Sunday, September 6, 2015

Marvel Collectors' Item Classics #41 : Doc Savage Magazine #6

Doc Savage Vol 2 #6

Archie Goodwin, Editor-in-Chief
John Warner, Editor
Ralph Macchio, Assistant Editor
Nora Maclin, Design
Dan Adkins, Art Consultant
Lenny Grow, Production
Ken Barr, Cover

“Onward The Man of Bronze!”
Editorial by John Warner

After several issues without an editorial, Warner jumps in to counter the “rampant rumor that DOC SAVAGE magazine has been cancelled.”  Not only is he “happy to tell you that it has not been cancelled,” there has not “been any talk of it at this writing.”  But this is issue #6, which means there are only two issues remaining for the “only magazine on the newsstands with a heart of bronze,” leading one to wonder the source of those persistent rumors.  

Also as of this writing, “some of the mail has been running in favor of an occasional two-part story,” and while not a “majority yet,” those letters are numerous enough “to make us think about it.”  The Mail of Bronze letters page in this issue discloses that “votes on original stories versus adaptations” are so far skewed “more than two to one in favor of originals.”  Only a reversion to “bimonthly status” would change their policy to include “infrequent two-part adaptations,” but by the run’s end, they would be all originals.  
The articles, such as more Amazing Five character profiles from “bombastic Bob Sampson,” will only be “a semi-regular feature” because the “subject has its limitations.”  Not only that, but “[w]e can’t really afford to have the articles fully illustrated, and stills from the original movie seem a bit of a copout [sic].”  (This sounds like a cop-out excuse if an aversion to film stills was the only thing holding back the magazine from more articles.)  

Warner is, however, “working on getting a set of prints of the pulp covers.”  This issue a letter-writer begs for original pulp cover art, as does one in the final issue, so Warner’s instincts were dead-on.  

One of their other “features in the works,” though not “finalized yet,” is “an interview...on Philip Jose [sic] Farmer.”  This is in direct contradiction to what is stated in this issue’s Man of Bronze page when one reader requests a Doc Savage chronology from Farmer.  The Marvel armadillos explain that “while we’d love to have Phil Farmer contribute any kind of Doc Savage article ... we have a hunch that Mr. Farmer’s schedule is already filled nigh unto the bursting point.”  Since no Farmer piece ever ran, it was Armadillos 1, Warner 0.  

Warner ends with the hope that “this magazine will continue for a long time to come,” even expecting that “with proper sales support, we might even go bi-monthly.”  Wishful thinking in the end.  

“The Sky Stealers!”
Story: Doug Moench
Art: Tony DeZuniga

September, 1936…a few days before the autumnal equinox.”  

They stole the sky!!  Stole the sky over Plainville!” shouts an old prospector.  Nobody believes him, but it turns out the entire town was suffocated – “someone had taken away their air.”  HEADLINE: “Entire Town Dies!!”  

Doc investigates and finds the town’s banks ransacked and, because Plainville is a mining town, “every ounce of uranium ore…gone…”  The only clue left behind is an Egyptian ankh medallion.   

Johnny, the archaeologist of the bunch, researches “everything …about ancient Egyption [sic] cosmogony [and] oddities pertaing [sic] to Egyptology…!”  

Not far from Plainville, a “bizarre zeppelin [with] insignia...of the sun-god, Aten” blankets another “hapless town in a total darkness” with “a cone of black light.”  With “no more air,” the townsfolk asphyxiate.  

“Glory to Aten and may his will be pleased!” proclaim Egyptian-headed figures with names like “Horus-One,” “Anubis-Four,” and Osiris-Five.”  

“Were they beings from some forgotten past, or something far more sinister?”  

They break into the Union Bank and tear the vault door from its hinges.  

“If these titans are not truly gods, but only men in disguise, then they are super-men!  At least!”  
They loot and pillage and then “blast into the sky” using “scepter-jetpack[s]” to depart in their airship.  

Ham reads that one “Professor Johnathan Wilde was suspended from the staff of curators of New York’s Museum of Natural History.”  Wilde, claiming to be able to “unlock the secrets of the pyramids,” thinks he can “regain the lost godhood of ancient Egypt to begin a new race of supermen.”  After his sacking, “a number of artifacts were missing from the museum’s Egyptian wing.”  

At the museum, Doc and Monk combat a massively-strong mummy that turns out to be a drugged and hypnotized Renny who had been scouting around.  Horus kidnaps Monk’s secretary Monica to make her “Hathor--personification of the sky...and wife of Horus!,” flying her to one of “two giant zeppelins--right over the harbor--! 

The second “spurts a cone of blackness darker than night,” with only “three minutes---before people start dying.”  A “--grenade straight at that weirdo sun emblem...” and “BULLS-EYE!![,] the zeppelin is consumed in its own conflagration--.”  The “ cone cuts off [and] New Yorkers are now breathing easier -- much easier.”  

“Ham-Three” fishes out “the crocodile demon-deity” Sebek who fell from the sky, the still-airborne zeppelin making its escape.  The second “zepp is starting to sink!,” but Doc retrieves a scroll before it does.  The papyrus clue leads the Bronze Man and his band to the Cheops pyramid.  

They “beat the zeppelins [sic]” in their hydroglider to the Great Plateau of Giza, hoping to stop Monica from being “sacrific[ed] on the equinox.”  Deep inside Cheops they find a uranium-fueled “energy-ray machine,” making the chamber “a divine incubator—the place where gods are born -- thanks to a mad-man...and genius -- Johnathan Wilde, alias Horus.”  

The zeppelin descends and “the major gods” waste no time leading Monica, “drugged and hypnotized in the same manner as was Renny,” into the “sacred tomb of rebirth” where “divine forces...combine with the forces of our science -- to create...a living goddess.”  

The “secretary-turned-superwoman” joins the “supergods” to turn on the Bronze Giant and his crew.  No match for their “super-strength,” the aides – “even Doc, himself” – are captured.  They are bound in a barge which sails them down “a subterranean branch of the Nile” all the way to “the City of the Dead!” – “a modern madman’s simulation of the underworld...with components looted from various museums” along with the “new,” such as “uranium tubes” and “a glassite rejuveation [sic] tube.”  

Before any can be sacrificed, Doc “snaps his bonds” and, with the element of surprise on his side, overpowers his captors to take on falcon-headed Horus himself.  “I’m God here in the afterlife…,” Horus insists before the Bronze Avenger finishes “the epic fight.”  With Horus down for the count, Monica returns with “the vengeance of Hathor!”  Doc’s men “pump her literally full of stun-pellets” so as to be able to abscond with her because “this whole place is gonna blow soon!”  

The Big Blast!!”  The cavern collapses around Doc, Monica, and the Amazing Five who escape in the Egyptian sun skiff, “riding the crest of a tidal wave, just one step ahead of doom.”  Finally, “the City of the Dead is really a City of Death,” deservedly claiming the mass murdering “gods” for the underworld they so craved.  

On the Nile, Johnny grieves that “the power-chamber is lost again,” with Doc hoping that if it is ever again rediscovered, “it is put to good use next time.”  

EPILOGUE:” As is typical, Monk and Ham had been earlier vying for the attentions of an annoyed Monica, and with the dust settled, they resume their competition at the 86th floor headquarters.  “Boys...  Boys... there’s no need to fight over me.  I’ll take both of you,” she assures.  To a roomful of “uproarious laughter,” she picks the two up, one in each hand, and “effortlessly carries [them] off,” her superwoman powers apparently still intact.  

Issue #7 does not contain their Man of Bronze column, so without a letters page there is no way to know how popular or unpopular “The Sky Stealers!” was.  It certainly is visually striking, the Egyptian motif giving Doug Moench and Tony DeZuniga more opportunity to explore pyramids as they briefly did in “The Doom on Thunder Isle!” (Doc Savage #1), just as author Steve Englehart and artists Ross Andru and Ernie Chua did in the color comic “Master of the Red Death!” (Doc Savage #2).  

Ham reads from a newspaper how Prof. Wilde advanced the “‘pyramid power’” theory that “the Great Pyramid formed a magnifier of cosmic energy akin to the Ark of the Covenant from Biblical lore--,” exactly how the Old Testament holy relic is used five years later in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981).  

DeZuniga’s art design, along with Moench’s conception, anticipates the technologically advanced ancient Egyptian civilization of the 1994 film Stargate.  Not only that, there is a nod to the 1968 Chariots of the Gods? on page 15: “And thus the gods descend from their heavenly chariot - -.”  

It is also “Doc Savage vs. the Mummy” as Monk compares a mummified opponent to “that creepy Boris Karloff!!”  Sometime before that, while walking a leashed “YAP YAP RROINK!” Habeas, he swings by his favorite newsstand to see “if the new Shadow is out yet…or maybe G-5 and Battle Aces--.”  Upon entering the Cheops chamber, he labels the place a “Dr. Frankenstein’s mad lab!”  (That would make “Bride of Horus” Monica, loosely speaking, “The Bride of Frankenstein”!)  Judging from these and many other past comments, Monk unquestionably has a love of fantastic fiction.  

Unlike previous adventures, there is little mystery to the identity of the criminal mastermind, but by now the ritual of masking and unmasking deserves a temporary rest.  

All that is missing from Kenn Barr’s cover aping the iconic image of the Hindenburg tragedy is the sound of a radio announcer’s voice exclaiming, “Oh, the humanity!”  It is the second time a zeppelin goes spectacularly down in flames since Doc Savage #1 when John Buscema and DeZuniga exploded the Silver Ziggurat’s dirigible in “The Doom on Thunder Isle!”  

Though not a crescent moon or star, the villains’ solar symbol emblazoned on their zeppelins is that of the Pharaonic “religion recognizing the sun as the One True God!”  Before their September terrorist attack on New York while dressed as ancient Middle Easterners, they elsewhere murder 3,000 Americans on home soil.  (The approaching “autumnal equinox...perhaps...explains the timing of these attacks.”)  Next the evildoers need “radioactive uranium.”  “Never again...Doc silently vows.”  

Mail of Bronze

The letters begin with a criticism of Bob Sampson and his article from last issue, “The Pulp Doc Savage!,” for supposedly being “less interested in fact than in his own beautiful prose (which I disliked intensely).”  Yet the man says he wants articles like this about Doc, not about George Pal or Ron Ely, and nowhere does he offer an example of any factual errors, even while grudgingly admitting Sampson was “highly informative.”  Marvel defends Sampson’s stylings, and really Sampson should be commended for writing in a voice that captures the attention and imagination of readers more than the easy way out of dull, dry academic prose.  Sampson’s excellent “Renny” profile in this issue will only confirm the letter-writer’s ambivalence.  

The same discontented letter-writer, having hated the Doc Savage-Spider-Man crossover in Giant-Size Spider-Man #3, is definitely not looking forward to the Doc-Thing team-up in Marvel Two-In-One #21.  Instead he recommends “forget[ing] conventional teamups” in favor of an “unrelated fictional character who...logically should...appear” – Fu Manchu.  Marvel breaks the bad news that a Doc versus Fu Manchu storyline scheduled for next issue was scuttled by copyright complications, despite the fact that they had “Moench rarin’ to go!”  They offer consolation in the form of a John Sunlight appearance in issue #8 (Warner even “hmmm’d” in this issue’s editorial, “Moench has been mumbling something about John Sunlight, but he hasn’t let anyone around here in on his plans yet”), a story promised before, and after that “a Fortress of Solitude epic.”  Nothing came of any of these plans.  

A decision is announced to end the “further inclusion of the solo stories” for the simple reason that they “tend to cramp our main story a bit too much for comfort.”  In some ways this is a shame because it was a welcome change of pace, making room for the bit players to take the spotlight and for us to get to know them a bit more.  Marvel remains open to reducing it from the “original 18 page treatment” to “a 12 page format,” but not till after issue #9 at earliest.  (As we all know, Doc Savage #8 concludes the “supersaga” saga.)  

The letter-writers are not all malcontents.  One in particular likes these black-and-whites for being “better from how [Doc] was portrayed in the old color comic” which, to him, “wrote from the standpoint of Doc as a super-hero.”  This seems appropriate for the color comic format, but this particular reader recognizes that “story and artwise, you capture the mood of Doc Savage [and t]he way Dent originally wrote...Doc as an adventurer.”  He blames part of the problem in the color issues on them being “passed down thru too many writers,” resulting in inconsistent “plot and characterization,” a fact he congratulates “Doug and Tony” for rectifying in the “b&w book.”  So thrilled with the past six issues is he that he even goes so far as to proclaim that “Ken Barr’s excellent covers [as well as his] style almost rivals James Bama’s paintings on the Bantam paperbacks”!  

Stay tuned for next issue’s “usual storm of pulpish schticks.”  FIN.  

Article by Bob Sampson
Illustration by Frank Cirocco

Sampson, described by The Pulp Reader website as “[t]he mysterious yet prolific Robert Sampson [who] wrote a lot of reference books about the world of the pulps,” gives another in-depth profile, this one of “John Renwick, a civil engineer of international repute [a]nd…an adventurer and associate of the Doc Savage group.”  It is a chance to know better the Lester Dent characters who might otherwise be lost in the shuffle amidst all the “high adventure” and “all new action.”  

He describes Renny’s build as “like an iron cliff” while “standing nearly seven feet high,” with “arms thick as telephone poles [that] end in hands too large to be real.”  With these “[m]auls of gristle and bone, each [of which] would fill a gallon jug,” he “can slug out the panel of any wooden door.”  He has a voice to match, one like “an immense booming roar.”  In other words, Renny is “tougher than alligator steak,” at least on the outside.  Inside there is something “sensitive in him [that] he shielded by a face of gloom.”  As a “huge shambling horse-faced boy with immense hands that flopped and fumbled...he broiled in the adolescent agony of the obviously different.”  

He went from college to construction before serving as captain in the Infantry Engineers during “[t]he First Great War.”  Now Colonel Renwick (DSC CMH), he served “in the command of Brigadier General T.M. Brooks, whose brigade contained some notable wild men—Lt. Col. Mayfair and Major Roberts, for two.”  It was through Roberts that Renny met a teenaged Clark Savage Jr. at “the military hospital at Bordeaux,” corresponded after the assignment, and kept up after the war in New York City along with Mayfair, Brooks, and Roberts.  There in New York City, Renny made the acquaintance of Clark Savage Sr. “who talked...of Goodness and Justice.”  

But at that time, “Renny was uninterested in such abstracts” and instead “ranged across the world” to the Chinese uplands, Alaska, India, and the Canadian forests while “scrawl[ing] out articles of crushing technical weight.”  It was a “telegram from the Savages [that] brought him back from Africa [for some] special jobs—all quietly done.”  First up were “revisions to the architectural drawings for the largest building in the world” to which “Renny added some special provisions.”  Also “a high-security hospital...concealed in the wilds of upstate New York.”  Another was “the transformation of an ancient warehouse on the Hudson River.”  Then there was the arsenal of “advanced machine-gun[s] hardly larger than a pistol,” and more.  

Renny spent his in-between time “talk[ing] with Mayfair and Roberts” and “leap[ing] upon each other and scuffl[ing] with delight and howl,” generally “behav[ing] like kids.”  All of “them...fools for action[, t]heir personalities mesh [and] professional talents interlock.”  In 1929 Chicago, “they wipe out an arm of the Capone pack.”  Then, in 1930, “Clark Savage Sr. [is] murdered by a scientific killer,” inspiring the junior Savage to propose “a formal beginning to their adventures.”  

Renny “flourished and grew” because, with their own “physical peculiarities, which were many, [and] oddities of habit,” “those iron men” and the Man of Bronze “accepted him wholly.”  

Among the women, “two...[p]erhaps three...[h]e could have loved.”  And “[o]nly twice, three times, a woman pierced his defenses.”  But “[w]omen were so exquisitely beautiful,” and he “a hulking cliff of a man, all hands and a horse face.”  “Twice, three times...his heart shocked.”  

Building airfields and dams and highway networks while the Second World War was raging meant less time for “righting wrongs, punishing the wicked,” less time for “the joy of action.”  Though he was “a Colonel in the Army Reserve and a skilled pilot,” they denied him “active service,” and it “galled him to fury, as a similar situation galled Doc Savage.”  Instead “[h]e found himself an advisor to the President, a confidant of Congress,” all while a victim of “small men [who] quibbled and grasped in an intoxication of power.”  

He got close to the war with “a stream of air fields, roads, major constructions,” and helped with “post-war industrial reconstruction” of England.  After that, “[i]n a ponderous old building near 40th St., he keeps a worn old office crammed with worn old furniture.”  By now “Renny is his own man, making his own decisions.”  In one incident “[h]e pistols down the last remaining member of a mob.”  Naturally, “Doc does not approve.”  Not long after, “[w]e begin losing sight of [Renny],” just around the time Conde Nast’s Doc Savage Magazine begins to fade.  

It goes from bi-monthly to quarterly with “[t]he group...shown only in flashes, at ever-extending intervals.”  Renny’s “last mention” is in “the final issue of Doc Savage Magazine”: he is “preparing a report to a congressional committee on the use of tidal fluctuation for electrical power generation” in the Bay of Quoddy, Massachusetts.  Again Renny is denied “the choking joy of danger.”  

It is true that “his association with Doc is diminished,” though “it is not severed.”  They do continue, “on adventures unrecorded, [to] join forces, the bronze giant and the gaunt giant.”  


We know what you're saying. Give us more Gil!
Well, beginning very soon, you'll get just that.
Very soon, you'll get the dish on Solomon Kane,

the final issue of Unknown Worlds
and Doc Savage Magazine #7 and 8.
Face it, True Believers, This is the Year of Gil!

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