The next issue of the Marvel/Curtis Doc Savage magazine was #2, and it sported a cover by Ken Barr.
Though dynamic, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. Certainly there are some nods to the iconic James Bama in its composition (the menacing figure looming in the upper background was a stylistic technique that Bama used frequently), but the serpent-man fighting with Doc was at least mildly troubling…”creature feature” monsters were not really in line with the storytelling of the Doc pulps.
This was of course the era of Marvel’s monster/horror craze, so perhaps an effort was being made to visually channel those (then popular) books. But the seventeen year old Doc fan (yours truly) who grabbed the issue off the newsstand and hurried home with it to read, was hopeful the magazine wasn’t abruptly going off the rails to become another Marvel monster mag.
I needn’t have worried.
Note from the credits of this first page that John Buscema was absent from the artist notation — this issue was drawn entirely by Tony DeZuniga, who had inked Buscema in Issue #1. DeZuniga’s visuals would ultimately be the unifying element of this run of Doc Savage magazine…the pencil art would go through quite a varied cast of creators, but the overall look of the series remained consistent, thanks to DeZuniga’s steady presence either on pencils or inks (the only issue where he was not a contributor was the final one).
Doug Moench returns as the author (and he would write all eight issues of the series). Moench had something of an addiction to wordy titles…the “Hell Reapers” of the cover blurb gets another five words tacked onto it here in the opening interior page.
The 1930’s setting is evoked well in this issue as it was in the series’ opening tale — the cityscape and clothing of the characters puts the reader right into the correct milieu.
The Viking who bursts into Thorne Shaw’s office has a Dent-like quirky outrageousness to it (and at least for the moment, put to rest my concerns about serpent-men)…and the story is off and running.
The opening confrontation is brief, and the story promptly pivots to the next morning, with Monk and Ham arriving at the Empire State building. (Nice to see Habeus Corpus making his first appearance in this series, too.) Lester Dent and the other Kenneth Robesons of the pulps never could seem to resist spotlighting Monk and Ham’s perpetual quarrel, and obviously neither can Moench. But the verbal repartee is fairly adept, displaying the intelligence of both men alongside their more juvenile behavior. Though the Monk/Ham feud would get a lot of play in this series, Moench wisely refrained (at least for the most part) from making them clowns.
Up they go to the 86th, where they quickly join the rest of the aides as they prepare to meet with a mysterious individual who has reached out for assistance.
The (apparent) blind man settles in and begins a remarkable tale of a lost expedition in the far north.
This is all solid pulp stuff, and ties in nicely with the naming of Thorne Shaw (who we saw in the opening sequence) as one of the expedition members. As these developments proceed, it’s becoming clear that this story is going to be a “lost world” yarn, which was of course, a staple of the pulps.
In a similar device to the introductory technique used in Issue #1, Doc is brought into the story rather subtly…listening to developments remotely as he approaches in the autogyro.
The stage is set for Doc to cut through all obfuscation (as Johnny might phrase it)…as he promptly unmasks Sandy Taine as a woman.
I was, by this point, very pleased with the way this story was shaping up. All the elements were in place for a classic pulp tale.
to be continued…