With issue #6 of Dynamite Entertainment’s Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze, the story’s timeline (which had begun in the 1930’s) crossed over the boundary of the year 2000, bringing Doc into the Millennium.
Writer Chris Roberson had used a plot device to carry Doc through the years essentially unaged, but by 2000 all of the original characters from the pulp adventures were gone, with the exception of his cousin Pat (who was aging, but at a slow rate).
The time period after 1949 (when the original pulps had come to an end) was virgin literary territory to explore, and for the most part Roberson told interesting stories, capturing the feel of the decades from the 1950’s through the 1990’s pretty well. The antagonists of the stories were less the supervillain type and more reflections of the troubles of the times, with Doc pitting his endless qualities of optimism and inventiveness against terrorism, cult inculcation, industrial greed and recklessness in the advances of technology.
This approach had really come to provide the heart within the long story arc, and though — as I pointed out in the last part of this article exploring the Dynamite Entertainment Doc — the story had at times a static, documentary-style feel, it was relentless in its message that hope and personal responsibility were qualities that shaped and brought true advancement to the world. A very positive message that was enormously appealing.
The earnestness of that message was clearly communicated in a scene taking place in 1979 in an earlier issue…a young woman named Tamsin, cynical, angry and despairing about the future, is swayed by Doc’s belief that the present and future can be changed for the better (even though she refers to him as a “corny old sod”). She would become one of the new aides on Doc’s team (with a personality a bit more memorable than most of the new characters). Doc himself, after experiencing something of a “dark night of the soul”, emerges from the story re-energized in his vision and mission.
One aspect of Bilquis Evely’s visual depiction of Doc is a degree of adolescence, even boyishness in his manner. I found that a little hard to get used to while reading these stories, but ultimately found it endearing.
By the year 2000, an interesting infrastructure for Doc’s activities has emerged. During the Great Depression, Doc did a huge amount behind the scenes to support the overall workings of society. He was a silent partner in many businesses that he essentially kept from collapse, in addition to his globe-spanning adventures. In this story, his endeavors are far more open. He has built an immense organization that has integrated itself directly into all levels from the everyday life of the common man, to world events.
Doc himself still takes direct action in dangerous situations, like this one, where a despotic regime has brainwashed children into becoming soldier/slaves.
A crisis arises where worldwide computer systems are hacked, and Doc’s organization, which was hugely dependent on computer automation, essentially crashes, causing significant chaos. It was an intriguing play on one of the frightening issues of the time, the so-called Y2K event (in which there was great worry that a flaw in the way computers were structured would cause massive worldwide breakdowns as internal computer timeclocks switched over from 20th century time calculation to the year 2000). The catastrophe some predicted never materialized, but this story provided an intriguing extrapolation into what that social/economical/technical disaster might have looked like.
After restoring a semblance of order, Doc (practical as ever), returns manual safeguards to the system, and works on new ways to bring efficiency back to previous levels.
This basic theme (the potential unraveling of society through a mixture of error and malicious intent by dangerous individuals) would continue as the series progressed. An interesting exploration of the “one man changing the world” tone of the Depression-era tales evolving into a “one man working in partnership with the world” philosophy for the new millennium.
to be continued…