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.

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