Saturday, November 26, 2016

Doc Savage Covered (1935)


(1933) (1934) (1935)


To the world at large, Doc Savage is a strange, mysterious figure of glistening bronze skin and golden eyes. To his amazing co-adventurers--the five greatest brains ever assembled in one group--he is a man of superhuman strength and protean genius, whose life is dedicated to the destruction of evil-doers. To his fans he is the greatest adventure hero of all time, whose fantastic exploits are unequaled for hair-raising thrills, breathtaking escapes and blood-curdling excitement.




Okeydoke, time for more Doc Savage covers.

If you've seen the previous posts, you know I'm going through all 181 Street & Smith pulps (by year of pulp publication) and the corresponding Bantam reprints. Both sets feature some fine artwork, and seeing visual representations from each story, across the thirty to sixty year gap between publication of each set, is pretty cool. (The pulps were originally published between 1933 and 1949, the reprints between 1964 and 1990.)

Emery Clarke and Walter Baumhofer did the lion's share of the original covers, and James Bama and Bob Larkin did most of the paperback artwork. (And of course Lester Dent did most of the writing.) I'm pointing out new artists and authors along the way, to the best of my knowledge, so you know who did what and when. As far as artists go, I mention them directly in my commentary. The first time I run across an author other than Dent, I attach a link to his name next to the book's title. The plot blurbs you see for each book come from the reprints--the pulps didn't have much in the way of blurbs. And while I'm not doing a ton of commentary on each cover, whenever something catches my fancy, I (can't help but) mention it.

As usual, you can click through images for (usually) larger versions, using your browser's back button or the corresponding keyboard shortcut to get back to the full post. As far as image size goes, I have all the covers, but my scans are from days long past. They looked great on a 800x600 resolution monitor (remember those?), but they aren't too impressive with today's monitors, so I'm trying to replace  them with high-res images as I go. But if you click through and find no joy, you'll know I resorted to my original lower-res scan for that cover.

Let's get to it.



The Mystic Mullah (January 1935 and November 1965) by Lester Dent (and possibly Richard Sale)

It was an ageless thing that had existed since the beginning of time — a monstrous green face that spoke sudden death. With its legions of ghostly, nebulous soul slaves, it had begun to terrorize the world. Even Doc Savage and his fantastic five were helpless against its awesome power, until….

Artist: Walter BaumhoferArtist: James Bama

First of all, is that a great end-of-blurb-hook, or what? "Even Doc was helpless, until..." Until what?! What did he do? How did he become un-helpless? Pretty much guaranteed I'll read the book to find out. (And I did, back in the day.)

Oh, and since I had no idea what a mullah is, maybe you don't, either: It's a Muslim who's learned in Islamic theology and sacred law.

I like both these covers. Baumhofer's is less fantastic in nature, but it really grabs you--makes you want to plunk your dime down and find out what's going on. Bama's take is, well, mystical, and just as exciting in its own way.



Red Snow (February 1935 and July 1969) by Lester Dent

When the red snow descends, all in its path are destroyed, their bodies devoured by the scarlet rot. ARK, the monstrous-headed scholar of evil, sprays red death across a terrified nation and demands total surrender. Doc Savage is helpless as America reels under the crimson lash of deadly snow — helpless because he stands accused of murder!

Artist: Walter BaumhoferArtist: James Bama

Hmm. Nothing to do with red snow on that Baumhofer cover, but it's eye-grabbing. And plenty of red something on Bama's, but not much going on otherwise. It gives us a nice Bama-esque portrait of Doc, if nothing else. I prefer the pulp cover here, by and large.



Land of Always Night (March 1935 and September 1966) by W. Ryerson Johnson & Lester Dent

With the fate of America hanging in the balance, Doc Savage and his fearless crew battle a hideously white-faced man named Ool who kills merely with a touch of his finger. The only clue to his diabolical power is a mysterious pair of dark goggles which brings death to whomever possesses them. The trail leads to a fabulous lost super-civilization hidden deep in the bowels of the earth, where Doc Savage and his fabulous five face their supreme challenge.

Artist: Walter BaumhoferArtist: James Bama

Wow. You'd never know it was the same book, going off these two covers. I'm pretty sure (been a long time since I read it) both scenes are in-story, though. If there's an underground lost civilization, bound to be a giant mushroom field nearby, right? As far as thrills and chills, I'll give the pulp cover props here. And Bama gets another nomination for the Weird Award.



The Spook Legion (April 1935 and March 1967) by Lester Dent

The entire city of New York is swept up in a wave of terror, as an evil international conspiracy devises a crime so sinister that only Doc Savage and his five mighty cohorts can halt its fiendish plan. Led by a phantom master criminal with stupefying supernatural powers, the conspiracy sets trap after trap for Doc. Finally, in a fantastic underground empire, the fearless bronze giant and his courageous crew must fight for their lives against a diabolical enemy that cannot even be seen.

Artist: Walter BaumhoferArtist: James BamaArtist: Ben Otero

Oh man, now that is a classic pulp cover, amiright? Doc on the running board, one of of the Fabulous Five behind the wheel (gotta be Monk, with that homely mug), racing into danger. Nice. I mean, it's a generic scene, showing up in most if not all of Doc's stories, but it's quintessential. Mmm! The Bantam reprint is is pretty dynamic itself, with Doc behind the eight-ball, seemingly fading out of (or into) existence.

And another of the six Golden Press hardcovers from 1975 (first couple of those are in the 1933 post, and another in 1934's). I'm assuming they changed the title from Spook to Ghost, since "spook" had become a common racial slur (well after the story was originally published, from what I understand). Since the GP series was aimed at older kids, I bet the publisher was happy to avoid even the possibility of any controversy with the book's title.

It's been too long since I read it to remember: I wonder if the term was used in-story, and if GP changed it to Ghost inside the book as well.



The Secret in the Sky (May 1935 and November 1967) by Lester Dent

A ball of fire streaks across the heavens leaving death and ruin in its wake — A machine of terror which cannot be halted — An amazing intelligence capable of rendering an entire continent barren… All America trembles as Doc Savage grapples with the most awesome challenge of his astonishing career!

Artist: Walter BaumhoferArtist: James BamaArtist: Ben Otero

That's a nice pulp cover, too. It's got a great action feel to it, doesn't it? And in spite of all the flaming spheres on the Bantam, with Doc just laying there it feels a little ho-hum. The GP cover keeps the spheres and livens Doc up a bit, which is good.



The Roar Devil (June 1935 and May 1977) by Lester Dent

The Roar Devil — he shook the earth. He stopped all sound. He had a vast organization of desperate criminals at his command. Now the good citizens of Powertown were terrorized. At any moment the Roar Devil might strike again. They sent for the only person whose cunning and skill could defeat him — the Man of Bronze.

Artist: Walter BaumhoferArtist: Boris Vallejo

Hey hey! We've taken a break from the Baumhofer/Bama team-up we've mostly had going here: Boris Vallejo has stepped in for Bama on the Bantam cover. And these are both nicely designed covers, I think. For Street & Smith, Doc has eschewed his usual action for scientific rigor, and I like the sweeping-up-and-to-the-left thing the cover has going on. That diagonally-split foreground/background deal on Bantam's reprint is nice, too. There's a lot more color floating around that reprint than on most too, right? Most of the reprints have a more homogeneous palette.

"Thing" and "deal" are official painty-designy terms, I'm pretty sure.



The Quest of Qui (July 1935 and July 1966) by Lester Dent

It started when a Viking Dragon ship attacked a yacht in the waters outside New York. Next, “Ham” was stabbed with a 1,200 year-old Viking knife. Then Johnny was captured and frozen solid in a block of arctic ice. Finally, even the mighty man of bronze himself — Doc Savage — is kidnapped and enslaved by the chilling menace. What is his plan this time? Can he save himself and his friends from almost certain destruction?

Artist: Walter BaumhoferArtist: James BamaArtist: Ben Otero

That's a nice portrait by Baumhofer, but Bama's take is a lot more engaging (to me). I like that purpley-blue cast to everything. Eerie.

And here's the last of the Golden Press sextet, by Otero.



Spook Hole (August 1935 and September 1972) by Lester Dent

The Man of Bronze and his trustworthy friends track a one-armed man of mystery to the far reaches of South America — only to find their lives endangered when they discover the amazing secret that Hezemiah Law is guarding so carefully on Spook Hole!

Artist: Walter BaumhoferArtist: Fred Pfeiffer

Your standard fisticuffs on the pulp cover, but done quite well. One thing (I think I've mentioned before, maybe not) about Baumhofer is his men all tend to look alike to me. Everybody's got the same build and bone structure; sometimes I have a hard time telling which one is Doc, although it's pretty obvious here.

Anyway, Fred Pfeiffer is back for the Bantam, we've seen him a few times already. I like his style. It's reminiscent of Bama's take, while keeping a whole lotta style of its own. A lot of the Bantams are either moody or vibrant; this one is both. I really like the way the colors flow.



The Majii (September 1935 and May 1971) by J. Allan Dunn & Lester Dent

In New York, Rama Tura, chosen disciple of the Majii, leads Doc Savage into a sinister world of drugs and advanced hypnotism. Far away in Jondore, a revolt is brewing that will pit the Man of Bronze against his most devious opponent: the man who cannot die.

Artist: Walter BaumhoferArtist: James Bama

Magii: Is that an archaic spelling of Magi, I wonder? Or maybe a purposeful misspelling, to help take it out of real life and into more fiction territory.... I dunno. (Ah. A quick bit of research says it's supposed to be a fictional language's transliteration of "genii.")

Anyway, nice Bama cover, even if I'm not usually a fan of the "little Doc with giant floating villain" look (like with The Mystic Mullah, up above). Never been a fan of floating head covers. But the cover here carries a lot of energy, to be sure.

Not much going on with this pulp cover for me. Which makes me wonder: For the pulps and reprints both, did the artists get to choose the look and feel of each cover they did? Did they leaf through each story and pick a scene or image that spoke to them, or was it like a slip of paper from the publisher, saying "paint Doc lifting a guy up out of a coffin"?



Dust of Death (October 1935 and January 1969) by Harold A. Davis & Lester Dent

The tiny South American republics of Santa Amoza and Delezon were at war when a mysterious, hooded figure — known only as The Inca in Gray — appeared and began slaughtering citizens of both sides with a strange dust that brought instant, writhing death. Doc Savage and his mighty crew rush to the dense Amazonian forest in hopes of saving lives, but all they find when they arrive is a firing squad — ready to execute the Man of Bronze!

Artist: Walter BaumhoferArtist: James Bama

Does anybody else think about the old Mission: Impossible series, with Peter Graves, when they read those ridiculous country names? Santa Amoza and Delezon... yikes. Neither of these covers does a ton for me, although I prefer the reprint (in spite of its Giant Floating Villain). And I totally get that GFV covers naturally convey a sense of overwhelming dread, etc., which is helpful to an artist. I'm just not a big fan of the tool. In spite of that, it's a great, dynamic-looking Doc pose that Bama has going on there.



Murder Melody (November 1935 and January 1967) by Lawrence Donovan

It began with a series of quakes which tore huge, gaping holes in the surface of the earth. Soon the sky over the Northwest was filled with the bodies of strange floating men playing a weird melody of death. Was the world doomed? Could Doc Savage and his Fabulous five save it from almost certain destruction? Join them as they race to the center of the earth for a titanic battle with the power-crazed leaders of a fantastic super-civilization.

Artist: Walter BaumhoferArtist: James Bama

You know what I've noticed? I'm sure there are exceptions, but the Doc Savage stories tended to expose most apparently supernatural threats as hoaxes, while going full bore with lost civilizations and the more sci-fi kinds of elements. Don't you think? I wonder why. I mean, you never get a real werewolf, and the giant spider turns out to be a balloon or mechanism of some kind, but lost-world dinosaurs and super-civilizations are no problem. Weird. I personally would have liked seeing a few of the supernatural threats play out as real.

Anyway, I like both these covers. They're similar to one another without being obvious. That deep purple of Bama's is nice. And Murder Melody: is that a great title or what?



The Fantastic Island (December 1935 and December 1966) by W. Ryerson Johnson & Lester Dent

It looked just like any other deserted island. But hidden under its tropical sands was a monstrous slave empire, a vast underground network of death pits, giant carnivorous crabs and prehistoric beasts, ruled by the blood-crazed Count Ramadanoff. Blasting their way into this nightmare of horror, Doc Savage and “the fabulous five” embark on their most daring adventure.

Artist: Walter BaumhoferArtist: James Bama

I like both of these. That's some classic derring-do going on in the pulp cover. And I'm a sucker for prehistoric beasties menacing a human being, so props to the reprint as well. Or are those just Komodo Dragons? Well, I like those because they remind me of prehistoric beasts, so either way I think that's a cool cover.



Okay, looks like we've reached the end of another year. Next up: 1936. (Well, not immediately next up, but next in the Doc series... you knew what I meant.) And I sincerely hope it doesn't take me another seven months to get to that one. You never know, though....