Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Spiders (1978) & The Web (1981) by Richard Lewis

UK Paperback 1978
For years and years I've had this vague memory of a killer-spider novel I read when I was twelve or so, but all I could remember was the book's first scene:

A cranky old man in a New York suburb smashes a weird-looking spider in his garden after it bites his arm. That night he wakes up with his arm all purpley-swollen and realizes he's paralyzed, as hundreds of spiders swarm onto his bed and eat him alive. (Yikes! Pretty gruesome.)

Anyway, as an adult I've looked for that book for-ev-er, but since I couldn't remember the title or who wrote it, I never had much luck.

Until I did find it.

Turns out the garden was in England instead of New York. And rather than being a cranky old guy, he was the kind elderly father of the book's protagonist. Also, the spiders didn't paralyze him, but by the time he woke up he was so stuck to the bed by gazillions of spider webs, he couldn't move.

He definitely got eaten alive, though. I had that part right.

And as much as I got wrong, I knew it was the same book because when the old guy first tried to squash that spider in his garden, he didn't quite kill it and it glared up at him from the ground, "thinking hate." Plus, later as he was being eaten in his bed, he saw this humongous spider "the size of a large crab" sitting on his window sill, seemingly giving directions to the smaller ones that were eating him. (I remembered those parts, too. Creepy.)

So yeah. The book was called Spiders, and it was by a guy named Richard Lewis. Actually, it was by a guy named Alan Radnor, who's pseudonym was Richard Lewis. He even wrote a sequel to the book, called The Web, a few years later.

At any rate, the spiders didn't look anything like that glowy-red-eyed tarantula on the cover up top. They were actually, according to the book's scientist-guy protagonist, a hybrid of "Stegodyphus pacificus" and a few other exotics. Apparently the real life Stegodyphus is social, in that it lives and hunts in groups (which is central to the book's plot).

Just for fun I did an image search and got this:

Ack! I know there are plenty of folks who can look at a photo like this and see something beautiful, but with all the killer-spider movies and books I took in during my formative years (and afterward), I'm just not one of them. But I'm working on it.

Anyway, most of the spiders in the book are regular-sized (less than an inch long), but we also get the bigger crab-sized ones I mentioned, and even meet some monstrous six-footers towards the end of the book. And I'm just gonna come right out and say that millions of regular-sized spiders are way scarier than one giant-sized spider. Am I right? (I am so right!)

The plot of the book is pretty standard nature runs amok: These deadly poisonous spiders were all part of some super-secret government experiment, but when the lab coats finished up they only thought they destroyed all their critters, and a few escaped. So the escapees have been living underground and breeding, breeding, breeding, waiting for just the right time to launch spiderpocalypse.

It all starts with a few isolated attacks in the country, but soon more and more people are dying as the spiders make their grisly way toward London. Will the entire continent be over run before scientist-guy protagonist can stop them? Of course not. He saves the day at the last minute (and after a lot of people have died) and we finish up with the obligatory epilogue that raises the possibility for a sequel.

As you read along, the author comes off as a little unsure if these spiders are just average eight-legged joes following their instincts, or whether they have some kind of acrimonious near-human intelligence and have declared war on all us two-leggers. He writes it both ways, depending on the paragraph you're reading.

Near the end of the book, though, he (sort of) clarifies that the spiders are all running on some kind of hive-mind that makes them more intelligent than your average killer-spider, but it's still basically spider instinct and not some "let's annihilate the entire human race" thing going on. At least that's how I took it.

UK Paperback 1981
The Web picks up a few years after Spiders ends, and more or less just continues the story. Yes, a few eight-leggers did escape and they've been hiding out and breeding. 

This time there are a couple of species working together, the ones from the first book and a larger, lighter brown type whose venom drives people homicidally insane instead of just killing them outright. 

But basically it's the same story (spiders march toward London), with some homicidal maniacs running around and a few more giant-spiders mixed in with the regular-sized ones than the last book had.

Well. For a book that made such an impression on me as a twelve year old (and that I searched for, for so many years as an adult), it was actually a little tiresome getting through both these books as my current self. 

It was only the first one I'd read as a kid. I didn't know there was a sequel until I finally figured out the first one's title and author. At any rate, while both books had great creepy-crawly subject matter, the writing was mediocre at best. 

And reading them back to back, it literally felt like reading the first book over again. None of which means they aren't worth a read if you're a nature-runs-amok fan. You just have to head in with all eight eyes open and take them for what they're worth. (Ooooh, that was a zinger! Bada-BING!)

At any rate, these books are only worth TWO CREEPY-CRAWLY BRAINS. (Which then makes me wonder, what would be the monetary value of a brain, anyway? And would a creepy-crawly brain be worth more than your garden variety brain? Hmmm....)

Okay. Nothing to do with spiders now, but I'm always curious when I read older fiction, to see how women and ethnic groups are portrayed. Not much happening ethnically here, but both books definitely got the female stereotypes of the time right. Lots of (I thought) intelligent women stuck serving up coffee and helping the menfolk by typing their notes and so on:
"'I feel so helpless,' she murmured. 'I don't know what to do... what to say.' 'You can get me a drink for a start,' he chuckled."
Spiders was also big on categorizing all (and I mean all) its female characters according to their breast size and shape. I don't know how many times I read something like "her breasts were well-formed, though beginning to sag a little" or "if her breasts were on the small side, at least there was no hint of sagging." But it was a lot. Sagging versus not sagging--very important to this book.

The Web didn't have much (comparatively) to say about breasts at all. I did notice a disproportionate number of insecure and manipulative female characters, who seemed to be at the root of all their men's troubles:
"There was no doubt Jenny was beautiful.... She couldn't bear to think she was anything else, needed to be told all the time. And if [he] wasn't about to tell her, then she found someone who was."
"Now, as he sat in prison, he reckoned Mary's jibes and accusations had been the start of his downfall."
Can't say I hold stereotypes like these against an author personally. It's pretty tough seeing past a culture's blind spots when we're all steeping in the middle of it. It is interesting to look back and notice blind spots from the past that are more obvious now, though. Or is that just me?

Okay. That's about it for me on this one. I'll say goodbye with some alternate covers. The Web only ever had the one edition (UK), as far as I could tell. But Spiders ended up with a couple more releases over the years. It was first published in the UK in 1978. It followed that up with a U.S. release (retitled as The Spiders) in 1980, then with another UK release in 1987. Pretty sure it was the 1980 American edition I read back in the day.

US Paperback 1980UK Paperback 1987

Oh. And let's throw in the back covers for those two first editions (since I actually have 'em to photograph), so you can click through and read the back copy. Always a treat.

Spiders UK Back Cover 1978The Web UK Back Cover 1981

And now it really is the end of this post.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Reel Future (1994) Edited by Forrest J. Ackerman & Jean Stine

So. I was over at my sister's house a few weeks ago, and I saw this very book sitting on her shelf. (Since she's an archivist and fellow film-geek, her shelves are always full of interesting things.) Anyway, when I realized the book was a collection of stories that had inspired classic science fiction movies, I had to borrow it. (Because, hello, comparing stories to movies is fun!) So I read it, returned it, and now you get to hear my (extremely brief) thoughts on the stories and films they inspired.

Oh, and hey: Forrest J. Ackerman as co-editor, that's never a bad thing. And while I'd never heard of Jean Stine before now, turns out she's got some pretty serious literary chops herself.

So here we go. Not a lot of pics this time, but the overabundance of fun and informative links makes up for it.


The Empire of the Ants [by H. G. Wells] (1905)

A Brazilian captain is ordered to take his gunboat to assist the inhabitants of a town in the Upper Amazon against a plague of ants. 

Who hasn't sat through the 1977 film this story gave rise to, only to (belatedly) realize the most exciting thing about it was its poster? No gunboats or even Brazilians in the movie, and it was set a good seventy years after H. G. Wells' tale. The story itself is dry (dull-but-descriptive was the style in those days) but reasonably entertaining. No ants any bigger than a good-sized rat, but these little beasties definitely have more human-level intelligence on display than their bigger-movie-brothers ever mustered up.

Herbert West--Re-animator [by H. P. Lovecraft] (1921-22)

A medical school student conducts morbid experiments on dead animals and humans in an effort to reanimate the dead.

A (more) modern (than Shelley's) take on the Frankenstein mythos, this one also suffers from that dry-as-bones early 20th century writing. But it keeps you reading, especially if you're a Frankenstein fan. (And who's not a Frankenstein fan, is there even one non-fan out there?) Anyway, as you might imagine, the story's horror descriptions leave lots to the imagination, which I actually prefer to the gorefest route the film took. The story was apparently first published as a serial in the amateur magazine, Home Brew.

Armageddon 2419 A.D. [by Philip Francis Nowlan] (1928)

A mining engineer is trapped by a mine collapse and falls into a state of suspended animation due to radioactive gases. He wakes five hundred years later to a United States that has been conquered by the Chinese.

Now this was a very entertaining read, even with its early 20th century dry-as-bones style. I've never been a Buck Rogers fan (although I was a fan of Erin Gray's Wilma Deering in that late 70s TV show). I guess the movies this story inspired are the pilot for the TV show (it was released theatrically before the show aired) and a 1939 serial from Universal starring Buster Crabbe.

The story itself ends on kind of a cliffhanger, so Nowlan wrote a sequel to it the next year called The Airlords of Han. I'd happily read the second story to see how it all shakes out. And by the way, you can get both novellas for free online. (Public domain and all.) What to say about the story itself? Well, it was very different than what I remember of the 70s show, and in a good way. Very talky. but I never got bored. So there.

Who Goes There? [by John W. Campbell Jr.] (1938)

A group of scientific researchers in Antarctica discover an alien buried in the ice. Thawing revives the alien, which can assume the shape, memories, and personality of any living thing it devours.

Well. I'm a fan of the 1951 movie and an even bigger fan of the 1982 film by John Carpenter. And I'm here to say the 1982 film kept much, much closer to the source material than the 1951 one did. Fantastic read.

What I learned and had no idea about before this was that the 1971 I-was-thinking-it-was-but-it's-really-not-a-Hammer-film, Horror Express, was also very (very) loosely based on this story. Go figure. It's a fun little film in its own right, and I've watched it more than once. And by the way, apparently 1938 is when authors traded in their dry-as-bones writing style for something a little more exciting. This story (and all the ones that follow) has a much more modern feel to it. Nice.

Farewell to the Master [by Harry Bates] (1940)

A ship appears on the grounds of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. A person in human form and an 8-foot tall robot made of green metal emerge. After the person is killed, the robot immediately becomes immobile, never to move again. Or does it?

Oh man, this one is also top notch. I've seen both versions of this film (really liked the first and thought the second was not bad), but this story is in a class all its own. It takes place in an unspecified-as-to-when future, where Earthlings have expanded out into the solar system, while the films both take place in the 1950s or 2000s, depending on which you're watching (of course). The last line of the story is dynamite. It was my first reading it and caught me totally unawares. And unlike both movies, there's no "Earthlings are destroying themselves and must choose peace or be incinerated" rhetoric here. Which was nice.

This Island Earth [by Raymond F. Jones] (1952)

A race of aliens anonymously recruit humans for a group called "Peace Engineers" but are actually using them as pawns in an intergalactic war.

Isn't that a great one-liner for a story?

I'm pretty sure this is the longest story in the collection (and there were some long ones), but MAN it's an amazing read. I'd never seen the movie, so I rented it after I finished reading. Afraid it didn't even come close to comparing, although I'd have probably thought it was fine if I hadn't read the story first.

Actually, it was quite a decent movie, no real complaints. It's just that the scope of the written story was so vast, and the movie went with a much, much smaller plot. It probably had to, for budgetary reasons, but it was disappointing after just finishing such an epic story that touched on everything from psychology and human behavior to war and work unions to the virtues of compassion over intellect.

Yeah. Definitely a great read.

The Illustrated Man [by Ray Bradbury] (1950)

A carnival worker visits a strange woman who applies skin illustrations over his entire body. She covers two special areas, claiming they will show the future.

So I learned quite a bit, researching this one. I had read The Illustrated Man (book) back in the 70s. It was a collection of short stories written by Bradbury. But this story, actually titled "The Illustrated Man," wasn't in it.

Okay, I'm thinking about this and the actual publishing history of the story is a little confusing, so I'm gonna bullet point it out. You gotta love bullet points.
  • 1950: This story, "The Illustrated Man," is published in Esquire magazine.
  • 1951 - A book of short stories called The Illustrated Man, which doesn't include this story, is published. 
  • 1952-1985: A gazillion additional editions of the book are published, none of which contain this story. Although this story was published in nearly a dozen other collections during this same period. Weird.
  • 1986: The first of only four editions of The Illustrated Man (out of over a hundred) is published which does include this story.

I don't know the whys and wherefores of it all, but that seems strange to me. The chronology is courtesy of ISFDB, by the way. As far as seeing the movie, I have vague memories of seeing one of the stories it included, "The Veldt," as a kid. Not sure if it was the movie with Rod Steiger or not, though. That story was also filmed as part of Ray Bradbury Theater, so it might've been that I saw.

Anyway, as far as this particular story goes, it's written in that detached kind of style he has. Which I'm not a fan of, really. I know that's kind of heresy, but there it is. I have this feeling if the story had been any longer I'd have lost interest in it. But it was okay as far as it went.

The Sentinel [by Arthur C. Clarke] (1951)

An artifact is discovered on Earth's Moon left behind eons ago by ancient aliens, surrounded by a force field. For millions of years the artifact has been transmitting signals into deep space, but ceases after human beings destroy it.

Alright, I'll just get this out of the way now: I'm (also) not a big fan of Clarke's. He has an even more detached style than Bradbury. Awhile back I decided to read all four Odyssey novels, to see what all the fuss was about. I thought one was okay, two less so, three I skimmed, and four I skipped. So that was that. Just not my thing. This story was mostly fun just to see what the genesis of the film was all about. And it was okay, even if the writing style doesn't do much for me, I like the feel and theme of it.

The Seventh Victim [by Robert Sheckley] (1953)

A future society has eliminated major warfare by allowing members of society who are inclined to violence to join The Big Hunt, a human hunting game.

So this is not usually my kind of science fiction, but even so it was a funner than average read. It was interesting to look at a supposed future society that's still so misogynist. I guess we never see beyond our blind spots, even when we're envisioning something futuristic. Lots of futuristic fiction and films can be off-the-mark after a decade or two. I've never seen the film, but I'd give it a try.

The Racer [by Ib Melchior] (1956)

Two men compete in a cross-country race where scores are obtained by running over pedestrians.

Definitely not my kind of movie (sadistic protagonists killing innocents by the truckload) so I've never seen it. The story wasn't really for me, either. Both movie and story basically revolve around a driver who slowly comes to realize what he's doing is reprehensible. So happy endings but too much gore and violence to get through along the way. Meh.

The Fly [by George Langelaan] (1957)

After a scientist is murdered by his wife, a police detective and the scientist's brother try to unravel the motive for the homicide.

I don't care much for the writing style, here. It was written by a bilingual fellow (British, but born in France). Don't know if it was written in French or not, but it reads like something translated to English.  Everything feels a step removed. But the story is solid and kept me reading right to the end. As far as film versions, the 1958 film did less for me than the story, but I loved the 1986 one. (Brundlefly: Yikes!) One of my favorite movies to this day. Anyway, the story is a lot closer to the first movie than it is to the second.

Eight O'Clock in the Morning [by Ray Faraday Nelson] (1963)

A man awakens from a hypnotic spell imposed on the entire human race and remembers that Earth has been conquered by reptilian aliens who rule the world behind-the-scenes.

Interesting little story that made a better movie, even if it did star Roddy Piper.

We Can Remember It For You Wholesale [by Philip K. Dick] (1966)

A clerk wishes to visit Mars. Unable to afford it, he visits a company which promises to implant a false memory of a trip to Mars as a secret agent, which causes him to remember that he actually did go to Mars as a secret government agent.

Also a fair little story that inspired the much cooler movie by Paul Verhoeven. Can't say I was that impressed by the remake with Colin Farrell, though.

Damnation Alley [by Roger Zelazny] (1967)

An imprisoned killer is offered a full pardon in exchange for driving across post-atomic-war America attempting to deliver an urgently needed plague vaccine.

Hmm. If I've ever read anything else by Zelazny, I don't know it. And like several in the collection, this story's not particularly my kind of sci-fi. But the writing pulled me in anyway and it got an above average brain count. Its epilogue was a little lame. It inspired a movie by the same name that I probably won't seek out. This story is so chock full of wonderfully visual writing, my guess is watching a low budget 70s movie try to recreate it would be a travesty.

Enemy Mine [by Barry Longyear] (1979)

While at war, a human soldier is stranded on a hostile planet along with an enemy Drac. They initially attempt to kill one another but quickly realize that cooperation will be the key to their survival.

Well, this one made me cry, just like the movie did. They are both anti-prejudice tales, and I'm a sucker for hatred resolving into love and respect. It's the only story in this whole book that carries any emotional weight. Funny, I remember hearing about the movie, back in the day, and thinking "not really my thing, think I'll pass." But I saw it and loved it for the very reasons I just mentioned. Now, thinking about reading the story for the first time I had the same reticence, but I ended up being really touched by it. Again! It's like deja vu! Anyway, it's a great story.

Air Raid [by John Varley] (1976)

In a future where a deadly airborne virus has made earth uninhabitable, a group uses time travel technology to raid an airplane in the past of bodies.

I didn't see Millennium until after it was out on home video, but I thought it was pretty good. (Better than Rotten Tomatoes would have you believe.) Anyway, this particular story is really brief in time and plot, compared to the movie, but apparently Varley later expanded it to novel length and it was that the movie was actually based on. He also wrote the movie's screenplay. So. I'd bet that novel is worth a read, as good as the story was.

Huh. I always thought "Kris Kristofferson" was an obvious stage name, but I read just now that the man's name actually is "Kristoffer Kristofferson." Born and raised. So how about that.

Oh, he was in the movie. That's where that came from. So it wasn't as random as it probably seemed.

And that's all I have to say about this book.

The book as a whole gets FIVE STORYBOOK BRAINS, on account of having so many four and five brain stories, besides the fact that collecting source material for classic movies is a kick-ass idea in and of itself.

So, yeah.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Doc Savage Covered (1934)

(1933) (1934) (1935) (1936) (1937) (1938) (1939) (1940) (1941) (1942) (1943) (1944) (1945) (1946) (1947) (1948) (1949)

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.

Continuing on with the Doc Savage covers, showing off cover art for both the Street & Smith pulps and the Bantam paperback reprints. They both feature amazing artwork, and it's fun to see how the same stories were visually represented on either end of a thirty to sixty year time gap. (The pulps were 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 paperbacks. And of course Lester Dent did most of the writing.

At any rate, I'm going through each novel by year of pulp publication (1934 for this post) and comparing each pulp's cover to the reprint's. Since Bantam didn't reprint the stories in original order, those dates jump around a bit. I'm also including plot blurbs from the reprints; the pulps didn't feature any to speak of. I'm not doing a ton of commentary on the covers themselves, except when something really catches my eye or if I just can't help myself.

And as usual, you can click through images for (usually) larger versions, using your browser's back button or 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 aren't too impressive with today's resolutions. I'm replacing them with high-res images when I can, but if you click through and find no joy you'll know I resorted to my original scan for that cover.

Enough with the explanations. Let's get to it.

Brand of the Werewolf (January 1934 and April 1965) by Lester Dent

Seeking to avenge his brother’s murder, Doc Savage and his daring crew become involved in a desperate hunt for the lost treasure of the pirate, Henry Morgan. Stalking them every inch of the way is the archfiend, El Rabanos, and his strange ally, the werewolf’s paw!

Artist: Walter BaumhoferArtist: Mort Kunstler

Right off the bat we have a first time cover artist on the Bantam reprint: Mort Kunstler. This was the only Doc Savage cover he ever did. (Looks like he was channeling Lon Chaney, Jr.) At any rate, his wolf man is a darn site more threatening than that jovial fellow peeking over Pulp Doc's shoulder.

The Man Who Shook the Earth (February 1934 and December 1969) by Lester Dent

One by one the rich nitrate miners of Antofagasta, Chile, were being hideously crushed to death by falling boulders. Then the Man of Bronze saw the evil hand of The Mad Earth Shaker — and uncovered his terrifying plot to control the world!

Artist: Walter BaumhoferArtist: James Bama

The Mad Earth Shaker and his terrifying plot to control the world! Heh. These are both nice covers, but I really like the color-pop the pulp has. I think I just made that term up. Whenever I see this pulp cover, I think how a rock that big to the face would be the end of ol' Doc, "physical marvel" or not.

Meteor Menace (March 1934 and October 1964) by Lester Dent

Doc Savage and his fabulous crew journey to Tibet in pursuit of their most dangerous adversary, the evil genius Mo-Gwei. Battling against overwhelming odds, they try to stop him from conquering the world with a diabolical machine known as the Blue Meteor, a screaming blue visitor from space that turns men into raving animals!

Artist: Walter BaumhoferArtist: James Avati

James Avati's only DS contribution here (unless The Polar Treasure turns out to be his as well, but I have it on good authority it's most likely not).

The Monsters (April 1934 and June 1965) by Lester Dent

The breeding ground was a walled castle completely covered over with a huge electrified net. Inside were the scum of the earth, gathered from the prisons of the world, transformed into invincible giants. Now they were ready to ravage the world — unless Doc Savage and his mighty crew could stop them.

Artist: Walter BaumhoferArtist: James Bama

Holy Hannah these two are nearly identical! Walter is calling James a copycat right now. I like the subtle palette of the reprint, though. Both great covers.

The Mystery on the Snow (May 1933 and July 1972) by Lester Dent

In one of his most important adventures, the Man of Bronze journeys north to Canada, and in her magnificent wilderness solves a billion-dollar riddle: Who or What has committed murder — and worse! — to possess the secret of the miracle called Benlanium?

Artist: Walter BaumhoferArtist: Fred Pfeiffer

And here's where I start to realize that while I've always thought of Bama as being the one who supersized Doc, several of the other Bantam artists portrayed Doc as being bigger than Bama did. At least in these earlier reprint covers.

Wow. That was a lot of B words in one sentence: bantambeingbiggerbama!

The King Maker (June 1934 and February 1975) by Harold A. Davis & Lester Dent

In the Kingdom of Calbia, the most far-flung plot of the century is already under way. The Man of Bronze and his daring companions join the revolutionary forces of Conte Cozonac but soon find themselves the intended victims of the most fearsome weapons the world has ever seen!

Artist: Walter BaumhoferArtist: Fred Pfeiffer

Those funky made up country and villain names (Conte Cozonac of Calbia!) were half the fun of these stories. Well, not half, because these stories were all kinds of fun. But the names were certainly part of the fun. I really like this Pfeiffer cover.

The Thousand-Headed Man (July 1934 and October 1964) by Lester Dent

With a mysterious black Chinaman, Doc Savage and his amazing crew journey to the jungles of Indo-China in a desperate gamble to destroy the infamous Thousand-headed Man.

Artist: Walter BaumhoferArtist: James Bama

Great Baumhofer cover here, while Bama's gets the Weird Award. Not that it's painted poorly or anything; that's just a weird scene he's got going on.

The Squeaking Goblin (August 1934 and April 1969) by Lester Dent

The tale of a skeletal sharpshooter who used a strange squeaking weapon was told around backwoods campfires. To most it was just a legend, but for some it became a terrifying reality — especially those whose skulls were shattered by the deadly “disappearing bullets.” Doc Savage dodges flying death as he tracks the spectral killer who defies every law of nature!

Artist: Walter BaumhoferArtist: James Bama

Neither of these covers does a lot for me, but Bama wins out with a much spookier specter. For the longest time I thought it was Doc in the Daniel Boone getup on Baumhofer's cover. As amazing an artist as he was, he didn't always differentiate his other cover characters from Doc as well as he could have. In my opinion.

Fear Cay (September 1933 and May 1966) by Lester Dent

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.

Artist: Walter BaumhoferArtist: James Bama

Great Bantam cover for this one, too.

Death in Silver (October 1934 and July 1968) by Lester Dent

An awesome legion of master criminals launch a devastating series of raids that set the entire east coast of America aflame. Skyscrapers explode, ocean liners disappear, key witnesses are kidnapped and brutally murdered as the holocaust rages. In a desperate race against time Doc Savage attempts to discover the true identity of the twisted brain who rules the silver-costumed marauders — while the mysterious Ull and his army of hooded assassins move closer to their grim objective of world domination!

Artist: Walter BaumhoferArtist: James Bama

Pulp Doc is definitely easier on his shirts than Bantam Doc is.

And here's another of Ben Otero's covers from the six-book Golden Press set, along with his original artwork for it. Nice, huh?

Artist: Ben Otero

Again, it's startling how much more vibrant the original's colors are, and how much more nicely the composition works in the original format. (See 1933 for the other example of Otero's artwork.)

The Sea Magician (November 1934 and October 1970) by Lester Dent

King John’s ghost was stalking The Wash, a vast marshy area in England, terrorizing and maiming the inhabitants. Then the mighty Man of Bronze investigated — and discovered the impossible. The Wash was producing real gold … from nowhere!

Artist: Walter BaumhoferArtist: James Bama

I favor the original cover, here.

The Annihilist (December 1934 and December 1968) by Lester Dent

The dread Annihilist was slaughtering the criminals of New York in wholesale lots. Hundreds of men were found mysteriously murdered, victims of the hideous pop-eyed death. The finger of suspicion pointed directly at one man, Doc Savage himself. Even as The Man of Bronze scrambled to solve the terrifying enigma, the invisible assassin began to play havoc with one of humanity’s most important secret defenses — Doc Savage’s legendary crime college.

Artist: Walter BaumhoferArtist: James Bama

Ah, these are both nice covers. I like the action and danger of the pulp--Doc with a seemingly mortal wound! And that Bantam is atmospheric as hell.

And that's it for 1934. Two years down, fifteen to go...