The first Doc Savage comic story, presented in Shadow Comics #1, had a very thrown-together feel to it, but by the second issue (also published in 1940), the storytelling had become more ambitious. The artwork, though still primitive, had more detail, and the story was actually an adaptation of what was then a recent novel from the Doc Savage pulp, The Crimson Serpent, from August 1939.
The Crimson Serpent was a Harold Davis-written Doc Savage — Davis had a tendency toward bloody action with elements of horror, which may have appealed to the Street & Smith comics division, as horror-style comics were extremely popular (this was well before the “Seduction of the Innocent” clampdown on comics that led to the establishment of the Comics Code).
The cast was expanded to include more than Doc and Monk — Ham is also present in this comics adventure. Also classic elements from the Doc Savage pulp, like the New York headquarters and a dirigible flight, gave the story more of pulp-Doc feel. Though Doc is portrayed on the title panel as shooting a villain through the head, which was more Shadow-like than the more humanitarian Doc of the 1939 pulp magazine. Here is the story in its entirety:
For an eight-page adaptation of a full-length novel, it necessarily skimmed quickly through Davis’ plot, but it actually displayed some skill and care with the pacing and action, and was a distinct improvement over the first Doc comic.
Street & Smith must have been encouraged by the response to Doc’s presence in Shadow Comics, as later in the issue this ad for Doc to spin off into his own comics title appeared:
The ad copy touts the presence of Monk and Ham as well, despite the Baumhofer cover of the original Land of Terror novel featuring Renny.
Here is the original cover of the Shadow Comics #2 (Doc has moved up on the marquee to the top of the column, supplanting Iron Munro) , as well as the cover of the original Crimson Serpent pulp. Interesting that Monk’s hair color on the pulp cover is also incorrect, brown instead of “rusty shingle nails” red.