I have returned from the jungled mountains of Brazil, renewed, a silly smile on my face, and ready to get back to work on the Doc Wilde adventures. I have a lot to write about, and will get to it as I can, but I wanted to share this cool news from friend of the Wildes and fellow pulpster Will Murray:
Eighty years ago in February, 1933 the Street & Smith company released the first issue of Doc Savage Magazine, introducing one of the most popular and influential pulp superheroes ever to hit the American scene. Doc Savage was the greatest adventure and scientist of his era, and while his magazine ended in 1949, he influenced the creators of Superman, Batman, Star Trek, The Man from UNCLE and the Marvel Universe—to name only a few.
While that first issue of Doc Savage was fresh on Depression newsstands, Universal Studios released one of the most important fantasy films of all time. Everyone knows the story of how King Kong was discovered on Skull Island and hauled back to New York in chains, only to perish tragically atop the world’s tallest skyscraper, the Empire State Building.
As it happened, that was where Doc Savage had his world headquarters. For decades, fans have wondered: Where was Doc the day Kong fell?
On the eightieth anniversary of these fictional giants, Altus Press is proud to release the first authorized clash between The Man of Bronze and the Eighth Wonder of the World—Doc Savage: Skull Island.Written by Will Murray in collaboration with Joe DeVito, creator of KONG: King of Skull Island, Doc Savage: Skull Island is a new pulp epic.
The story opens when Doc returns from his Fortress of Solitude in the North Pole to discover the cold corpse of Kong lying on his doorstep.
“I know this creature,” he tells his dumbfounded men.
Tasked to dispose of the remains, the Man of Bronze then tells the untold story of his epic encounter with Kong back in 1920, after Doc returns from service in World War I, long before Kong became King Kong.
Doc Savage: Skull Island is a multi-generational story in which Doc and his father—the man who placed him in the hands of scientists who made him into a superman—sail to the Indian Ocean in search of Doc’s grandfather, the legendary Stormalong Savage, whose famous ship has been discovered floating, deserted, her masts snapped by some incredible force.
The quest for Stormalong Savage leads to the fog-shrouded Indian Ocean—and Skull Island! There, Doc Savage faces his first great test as he encounters its prehistoric dangers and tangles with the towering, unstoppable Kong.
“When Joe DeVito brought this idea to me,” says Will Murray, “I knew it had to be written with reverence for both of these immortal characters. So I used the locale of Skull Island to tell a larger story, an untold origin for Doc Savage. It all started back on Skull Island….”
Doc Savage: Skull Island has already been hailed as “The Doc Savage novel that Doc fans have been waiting on for 80 years!”
Doc Savage: Skull Island is will be released in March, as the fifth entry in Altus Press’ popular Wild Adventures of Doc Savage series. Cover by Joe DeVito.
Note that the George Chastain image used above, cool as it is, is not the actual Joe DeVito cover art, which is not available yet but is sure to be incredible.
Murray and DeVito aren’t the first to explore a Doc Savage/King Kong connection. Philip Jose Farmer’s classic 1973 short story “After King Kong Fell” depicted the events on the street below after the mighty Kong plummeted, including a trademark-avoiding unnamed appearance by Savage, as well as another more shadowy pulp hero:
A minute later a big black limousine with flashing red lights and a siren pulled up. Standing on the running board was a giant with bronze hair and strange-looking gold flecked eyes. He jumped off the running board and strode up to the mayor, governor, and police commissioner and talked briefly with them. Tim Howller asked the man next to him what the giant’s name was, but the man replied that he didn’t know because he was from out of town also. The giant finished talking and strode up to the crowd, which opened for him as if it were the Red Sea and he were Moses, and he had no trouble at all getting through the police cordon. Tim then asked the man on the right of his parents if he knew the yellow-eyed giant’s name. This man, tall and thin, was with a beautiful woman dressed up in an evening gown and a mink coat. He turned his head when Tim called to him and presented a hawk like face and eyes that burned so brightly that Tim wondered if he took dope. Those eyes also told him that here was a man who asked questions, not one who gave answers. Tim didn’t repeat his question, and a moment later the man said, in a whispering voice that still carried a long distance, “Come on, Margo. I’ve work to do.” And the two melted into the crowd.
I’ve already seen some snotty comments from a few Farmer fans who think that Murray and DeVito doing this is somehow a slap in the face to Farmer, but as great as some of Farmer’s Doc Savage pastiche was, and as cool as his Wold-Newton literary games are, none of that stuff is actual Doc Savage canon, except for the one licensed Doc Savage novel he wrote, Escape From Loki (which is nowhere near as good as his “Doc Caliban” stories or his exceptional fictional biography, Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life). And as a grand player at literary games using other people’s characters in clever new ways, I seriously doubt Farmer would have had any issue with someone else exploring the territory he first tiptoed into. Also, as this is officially licensed by the rights holders to both Doc Savage and King Kong, it’s as canon as it’s possible to get at this point.
Incidentally, another creator who played a bit with Doc Savage and King Kong tropes was our very own Gary Chaloner, the artist and book designer on my Doc Wilde series, whose “Red Kelso” comic strip aspired to tell the “real” stories behind some of the classic pulp adventures and heroes (and inspired me to beg him to draw the Wildes):