Thursday, June 28, 2007

Doc's Brother?

In 1968, there was new large format comic on the newsstand at the PATH station in Hoboken , NJ which I passed every evening on my way home from school. It had the word "SAVAGE!" in large letters and a portrait of a man looking a lot like Actor Lee Marvin in a semi-realistic portrait that was reminiscent of Bama's work for the Bantam Doc Savage reprints. The cover portrait even seem to emulate the flattened hair and extreme widow's peak of the Bama Doc Savage pictures. But it was a completely different noir-spy character named Savage whose first name we never learned. The story describes Savage as a counter-espionage agent prone to physical mayhem and violence. He had light almost white-blond hair. He had become a commando at the age of 17 and fought in the Pacific Theater. Afterwards, he had gone into government service as an intelligence agent.

The comic was a one shot deal by illustrator Gil Kane in an attempt to open up a new genre of adventure comics for an older audience than the usual 12 year old comic fan. It was the forerunner of the graphic novel. The artwork was in black and white. And it was a good thing. If it had been in color, there would have been quite a bit of red blood on the pages. The story was later reprinted in 1982, but there were no further adventures of Savage ever recorded. (The covers of these two editions are reproduced above.)

At that time I was heavily into the Doc Savage reprints and I when I first saw the cover, I thought that this might be a real Doc Savage comic! I had written a fan letter to Stan Lee and Jack Kirby just two years before asking him to have Marvel do a Doc Savage comic and I thought that this might have been it! I told him in the letter that only Marvel could really pull it off and do justice to the character. At least that was the opinion of this 13 year old comic expert. I thought that DC was too "white bread" to make it work and Jack Kirby's illustration style was just "pulpy" enough. I saw a lot of Renny in the early Giant Man and some aspects of Monk in various characters (usually villains) like the Mole Man.

Needless to say I was disappointed. The savage character was ALRIGHT, but he wasn't Doc.

But even back then -- long before P. J. Farmer's Wold Newton scheme -- I began to wonder if there might be some relationship between this Savage and Doc.

This new Savage had been 17 years old in 1942 which meant he had been born around 1925. That made him just old enough to be Doc's son, but during the 1920s, Doc was completing his education and we are told that he had avoided all familial entanglements. And I knew that Doc was not the kind to sow wild oats. The only logical conclusion I had come to was that this must have been Doc's brother, the son of Clark Savage Senior by a subsequent wife, since Doc's mother was dead. But then I wondered how it was that there had been no mention of any brother of Doc's in the Super Sagas? At that time in 1968, not even 30 of the stories had been reprinted yet. But I had no way of confirming my hunch so it remained pure speculation for almost 30 years.

But in the 1990s, I gained access to a confidential source who was able to confirm my suspicions. (This source has provided much of the hidden background information about Doc used in this blog. How I came upon this source is a story in itself...)

Before Clark and Brenna Savage took their son on an expedition to the Tunguska, Siberia explosion site in 1909, Brenna Savage had been pushing her husband to include a well educated young woman to their house staff. The maids and housekeepers were unlettered and common and she wanted her step-son to have someone closer to his age and social status so that he might learn how to act around a lady. Her husband resisted the idea because he thought it would distract Clark from his studies while he was still young enough to be in a sexually latent period. But Brenna knew her son and saw that he was precocious in more than just intellectual and athletic development. She did not want him "fraternizing" with the house staff girls. It was better that he have a more suitable woman to be his first real crush. The matter remained unresolved at the time that they left for Siberia and Brenna never returned.

The distraught Clark Senior would forget this matter for several years until he returned from his Mesoamerican exploit documented in the novel Bridge of Light by A. Hyatt Verill with his new young wife Itza in tow. Clark Senior had had a religious conversion during his sojourn and decided to pay more attention to his son to make up for his extended absence. He recalled Brema's concern and decided to hire a secretary to help him organize his notes and journals. Brema had done much of that for him but Itza was ill equipped for the task due to her lack of formal education.

He made contact with the Howard Foundation to see if there were any college educated women on their rolls that might fit the bill. He got a list of names and interviewed several dozen eligible candidates. He finally settled on Miss Bethany Abigail Johnson, the daughter of a medical doctor, Ira Johnson, and sister of Maureen Johnson who would later become the mother of Woodrow Wilson Smith (aka Lazarus Long). Miss Johnson had been born in 1892. At home they called her Abby because she had had a close cousin Elizabeth who had gone by the name Beth. Abby became her familiar name for the rest of her life. She was a tall well-formed and handsome blond woman with blue-green eyes and a gentle-manner, but she was highly intelligent efficient, and self-assured. She had a soprano voice that had excellent overtones and she had sung in operas at school. She could also dance and act.

Bethany had attended Radcliffe College in Cambridge, Massachusetts which is associated with Harvard University. She was both an excellent student and a fine athlete. She was an excellent swimmer and track star at school. She had even attended some seminars and audited "legitimate" courses at Harvard itself. She was a staunch suffragette and supported the cause for equal rights for women. But she also was morally quite conventional and had resisted the advances of many Harvard men who considered Radcliffe girls to be easy.

Sadly, in the world of the 1910s, there was no place for a woman of her accomplishments in polite society except as some man's trophy wife or mistress. The professions were not open to women, and the few great actresses and female entertainers were considered to be of "low social" and questionable morals. While she longed for a home and family, she refused to be caged on some man's shelf. Abby Johnson had been born into a world that was not quite ready for her.

Clark Senior found her to be exceptional. It had been said that he had a taste for "low born" company, but in reality, he was attracted to self reliant people who were not slaves to prevailing social standards and who asserted their independence and made their own way in the world. He thought that Abby would be a perfect addition to his staff and an excellent candidate to be his son's first real love interest. And since she was a Howard Foundation member, she came from excellent breeding stock. Who knew? Maybe she and young Clark would hit it off VERY well.

Young Clark was indeed infatuated with this new young woman who became his father's personal assistant. He began to watch the way he was groomed and dressed. He was Abby's escort at formal dinners and they attended the opera and the theater together regularly. They were marvelous together on the dance floor.

But she was 8 years older than he was and an employee. And while she was deeply attracted to Clark Junior, she was still leery of what romance and marriage could mean for her ambitions. She hoped to make achievements of her own and was using her employment with the Savages as a springboard into other legitimate endeavors. So the two remained acquaintances and companions, but they resisted any deep emotional involvement.

On the night before Clark Junior disappeared to join the US Army Air Corp, he took a moonlight walk with Abby. During that walk they talked of many things and the moment overcame them. It was the first time that Clark had really kissed a woman other than a perfunctory social peck on the cheek or the hand. Abby found herself responding to Clark as she never had to any other man, but she remained confused and somewhat frightened. But Clark was gentleman. He would not take advantage of her. He knew he would be going to war and might not come back.

He was leaving in the morning to take qualifying exams at Harvard to obtain college credit and be considered for a special undergraduate degree. He was then supposed to fly with the dirigibles to the Matta Grosso and join his father at Maple White Land. In reality he planned to beg off the flight ostensibly to complete the degree process. This would give him several weeks to lose himself before his father realized that he was missing.

Abby and Clark parted chastely that night. They made no promises to each other. They did not pledge undying love. They let the moment stand for itself.

The Maple White Land expedition was a disaster of the first order. The exact details of what happened are so frightening and horrible that the world STILL may not be ready to learn about it. Eventually, one dirigible limped its way to the coast and most of the expedition's participants were dead, including Itza. Clark Senior himself had been badly injured.

At first he was thankful that Clark Junior had not been with him. But on his return to Wilder Hall, he discovered that his son was gone and all indications were that he had gone to Europe to fight in the War. The family attorney Sam Cantor had started a search for Clark Junior, discovered Clark Junior's whereabouts in the flying corps. And then, Clark Junior was reported missing in action over enemy territory.

During this time, Abby nursed Clark Senior back to health. He was so distraught with all the recent downturns in his life that he went into deep depression. He began to depend both physically and emotionally on Abby's ministrations. One thing led to another. Eventually they were married.

Young Clark was unaware of this. After he and his five companions escaped from Loki, Clark was promoted to First Lieutenant . As the war drew to a close, he wrote several letters to his father and to Abby. He told her that he had thought quite a lot about her during his captivity and that he was aching to see her. Young Clark poured his heart out in those letters. Abby was quite disturbed by them, and she spoke to her husband.

When Clark was repatriated in early 1919, he was disappointed to find Monk and Ham at the docks, not his father or Abby. Clark had been promoted to Captain at the time of his discharge from active service and he wore his new bars proudly. They brought him to the Waldorf-Astoria to a large party in his honor. On the way there, Ham explained about his father and Abby. Clark took the news stoically. The expression on his face never changed. He never spoke about it to anyone.

Clark Junior did not go back to Wilder Hall for several months. He took up permanent residence at the Waldorf and did not move back to the estate until the 1950s. He remained polite towards Abby, but he avoided her company thereafter. It took several months for Clark to forgive his father, but he did. Nevertheless, the affair changed their relationship permanently.

Again, Clark Senior appeared to have the same fertility problems that plagued Tarzan. Abby became pregnant only once and had a son, Ripley Ian Savage, in 1925. He weighed over 9 pounds at birth and had a full head of light reddish-blond hair with emerald green eyes. Ripley like his brother was a precocious child. He would always be a strapping boy, large for his age, and smart as a whip. His hair would lighten as he got older to blond with a reddish-bronze tint. His eyes were go green they did not seem natural. He was educated by private tutors from an early age and could read in three languages by the age of three, but his early education never reached the same intensity as Clark Junior's. He and his father played together everyday and he had playmates from the local area. In all respects, he had a relatively normal childhood.

At the time of the The Man of Bronze in 1931, Clark Senior was obsessed with making the final transition of the Mayan Legacy to Doc and the beginning of the real plans for his eldest son's future. This included the building of Holdernesse College and the criminal treatment program. Money was tight because of the depression and several of the men who were behind Doc's unique upbringing began dying under mysterious circumstances. The pressure caused increasing friction between Clark Senior and his wife and they separated in late 1930. She remained at Wilder Hall with five year old Ripley and he took an apartment in Manhattan. Abby was still involved in her husband's overall plans for Doc. They talked periodically on the phone and met in the city with attorneys and other backers of the grand scheme for Clark Savage Junior, but they lived in separate households.

After Doc's father died, Abby took over the reins of the College and brought the criminal rehabilitation project to its completion. She succeeded her husband as dean of Holdernesse College. She and Clark Junior would learn to work together, but they never rekindled their romance.

Ripley took the death of his father very hard. He became very clinging towards his mother and was always waiting for his big brother to "come home". Doc had generally avoided contact with Wilder Hall and felt uncomfortable around Abby and her son. After his father's death, he felt an obligation towards his little brother and eventually warmed to Ripley but he realized that getting too close to him might put the boy in danger. It was eventually decided that Ripley should attend a boarding school for the children of the wealthy and powerful where his identity would be kept confidential and proper security would be maintained. This freed Abby to pursue her work at the College and would help the boy learn self-reliance.

Doc only saw his brother intermittently. There was always hero worship in the child's eyes on those occasions. When he grew up, he wanted to be just like his big brother. Doc tried to steer the child towards the professions hoping that he would become a physician like his brother and his father. But Ripley's interests were more in history and politics. He continued to grow and was over 6 feet tall at the age of 12. He was large boned and broad in the chest and hips. From a distance he looked even larger than he really was. His strength was incredible. He inherited his mother's voice and acting talents. But he most enjoyed contact sports. He participated in wrestling, boxing, lacrosse, and rugby. He thought regular football was too tame. From his childhood he had had some martial arts training. He also inherited his father's taste for independent and rebellious companions. He was never a bully or a delinquent. In fact, he often put kids like that in their place. There was no sport in picking on those who were weaker than you. He enjoyed challenge and conflict.

When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, he was in his first year at Harvard. He immediately enlisted in the Marines, lying about his age. Ripley proved to be an outstanding Marine and was promoted to sergeant before being shipped out to the Pacific Theatre. He participated in some of the bloodiest fighting of the war during the island hopping campaign. He was wounded many times but he had the knack of healing quickly and was back in action as soon as he was medically cleared. His stamina and recuperative powers astonished his fellow Marines, his commanders and his Navy doctors. They nicknamed him "Action" because he was always ready for another mission. Ripley also continued growing. When he enlisted in the Marines, he was 6 foot 7. By the end of the war, he topped out at 7 foot 3!

He rose in rank by field promotions and had been commissioned as a First Lieutenant at the cessation of hostilities. He was also one of the most highly decorated men of the war. Ripley had learned Japanese at an early age from one of his marital arts instructors and he was was tapped to be one of General MacArthur's aides during the early days of the occupation of Japan. He showed a flair for operational security and counter-insurgent techniques and was quickly promoted to Captain and sent to G2. There he came under the wing of the senior Military Intelligence Officer of the Pacific Theatre and recruited into a special unit that specialized in deep penetration behind enemy lines and selective assassinations. This unit was responsible for the assassination of Admiral Yamamoto. His Unit Commander was Col. Simon Mace.

His superiors recognized Ripley's potential and arranged for his to return stateside to finish his undergraduate degree and pursue graduate studies in international law and foreign relations while on active government service. He earned both a JD and a PhD.

Ripley was recruited into the fledgling CIA and became a counter-intelligence and anti-terrorist operative. Because of his size and distinctive hair and eye color, he was not a good candidate for undercover work. But he was a devastating field operative and became the mastermind behind several sting operations against Communist insurgents and international criminal organizations such as Thrush and SPECTRE.

He was eventually assigned to a splinter group from CIA special ops that had been formed by his old commander Brigadier General Mace. The unit performed those special operations of which the Secretary of State would deny any knowledge. Ripley became Mace's right hand man and fell in love with his daughter, Sheila Mace, a reddish brown haired beauty with green eyes who was an operative herself. But Ripley also discovered that General Mace was taking kickbacks from certain American "Allies" and doing some unauthorized missions for cash. At great danger to himself, he informed Mace's superiors and was authorized to eliminate the general. He attempted to do so with explosives, but only succeeded in crippling Mace who propmtly escaped with the help of his daughter. The unit was officially shut down, but several operatives disappeared and under Mace's leadership became rogue mercenaries.

After this assignment, Ripley had served as a liaison officer with the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement in its early days as well as with the FBI. He assisted both groups in forming counter-terrorist units. This work brought him to the attention of The Committee, a newly organized intelligence think-tank created to orchestrate joint counter-intelligence operations involving different government agencies.

Ripley was asked to recreate the CIA special ops unit that Mace had originally pioneered but under different oversight. It was he who organized the IMF (Impossible Mission Force) and he personally trained its first project officers Dan Briggs and James Phelps. He also expanded the IMF mission (in line with the joint opertaions mandate of The Committee) to include domestic operations even though this was illegal under the CIA's charter.

In 1965, Ripley was placed in the position of having to immediately silence a Russian-run mole from the CIA who was about to blow the lid on the IMF. The mole had been discovered by counter intel and was making a deal with a liberal congressman for immunity from prosecution in return for revealing the CIA's involvement in certain delicate "operations". The congressman did not know any specifics but he was assured that this information would have been embarrassing to the US and this administration. The information also would have compromised the lives of agents-in-place. The mole was on his way to that congressman with a briefcase of damning evidence. Ripley had to move quickly. He intercepted the mole outside the congressman's office and they had a gun battle on a Washington, DC street in broad daylight in front of several witnesses. Ripley was wounded but he killed the mole and escaped with the briefcase. He eluded pursuit long enough to destroy the contents of the bag, but he knew that a prolonged investigation would eventually compromise IMF. Ripley surrendered to the police as soon as he could and told a cover story that implicated the congressman in the mole's traitorous activitites. His IMF people planted the necessary evidence to call the congressman's loyalty into question and Ripley was eventually granted executive clemency by the president and reinstated. These events were recounted in the beginning of "His Name is Savage" which also contained a highly fictionalized version of the eventual showdown between Ripley Savage and General Mace. (In that story, Sheila Mace was shot and supposedly killed, but she survived and turned state's evidence to finally dismantle her father's organization. She and Ripley eventually married.)

From that point onwards, IMF continued its foreign and domestic operations with impunity. They even created a new program using a computer database of ordinary Americans whose special skills were correlated. These people were recruited as amateur special agents to participate in single missions that required their particular mix of talents. This program was run out of the Department of Defense under the title of the United States Strategic Natural Resource Agency. Jim Phelps originally ran the program under the alias James Kingsley.

The 1975 U.S. Commission on CIA Activities Within the United States. Report to the President (also known as the Rockefeller Report) documented some -- but not all -- of the CIAs domestic operations. Ripley narrowly escaped being named in the report. The uproar in congress concerning US Intelligence activities both at home and abroad over the next 5 years drove many of the old guard out of the service. Ripley remained.

He was next assigned to a joint FBI-CIA task force to deal with counter-espionage and was instrumental in the discovery and arrest of several major spies within US government service. Ripley had a knack for sniffing out moles.

He retired from active government service in 1995 but has been retained both by the FBI and CIA as a private consultant. He teaches graduate courses in various universities on the history of espionage and terrorism. He also presents a yearly top secret briefing at the Pentagon on the state of world-wide espionage and terrorism which has been attended by the Joint Chiefs, members of the Cabinet, Congressman and Senators from the intelligence committees, the FBI director, the Director of the CIA, and, often, the President himself. This briefing itself had become a target for terrorist attack. Since 2002, it has been given over a specially encrypted closed circuit televison network so that the participants would not have to congregate in the same location. The date and time of the briefing is always classified. The encryption signal is designed to prevent the making of video and audio copies. The participants all have to take hand written notes.

Since 9/11/2001, Ripley Savage is rumored to be working almost full time between the Department of Home Land Security and CIA Foreign Operations , but he continues to maintain his outside committments.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Doc Savage and Jim Anthony

In the 1940s, the Super Sagas tell us that Doc maintained an apartment in a another hotel in Manhattan and he was sometimes depicted as walking to his Headquarters in the morning. I have discovered that during that time period, the billionaire hotelier and adventurer Jim Anthony had become close friends with Doc and that they often socialized together. Mr. Anthony was the proprietor of the Manhattan Waldorf-Anthony Hotel along with several other hotels, restaurants and night clubs. For example, he was the owner of the Cobalt Club which was frequented by Lamont Cranston in the 1930s and which eventually catered to a select clientele of adventurers in the 1960s and 1970s as documented by Lin Carter in the Prince Zarkon stories.

Like Doc Savage, Jim Anthony was a genius and a polymath with tremendous athletic abilities and a thirst for adventure. They would have had a lot in common. Both of them made their headquarters in New York City. They both had upstate New York estates and extensive holding around the country and the world. They both conducted extensive scientific research many times to aid the US government. And both were enemies of injustice who defended the weak against merciless criminals.

But they also both lived under great stress and needed to relax between missions. Jim and Doc used to go out on the town together in a way that Doc never felt free to do with his five aides. The two adventurers were very much alike but also different enough that they complimented each other. Jim was more of a playboy and was able to get Doc to "let his hair down " a bit more in public.

They were both musicians and would sometimes play with the Jazz bands in some of Jim Anthony's clubs. Doc was known to date several beautiful women during the 1940s and he often double dated with Jim and his fiances. Sometimes, the two adventurers would talk together long into the night and they were known to collaborate on special projects for days at a time with very little sleep. It became practical for Doc to have his own suite at the Waldorf-Anthony Hotel where he could retire after a long hard night. It was also a discreet place to entertain personal guests.

Jim Anthony probably filled a place in Doc's life that he been missing: a best friend. They probably had some interesting adventures together.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Matthews: Doc's Gentleman's Gentleman

In the Super Sagas, we never hear about Doc Savage having any servants, but in the Marvel Comic series, we meet a butler named Matthews at the Headquarters in the Empire State Building (ESB). If we think about this for a moment, it makes sense. Doc and his men are constantly flitting about on high adventures. Someone has to be doing the dusting, rearranging the furniture after a brawl, and sweeping up the debris. And we have been told that Doc was a pretty awful cook (At least initially. In the 1950s he finally applied himself and earned a Doctor of Culinary Arts Degree from NYU). Someone would have had to prepare meals for the crew and more importantly, clean up afterwards.

Because of the sensitive type of work he did, Doc could not afford to leave the management of his Headquarters to the general cleaning staff of the ESB. He needed a Major Domo to supervise his offices and maintain security.

From what I have learned, Matthews was a fully qualified and school educated domestic who had been hired as a personal valet for the 9 year old Clark Savage Jr. just before his Father took his extended trip to Mesoamerica in search of the lost city mentioned in a Mayan Codex he had purchased in Spain. At that time, Clark and his father were living on a large estate in Upstate New York which in the future would be the site of Holdernesse College where Doc would rehabilitate and retrain criminals to be law-abiding citizens.

Their mansion, Wilder Hall, was large and filled with too many valuable paintings, sculptures, tapestries, mementos, and other artifacts to be a safe place for young Clark's training to take place. So Clark Senior had built a smaller house on the grounds (still a mansion) which they name "The Fortress" because it had been designed to resemble a castle with battlements, towers, and balconies. There was an adjacent man-made lake for swimming and water sport, a training area for field and track, tennis courts, a soccer field, a baseball diamond, and other outdoor training facilities. The Fortress also had classrooms, laboratories, workout rooms, a movie theatre, a gymnasium, a radio room, and an apartment complex for Clark Junior.

The Fortress had a house staff all its own. Matthews was put in charge of the staff and also acted as the valet for his young charge. Part of Matthew's job was to teach Clark how to dress, how to act at a formal gathering, which fork to use, and other things that a gentleman would need to know. But he was strictly enjoined to teach Clark self-reliance and not to make him dependant on servants. As a result, Clark assisted the domestic staff in their duties and not only learned their jobs but that they too were people like him. Matthews perceived the danger in his young master having too great a familiarity with his servants so he tried to instill in Clark the need for a reasonable aloofness from them. He became for Clark the model of imperturbable stoicism. This was a persona that Doc Savage would imitate during his entire career.

Clark was not a difficult child, but he was precocious and he liked to pull the occasional practical joke on his staff and teachers. He also pulled the occasional "caper" that violated the rules of the house. Matthews understood boyish enthusiasm, but he always found a way to return the favor to Clark without reporting him to his father. When he retaliated, Matthews would confront Clark Junior with a wry smile and a dry witticism. Clark Jr. developed a respect for his butler, and, within the bounds of propriety for their states in life, they became friends.

We can also thank Matthews for one of the peculiarities of the Super Sagas. From the very beginning Doc Savage -- despite having several doctorates -- is usually called "Mr. Savage" by virtually everyone. I always wondered why that was.

I discovered that Matthews referred to Clark Senior as "Doctor Savage" and would always do so even after the elder Savage had died. He initially referred to Clark Junior as "Young Master Clark". When Clark Junior reached adolescence, he became "Master Clark". After he returned from World War I, he became "Captain Savage" for a couple of years, and then "Mister Savage" when he entered college. Even after Clark Junior had received his first doctorates, Matthews continued to refer to him as "Mister Savage" to distinguish him from his father.

After returning from the war, Clark Junior set up permanent apartments at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in Manhattan on 5th Avenue and 33rd Street. (This would be the future site of the ESB.) Matthews came to New York, set up these apartments, and managed them thereafter. The Fortress became a private retreat for Clark Junior and was maintained by a skeleton staff when he was not there. When Clark Junior went to various colleges and universities to complete his education, he would have his own apartment and take care of his own housekeeping. But his home address would always be in Manhattan with Matthews at the helm.

When plans were made by Clark Senior and his cohorts to build the ESB, they chose the location where Clark Junior had lived for the previous 10 years. They had big plans for that building which never came to pass. They were all assassinated by the Hidalgo mastermind Kulkulkan at the start of The Man of Bronze.

Wilder Hall became a private museum housing memorabilia from the lives of both Clark Savages. It also became the residence of the Dean of Holdernesse College.

When the ESB project was completed, the Headquarters occupied a full story allegedly on the 86th Floor. But we all know this was a fantasy because the 86th floor has always been the observation platform at the very top of the building. Also because of the safety limits on elevator cables, the elevators in the ESB only go to the 80th Floor. The actual Headquarters was only one elevator trip from the lobby, so it had to be below the 80th. I suspect that most likely it was located on the 68th Floor and that Doc had commandeered the floors above and below for security reasons. But the layout of the Headquarters does not indicate any personal space. It is not only spartan, it is purely utilitarian. Doc had to have had an actual domicile in the ESB where he actually lived.

Until the 1950s, the ESB rarely had more than 50% occupancy. There was quite a lot of unused space that could have been commandeered for an apartment. I have it on good authority that there was in fact a three-story mansion apartment in the ESB that was lavishly furnished and acted as Doc's real home. It had a wide spiral staircase, a large modern kitchen/laundry utility suite, and multiple guest bedrooms. It was staffed eventually by "graduates" of Holdernesse College who were specially trained for their duties and utterly loyal to Doc and his men. Matthews was in charge of maintaining the Headquarters and the Apartment. He continued in this capacity as long as Doc remained in the ESB.

After the events depicted in Up From Earth's Center, Doc literally became a true Man of Mystery and disappeared from the scene. He had been profoundly effected by his experiences in this adventure and it caused him to become more introspective and less public in his activities. He seems to have abandoned his high profile Headquarters in the ESB and my sources tell me that the Apartment was dismantled as well. Doc then moved to other quarters. He still maintained an apartment in an exclusive downtown hotel and had offices elsewhere in the city.

My understanding is that he restored and refurbished The Fortress on the grounds of Holdernesse College and it became his primary residence. And Matthews, looking very spry for a man in his 90s, once more took charge of the house staff. He seemed to share in the same longevity as Doc and his five aides.

It is safe to say that wherever Doc Savage hangs his hat and calls it home, Matthews will be attending him.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Doc Savage and Captain Future

The pulp hero Captain Future (aka Curtis Newton) was a six foot four redheaded space adventurer who was both a mental and a physical marvel. He was a very obvious imitation of Doc Savage transposed into a future where space travel is common and the various planets of the solar system are inhabited. He was born on the Moon in June of 1990 where his parents were hiding out from criminals who wanted to steal their scientific secrets. Using those secrets, they had already built an intelligent robot named Grag, a artificial android named Otho, and removed the brain of scientist Simon Wright from his body and encased it in a fluid filled container that sounds a lot like a Mi-Go brain cylinder. Curtis' parent were killed by the criminals but avenged by their three creations who raise the child on the Moon to reach the peak of mental and physical performance. His career as Captain Future seems to have started around 2015 and he is an independent and informal agent of the Space Patrol. His space ship, the Comet is the fastest vessel of its time.

What little we know of the "past" in the Captain Future stories is quite different from the history of our world. World government developed quickly after the major war in the 1940s. Space travel officially started with the expedition of Gorham Johnson in 1971 who went to the Moon. In 1979, he went to Mercury, and Venus.

He is credited with having discovered the odd solar satellite known a Vulcan which orbits the sun closer than the planet Mercury. Vulcan's orbit is very erratic and so it is not considered a "planet" because it is not within the plane of the ecliptic. It some how manages to avoid massive solar flares as if it "knows" where and when they will occur. It is implied in the series that Vulcan is an artificial construct. We later on discover that it is hollow and that there are primitive humanoids living inside it. It is possible that Vulcan acts as a "wave guide" to direct solar energy to the outer planets and keep them warmer than they would be normally. Otherwise, there could be no liquid water on Neptune.

In 1988 Johnson led an expedition to Mars and Jupiter and was tragically killed on the moon Callisto during an attempted mutiny. His second-in-command, Mark Carew, quelled the mutiny and actually landed on Jupiter which he discovered to have a solid surface. While there, he was bitten by a venomous spider and nearly died. He successfully brought the expedition home. In 1991 he led an expedition to Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. Carew discovered Gravium mines on Saturn and suspects there are Gravium deposits under the Ocean on Neptune because of gravitational anomalies. He is also credited with finding Gravium on Mercury after reviewing the gravitational surveys from the Johnson expedition. Carew will use Gravium to develop Gravity Equalizers that allows a space traveller to experience the same gravitational force as on his home world no matter what the gravity on the local planet may be. It will also allow artificial gravity to be generated on space craft and the development of inertial dampers to protect from the effects of rapid acceleration during space flights.

An abortive attempt was made by Doctor Webster Kelso in 1993 to reach Pluto with a crew of androids which he had designed. A full blown expedition to Pluto was planned by Mark Carew, but the effects of the spider bite worsened and the plans fell through. Carew knew he was dying so he took off for Pluto by himself and was never heard from again. His body was later found by Captain Future in a derelict vessel in the Sargasso Sea of space. The first successful expedition to Pluto was led by Jan Wenzi on 12 January 2000.

All of the planets in Captain Future's solar system have solid surfaces (except Neptune which is mostly water with some Islands). They all also have Oxygen/Nitrogen atmosphere's . Every planet has native life on it and also intelligent humanoid life which is biologically related to Earth's humans. Supposedly, the human species evolved in the Andromeda Galaxy and came to the Milky Way millions of years ago to colonize the planet Aar around the star Deneb. From there, thousands of different human species were engineered for every imaginable environment and scattered throughout the galaxy.

There had been a planet Katar that orbited between Mars and Jupiter inhabited by Denebian derived humans in the deep past ~100 million years ago. It eventually exploded and the debris left over became the asteroid belt. The central core of the planet crashed into Jupiter and created the Great Red Spot as a perpetual super-caldera volcano.

The Solar System had allegedly been colonized 1 billion years ago by a race known as the Kanga who may have been responsible for the forms that the planets took. In particular, they may have built solid surfaces for the gas giant planets (which in our Solar System have no true surfaces). The Kangas are never described but they sound like the Elder Things from the Cthulhu Mythos of H.P. Lovecraft. They are displaced from the Solar System by the Linids, amorphous masses of undifferentiated dark matter that are highly telepathic. These sound like a form of Shoggoth, another Lovecraftian race. Eventually these also leave the system and the Denebians then populate all the planets with human life and, possibly, other compatible life forms. Did the Denebians defeat the Linids and banish them? That seems most likely.

Eventually the Denebian Empire disappeared. We are told that about 1 million years ago, humans in the Solar System created a multiple star-system empire which itself eventually crumbled. About 290,000 years ago, the Martian civilization revived and attained space flight. The Martians travelled around the Solar System but they never colonized any of the other planets and eventually their civilization collapsed too. There is evidence that Saturnians and Jovians may have also had space flight, encountered each other and fought a massive war which destroyed their civilizations and threw them back into more primitive lifestyles.

Captain Future's Earth is the dominant planet in the system. There were major earthquakes and climatic changes on Earth that forced millions of people to colonize the other planets. The refugee situation become so tense that Captain Future and the Futuremen had to build a new planet, Futuria, to accommodate the overflow. Futruia orbits the sun at a distance of 160 million miles so that it lies in between the orbits of Earth and Mars.

You might ask what this has to do with Doc Savage. Well, I submit that the world of Captain Future is an alternative time-line from our own in which one of the critical differences is that the original plan for Doc Savage to become World President succeeded. (Obviously, the reshaping of the Solar System by the Kangas, the Linids, and the Denebian did not happen in our time-line and this is another major difference which has nothing to do with Doc. )

Here is what I propose. The cabal that had planned for Doc's rise to political power remained intact. The Wall Street financier who was murdered in the original time-line in 1928 escapes and is able to forestall the Stock Market Crash in 1929. It becomes a minor economic slump instead of a world-wide disaster and it encourages long needed reforms. Kulkulkan's illicit traffic in gold from the Valley of the Vanished is likewise discovered around the same time and he is arrested before he can unleash the Red Death. Doc Savage begins his career as an amateur crime-fighter with the aid of his father and the cabal that backed him. President Herbert Hoover is re-elected to a second term in 1932 and a more progressive movement takes control of the Republican party. Clark Savage Junior wins a congressional seat from New York in 1934. In 1936, Senator William E. Borah of Idaho, a progressive anti-machine Republican wins the presidential election.

In Europe, the Depression never hits Germany and inflation comes under control. The assassination attempt on Dolfuss of the Catholic Center Party fails and the conspirators are indicted. It is a blow to the National Socialist Party which now much distance itself from violence. Dolfuss is elected chancellor in 1933 and Adolph Hitler becomes the leader of the opposition. The Soviet Union has serious economic problems, and news leaks about the genocide perpetrated by Stalin in the Ukraine. Several scandals rock the Fascist Party in Italy and Mussolini loses control of the Government to the Christan Democrats.

The Communists take this opportunity to become more bold and start a campaign of intimidation and terrorism in Europe. Evidence mounts that this is is a coordinated attempt by the Comintern to foment revolution in Europe. The European Nations react to this by the Declaration of Brussels in 1936 outlawing the Communist Party in signatory nations and censuring the Soviet Union for interfering in the internal political affairs of other sovereign nations. Stalin lodges a protest with the League of Nations in Geneva but is voted down. Russia resigns from the League and then is formally condemned by the League for its policies.

In Japan, the Depression likewise has little effect and a new program of industrialization is announced by the government. An explosion on the South Manchurian Railway in 1931 instigates a military response form Japan, but prompt action by the League of Nations leads in 1933 to a timetable for the withdrawal of Japanese troops from China over the next 5 years. But tension between Russia and Japan continues to mount and Russia invades the Sakhalin Peninsula in late 1937. The Japanese withdrawal from Manchuria is halted and they attack the Soviets from the southern flank. The fighting continues throughout this area with neither side able to gain a decisive advantage.

In Germany, a program of reindustrialization occurs and a new dawning of domestic technology begins. Adolph Hitler pushes through several military development programs to revitalize the German armed forces but is is not as large he would have liked. Hitler speaks continually against the Bolshevik threat and links it to world Jewry. In 1937, an assassination attempt by the Communists leaves him paralyzed from the waist down. His life is saved by a Jewish surgeon Jakob Goldstein who operates on him several times. The experience changes Hitler. His assailants had not been Jews but socialist Aryans from within his own party with Communist sympathies. Hitler softens his view on Jews. He also becomes a martyr for the anti-Communist cause. He pushes through legislation to curb the Communist party and strengthen the German military even further. Hitler will be hailed as the savior of European Civilization because it would be German's modernized army that will stop the Russians in Poland.

In 1936, a pro-Communist Second Republic is declared and Spain threatens to leave the League of Nations. Nationalist forces from the Army revolt and receive aid from Germany and Italy. The Republicans receive aid from Russia and Mexico. The US remains officially neutral, but internationalists in congress led by Congressman Savage push for open support to anti-Communist forces. They document atrocities committed against priests, nuns, and other religious by the Republicans and American public opinion favors the rebels. The strong anti-Communist sentiment in Europe also backs the rebels and France intervenes. Britain ran a naval blockade and the Republicans were starved out. In 1939 the League of Nations intervened and appointed a provisional government headed by Emilio Mola. General Francisco Franco remained in command of the Army and would lead it into battle in Poland later that year.

In July and August of 1936, Doc Savage goes to the South Pacific to retrieve an odd stone from a volcanic eruption. He had been tracking its movements underground based on gravitational anomalies and predicted where it might emerge. He battled a criminal mastermind, Cadwiller Olden, before gaining possession of it. This stone would be the first and only sample of Gravium ever discovered on Earth. It came from deep inside the Earth and no other samples were ever recovered. Savage does extensive research on the object and postulates it use as a modifier of gravity. There is never enough Gravium available for any more than laboratory research. When Mark Carew discovers Gravium on Saturn, Neptune, and Mercury, he is able to use Doc's preliminary work to design the Gravity Equalizer.

The League of Nations organizes a world economic boycott of the Soviet Union in late 1938. In response, Russia invades Poland in 1939. The German Wehrmacht mobilizes and in the Battle of the Vistula they stop the Russian advance. The League of Nations creates the European Military Alliance and Britain, France, and Spain send troops to support the Germans in Poland. Despite growing public support for the EMA , the US stays effectively neutral. Then it is discovered that the Russians have incited Mexico to foment troubles on the southern Border of the US. After a concerted attack on Nuevo Laredo, TX by Mexican troops, the US mobilizes and counter attacks. No official state of war exists between the US and Mexico, but the Soviet Union condemns the American incursion and declares war on the US. Communist party members in America begin acts of sabotage and terrorism. The response is swift. US Communists are rounded up and interned in camps. The brief American campaign in northern Mexico brings down the Mexican government. The US supports a pro-democratic faction and sends US ships into Mexican ports to intimidate the Mexicans. The anti-clerical government in Mexico is replaced by an bloodless internal revolution. Meanwhile, the US commits troops to both the European and Asian theatres.

Meanwhile, the Soviet Union develops its own internal problems as there is open revolt in the Islamic republics within the USSR. The Germans push forward into the Ukraine where they are greeted as liberators. Germany uncovers evidence that Stalin deliberately starved 10 million Ukrainians to death which it present to the League of Nations. Stalin is charged with genocide by the League and and International Tribunal is formed to collect evidence and to prosecute him for crimes against humanity. This Tribunal is the basis for what will become the World Court.

Invasions of the Baltic states by EMA forces met with a similar positive response from the local populace as in hte Ukraine. Surrounded on all sides by enemies, Stalin calls for greater sacrifices from the Soviet People. But he had recently purged all of his best Generals and many other loyal party members. He is assassinated in 1941 and the Politburo sues for peace.

Thus ended World War II. By 1940, Doc Savage had been elected to the Senate. He was instrumental is drafting legislation for prison reform and to strengthen international treaties. With the cessation of hostilities he pushes for a more powerful international body to succeed the League of Nations with its headquarters in New York City. The Charter for the United Nations of the World is signed in Geneva in 1943. Doc successfully runs for President in 1944 and 1948. Adolph Hitler dies in 1945 and is honored with a moving eulogy by his friend Winston Churchill.

In 1952 Doc Savage becomes the ambassador to the UNW which has its headquarters in the Empire State Building and holds it meetings in the former Madison Square Garden. New buildings are erected in midtown Manhattan to house the UNW offices. In 1956, a sufficient number of nations world wide has subscribed to the UNW charter that the UNW is renamed the World Government and Manhattan is declared the International Capital and is no longer part of the United States. Doc Savage is elected to his first of two 6 year terms as world President.

The World Court was established at the Hague in 1943. Ham Brooks by this time was a Federal Circuit Court judge at this time. He would be named to the panel of World Court Judges in 1948 and eventually served as Chief Justice during the late 1950s.

Plans were drawn up for several new UNW buildings in downtown Manhattan near the Empire State Building. The World Court building was to be located on the East River on First Avenue and 46th Street. Constuction on the initial UNW complex of buildings is not completed until 1948.

Nuclear power becomes a reality by 1950 for peaceful uses only. No atomic bombs are built until the end of the decade and these are used for construction of a sea-level canal in Nicaragua between the two oceans. In the mid 1960s, several severe earthquakes occur and the surface of the Earth begins to undergo dramatic changes. Australia links to New Guinea, the Bering Land Bridge connects Asia to Alaska creating the new landmass of Amerasia, the Italian peninsula links up with Sicily and a land-bridge rises connecting them to North Africa while splinting the Mediterranean in two. Similarly, Gibraltar links Spain with North Africa and two new inland seas are formed out of the Mediterranean. The Gulf of Mexico becomes a lake. England and Ireland fuse together and connect to France. Denmark linked up with Sweden creating the Baltic Lake. A portion of southwestern Africa separates from the main body of the continent and its area is supplemented by land that rises up from the ocean floor. It is given the name Nchi Baharia by its inhabitants and called Nova Land by the Americans. Japan joins to Asia at both the northern and southern ends forming the Lake of Japan.

Unmanned probes are sent out into space and bring back fantastic reports that Mars and Venus are inhabited and there is evidence of life even on the Asteroids. Technology has advanced rapidly since the World War II and atomic powered space craft are used to transport man to the Moon and the Planets as we have described earlier. But Doc Savage is troubled and as he retired from public office in 1968, he turns his attention to the natural catastrophes that are befalling Earth. He is concerned that the Earth is becoming less hospitable for human habitation and decides to figure out why. In 1980, he, his aged Father (now 110 years old) and his five associates along with a select crew leave on the space ship Balder to explore the Solar System and solve the mystery of its origin and history. As of 2025, no one has heard from them or knows their whereabouts.

Doc Savage, His Crew, and the Martial Arts

In the free wheeling adventures of Doc Savage, his five associates, and his cousin Patricia there was always a lot of hand-to-hand combat and the Savage Saga described the distinctiveness of each character’s fighting techniques and prowess. Each of the members of the Savage Crew had a fighting style of his (or her) own. Based on clues given in the Saga (and further clues from other sources including Philip José Farmer’s Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life) we may speculate on what different martial arts they were each trained to use.

According to the Canon, Doc was the strongest of the group followed in order of strength by Renny, Monk, Johnny, Ham, and Long Tom. Doc was originally depicted as being 6 feet tall in the earliest stories but was depicted as being 6 foot 8 inches tall in later stories. He had bronze colored skin and slightly darker bronze colored hair. The bronze skin was supposed to be from the tanning effect of tropical suns in Doc’s youth but that makes no physiological sense. Nor does the idea that Doc kept himself tan with ray-projectors. It is morel likely that this was his natural pigment. He was well proportioned and did not seem unusually large unless he stood next to an average person for comparison. He was not muscle bound but obviously strong and agile but his arms were described as having muscles with tendons “like piano wire” that rippled when he used his hands. His build was more like that of a decathlete than a weightlifter, wrestler, or football lineman though he would have compared to these latter athletes in height and weight.

Renny was originally depicted as over 6 foot 4 inches tall but he may have been much taller since it was implied that he was taller than Doc in the earliest stories. He had the knack of knocking out the panel’s of heavy wooden doors with one punch of his enormous over-sized hands. Monk was only 5 feet 6 inches tall but was almost as wide as he was tall and had arms 6 inches longer than his legs. His apelike appearance earned him his nickname. Johnny was a tall gangly thin man who was described as having a “gland condition” (likely to have been a slightly over-active thyroid) which gave him the build and stamina of a long distance runner. Nevertheless, he could hold his own in a donnybrook and in The Red Skull he knocked out a burly construction worker with just one punch. Ham was described as a ‘waspish’ clothes-horse who nonetheless could give a professional boxer a good drubbing and carried a sword cane wherever he went. He seems to have been like John Steed from The Avengers television show. Likewise, I have always envisioned Patricia Savage as a six-gun wielding taller version of tawny haired Emma Peel. Long Tom was the weakling of the crowd. He was fair-haired and light-skinned with a pale unhealthy complexion. Nevertheless, he could lick 9 out of 10 men on the street in a fight and in The Feathered Octopus we are told that even the Herculean Renny got nervous when Long Tom lost his temper.

What kind of martial arts would these people have trained in? Anyone living in America at the turn of the 19th Century would have been familiar with basic fisticuffs: boxing, wrestling, street-fighting dirty tricks. However, at this same time, exotic fighting styles were becoming known from Europe and the Orient. Western martial arts tended to use weapons like daggers and swords in conjunction with grappling and tripping techniques. Kampfringen was a collection of fighting moves without weapons (with later variations used to compliment swordplay) that could be dated to the Holy Roman Empire in the Middle Ages. Pankration was a similar combat system that went back to the time of the Roman Legions. With the advent of firearms during the Renaissance, these systems went into disuse, but some kind of hand-to-hand combat was always in vogue both in the military and among men generally so elements of these systems were not entirely lost.

French street fighting in the late 18th Century developed a stylized form using kicks and open-handed slaps that became known as ‘Chausson.’ In the early 19th Century it underwent further development and began to including British Boxing techniques, grappling, and stick fighting using either a short stick (le baton) or a longer stick (le canne) and was renamed ‘Savate’. It became popular in France and schools of Savate began to spring up in France with smaller groups starting on the continent in Italy and Switzerland. It never caught on in Britain because it was thought that kicking was ‘unmanly.’ Even so, over the years elements of Savate have been adopted into the military and law enforcement training of many nations including America and Britain. Savate was the first modern western martial art and it laid the groundwork for the popularity of the Eastern martial arts.

In the Far East, combat was still done mano-a-mano using swords and other edged weapons. The martial arts – with and without weapons – continued to flourish there and were widely disseminated with many local variations. The western discovery of these Asian fighting arts inspired imitators in the West. In 1898, British Engineer Edward William Barton-Wright returned to England from Japan and brought with him knowledge of Japanese Jiujutsu and Kodokan Judo which he combined with British boxing and wrestling, French Savate, and a defensive stick fighting style from Switzerland to create a fighting art he called Bartitsu. Later on, it even included some fencing techniques.

This was the form of ‘Japanese Wrestling’ (misspelled as ‘Baritsu’) which had been used by Sherlock Holmes in his epic battle with Professor Moriarty at Reichenbach falls. Barton-Wright’s art fell into disuse and disappeared in the 1920s, but it sparked Western interest in Eastern fighting arts.

Various forms of eastern martial arts had come to the west with Asian immigrants. These arts were generally not taught to westerners until very recently. (For example, Bruce Lee in the 1960s was vilified by Chinese-American Kung Fu masters for training western students.) But various martial artists ended up in side shows in the early 1900s demonstrating their techniques. And the rise in popularity of international athletics led to some forms of eastern martial arts being introduced in the west as sports. So in 1907, the sport of Judo was formally introduced into the United States and by 1910 it was a recognized international sport. Most of the other eastern fighting arts remained relatively unknown in the west until after World War II.

But well educated and well traveled men of the world would have encountered these arts in their native lands and like Barton-Wright studied and applied their techniques. Doc’s crew were those kinds of men and we can speculate about how they encountered the various fighting arts and came to learn them.

John “RennyRenwick at the start of the Savage Saga was described as not being much help in a fight. By the mid-1930s he had become the next best fighter of the group after Doc himself. He was also the next best pilot, marksman, and driver. But the one thing be was known for was using his huge fists to punch out the panels of stout wooden doors with a single blow. To the naive audience of 1930s America, that would have sounded like a feat of tremendous strength. But experienced martial artists would recognize this as one of the ‘breaking’ techniques often exhibited in the linear or ‘hard’ martial arts like Karate. We can then speculate how Renny developed this talent.

Renny was a top Civil Engineer who worked on numerous projects overseas – including some in Asia – during the Super Sagas. He probably had used his massive fists to pop the panels out of doors since his college days. While working in Japan he may have seen a breaking demonstration by Karate masters and wanted to learn how they did it to improve his own technique. He may have befriended a knowledgeable karatetaka who gave him basic instruction in how to deliver such blows.

The secret to the breaking blow in karate is not to deliver a full force blow with the initial strike. Rather, one allows the hand to be deformed in a relatively prolonged manner by the initial contact and then to rebound to its normal shape more rapidly while in contact with the target. This sudden expansion delivers a rebound shock wave to the target which actually does the damage.

Renny apparently mastered the breaking blow with his fists, but did no retain much else of Karate as a fighting style. He depended on his height and weight along with his mighty punches in a fight. Later when he began joining into Doc Savage’s adventures on a regular basis, it was clear that he needed a more balanced fighting style. Doc would have been aware of Renny’s earlier Karate training and sought out a teacher for him suited to his overall body habitus. There were three traditional Karate styles from Okinawa all of which emphasized linear empty-handed combat with the occasional use of farm implements as weapons. In the early 20th Century, innovative new forms of Karate were developed in Japan to make Karate more practical in hand-to-hand combat. This included an emphasis on defensive moves, circular or soft techniques, and the ability to maintain balance while pressing the attack forward. The ancient weapons techniques became less important, though they were not entirely eliminated.

Doc would have chosen one of the more modern schools for Renny to round out his fighting skills. Most likely it would have been one of the half-hard, half–soft schools such as Gōjū-ryū. This would take a powerful man like Renny and turn him into a well balanced fighter who used technique, not mere brute force to defeat his opponents. And it would have made his breaking blows more disciplined and devastating.

Monk was the next strongest of the group. He is depicted as being able to bend pennies and silver dollars in half between thumb and forefinger. We are also told that in anger he once bent the barrel of a revolver. He was short – around 5 foot 6 inches tall – with broad shoulders and arms that were longer than his legs. He would have had a low center of gravity and an exceptional reach. We are told in The Talking Devil that Monk took great pride in his fighting skills and hired wrestlers and Jujutsu instructors to teach him new tricks. We are also told that Monks fights were always very noisy, He like to scream and bellow during a donnybrook.

All of this points to some form of combat Jujutsu as Monks predominant fighting style. He was built to fight low to the ground and had all the advantages in leverage with his long reach. The modern combat forms of Jujutsu also emphasized some atemi (strikes), but Monk probably had more experience with boxing while growing up in Oklahoma that would have been helpful in a fight. With his bulk and long reach, Monk would have had a big advantage in a boxing match even with his short stature. And with his temperament, he would have been likely to use every kind of street fighting “dirty trick” there was. The one thing he would not have been good at would have been kicking strikes with his proportionately short legs.

The shouting he used was the classical kiai technique that can unnerve and disrupt and opponent’s concentration while tightening the muscles of the body and hardening them against injury. It is even said that a properly used kiai scream can itself inflict serious injury on an opponent.

In the end, Monk was a studied and well disciplined street fighter who did not depend on his bulk but on his low center of gravity and natural advantages in strength and leverage in his upper body.

Johnny was the next strongest of the crew. He was tall – likely over 6 feet – and thin but in excellent shape. We are told in Quest of Qui that he could run for long distances without tiring. But he could also hold his own in a fight. In the movie Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze, Johnny is depicted as an adept in the use of pressure points consistent with an advanced knowledge of Shaolin Dim-mak. This resonates well with his character. Because of his build, he would need to use a martial art that took advantage of a long reach and a light build.

As a geologist and archaeologist, Johnny would have traveled all over the world and likely been to China many times. Next to Doc, he is the most intellectual and well educated of the crew. While there he would have been exposed to the various forms of Kung-fu, one of which is Fujian White Crane. This martial art technique is originally attributed to a woman Fāng Qīniáng, who around 1700 developed it after trying to scare a crane away form her father’s fields using a stick and basic Kung-fu techniques. The crane used its long legs and wings to counter all of her moves. She studied the birds after that and adapted their movement to fighting.

As a scholar, Johnny could not help but learn some of the other more complex Kung-fu adjuncts such as Dim-mak (training attacks on pressure points and meridians to kill, incapacitate, or otherwise control an opponent), Chin-na (controlling or locking an opponents joints, muscles, or tendons so he cannot move), and “Iron Shirt” Qigong (the use of breathing patterns, herbs, exercises, and meditation to strengthen the flow of chi energy through the body for the purposes of toughening the body against injuries and healing damage or disease).

Since Johnny also was in the intelligence service during World War I, it is possible that he also studied some of the Japanese espionage martial art Ninjutsu. The source of Ninjutsu is controversial. There is an obvious Chinese influence with many philosophical principles derived from Sun-Tzu’s Art of War. The Ninja’s skills included gathering information, non-detection, avoidance of conflict, and misdirection with training in disguise, escape, concealment, archery, medicine, explosives, and poisons. This would have made Johnny a formidable agent on par with James Bond.

Ham Brooks was the proper Harvard educated lawyer and would have moved in the upper classes. During World War I, he was a Brigadier General in the US Army Judge Advocate General’s Corp. We are told in the Super Sagas that Ham was nimble enough to give a professional boxer a good tripping. And he was quite handy with his sword cane. This points to him having been on the boxing and fencing teams at Harvard. While he was stationed in France during the war, Ham very likely new french officers who practiced Savate kickboxing. This was a very fashionable activity for French gentlemen during this time. Part of the training included the art of stick fighting using a walking stick (le canne). There was even a form of stick fencing which mimicked the use of swords.

While in Europe, Ham may have heard of the fighting system Bartitsu which had been developed in England. By that time, Bartitsu was in decline and there were few practitioners. Nevertheless, its developer Barton-Wright continued to teach students into the 1920s. This eclectic martial art would have been well suited to Ham as both a gentleman’s sport and a comprehensive fighting art. It included boxing, grappling, stick and sword fencing all of which we know he used with great effectiveness in the Super Sagas. It may be that Ham was one of the last great practitioners of this lost martial art to learn it from the hands of its founder.

Long Tom Roberts was the weakling of the crew, but what he lacked in physical strength he made up for in fighting fury. He was apparently the most effective of Doc’s associates in a fight even surpassing Renny and Monk at times. His fighting style was hard and linear from the way it is described and seemed to lack the subtler soft or circular moves one sees in Wrestling or Judo.

Among martial arts aficionados it is well known that the most powerful and dangerous martial art form is Muay Thai kickboxing. It is almost purely offensive and involved using multiple and combination blows from the “eight points”: feet/shins, hands, elbows, and knees. A more aggressive “nine point” street fighting style includes head butts. There are also a limited number of clinching and grappling techniques. Compare this to Western boxing which uses only two points (the fists) and most Eastern martial arts that use four points (hands and feet).

Long Tom likely was scrappy by nature because he appeared to be so sickly that bullies often picked on him. They were in for a big surprise when they attacked the this frail-appearing firebrand. He probably had quite a bit of street fighting experience before he met Doc Savage. It is unlikely that Long Tom would have learned about Muay Thai in the normal course of his life since its practice was restricted to Southeast Asia. But once again, Doc Savage would have known about it and realized that Long Tom was the perfect student for this aggressive fighting art. He likely arranged for an Ajam (master) for Long Tom’s instructor and Doc may have sparred with him himself. From the description of Long Tom’s skills, only Doc himself could have been a fit sparring partner for him.

Patricia Savage was depicted as a tall, athletic woman who kept herself in good shape at her New York beauty salon and spa. She had the same bronze skin, bronze hair, and golden eyes as her cousin, Doc. This once again argues for a family trait as opposed to the result of tanning. She was probably at or near 6 feet tall. She was nowhere near as strong as Doc, but she was no weakling. Philip José Farmer in his pastiche A Feast Unknown has her holding off Jocko’s (Monk’s) drunken advances with ease like an Amazon. This was also how she was depicted in the one-shot Millennium Pat Savage comic. Farmer speculates that she was “big boned” as were Doc and Monk due to residual Neanderthal ancestry. The larger bones would have had larger muscle insertions thus increasing the muscle’s mechanical advantage. Since Pat was a professional physical fitness expert, she would have had plenty of time to develop her athletic prowess and fighting skills. She had grown up on a ranch in Canada and must have been a tomboy. She carried a large bore six-gun with no trigger loaded with custom made mercy bullets. She would fan the trigger to fire it.

The fighting style she uses in the Super Sagas included boxing techniques, jujutsu-like grapples and throws as well as some “un-ladylike” moves like inserting a finger in her opponent’s nose and dragging him around by it. This variety of hard and soft techniques points to a martial art that was well balanced and designed not only for self-defense but also for physical conditioning and mental relaxation. The ideal martial art that meets these requirements would have been Aikido, which was developed in the 1920s and 1930s in Japan by Morihei Ueshiba as a synthesis of his martial studies, philosophy, and religious beliefs. Ueshiba's goal was to create an art practitioners could use to defend themselves without injuring their attacker. This was an ideal art for a woman who might need to fend off unwanted male advances without risking more severe physcial retaliation. But in a pinch, Aikido could deliver incapacitating blows, pins, grapples and throws. The use of small weapons was also part of the technique.

More than many other partial arts, Aikido concentrates on cross trianing and voerall physical and mental fitness. It includes relaxation techniques, mental awareness, and an emphasis on the balance of “Chi” energy flowing through the body. This would have been the perfect martial art for a physical culture advocate like Pat Savage to learn and to use in the exercise classes at her salon. She would have used it in self-defense seminars for her female clients.

Once again, only Doc Savage with his extensive knowledge and contacts throughout the martial arts world could have arrangd for this type of training in the 1930s. In fact getting Pat trained in this martial art may have been its primary intordcution in the United States.

We then come to Doc Savage himself. We know that he was well versed in all kinds of fighting techniques and that his father had arranged for him to be trained by the best martial artists in the world. He not only learned all the Western fighting arts such as boxing, wrestling, Pankration, and Kampfringen, but Karate, Judo, Jujutsu, Kung-fu, Taekwondo, Silat and other Eastern arts. He was even privy to little known martial arts such as Capoeria, Muay Thai, Baille, Adhti, Sambo, and the fighting art of the Berbers.

But Doc could not have been limited to these systems. He was destined to be the supreme adventurer of his time and there is only one martial art technique that would have been worthy of his skill: Sinanju, the deadly art of the fabled North Korean house of assassins.

Sinanju is the sun center of the martial arts. It is the pinnacle of over 4000 years of human personal development and training. Every other martial art is rumored to be an off shoot based on partial information about Sinanju techniques. It is said that no white man had ever been trained in Sinanju until recently, but Doc is not a typical “white” man. He is the man of bronze and in his ancestry there is blood form virtually all racial backgrounds to include some Neanderthal genes.

The story of the House of Sinanju has been chronicled in the Destroyer series. Descriptions of the Sinanju master Chiun show some interesting parallels with Doc Savage and may indicate that they have similar training. Neither Chiun nor Doc uses any weapons other than their body and their wits in battle. Both of them are expert climbers who can scramble up a flat wall using nothing but fingertips for handholds. Both move so fast that often their actions cannot be seen with the naked eye. They both know exactly what time it is without needing to use a watch or clock. Btoh are master escape artists. Both have developed their bodies and their senses to the peak of human perfection. Both are masters of the human body and can manipulate nerve points to induce pain, paralysis, unconsciousness, obedience and even death. Despite Doc’s size and strength, he is described as being well proportioned without weightlifter bulk. Both Chiun and his disciple Remo are lightly built and almost frail despite having enormous strength and endurance. And finally, Doc and the Sinanju masters can kill or incapacitate a man with a single blow.

I think this last similarity is most important. When doc began his career, he had an almost cavalier attitude towards the lives of criminals very much like Chiun and Remo do. He was more likely to dispose of them than to try to rehabilitate them. But somewhere Doc realized that he could not continue in this fashion and still be the man his father wanted him to be: the archenemy of evil. He was becoming more like his enemies with every life he took. I think the turning point for him was in Quest of the Spider. At the end, one of the criminal henchmen reformed and sacrificed his life to save those of Doc and his crew. I think his had a profound effect on Doc. One of those enemies that he would have killed so casually – the ignorant uneducated Cajun Buck Boontown – actually had given his life to save Doc. I think we can see a change in Doc in subsequent adventures until he eventually becomes reluctant to take any life except out of rare necessity. I think this was the undoing of some of the attitudes he had absorbed during Sinanju training.

In summary, each of the members of Doc Savage’s crew showed different fighting styles and proclivities. From these clues, we can ascertain in which martial art they were probably trained. Doc Savage himself was the supreme martial artist of the group and very likely was schooled in Sinanju, the sun-source of the Martial arts itself. Yet he became very cautious in his career not to exercise his deadly skills without restraint and this may explain his reticence to engage in violent confrontation. He never felt threatened even when he was allegedly in the power of his enemies. He always had the power to either escape or overcome them. But he always preferred to out think them and to over come them in a manner that would allow him to rehabilitate his enemies without harming them.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

What was the Red Death?

In the first Doc Savage story "The Man of Bronze", a drunken scientist in Hidalgo discovers a virulent disease organism which he calls "The Red Death". It is characterized by fever, malaise, pain, and circular red lesions on the neck. The disease is fatal in just 2 or 3 days after the onset of symptoms and incubation seems to be only 1-2 days. But there also is a cure that works with only one dose. He sold the secret to the villain who then killed him and used the Red Death to murder his enemies (most notably Doc's father, and his friend Hubert Robertson) and to extort gold offerings from the Mayans in the Valley of the Vanished. The disease was spread by ingestion or skin contact. It is clearly described as a "germ" that could be cultured.

In a final murderous gesture, the villain introduced the Red Death into the Mayan water supply. Doc was eventually able to isolate the germ from the water and he developed a cure for the disease using roots and jungle herbs which he boiled, cooked, and treated with acid. The refined product was a pale fluid which cured with one dose.

What was the Red Death? And what did Doc Savage refine from the jungle foliage to cure it?

I would submit that the Red Death was a particularly virulent form of Yersinia pestis, the organism that causes Plague. Plague is a disease endemic to the Old World that was brought to the Americas by the Spanish and the Portuguese. It currently is present in the New World in the United States, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Paraguay, Northern Argentina, and Northern Mexico. It is absent in most of Mesoamerica, but there could have been hot spots in the jungle where the disease remained dormant. The incubation time and the time from onset of symptoms to death in untreated cases of Plague matches what is described about the Red Death.

Plague can be spread through ingestion, inhalation, or contact with an open wound on the skin, but the most common form of transmission is from an arthropod bite from fleas, ticks, or lice. If the right arthropod vector is not present, transmission to humans will be unlikely unless there is direct contact with or consumption of an infected animal.

Bubonic Plague is the form caused by arthropod bites and is characterized by round red "buboes" or swollen lymph nodes in the areas where the bite occurred. Often times these are on the upper chest or neck. They will often open and drain highly infectious serosanguinous material. Ingestion usually results is Septicemic Plague which is associated with a more generalized petechial rash, but in some cases there can be ecthyma gangrenosum–like lesions and carbuncles due to blood-borne Yersinia pestis. The variant bacillus that caused the Red Death likely was more prone to do this and it led to these characteristic lesions on the neck.

Plague remains one of the few bacteria that is strongly sensitive to simple Penicillin even though other antibiotics are used today in treating this disease. We must remember that in 1930, there were no antibiotics. While Penicillin had been discovered in 1928 by Sir Alexander Fleming, it was merely a laboratory curiosity until World War II. The first sulfonamide, Prontosil, was not made available until 1932. At the time The Man of Bronze occurred, there was no effective way to medically treat most bacterial infections.

There is a curious coincidence that is reported in the Wikipedia article on Penicillin:

In March 2000, doctors of the San Juan de Dios Hospital in San Jose (Costa Rica)
published manuscripts belonging to the Costa Rican scientist and medical doctor
Clodomiro (Clorito) Picado Twight (1887-1944). The manuscripts explained
Picado's experiences between 1915 and 1927 about the inhibitory actions of the
fungi of genera Penic. Apparently Clorito Picado had reported his discovery to
the Paris Academy of Sciences in Paris, yet did not patent it, even though his
investigation had started years before Fleming's.

So a Mesoamerican scientist did discover Penicillin before Fleming and published his findings. It is then quite feasible that another scientist in the same area might have discovered a variant of Plague bacillus in the jungles and tested a purified derivative of the Penicillium chrysogenum mold as a treatment for it.

Penicilliam chrysogenum mold (formally known as Penicilliam notatum) is ubiquitous in nature and is often found on foods. It would occur in large mats in hte jungle and it could be this mold growing on "roots and herbs" that Doc Savage used to make his cure for the Red Death. Doc would have known of Flemings discovery and may even have heard of Dr. Twight's work. In those heady days in the 1930s before antibiotic overuse, one dose of Penicillin would have been enough to cure most infections.

So the whole story is quite feasible. In the late 1920s, a variant form of plague bacillus was discovered in the jungle by a Mesoamerican scientist which was highly susceptible to Penicillin extract. It was not normally a human pathogen but could be used to induce disease by ingestion or skin contact with concentrated bacteria. Using his knowledge of the recent discovery of Penicillin, Doc Savage was able to cure the disease.

The lifting qualities of hydrogen and the non-inflammable merits of helium...

In several of the Doc Savage stories, Doc is said to have discovered a gas which had "the lifting qualities of hydrogen and the non-inflammable merits of helium" which he uses in his dirigibles. This always disturbed me even as a teenager. Hydrogen is the lightest element in the periodic table with an atomic weight of 1.0079 grams per mole of atoms, and in its normal diatomic gaseous form (H2), it has an atomic weight of 2.0158 grams per mole of molecules. Helium (He) is the lightest of the inert gases with an atomic weight of 4.0026 grams per mole. These are the two lightest and simplest elements on the periodic table. Hydrogen contains one proton, and one electron ordinarily (Protium) and has some rare isotopes which contain one neutron (Deuterium) or two neutrons (Tritium). Helium has 2 protons and 2 electrons with from 1 to 2 neutrons in stable isotopes. Helium-3 (HE-3) is the lightest stable inert gas with an atomic weight of 3.0160. There can be no normal matter that is lighter than these 2 elements. For this reason, Philip Jose Farmer in Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life dismisses this as a fanciful claim with no real merit.

But the key word is "normal matter". There do exist exotic forms of matter in which one or another of the subatomic particles are replaced with a different particle. For example there can be mesic atoms in which the Mu-meson replaces the electrons. This is a short lived variant which decays rapidly in nature. And the Mu-meson weighs 209 times as much as the electron.

But there is a form of exotic matter which weighs far less than normal matter. It is Positronium (Ps). This material occurs when a gamma ray passes close to a massive nucleus and undergoes "pair-production" resulting in one normal electron and one anti-matter electron also called a positron. If the dynamics of the reaction are just right, the two particles form an exotic "atom" with the positron in the center and the electron in a shell around it. This Positronium atom is similar in configuration to a hydrogen atom but is far less massive. Since it has only an electron and a positron both of which have a mass that 1/1836 times that of the proton, the total mass of a basic Ps atom is only 0.00109 grams per mole or only a little more than one tenth of one percent the mass of monatomic hydrogen.

Now, suppose someone was able to generate Positronium with 2 positrons, 2 electrons, and a single neutron to stabilize the nucleus. The resulting configuration would be chemically inert like helium but it would have a mass of 1.00218 which is actually less than that of monatomic hydrogen! This would meet the criteria that are specified in the Doc Savage Sagas.

So I propose that the gas which Doc Savage concocted was actually Positronium in a Helium-3 configuration. This represents a major advance in nuclear chemistry on an industrial scale and hints that Doc must have had some advanced theoretical and technical knowledge about nuclear physics.

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