The first two appearances of Doc Savage in the comics — as a backup feature in Street & Smith’s Shadow Comics in 1940 — were short in page count and questionable in quality, but they were only the beginning. By the time Shadow Comics #3 appeared, Street & Smith was moving forward to spin Doc out into his own title. A house ad appeared in Shadow Comics #2 announcing that the first issue of the new Doc Savage Comics would feature an adaptation of The Land of Terror.
That adaptation would actually begin in Shadow Comics. Issue #3 featured a six-page beginning for the story, which would then be continued in Doc’s own title. Here are those six pages:
Following the story was a new house ad for the upcoming Doc Savage Comics.
And Doc Savage Comics did indeed debut in 1940, using the same formula as the successful Shadow Comics of reprinting a pulp cover painting on the cover (interestingly, not the cover for the Land of Terror story).
The lineup of stories for the first issues of Doc Savage Comics was “The Land of Terror” (No. 1-2), “The Polar Treasure” (No. 3), “Terror in the Navy” (No. 4). After that the pulp adaptations were abandoned, and Doc’s character was radically changed to make him into a “superhero” (he began to wear a hood and use a “mystic ruby”…none of which bore any resemblance to the pulp Doc).
Only Monk and Ham appeared in these stories, never the other three aides. And they were quite unrecognizable to the pulp fan (Monk bald!)
By the last issue, #20, things had gone pretty far downhill. Doc had disappeared from the cover of his own magazine, supplanted by of all things, Huckleberry Finn (the Doc story was relegated to the end of the book).
The series was cancelled…a rather ignominious end. However, Doc returned to being a backup feature in Shadow Comics (which would have a long run, right to the end of the pulp era, in 1949).
Here’s an example of the late 40’s comics Doc (hood and mystic ruby gone). This story appeared in Shadow Comics #91, 1948. Art and story were from the Bob Powell studio.
The Doc of these final Golden Age stories was more of the “science detective” he became in the pulps of that era.
Doc’s last Golden Age comics appearance came in the final issue of Shadow Comics (#101, 1949), and in a final bit of weirdness, the motifs of the story go back to the very beginning…jungles, Mayan-style pyramids, and Doc in jodhpurs.
All in all, Doc Savage’s journey through the Golden Age of comics was strange indeed. The stories, from pulp-novel adaptations, to a superhero digression, to the scaled-back adventure themes of the later 1940’s, make for a wild ride indeed.