Remake & Reboot: The DOC SAVAGE Comic Series

The American comics industry is best known for heroes like Batman, Superman, Spider-Man and the X-Men, but all of our spandex heroes and the comics industry they support were built on the backs of an older pantheon of heroes: the pulp heroes. The Shadow, Green Hornet, Zorro, Buck Rogers, the Phantom, Tarzan, and others were the original heroes hailing from the pulp prose novel genre that preceded and inspired the earliest superhero writers like Jerry, Joe, Stan and Jack. And while some of those heroes have been embraced and brought forward in comic series, there’s one that has never managed to get a secure foothold in comics — or in modern history at all. And he’s arguably the most popular of them all. He’s Doc Savage.

Created in 1933 by writer Lester Dent (with input from his editors Henry Ralston and John L. Nanovic), Doc Savage was both a man of science and man of action. Alan Moore’s Tom Strong and Planetary‘s Axel Brass were both based heavily on the character, especially in his origin as a boy groomed by his parents in both mind and matter to be the pinnacle of what a man could be. Lester Dent described him as having Sherlock Holmes’ mind, Tarzan’s physicality and Abraham Lincoln’s morality, becoming in essence a superman before, well, Superman.

Doc Savage excelled for years in his own prose magazine in the 30s and 40s, with reprinted book editions in the 60s reviving his fame, but as far as comics go he’s had his trouble. Virtually every major publisher from Marvel to DC to Dark Horse has tried and failed to create a flourishing Doc Savage series, but as we’re seeing a renaissance of pulp heroes in comics at Dynamite I think the time is write to call this Doc in for a house call.

The Concept:

Speaking generally about the previous comic stories and pulp heroes in comics in general, the hardest part of making it work is that you have two goals: one, to create a riveting story and, two, to dust off what to most people might see as a bygone hero. Not unlike the problems sometimes faced with Superman, Doc Savage is hard to place in modern times without gentrifying the hero and loosing the original appeal of the story.

For a new Doc Savage comic series to work, it has to take back the globe-spanning pulpy vibe that George Lucas and Steven Spielberg stole for Indiana Jones, but do it in such a way that it doesn’t become cliche. Also, a new Doc Savage has to live in the modern world we live in; I’m not saying he should be spouting the current catchphrase or be shown on TMZ, but he needs to break that barrier and be the reader’s hero… not the reader’s dad’s hero. After all of that is taken care of, it all comes back to story. The Doc Savage pulp stories have a preponderance of riches in terms of villains and vile machinations, and Doc Savage needs to confront those head-on. And while its touchy for some, it should also touch on the relatively out-of-favor way he tried to “fix” the villains once captured. There has to be a way to translate that into a modern context without going full-on Guantanamo, but it’s a challenge for whoever is tasked to create this story needs to tackle and not dodge.

The Creators:

The Writer – Nathan Edmondson: Nathan Edmondson has quickly become of one of the new young voices in mainstream comics, and one of the select few who hasn’t been tied down in an exclusive to one company or another. While I wouldn’t be surprised if that changes in the very near future, Edmondson has a very unique skillset and expertise in this area of writing that could accurately reposition Doc Savage and built a template for a new way to tell his stories.

The Artist – Sean Phillips: Okay, okay, I know Sean Phillips is doing quite well in creator-owned work with Fatale, Criminal and Incognito, but I don’t think it’s entirely out of the realm of possibility that he could be persuaded to do a 4- or 6-issue series to properly reintroduce the Man of Bronze into comics. Phillips’ work could instantly set this apart from other more color-by-the-numbers revamps of heroes, not unlike the way Rob Liefeld’s Glory and Prophet were reintroduced with a surprising and talented set of fresh blood. Phillips has a well-known love for these characters, it’s just a matter of the right offer, the right schedule and most importantly, the right story.


  1. Doc Savage on a team book or as a supporting character might be another way of reintroducing him to the current reading audience.

    Imagine if Willingham got to use him in the Fables-verse…

  2. Warren Ellis and John Cassaday did such a good alternative take on Doc Savage and the other pulp heroes in Planetary. I would love to see more of that, like a “Tales From the Planetary Guides” type series – it’ll never happen, but that would probably be one of my favourite books of all time!
    Also, Tony Harris would kick so much ass on a Doc Savage series it would make your eyes bleed! As would Darwyn Cooke! About time the pulp heroes were given some respect and some awesome creative teams!