulate in the Burrough’s original. How often has THAT been carried forward into comics or film?.

Sherlock Holmes … until the very literal productions with Jeremy Brett on PBS, there were many, many truly excellent on screen presentations and comics that had little or no resemblance to the characters or settings in the book. Even the “classic” Rathbone/Bruce duo is NOTHING like anything Conan Doyle ever penned.

And I could go on on and on . . .

The problem (IMHO) with Doc Savage is that he has never really caught on in any form OTHER than the original novels … and even there, limited to an intensely loyal but relatively small readership. So anything different from that conception is provocatively obvious. Really fine writers like Will Murray who truly understand and love and breath the essence of the original can write new adventures in the original media (novels) that rise above mere imitation. But give Doc to a truly gifted writer who feels less constrained with the original vision (for example, Philip Jose Farmer) and you get “Escape from Loki.” It is arguably a better written novel than anything Dent and team ever wrote. But it is a brilliant PJF novel, with little or no resemblance to the original in tone, nature, character or any other attribute. I suspect that even further straying from the source will inevitably occur with ANY foray into a new media for Doc Savage.

I truly wish that someone, somewhere would create a film or comic that tells the story of Frankenstein, or the Phantom of the Opera, or Tarzan, the way their creators told their stories. And I wait in vein. In most cases, thriving careers in other media have supplanted and replaced the original, literary creation altogether. IF Doc ever makes the leap into mass market awareness in some media other than novels, I suspect it is inevitable that it will be a different Doc. Maybe better. Maybe worse. Certainly different.

(Even the Street and Smith Doc Savage comics of the 30s/40s, produced contemporaneously with the original novels, with the involvement if not approval of the same folks producing the pulps … you can truly say of thej that “Any resemblance of the persons and characters in this book to other literary characters of the same name is purely coincidence. “)

Mark J. Golden, CAE

L’homme de bronze

Aug 13, 2009 by

L’homme de bronze

L’homme de bronze!

Original title Marabout translations Re-translation in English
The Man of Bronze L’homme de bronze The man of bronze
The Thousand-Headed Man L’homme aux mille têtes The thousand-headed man
Meteor Menace La grande terreur The great terror
The Polar Treasure Le trésor polaire The polar treasure
Brand of the Werewolf La marque de la bête The brand of the beast
The Lost Oasis L’oasis perdue The lost oasis
The Monsters Les monstres The monsters
The Land of Terror Le pays de l’épouvante The land of terror
The Phantom City La cité fantôme The ghost/phantom city
The Mystic Mullah La mort verte The green death
Fear Cay L’île de l’angoisse The island of anguish
The Quest of Qui À la poursuite du Quâr Chasing Quâr
The Fantastic Island La fosse aux monstres The monsters’ pit-den
Murder Melody La mélodie de la mort Death melody
The Spook Legion La légion fantôme The ghost legion
Land of Always-Night Le pays de l’éternelle nuit Land of eternal night
Red Skull Le crâne rouge The red skull
The Sargasso Ogre L’ogre des Sargasses The Sargasso ogre
The Secret in the sky Alerte dans le ciel Alert in the sky
The Pirate of the Pacific Le pirate du Pacifique The pirate of the Pacific
Cold Death La mort froide The cold death
The Czar of Fear Les cagoules vertes The green hoods
The Green Eagle Le secret de l’aigle The eagle’s secret
The Devil’s Playground Les guerriers du diable The Devil’s warriors
The Other World L’autre monde The other world
The Annihilist Le destructeur The destroyer
Mystery Under the Sea Le mystère sous la mer The mystery under the sea
Mad eyes Les yeux du mal Eyes of evil
Resurrection Day La trahison de la momie The mummy’s betrayal
Red Snow La neige rouge The red snow
The Dagger in the Sky Le poignard céleste The celestial dagger
World Fair’s Goblin Les mystères de New York New York’s mysteries
Merchants of Disaster Les marchands de désastre The merchants of disaster
The Man who Shook the Earth L’homme qui ébranla la terre The man who shook the Earth
The Gold Ogre L’ogre d’or The gold ogre
The Sea Magician Le magicien de la mer The sea magician
The Feathered Octopus La Pieuvre-Oiseau The octopus-bird
meaning The winged octopus
The Sea Angel L’Ange des océans The sea Angel
Devil on the Moon Le diable sur la lune The devil on the moon
The Mental Wizard Magie mentale Mental magic
Original title Lefranqc translations Re-translation in English
The Man of Bronze L’homme de bronze The man of bronze
The Land of Terror Le pays de l’épouvante The land of terror
The Mystery on the Snow Le mystère dans la neige The mystery in the snow
(first translation in French)
The Man of Bronze L’homme de bronze The man of bronze
The Land of Terror Le pays de l’épouvante The land of terror
Quest of the Spider A la poursuite de l’araignée Chasing the spider
(first translation in French)
The Polar Treasure Le trésor polaire The polar treasure
Pirate of the Pacific Le pirate du Pacifique The pirate of the Pacific
The Red Skull Le crâne rouge The red skull
The Lost Oasis L’oasis perdue The lost oasis
The Sargasso Ogre L’ogre des Sargasses The Sargasso ogre
The Czar of Fear Le Czar de la peur The Czar of fear
(new translation of title)
The Phantom City La cité fantôme The ghost/phantom city
Brand of the Werewolf La marque de la bête The brand of the beast
The Man Who Shook the Earth L’homme qui ébranla la terre The man who shook the Earth
Special series
Bleeding Sun Le soleil sanglant The bleeding sun
Special Thanks to Catherine Lavallée-Welch for this page and all the work it took to translate the titles in English. Merci!


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The Doc Savage Six

Aug 12, 2009 by

These are a couple of rare items from Doc’s long music career. The Doc Savage Six was Doc’s Jazz combo from 1958 to 1964. The cassette was a 70s re-release of the most famous Savage Six album. This ticket was from the group’s final concert. The “Special Suprise Guest” was actually Doc and the crew in the next incarnation of the band — “Savage.” I have a line on a very rare Savage 8-track.

Originally published years ago on The Hidalgo Trading Company



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Working Title

Aug 10, 2009 by

Authors often give a title to their work as it is written. The publisher may or may not use the author’s title. The author’s suggestion is the “working title.” And for the publisher — sometimes it just doesn’t “work.” He believes he has the pulse of the consumer — not the finicky author.

That’s true even of the Doc Savage novels. Fan favorite Brand of the Werewolf was originally titled The Crew of Skeletons. It’s a toss-up which title sounds better. The Crew of Skeletons evokes a stronger image for this writer. However, I have to agree with the decision to go with The Laugh of Death instead of the working title Death Laughed and Laughed. I’m sure the editors thought World Fair’s Goblin would sell better than Goblin! Goblin!

Will Murray used the title Flight into Fear for his Doc Savage novel. The title wasn’t unfamiliar to the editors at Doc Savage Magazine. It was the alternate title offered for two novels: King Joe Cay and Terror and the Lonely Widow.

Below we’re offering a match puzzle for Doc fans. On the left are the titles you’ve memorized from repeated readings of the novels. On the right are working titles. How many can you match? We’ve given four answers.

1 - The Land of Terror 	        (a) - Cavu is Dead
2 -  Brand of the Werewolf 	(b) - Death Came Solo
3 -  The Annihilist 		(c) - Death in a Flash
4 -  The Majii 		        (d) - Death in the Book
5 -  The South Pole Terror 	(e) - Death Laughed and Laughed
6 -  The Sea Angel 		(f) - Death Wore a Golden Bell
7 -  The Submarine Mystery 	(g) - Deuces Wild
8 -  The Red Terrors 		(h) - Devil Takes the Last
9 -  The Yellow Cloud		(i) - Flight into Fear
10 -  World's Fair Goblin 	(j) - Flight into Fear
11 -  The Evil Gnome 		(k) - Genie
12 -  The Golden Man 		(l) - Goblin! Goblin!, Man of Tomorrow
13 -  Mystery Island 		(m) - He Was So Scared
14 -  Birds of Death 		(n) - His Majesty, King Terror
15 -  The Invisible-Box Murders 	(o) - In Hell, Madonna
16 -  Peril in the North 	        (p) - Jonah Had a Whale
17 -  Men of Fear 		(q) - Jungle Strange
18 -  The Fiery Menace 	(r) - Man Afraid
19 -  The Laugh of Death 	(s) - Miracle by Williams
20 -  Waves of Death 		(t) - Mr. Calamity
21 -  The King of Terror 	(u) - Mystery at Parade
22 -  The Talking Devil 	        (v) - Sea Snare
23 -  The Secret of the Su 	(w) - Skull Cay
24 -  The Derelict of Skull Shoal 	(x) - The Buccaneer
25 -  The Man Who Was Scared 	(y) - The Crew of Skeletons
26 -  The Red Spider 		(z) - Three Dead Danes
27 -  Strange Fist 		(aa) - The Devilish Mr. Wail
28 -  The Ten Ton Snakes 	(bb) - The Fish Was Strange
29 -  Cargo Unknown 		(cc) - The Green Cloud
30 -  Rock Sinister 		(dd) - The Hair on End, Chemistry of Death
31 -  King Joe Cay 		(ee) - The Ice Age
32 -  The Thing That Pursued 	(ff) - The Invisible Box
33 -  Trouble on Parade 	(gg) - The Jiu San Man
34 -  Measures For a Coffin 	(hh) - The Lost Ones
35 -  Se-Pah-Poo 		(ii) - The Lost Vampire
36 -  Five Fathoms Dead 	(jj) - The Mountain of Terror
37 -  Colors for Murder 	       (kk) - The Phantom Submarine
38 -  Fire and Ice 		(ll) - The Speaking Satan
39 -  Three Times a Corpse 	(mm) - The Sun Terror
40 -  The Exploding Lake	(nn) - The Terrible Jones
41 -  The Devil is Jones 	(oo) - The Terror Under the Sea
42 -  Danger Lies East 	(pp) - The Wizard
43 -  The Pure Evil 		(qq) - They Stood Dead
44 -  Return From Cormoral 	(rr) - thirty Fathoms to Hell
45 -  Up From Earth's Center 	(ss) - Those Golden Birds
46 -  Death is a Round Black Spot 	(tt) - The One-Eyed Mystic
47 -  Terror and the Lonely Widow 	(uu) - The Man Nobody Could See
48 -  According to Plan of a One-Eyed Mystic 	(vv) - Skull Shoal
49 -  Jiu San 		        (ww) - The Crime Annihilist, The Crime Annihilator

Originally published on DocSavage.Info…before 1999 at least. 🙂



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