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"Doc Savage ... Worth Reading? Or Inspire Any Gaming?" Topic

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Cacique Caribe02 Jun 2018 8:13 p.m. PST

I can honestly say I've never read any of those old books (comics?), or really know much about the character himself for that matter. But they occasionally do seem to pop up on ebay and other sites.

1) Are they worth reading?

2) Can they be used as mid 20th century gaming scenarios of any kind? Do they describe military missions? Or were they more like spy novels?



Thortrains02 Jun 2018 9:06 p.m. PST

Doc Savage has a team of adventurers who handle problems all over the world in the Interwar years. I have not read one in many years. There were paperbacks and comics back in the late 60s. The original stories were written in the 20s and 30s. They were entertaining. Stories included some science of the times and old fashioned swashbuckling. You could probably concoct game scenarios based on Doc Savage stories.

Have fun!


Hlaven Supporting Member of TMP02 Jun 2018 9:07 p.m. PST

I read lots of Doc Savage and Conan when I was a teen. I think I remember it as great stuff. 1960's. So it has been a long time since I did read them.

dragon6 Supporting Member of TMP02 Jun 2018 9:51 p.m. PST

As said above. I liked them long ago

It is Pulp not spy novels, so criminal masterminds and the occasional evil criminal selling information to foreign countries.

RAOldham181202 Jun 2018 10:12 p.m. PST

I agree with the previous post. Fun reads. Good pulp game ideas.

Personal logo Wolfshanza Supporting Member of TMP02 Jun 2018 11:10 p.m. PST

Read them in the 60-70s. Really liked them ! thumbs up

Oberlindes Sol LIC Supporting Member of TMP03 Jun 2018 12:09 a.m. PST

I read some back in the early 1970s. I think they would make good fodder for role-playing games, or maybe very small skirmishes, like no more than 10 men on a side.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP03 Jun 2018 4:01 a.m. PST

They were a pulp magazine from 33-49. Subsequent books are almost all reprints from those, and the movie and comics seem not to have made much of an impression. I bought the paperback reprints in decent numbers in my teen years, but when I tried them in my sixties, I couldn't get through them. (This is NOT true of, say, Tolkien, or of Howard's Conan stories.)

So I can't vouch for them as entertainment. But as a source of scenarios for a small adventuring party of the initial period, they should do very well. They've got criminal masterminds, lost races, hidden fortresses and suchlike.

Legion 403 Jun 2018 7:09 a.m. PST

The cover art was always interesting … but never read any of the books …

The Shadow03 Jun 2018 7:30 a.m. PST

During the 1960's Bantam paperbacks issued a long run of reprints of the original novels originally published as pulp magazines back in the 1930's. They were popular and I read a couple of them.

Doc was raised from birth by his father and other scientists to become one of the most perfect human beings in terms of strength, intelligence, and physical abilities. He became a scientist and adventurer, inventing futuristic equipment that aided him and his crew on those adventures. His crew included a lawyer, a chemist, an industrial engineer, an electrical engineer and an archaeologist. All very tough guys. Generally speaking the villains are super adversaries. Many trying to rule the world. Sometimes he, and his crew, find themselves fighting some supernatural entity that always turns out to have a natural explanation.

I tend to like violent pulp fiction with heroes like "The Spider" and "Operator #5", so I was kind of turned off by Doc and his crew using "mercy Guns" that didn't kill their enemies, and I bailed on the series early. The only book that I enjoyed, and keep in my library, is the first one, titled "The Man of Bronze" where the "mercy guns" hadn't been invented yet. It's *very* good pulp fiction.

Gone Fishing03 Jun 2018 8:04 a.m. PST

I wanted badly to like them but found them quite awful. I agree that the "mercy gun" thing was a turnoff, and the fact that most baddies were sent off to Doc's private "rehabilitation clinic" was pretty creepy. Shadow, it's interesting what you say about The Spider and Operator #5. Are they available in reprints? Maybe I'd like those…

EDIT: Hmmm, I see they are. Without wanting to hijack the thread (sorry, Cacique!), are there any Spider/Operator 5 recommendations? It seems some are recent comic books, which don't interest me as much – I'd like to read some of the originals from the 30s.

Jozis Tin Man Supporting Member of TMP03 Jun 2018 9:37 a.m. PST

Yes, you can get audio book versions too and they are inspirational:


Personal logo Parzival Supporting Member of TMP03 Jun 2018 11:20 a.m. PST

Reprints of the original magazine stories have been released over the last few years, in a magazine-sized paperback format. Yes, they're over-the-top pulp novellas in the bombastic style of The Shadow and similar tales. Doc Savage is the prototype for Superman, Batman, Captain America, etc.. While not originally a comic book hero, everything that a comic book hero became, he first was. Later "homage" comics were also created.

Personally, I like the stories, appreciating them for what they are and the period they came from. Classic literature? No. A lot of fun? Yes.

As for gaming, almost any "pulp" figure maker has figs based on Doc and his posse. (If it's a muscled man with a close-cropped hair style and a shirt ripped open to reveal his sculpted physique, it's Doc Savage, no matter what they call it.) The entire Pulp gaming genre is largely based on Doc Savage and The Shadow.

So scenarios? Chock full of 'em!
"Lost" Civilizations, super-science villains (and heroes), lost valleys (with dinosaurs and cavemen), evil agents, etc., etc., they've got 'em all. (The stories are where those scenarios came from in the first place!)

Personal logo Parzival Supporting Member of TMP03 Jun 2018 11:31 a.m. PST

By the way, the George Pal live action film, Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze, is… well, it is what it is. Strong on camp and over-the-top plot elements, direction, and…uhm… "acting," it's hardly a serious treatment. Clue: the musical score consists of John Philips Souza, primarily "Stars and Stripes Forever," played whenever Doc enters an action sequence. huh? It's pure hokum, best enjoyed with a group of boys at a summer camp in an open-air log gymnasium on a rainy evening. Which is when and where I first saw it. Inspirational for gaming? Yes. Otherwise, perhaps not so much. grin

3AcresAndATau03 Jun 2018 11:51 a.m. PST

Lester Dent wrote every single book according to the same formula. As in he literally admitted to having one formula he used to write all his Doc Savage stories in four sections, basically about heaping on more trouble. They're fun, but get redundant and may not hold up too well depending on your tastes.

As far as interesting premises, you will find a few, but nothing that wouldn't be in a Golden age comic.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP03 Jun 2018 1:42 p.m. PST

Figures? Check around. Someone (Copplestone?) makes a set which is very close to Doc and four of his five. Can't remember offhand which one is missing. In a perfect (pulp gaming) world, you'd want Doc, all five and a cousin Patricia Savage who showed up later in the series. Everyone else you'd need for an adventure you should be able to pull off the shelves--and think big! Apart from the usual spies and fanatics, Doc and the gang did a lot of "lost race" yarns, so don't hesitate to dust off those Bronze Age Greek figures you haven't used in years, or those Republican Romans you never built an opposition army for.

Cthuloid stuff might be interesting.

Dr Argent03 Jun 2018 7:07 p.m. PST


The Shadow04 Jun 2018 7:30 a.m. PST

Years ago, Chip, of the Jacksonville Garrison, and I, developed a scenario for a convention game in Florida. It was based on an "Operator #5" story where the "Purple Invaders", not aliens, but rather thinly disguised Nazis, had taken over New York City, and had built a guillotine in Manhattan's Union Square Park. Jimmy Christopher AKA Operator #5 had been leading "the resistance", so the invaders had publicly announced that they were going to lop off her head, hoping that OP 5 will try to rescue her and be captured in the attempt.

Being from New York City, and having grown up in the area east of Union Square, I was able to provide a map of the park and the streets surrounding it, and Chip and his buddy were able to make a huge board representing the park to play the scenario, and painted up a bunch of figs for it!

Chip's twist on this was that the rescue attempt was to be made by several groups of well known pulp era characters and groups. Each group controlled by a player. Doc Savage and his crew and Blackhawk and his crew, among others, were involved. I had the honor of running Doc. The Shadow was off on another adventure. :-)

We all wore crazy hats depicting our characters. In my case, chip provided a torn white shirt. The funniest part of this was when I was headed for the toilet I got a lot of stares, and I just shook my head and said "rough game man". :-)

gisbygeo04 Jun 2018 9:42 a.m. PST

Lester Dent may or may not have written the whole series, but the style changed dramatically over the years. Early books can be amazing, while later ones are almost unreadable. There's a reason Bantam's reprints finished with a series of 'Omnibus' issues, filled with shorter, poorly-written stories.

That being said, Lester Dent's guide to writing a pulp novel remains a good guide, and is useful for writing a role-playing scenario that hooks the players immediately, and keeps their interest.

Cacique Caribe04 Jun 2018 11:29 a.m. PST

The Shadow: "Chip provided a torn white shirt. The funniest part of this was when I was headed for the toilet I got a lot of stares, and I just shook my head and said ‘rough game man'. :-)"

LOL. Priceless!

PS. This Doc Savage ever make it into space, like to the Moon? :)
TMP link


Cacique Caribe04 Jun 2018 2:46 p.m. PST


A friend asked me if I had seen the Doc Savage film, which I haven't. So I looked up the trailers and found this 2-part clip:

YouTube link

At first I took it for a Mel Brooks comedy piece but, instead of making fun of Nazis it looked like it was just making fun of US patriotism. I thought someone was playing a joke on the real fans of the character, because they probably never saw their guy as a comedic figure.

But then the second portion of the clip showed the film as it could have been, "Detarnished", perhaps as the fans probably imagined it would be.

It's weird how American icons, specially fictional ones, tend to end up almost unrecognizable after Hollywood gets a hold of them. What a waste of money and effort too, unless the goal was precisely that … to turn the hero into a caricature and completely kill the chances of any serious Doc Savage films ever made in the future.


PS. Or did real Doc Savage fans see their hero as a comedic figure after all?

Thortrains04 Jun 2018 5:19 p.m. PST

I was reading Doc Savage when I was in grammar school. Other heroes of the time were the Phantom, Steve Canyon, and Mandrake the Magician. These were mostly in newspaper comics. Lots of ammo there for pulp adventures. Years later, one of my friends referred to his wife as The Dragon Lady, no doubt influenced by the comics. That's a long time ago.

Thortrains04 Jun 2018 5:21 p.m. PST

Oh, yeah, there was one other hokey series. Sax Rohmer's "Fu Manchu" stories. Cool stories when you're 12 years old. Really hokey once you get past the age of 21.

Cacique Caribe04 Jun 2018 10:59 p.m. PST

I guess the only Fu Manchu I was familiar with were the film interpretations by Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee. Neither looks very comedic even now.

I guess Hollywood didn't screw those up by turning them into cinematography jokes and bad caricatures, the way they've apparently done with others, like the Doc Savage film.

This is almost like watching Austin Powers and Dr. Evil:
YouTube link
YouTube link
YouTube link


gisbygeo05 Jun 2018 3:48 a.m. PST

To his fans, Doc Savage was NOT a figure of fun. Many of his traits, like doing an unheard-of TWO hours of exercise a day, or saving weight crossing a desert by mixing his own water from helium and oxygen, are less impressive to a more sophisticated audience.

The Ron Ely movie was made in an unfortunately campy style, perhaps because the film makers thought that audiences wouldn't be able to take it seriously. The books are in general, more serious than an Indiana Jones movie.

Legion 405 Jun 2018 5:49 a.m. PST

Stalin may have been an alien or possessed by one of Satan's minions … so … evil grin

Cacique Caribe05 Jun 2018 8:44 a.m. PST

Legion 4

A Goauld, perhaps? :)
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Legion 405 Jun 2018 2:42 p.m. PST

Damn Snake Heads …

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