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


Jul 28, 2009 by

I just may get the majority of this site back online by Pulpfest.

Are you going? I wish I could….



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