“Doc Savage, Man of Bronze:” The Origin of the Superhero Group

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Cover art for Doc Savage magazine

Doc Savage and his oddly assorted team might be considered the progenitors of today’s “Fantastic Four” and many other teams of superheroes — even Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos.” -Stan Lee, creator of Marvel Comics’ “Spider-Man” and “The X-Men”

There are probably two reasons to read pulp fiction that’s 70, 80, 90, and even 100 years old. The first is that you’re a true fan of the genre. The second is, if not for these ancient heroes, we wouldn’t have the modern ones that, at least up until recently, were box office blockbusters at the movies.

In the mid-1960s as I was about to enter Junior High, I didn’t realize these stories existed and more, I didn’t know that various publishers had finally convinced the owners of these older properties to allow them to appear as paperbacks. It was the perfect time for me. I was the age and sex of the target audience, and the average price for a paperback was around 40 to 60 cents a copy. Heck, back then, even a comic book cost 12 cents.

So Edgar Rice Burroughs’ entire Tarzan and John Carter of Mars book series abruptly appeared in mall bookstores all across the country. So did E.E. “Doc” Smith’s Lensman and Skylark series along with what Robert E. Howard and every other author under the sun wrote about Conan the Barbarian.

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