Boris Vallejo

Oct 26, 2014 by

Boris Vallejo

Boris Vallejo (1941- ) painted six Doc Savage covers for Bantam.

Vallejo’s preferred artistic medium is oil paint on board, and has previously used digital media to combine discrete images to form composite images. Preparatory works are pencil or ink sketches — Wikipedia

Boris Vallejo

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Douglas Rosa

Oct 26, 2014 by

Douglas Rosa

William Douglas Rosa (1932-1977) painted two Bantam covers in the Doc Savage series: The Lost Oasis and The Land of Terror. Vincent diFate postulated that Rosa got the call to do the covers while James Bama was on his honeymoon.

Douglas Rosa was an illustration artist from Long Island, who began his career as a freelance artist at age 19. He is perhaps best known for his depictions of the Viet Nam War where he was among several artists given temporary commissions by the Marine Corps fine arts program to spend seven weeks sketching battlefield scenes. His most famous work portrays the beloved U.S. Marine Corps chaplain and Catholic priest Lt. Vincent Robert Capodanno (1929-1967) on a Viet Nam battlefield. Capodanno lost his life ministering to troops in the Quang Tin province of Vietnam. Rosa’s painting was presented in 1975 to the Naval Base in Newport, Rhode Island, after Capodanno posthumously won the Congressional Medal of Honor. Rosa also has extensive credits for his western cowboy and science fiction illustrations and covers for popular books, including a series by fantasy author Talbot Mundy, as well as a series of Biblical scenes for The Living Story of the Old Testament by Walter Russell Bowie (1959). He worked in a realist style, and expressed a preference for “dramatic scenes and faces.” — George Glazer Gallery

A friend of Rosa’s, Cherane Pefly, wrote that Rosa passed away at the age of 42. I found a record of Rosa at the Long Island National Cemetery. Pefley also republished a flyer about Rosa:

rosa1

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James Avati

Oct 26, 2014 by

James Avati

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James Avati, 1912-2005, painted a single Bantam Doc Savage cover, Meteor Menace. According to Wikipedia, Avati “impressed Kurt Enoch at New American Library, a new paperback publishing house. He was a hit from the beginning and changed the style of cover painting by the early 1950s.”

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Man of Blurb

Dec 11, 2009 by

Man of Blurb

He is an unassuming man. You’d pass him on the street without a second look. Under that façade is the most respected man of his profession. Though you’ve never heard his name before you’ve read some of his best work.

He knows most people have no idea of the years he spent perfecting his craft. The long hours. The deadlines. A marriage sacrificed. No fame or fortune. He doesn’t care. Fortune is not why he did it.

He is probably the first man you connected with Doc Savage. No, not Jim Bama. Think back to when you saw Fear Cay for the first time. You turned over that pristine copy to read:

It was all a great mystery. Who was this man called Dan Thunden who claimed he was one hundred and thirty years old? Did he really have the secret of the fountain of youth? What was this island called Fear Cay that spelled horror and death? What was the strange thing that turned men to bone? These were the mysteries that Doc Savage and his fearless crew had to solve at peril of their very lives.

Nick D’Annuzio laughs when he recalls writing that pithy description, “Asked a lot of questions — never gave many answers.” From The Man of Bronze to Up From Earth’s Center D’Annuzio was “The Man of Blurb.”

The blurb — that bit of marketing designed to lure you into buying a product. Blurb writers are not a high-priced commodity in the publishing field. Usually they’re omnivorous readers who majored in Liberal Arts. D’Annuzio did and went back to get a Masters in Marketing. He still studies today, “It’s a little more casual now. I check out the mags. ‘Next Month’ columns and the like. Oh, and the news. Amazing how much a politician can talk and how little he’ll give away in 30 seconds. Always gives the impression he’s Thomas Jefferson though.”

How did Nick and Doc get together? “When I was nine I picked up an issue of National Geographic. I skipped past the tribal pictures – too young then – and was fascinated by the writing. Not the articles. They were long and boring. I was astounded by the Next Month column. I wanted to read those articles!”

Imagine how disappointed I was when I saw that next issue. More long and boring articles. But my spirits soared with ‘Next Month.’ I knew then and there I wanted to be a blurb writer. Didn’t know the word yet, but I knew I wanted to write them. As a matter of fact, I ended up ghost writing a few of those National Geographic columns when (Richard) “Professor” Laflamme had that strange accident in 78.”

For a man who gets to the point when he writes, D’Annuzio often wanders to the point when he speaks.

“Yeah, you asked me about Doc Savage.” He pulls out a folder. He has kept all his notes. “Back in ’62 I packed up my Bug and traded notebooks at Northwestern for legal pads at Bantam. My first project was a one-shot — Doc Savage. If it took off we’d have 180 more to go. I took home the galleys for “The Man of Bronze” and worked all night.

High above the skyscrapers of New York, Doc Savage engages in deadly combat with the red-fingered survivors of an ancient, lost civilization. Then, with his amazing crew, he journeys to the mysterious “lost valley” to search for a fabulous treasure and to destroy the mysterious Red Death.

“Sure, I had to get their attention without giving anything away. That isn’t easy. I wasn’t quite into the swing of things then. Too many declarative sentences and no questions. I cringe when I read it today. That’s what they wanted though. You always make the company happy.”

D’Annuzio dug out his first draft for the blurb, “Who dares to challenge the Man of Bronze? Does Death always win? Will Doc and his team defeat Death in the Valley of the Vanished? Will the mysterious Red Death claim them? Will it snuff their lives — as it did the only man who truly knew the origin of Doc Savage — his father, Clark Savage, Senior?”

He is still proud of that work. The editors at Bantam wanted less philosophy and more action. “Get murder, danger and the bad guy in every one. That’s what they wanted. I gave it to them. I grabbed you with 50 words or less.”

D’Annuzio remembers the glory days of Doc Savage in the 60s. Sometimes they seemed to write themselves, “I’d work every night from midnight to 2 am. That’s the absolute best time to write a blurb. You’re right on the edge of sleep. Your mind can’t hold a complex thought. Words are ethereal.

Like Lester Dent, D’Annuzio had a touch of wanderlust. He once traveled the Caribbean in a seaplane and farmed a few blurbs out. He won’t reveal who, but assures us we’d recognize the name.

Cadwiller Olden was only three feet tall, but he was the most dangerous man on Earth. With his legion of brutal giants, and control of REPEL — a massive, devastating energy force — the murderous midget began an all-out assault against the defenseless bastions of the free nations. As the entire world huddles in fear, Doc Savage battles against the bizarre doll criminal, and the unleashed fury of his deadly tool of destruction, REPEL!

“He just didn’t work out. Too wordy. Writes a great horror story though.”

Ask D’Annuzio what blurb he is most proud of and you’d be surprised, “None. It wasn’t the blurbs I sweated over. They just flowed — it was the titles I put my heart into.”

D’Annuzio not only wrote blurbs for 181 adventures – he was the first blurb writer who titled his work. Each blurb featured the title in bold on the back cover. “I was able to give alternate titles to 82 of the Doc Savage novels. I started with Soul of the Mystic Mullah. They were sporadic at first. Bantam didn’t place much emphasis on them. They’d just not use the title line sometimes. After Bantam started receiving letters from my fans – yep, those days we had blurb groupies – usually Bryn Mawr girls – they didn’t miss a one from Doc Savage Out West to Trapped in a Steel Tomb.

A new editor was assigned to the Blurb Department at about the same time the Doc Doubles started. “At first I had about the same amount of lines, but gradually I had to fit into less space. The omnibuses almost killed me. No titles and usually just room for a sentence or two to grab you. I was really looking forward to the time we start publishing the new adventures. One story per book and room for a paragraph or two blurb.

It wasn’t meant to be. D’Annuzio was shocked to find that Bantam didn’t call him out of retirement for the new editions of Doc Savage. “Said they wanted new blood. Said my last one was the capstone of my career.”

A shipwrecked lunatic, a mysterious cavern, and a plump little man with a fear of fire lead Doc on his strangest and most legendary adventure ever — straight to the gates of hell itself!

His career is far from over. Brill’s Content called him for the blurbs they used in their early promotional work. Utne Reader depends on D’Annuzio as their Senior Blurb Editor. And the New Yorker has featured three all D’Annuzio blurb issues in the past two years. Still, D’Annuzio hopes someday to again pen the words “fearless crew” for Doc Savage.

* Editor’s note: We received this article with no return address. A call to Bantam revealed that the publisher had employed a Nick D’Annuzio, but not as writer. D’Annuzio was the publisher’s night janitor from 1960 until his “sudden” retirement in 1993. A source speculated D’Annuzio had moved to Florida. Others speculate the blurbs were written by Doc Savage himself. Who knows?

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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