The Doc Savage Journal: The Untold Story – by Art Sippo

Featured on the blog today is an article by Dr. Arthur Sippo, discussing the story behind the 1969 publication The Doc Savage Journal. It’s a fascinating look at a little-known chapter in Doc Savage history. Many thanks to Art for sharing it here on the Forbidden Pulp Blog, and special thanks to Jeff Deischer, for both suggesting its appearance here, and acting as a liaison with Dr. Sippo.

This article also appeared in The Big Book of Bronze Vol, 2, 2009. A link to Art Sippo’s latest project is at the bottom of the article.

The Doc Savage Journal:
The Untold Story

By Arthur C. Sippo MD, MPH

The year was 1969. The tumultuous 1960s were on the wane.

The year 1968 had been a hard for the United States. Five years earlier, President John F. Kennedy had assassinated. The police action in Vietnam had escalated into a full blown war with a massive American military buildup. The Tet Offensive in January came as a total surprise and proved that the military situation in Vietnam was neither predictable nor under American control. In that same year, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were also assassinated. In the Presidential election, the American people demonstrated their dissatisfaction with the state of the nation by ending 8 years of Democrats in the White House and electing Richard Nixon with his promise of a ‘secret plan to end the war.’ The only real highpoint was the Apollo 8 mission over Christmastime which was the first manned flight ever to leave the confines of Earth and go into orbit around another world. The actual Moon landing was expected for midsummer 1969. At least America seemed to be winning the space race.

Something else happened in the 1960s which for many of us was an enduring highpoint that helped get us through those turbulent times. In 1964, Bantam Books began to republish the adventures of Doc Savage, one of the most popular of the Pulp magazine characters of the 1930s and 1940s. Stories of Cold War spying and intrigue were quite popular at that time and the James Bond movies with their combination of action, stylish violence, exotic locales, colorful villains, technological gadgets and a virtually indomitable hero were the biggest draws at the box office. The Doc Savage stories had pioneered all of these ideas in the days after the Depression and in fact had been the source of ideas for much of the adventure characters in pulps, comics, novels and films that came after them. It made sense that such a character would appeal to a modern audience.

Bantam marketed the Doc Savage paperback books with a photorealistic cover style developed by Jim Bama which instantly became iconic for the character even though it did not conform to any specific image either in the stories or the Pulp covers and art work from the original magazines. Those covers and the strength of the writing of Lester Dent and his associates catapulted Doc Savage into major publishing phenomenon.

Shortly after the initial success of Doc Savage, there were other pulp character reprints and we saw the creation of a new pulpish ‘men’s adventure ’ genre of paperbacks to compete in the same market. None of these did as well as Doc Savage and it was only the Doc Savage pulp series that eventually had its whole run reprinted.

In May 1969, Doc Savage was still a hot property. Only 36 of the novels had been published by then with Resurrection Day being the most recent reprint. In that month, a high school student from Carlisle, Pennsylvania named Lynn Myer published the first (and only) issue of a fanzine called The Doc Savage Journal (DSJ). This was a unique magazine in that Lynn had received the blessing of the Condé Nast Publishing Company (which owned the rights to the Doc Savage character) to publish new stories using their characters.

The story published in this issue was entitled Trail of Doomsday and was written by another high school student named Lohr McKinstry. Lohr was a fan of the pulp genre of literature even back then and he had an interest in writing.

The permission given to these young men to write a new Doc Savage story predated that which was given to Will Murray in the 1990s by at least 25 years. Technically, Trail of Doomsday was not a pastiche but a fully authorized story that has the right to be included in any Doc Savage publication list.

Both Lynn and Lohr are still with us and are very active in the modern pulp revival. I was able to reach them by e-mail to get some information about how their fanzine and its story came to be published. I had sent Lyn Myers a few questions that I wanted to ask him and he sent back a detailed response that is so well written I am reprinting it just as I received it.

The following section is from the e-mail Lynn sent me:

Here are the answers you’ve been looking for.  Sorry it took so long, I had to have cataract surgery which has now been done.

1) When did you start planning the DSJ?  In 1968 I went to a comic book convention in New York City.  They had two canvases displayed which were original oil paintings of the Bantam covers.  Neither was by James Bama (the most famous of the Doc cover artists).  One was the cover of Land of Always Night, the other I forget.  In the dealer room I talked with publishers of several fan magazines.  One of them had reprinted The Human Torch in an offset booklet.  I asked how he got permission from Marvel Comics to do the reprint.  He said he got a letter from Stan Lee (the editor) saying it was okay.  That put a thought in my mind:  How about Doc?  I started working out what I had to do to publish my own fanzine.  The address for Condé Nast was printed inside on the copyright page of the early Bantam printings.

2) How long did it take you to get permission from Condé Nast to use the Doc Savage name?  Was it difficult?  I got permission from Paul Bonner, Jr. at Condé Nast in April of 1968.  I told him I wanted to publish a new Doc in a fanzine and I got permission to do new stories only.  No reprints.  I also got permission to continue publishing as long as it was fanzine.  The permission letter took a couple of months.  They did not want to see the final product.  I got asked this a lot over the years (including Doc historian Will Murray).  I had enough youthful bravado to ask, and never thought it was much of a big deal.  They would have said no, but didn’t. I guess I was lucky.  I remember once asking permission from Samuel French to make an 8mm amateur movie based on the plot of the Broadway musical It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Superman.  They told me very firmly no, sent back  postage money back for my sample copy of the book for the play, and told me not to contact them again.  Go figure.

3)  How old were you when you published the DSJ?  I was eighteen on the publication date in May of 1969.  I was going to use the most common methods of fanzines of that era; a Ditto machine which used a carbon stencil and was good for about 3 dozen copies.  However, there were several drawbacks.  A Ditto machine produced a deep purple image and you could only print on one side of the paper.  Also, the pages had that god-awful smell of the duplicating fluid.  The second option was a mimeograph machine that took a waxed stencil and could reproduce hundreds of double sided copies.  However, you needed a good electric typewriter to cut the stencil.  IBM Selectrics were available at my high school where I was taking the business course, but I wasn’t much of a finish typist and your stencils had to be really good to get a polished product.  I began hanging out at a local printer who had a print shop in his basement.  I told him I wanted to learn the offset printing business, and he agreed.  This was during the Vietnam era when young people were supposed to be radicals that were trying to undermine the country.  I had to develop a trust with the printer.  After a couple of weeks, I proved I learned something from him and he agreed to print my magazine if I did all the work myself.  The cost would be 100 dollars.  I took the bait.

    Waiting for the permission letter set the project back a few months, but since I was an apprentice and did scut jobs at the printing shop for free, there was no hurry, I would wait.  During those years I also had an after school job working as a stock boy at a greetings card store where I made $1.50 an hour.   That paid for the Doc Savage Journal.

Poet Walt Whitman did a similar apprentice at a Philadelphia printer:  he would give them free labor in exchange he would set his own type for Leaves of Grass.  What does Leaves of Grass and the Doc Savage Journal have in common?  They both lost money.

 

4)  Why was there never a volume 2?  There was no second issue because:  My number in the Viet Nam draft lottery was 46, and I wanted to continue my education, so I went to a broadcasting school in Houston, Texas (I was born in raised outside of Carlisle, Pennsylvania).  So I packed up my stuff and went to school for six months and didn’t return for several years.  The school had a placement program so I worked at various radio and television jobs for the next couple of years—all in Texas.  I had two stories in the hopper.  One was submitted by Robert Weinberg (today a noted pulp historian) it was entitled Killers of Kali.  Lohr has a copy of it, I had a very bad photocopy of it and I don’t remember much about it anymore.  By the way, the first story was supposed to be Ghosts of Doom by me.  My story was about a late eighteen century whaler where the Captain ventured took far out in the Atlantic looking for a mysterious large whale and got hung up in stalled icebergs.  The crew froze to death and the ship (The Doom) remained stuck for almost a century, finally freed during a World War II thaw.  The captain and his crew are reanimated and under cover of dense fog, the captain dispatches a ship to go to shore and to shanghai men for the crew, not knowing they have taken members of the Doc Savage crew.  With a full crew, the Doom goes back to whaling and sets it sights on a Nazi submarine that is having mechanical problems.  The story concerns Doc coming to rescue his men and the whaler captain (who is both blind and crazy) trying to throttle the sub that the half blind totally mad captain thinks is a giant whale. (Note:  I starting writing his before I had permission from Condé Nast, so it really wasn’t about Doc Savage but my own knockoff character called Captain Nemesis.  He was like Doc, but had fewer sidekicks, was Australian, and looked like Errol Flynn.

However, I was too young and inexperienced to make the story flesh out. 



5)  Did you approach Lohr about doing this story or did he approach you?  When I finally got permission from Condé Nast I was too damned busy trying to get the money for the publishing.  Lohr, who is a couple of years younger than me, was already a pulp collector and volunteered for the job.  I think it took him three weeks to write the story.  If you read it, you’ll realize that he used characters from later Doc stories that Bantam had not gotten around to yet.  When the Doc Savage Journal was published there were only about 30 Bantam Doc adventures that had been printed.  Anyhow, Lohr lived in Bloomsburg, PA and he was only a phone call away.  He also had some writing experience and I liked his story, and he was the co-editor.  He was a good choice.  Also, because Lohr and I share the same initials, people thought I wrote the story.  I did not.  I didn’t have anything to do with it except for publishing it. However, it was my idea to do an updated Doc based on the trouble I was having researching Ghosts of Doom set during World War II.


Questions you didn’t ask on this email:

How did you come up with the name of your fanzine?   I used to read a monster magazine entitled Castle of Frankenstein.  In the back pages you could order their first magazine called The Journal of Frankenstein.  I liked journal best, but I had thought of other titles as well:  monthly, news, times, etc.


Why did you publish your first issue in May, 1969.  There were only a few methods of setting the type back in those days.  I got a quote from a man who had an advertising business.  He had a photo type machine that would have made a nice product.  But he wanted eight dollars a finished page.  I didn’t have that kind of money, so I went to Dickinson College where they published their student newspaper (The Dickinsonian) on a Varityper.  A Varityper is a giant typewriter that took a type bar (you just snapped in another type bar for other fonts and for italics), carbon film, and you typed your manuscript in column format and then typed it again and it would justify the type.  The typesetting cost me $40 dollars and was done by the editor of the college newspaper who thought 40 dollars was a lot of money.  There was also a second reason for publishing it in May. I would have copies to sell at the second comic book convention I went to in the summer of 1969.  I brought 100 copies and I almost sold out.  The other methods were an ad in the Rocket’s Blast Comic Collector and locally.  I sold more locally than any other way:  I sold 100 copies at the store where I bought my Bantam Docs.  The magazine sold for 45 cents a copy (but at the comic book convention they were a dollar).  I let the merchants and dealers have it for half price.



How did I meet other Doc fans?  The first time I ever saw a Bantam Doc Savage was in the hands of a student that rode the school bus with me.  He was about three years younger than me.  I did what other people did back in those days:  I made fun of him and called the character Doctor Savage.  When I discovered Doc for myself in 1965, I tried to make amends to this student, and after I read a few of the adventures myself, we became friends.  This student got my first copy of the Doc Savage Journal.  In later life he became an attorney.  I bumped into him about thirty years ago and he told me that he hadn’t read a Bantam Doc in years.  In high school there was a dedicated core of Doc fans, so we used to pass them around. I have a whole run of the Bantam editions and about three partial runs.  I never did give up on him.  When Will Murray came out with his editions I eagerly read those as well.  I didn’t think much of Escape to Loki by Philip Jose Farmer, good story but kind of tough to read.   Now as I get closer to 60 I’d like to believe that a bronze shadow watches over me.



Where did I buy my Bantam editions of Doc Savage?  When I was a teenager we had two fairly good retailers.  One was a magazine shop that had spindle racks for paperbacks, the other was a candy store.  I was a frequent customer of both.  I remember reading paperback reprints of the Shadow, the Spider, Captain Future, and the Phantom Detective as well.  I saved them all. There were no chain book stores in those days.   I kept up my Doc collection hoping my son would be interested, he wasn’t.  He found Harry Potter, but he and I watch the Doc Savage movie when in came out on VHS.  He liked it, but he was 10 years old at the time.  I personally hated the movie.  My son eventually found Harry Potter, which he liked.  I’d like to think that Doc Savage was Harry Potter of my generation.



Is there anything left of the original printing of the Doc Savage Journal?  No.  In 40 years I’ve lived in two states and have moved a dozen times.  Nothing remains with the exception of Lohr’s original manuscript (which I am holding for ransom).  The layout pages and the artwork are all gone, some of it was destroyed in an attic fire at my old homestead, the unfolded interior printed pages were salvaged kept in boxes in a barn, and they have been ravished by insects and bird excrement.  I have about two dozen copies of a facsimile edition that was printed up by Office Max and maybe five copies of the original printing. All of the artwork is gone as well.  I did some of the interior illustrations myself and they are long gone.  The letter from Condé Nast survived several of the plagues, But I haven’t seen it for twenty years.



Where are they now?  40 years is a long time.  The printer that did the Doc Savage Journal died about five years ago.  He was close to 80.  My business teacher from high school has to be either dead or nearing 100 by now.  The editor of the student newspaper that did the typesetting would be social security age by now.  The other student who helped me ink the interior illustrations became a Baptist preacher.  Both of the merchants where I used to buy my Bantam Docs have died and neither business exists any longer.  We eventually got an independent book store and a chain bookstore, but they are also gone.  They stayed in business long enough to for me to complete my Doc collection.    I’ve worked in radio most of my adult life and am still on the air in my hometown of Carlisle.  Lohr McKinstry is a writer and editor for a string of weekly newspapers in upstate New York (I pointed out to him that he probably lives close to where Doc used to have his college for reformed criminals).  I continue to keep a hand in the publishing industry.  I have been a researcher for author Max Allan Collins for the last twenty five years.  My articles on hard-boiled writers of the past have been in many magazines, and I am agent for several authors and have coeditor three books that collect the early work of the late Mickey Spillane.  I also have two collections of books coming out on Paul Cain (a writer from the glory days of Black Mask magazine) and another by a hard-boiled writer that was published only in sleaze paperbacks.  I still keep in touch with Lohr McKinstry.

P.S.  Doc’s birthday has been guesstimated to be November 12.  My birthday is November 11.  Go figure.


Doc Savage Journal trivia:  The cover of the Doc Savage Journal features a somewhat revised version of the cover of the Doc Savage pulp magazine featuring the story “Repel”.  This was a mistake.  Lohr had given me that original Doc pulp so I could see what the original magazine had looked like.  The printer, without my permission, ran it off because he didn’t want to clean the press and he had some leftover card stock.  It had already been decided that my magazine would have a red cover.  He had been running blue on that press, so he dabbed some red on the roller and I remember the first batch had a purple look to them.  I used it because it was done for free.  The cover I was going to use was done by a local artist and featured Doc punching out a bad guy.  I had furnished a copy of the Gold Key Doc Savage comic for her to get inspired by.  Her cover would have made the exterior match the interior —- the James Bama version of Doc with the exaggerated widow’s peak that went clear down to his nose hairs.

I also corresponded with Lohr McKinstry and he provided me with the following information about “Trail of Doomsday”:

Sure. I wrote it in 1969, shortly before Lynn printed it. He knew I’d written articles for a lot of fanzines, along with some short stories in the Texas-based Huh magazine, and we were big Doc fans then.

I think I was inspired by Peter Heath’s Mind Brothers trilogy that Lancer Books printed in the late ‘60s. I was reading REH, Dent, Gibson, Page and all the others at the time as well.

I found it interesting that Lohr had gotten inspiration from The Mind Brother’s Trilogy. I had read them in the late 1960s. The three novels were The Mind Brothers (1967), Assassins from Tomorrow (1967), and Men Who Die Twice (1968). The main characters were young mathematical whiz Jason Starr, genius and folk-singer Mark Brown, and Adam Cyber a virtual superman from 50,000 years in the future who has come back to the 1960s to prevent certain events from happening that would ultimately destroy his world. They had unlimited cash, unlimited libidos, plenty of high-tech toys, and powerful villains to match. One of the events that figured largely in Adam Cyber’s concern was the assassination of John Kennedy. If one were to try and update Doc Savage and bring him into the world of the 1960s, this series would indeed be a good model for it (except for the libido stuff). It also helps explain some of the plot elements of Trail of Doomsday.

{SPOILERS FOLLOW}

It was only natural that Lohr would try to transpose Doc Savage into the present day of 1969. It would have been far too hard for a teenage writer to place Doc in his real setting in the 1930s. Besides, a modern story would appeal to modern readers.

To bring Doc and his men into the present day, Lohr had them placed in suspended animation inside a cave by an unknown party who used high-tech machinery to preserve them. Doc and his men had disappeared in 1950 and no trace had been found of them until then. They were found and revived and the machinery self-destructs. There is a talking computer in this scene which was a real novelty in 1969. This all could represent future technology that has been sent into the past to preserve Doc and his men so that they might deal with some upcoming disaster. The source of the high tech gear is never revealed in Trail of Doomsday. Lohr obviously was planning to deal with this in a sequel.

Doc manages to salvage a mysterious egg-shaped object which he is unable to analyze. It is eventually dumped in the Atlantic Ocean for safety’s sake. This is reminiscent of the disposal of the infamous ‘Shining Trapezohedron’ described by H. P. Lovecraft in The Haunter of the Dark and by Robert Bloch in his sequel to that story The Shadow from the Steeple. I suspect that Lohr may have been inspired at this point by these stories.

Doc is rescued by the US Military who want to hire him, but he elects to remain on his own. Meanwhile, he effortlessly reclaimed his skyscraper headquarters and seemed to have access to funds and vehicles despite his having been missing for almost 20 years.

The writing to this point is amateurish and could have used some polishing.

Then the real adventure part of the story begins in which a ‘client’ shows up, the villains go after Doc, and the McGuffin of the story is revealed. This is the best part and I do not want to spoil it any further. Several new ideas are introduced which are interesting and which hold promise for further sequels. There is even a future plot line in which Pat Savage would figure prominently.

This part of the story moves rapidly and is very exciting. It left me wanting to read more stories based on this one. Alas, none have been written… yet.

For a variety of reasons I am not sure that this story could be introduced into the current continuity of established Doc Savage Chronologies such as those by Rick Lai, Jeff Deischer, and Win Eckert.

{End of Spoilers}

At this time I have made an inquiry at Condé Nast for permission to reprint Trail of Doomsday in The Big Book of Bronze series. At this point I have not heard from them, but I understand they are making inquiries concerning The Big Book of Bronze and I am hopeful that we will receive permission to republish this historic story sometime in the near future.

To check out Art Sippo’s latest project, please click on the link below:

Sun Koh, Heir to Atlantis by Art Sippo

View more on Amazon, here.

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