Friday, July 20, 2007

Concordism or Multiple Worlds? How to handle the Different Docs

Like many action characters, Doc Savage has gone through several different "incarnations" in different media and spawned several pastiche variations. The Doc Savage of the Marvel Comics Universe was quite different from the Doc Savage of the DC Comic Universe. The Doc Savage of Phil Farmer's "Apocalyptic Life" is somewhat different from that of the Super Sagas. The Millennium Comics Doc Savage is different from that of the Dark Horse Comics.

And the Pastiches! Phil Farmer has created Doc Wildman, Doc Caliban, Doc Ravage, and Doc Fauvre. Mike Black has his excellent Doc Atlas stories. Tim Byrd has his exciting Doc Wilde series. There are the Doc Ardan stories by Guy d'Armen (adapted by J-M. & R. Lofficier) and Win Eckert. Glen Cook creaed his fantasy homage to Doc Savage known as Rider. Aaron Alston has his fantasy-based Doc Sidhe stories. E. Hoffmann Price created his Doc Brandon. And we can't forget Doc Brass from Planetary. We even had a Doc Richards pastiche from the Fantastic Four! And then there were lesser known homages like Doc Garbage, Doc Sausage, Doc Sovage, Doc Frankenstein, and Doc Royal.

So what gives? Do we need to harmonize all of these disparate Docs into one timeline (a lá the post-crisis DC universe) or should we accept that all these different Docs inhabit different universes (a lá the pre-crisis DC universe and the Batman /Planetary crossover)?

Some of the Wold Newton devotees have elected to go with the former. I for one prefer the latter. I think it is more exciting to contemplate a whole series of different Docs than to try to force fit all the wild (and often contradictory) story lines into one complete narrative.
(For those interested, there are several good Wold Newton sites including The Wold Newton Pages & The Secret History of Wold Newton, on , The Wold Newton Chronicles , The French Wold Newton Pages, Yet Another Wold Newton Site, Jess Nevin's Wold Newton Page, and many others.)

This also allows each creative mind to develop his or her own "Doc" whole and entire. And to be honest, that may the way things really are if the Many-Worlds Theory of Quantum Physics is true.

One solution to the Quantum State Vector equation implies that at each decision node when reality could proceed in 2 or more different directions, EVERY possibility is actualized "somewhere" so that an infinite number of possible universes comes into existence. This means that all imaginable realities actually exist "somewhere". EVERY possibility without exception! So there really could be a universe with a Superman, or a Fantastic Four, or a Doc Ravage, or a Doc Sidhe.

I have problems with this Many-Worlds Theory. It requires that at each decision point the universe splits off and spawns slightly different clones of itself. This is a major violation of the Law of Conservation of Mass and Energy. If at every instant the entire universe duplicates itself, we should be able to document violations of the conservations laws routinely. There should also be some quantum tunneling effects in certain high-energy states which we just do not see. One of the great contributions to Quantum Physics by Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman was his "Sum over Histories" theory. It replaces the classical notion of a single, unique history for a system with a sum, or functional integral, over an infinity of possible histories to compute a quantum amplitude. Essentially, all the possible outcomes cancel each other out until only one remains ,and it is that one which is actualized.

This means that each possible world has a semblance of existence and influences the ultimate result of reality, but in the end, only one real world truly "exists" in the sense of having real mass and energy. Thus the Conservation Laws are maintained, but the "Many-Worlds" also have a form of existence in a purely conceptual way.

So human imagination does not just "make things up". It explores the conceptual possibilities which actually do "exist" in some way and which have contributed to the way the "real" universe is.

So "somewhere" there is a Doc Caliban and a DC Universe Doc Savage who are complete and consistent persons in and of themselves separate from the Doc Savage of the Super Sagas. They are real alternatives to the Super Saga Doc and do not need to be force-fitted together into the same timeline.


Win Eckert said...

Hey Art,

Great blog!

I'd point out that the Wold Newton folks do not believe that all the Doc variants (Doc Caliban, Doc Ravage, Doc Fauvre, Doc Atlas, Doc Wilde, Doc Sidhe, Doc Brass, etc.) are harmonized into one Doc timeline. I'm not sure if that's what you meant to say or not, but given how often WN theories are mischaracterized or misinterpreted, I thought I'd mention it.

Also, I canot pass the opportunity to mention my Doc Ardan stories.


Win Eckert

Arthur C. Sippo MD, MPH said...

Thanks for the kind words, Win. You are the guru of Wold Newton (after PJF) and I defer to your expertise. I did not mean to imply that all WN Speculations were concordist. In fact I have tried to harmonize as much of the total published corpus as I could. I think there is just no need to force fit everything into the same universe or timeline. we can mix and match. But some characters (e.g., Doc Atlas and the original Doc Savage) just won't fit in the same universe.

Oops! I forgot Doc Ardan! How could I do that?

Have no fears. My blog has been amended to take account of your comments.

Thanks for your input!


Win Eckert said...

Much appreciated, Art!


Michael said...

Interesting note.

But I was frustrated by all the name dropping of Doc 'variants'. Some I know of, some I don't, and I have to wonder about other readers.

PJF- Doc Wildman- where is he from?
PJF- Doc Caliban- from "A Feast Unknown" and sequels [have them, always wanted to see him write the final]
PJF- Doc Ravage- from "Greatheart Silver"? [read, but been awhile. I worked out all the homages from 'Showdown at Shootout]
PJF- Doc Fauvre- from "Ironcastle"? [have book but not yet read]
[am a fan of some of PJF's stuff, many his more pulp-influenced stuff. there is also the Doc & Shadow takeoff from the "Grant-Robeson" story in Weird Heroes]

Mike Black- Doc Atlas- only aware of one novel, "Melody of Vengeance". Are there more? (you mention stories plural). [book ordered]

Tim Byrd- Doc Wilde- from "Doc Wilde and the Frogs of Doom". Not sure if others. Seems more aimed at kids, IMO.

Doc Arden- from the stories published by Black Coat Press (see first comment). [am aware, but haven't gotten these books yet]

Glen Cook- Rider- do not know this character or where he appears. Am not familiar with this author.

Aaron Alston- Doc Sidhe- 2 novels from him, a third promised but not yet written. [got them, and enjoyed them. An original take on the character]

Doc Brass in Planetary comics, published by DC/Wildstorm. Appears in a couple, along with other characters based on old pulp characters. [got the series, and enjoyed the take offs of many characters and genres thruout]

Doc Richards in FF comics, don't know about this one. Was this Reed Richards dad? He struck me as more of a character along the lines of Doc's dad.

No idea about the 'less ones' you mentioned.

There is also the Doc homage in Wayne Reinagel's Pulp Heroes: More then Mortal (first of a trilogy) called Doc Titan, along with other pulp homages. [obtained book recently, not yet read it]

Art Sippo: said...

Doc Wildman is the name of the real person who is the model for Doc savage according to Philip Jose Farmer in "Doc Savage: An Apocalyptic Life."

Doc Fauvre is another PJH pastiche from "The Grant-Robeson Papers" that had been published in Byron Preiss' "Weird heroes" pulp-style paperbacks in the 1970s.

Rider was Glen Cooks fantasy Doc savage pastiche from his short novel "Sung in Blood" recently reprinted by Night Shade Books.

The other minor ones are from fanzines.


Michael said...

"Mike Black- Doc Atlas- only aware of one novel, "Melody of Vengeance". Are there more? (you mention stories plural). [book ordered]"

An update on the Doc Atlas for the benefit of others.

Have the book, am about half way thru it.

Discovered that MoV first appeared in Tom Johnson's fanzine, "Double Danger Tales", in issues #4-6. (the book doesn't mention this, which I wasn't happy about).

There are further Doc Atlas stories in that zine:

DDT #16- "Gorilla Killer", which was reprinted in "Tales of Masks and Mayhem" v1. I suspect this one deals with the Tarzan-analogue mentioned at the end of MoV.

DDT #34 "Desert Shadows"

DDT #53 "The Riddle of the Sphinx", assume this is another Doc Atlas story.

Michael said...

I was re-reading this topic to update one of my Doc files. I have a few additional Doc pastiches and such that weren't mentioned:

Doc Phoenix by Ted White created for Weird Heroes.

Lin Carter's excellent Prince Zarkon series was a new take on the Doc Savage and such characters.

Would Prof. Stone be considered another Savage pastiche?

Also, I was hoping to get more info on a few.

Will Murray once mentioned that Jack Chalker and Arthur Byron Cover had Doc or characters based on him appear in their stories. But have no idea what storied or how.

I saw mentioned in your article about Doc Brandon by E. Hoffman Price. No idea where that character appeared. Not familiar with his works, except stuff that intersects with HPL stuff.

Art Sippo: said...

The Jack Chalker novel was "Twilight at the Well of Souls." I believe the hero, Nathan Brazil, has his body made to look like the Bama image of Doc Savage.

In the Arthur Byron Cover novel "An East Wind Coming" there is an attorney character suspiciously like Ham Brooks.

The E. Hoffmann Price novel is "Operation Long Life" and is a true Doc Savage pastiche that is worth reading.


Art Sippo: said...

All of Mike Black's work is superb and is not only an homage to Doc Savage but a relevant criticism of some of the assumption of hte pulp genre.

I also forgot to mention Professor Stone by Wayne Skiver. He is also a modern Doc Savage pastiche worth reading. His stories have been published over at:


Michael said...

thanks for answering my questions.

I had read Chalker's Well of Souls novels, but somehow missed that.

I had seen copies of Prices various 'Operation this' and 'Operation that' books in used bookstores, but had always passed them over. Will have to make a point of looking for a copy and grabbing it.

I've only read Melody of Vengence. I hope to see more of Doc Atlas. An interesting take, tho not pure pulp. Too bad Black makes very little mention of Doc Atlas on his website.

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