Omnipresent Sunlight: Doc Savage’s archenemy – Part 5

In the first parts of this article, I explored the pulp magazine roots of the villain John Sunlight in the 1930’s novels Fortress of Solitude and The Devil Genghis, followed by his comic book incarnations, which began fifty years later. Marvel Comics, in the 1970’s, teased a story featuring Sunlight in their black and white Doc Savage Magazine, but the series was cancelled before that story was done. It was in the late 1980’s that DC Comics revived John Sunlight, in a four-part story arc entitled Sunlight Rising. That story was largely adept, faithful to its pulp origins, and highly entertaining. But the best was yet to come.

In late 1991, the rights to publish Doc Savage comics shifted to a maverick independent company, Millennium Publications. Right out of the gate they presented a hugely ambitious four-part story entitled The Monarch of Armageddon. The story would feature some of the most accurate depictions of the Doc Savage world ever done — really, not rivaled in the thirty years since its appearance. Here is the strong cast of creators and management for this tale:

Clear to any knowledgeable Doc Savage fan, the opening page takes place almost immediately after the conclusion of the 1937 novel The Devil Genghis. The character staggering through the clever first-page panel arrangement to collapse in the snow…is John Sunlight.

Author Mark Ellis (who is remarkably prolific to this day — please click on his name to read a listing of his novels and comics) and artist Darryl Banks immediately tapped into the zeitgeist of mainstream Doc Savage, setting the story in Doc’s 1930’s heyday, and making the characters true to their pulp origins.

The rest of the cast appears after a long prologue, and that prologue — which makes a seamless transition from The Devil Genghis — is in itself a master class of pulp writing and visual design.

Across four pages, we are given an indelible portrait of Sunlight’s character — his arrogance (intriguingly shaded by a moment of panic when Sunlight believes he is being confronted by Doc Savage), his incisive intelligence, his anger, his vision, and even his dry, sardonic humor.

By the time Sunlight delivers the last (quintessentially pulp) line of the prologue, there is no doubt that what will follow is going to be a tour-de-force of adventure storytelling.

To be continued…

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