Doc Savage: The Incredible Origin of the First Superhero, by Kenneth Robeson,
Five out of five stars
Artist Pablo Picasso famously said, “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” While reading this book containing the first two stories about the Man of Bronze it was clear that the same phrase can be applied to comic book creators. Doc Savage first appeared in early 1933, during the depths of the Depression and started what has been a genre ever since.
Doc Savage (Clark Savage Jr.) was the first superhero and you can easily see how many subsequent superhero creations blatantly stole ideas from the original. Superman first appeared in 1938 and his alter ego was Clark Kent. Doc Savage had a Fortress of Solitude in the frozen Artic and so did Superman.
Doc Savage had no real unnatural powers, he was the product of constant practice and training. This background was used by Bob Kane in the creation of Batman. Bruce Wayne and Doc Savage both inherited vast wealth and their careers as heroes were driven by the deaths of their parents. The genius scientist/engineer with a talented team was used in the development of the Reed Richards character of the Fantastic Four.
One aspect of these stories that will surprise people that have read the later ones in the series is that Doc and his pals do not hesitate to kill the villains. Sometimes they openly brag about that being their intent. In later stories, they use “mercy bullets” that only render their opponents unconscious.
The first story established the background of Doc Savage, how he grew into the role as well as the source of Mayan gold used to finance his operations. In many ways it is yet another “lost civilization” tale. The second story uses another well worn plot device, the extremely isolated region where the dinosaurs never died. Nothing like a battle between humans and a T. Rex to test the skills of a superhero.
The comic lines and their film counterparts are fond of telling and re-telling the origins of their heroes. In this book you are taken back to the ultimate of origins, to the initial appearance of the original superhero, the Man of Bronze. His story “gave” us so much in the development of other heroes.