Originally running in a series of Street & Smith pulp magazines from 1933 to 1949, Doc Savage, the Man of Bronze, a.k.a. Clark Savage Jr., was a direct predecessor to, and a major influence on the character of Superman, lending him the first name of his secret identity (as Clark Kent), a Fortress of Solitude in the North Pole and an unwavering desire to do good in the world.
Created by Street & Smith Publications’ Henry Ralston and John Nanovic – but fully realised by writer Lester Dent (under the house name, Kenneth Robeson) – as a companion title to their successful character, The Shadow, the bronze-skinned Savage, a physician, surgeon, explorer, scientist, adventurer was supported by a wonderful cast of characters, (rebranded in the 1970s as The Fabulous Five), all world renowned experts in their various fields of law, engineering, archeology and chemistry. In later adventures they were joined by his equally incredible cousin, Patricia ‘Pat’ Savage. Together they fought all kinds of spies, saboteurs and evil geniuses!
Rediscovered by a second generation of readers in the 1960s when the novels were successfully reprinted by Bantam Books in the U.S.A. (from which the most distinctive version of Doc’s look is taken with his sharp, widow’s peak hairline, courtesy of cover artist, James Bama), it was no surprise that a film eventually followed in 1975. Unfortunately, director George Pal seemed intent on holding on to the high camp approach taken by the Batman TV series starring Adam West, but it was not a successful fit and the remaining 180 source novels stayed untapped.
The character has steadfastly remained a cult favourite, however, and has appeared in both radio series and in comic books published by Marvel, DC and others.
But today, after a year or so of speculation, the mighty Dwayne Johnson, a.k.a. The Rock, announced via his Instagram feed that he will be starring as Doc Savage in a new film, written and directed by Shane Black.
As one of the smartest writer/directors in Hollywood (and if you haven’t seen his film, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang yet, you should drop whatever you’re doing and rectify this immediately), the thought of Black helming an adventure of a character I’ve loved since the mid-1970s is exciting, and if he can finally give Johnson the kind of role the mega-watt charming actor deserves, then this has the potential to be something very special indeed.
No word yet as to whether or not this will be a 1930s-set period piece, but whatever The Rock and Black cook up is bound to be worth following.
Here’s hoping for a longer run for Doc in the cinema this time!
UPDATE: While talking about his new film, The Nice Guys, with Hitfix and the Nerdist Writers Panel podcast, director Black seems to confirm that Doc Savage will indeed be a 1930s-set period piece, which is great news!