Beauology 101: Doc Savagely Good!

Come, Embrace My Words!--Beau Smith

Come, Embrace My Words!–Beau Smith

by Beau Smith

There’s a lot to say about living a long life and having experience, mostly because you’ve lived a long life, so the experiences stack up.

There’s also a lot to be said about being young and innocent, lacking experience…or being stupid..which most of us have been at some point in our youth.

What I truly mean is that there is a huge enjoyment about lacking experience and the reward is earning, or gaining, knowledge as you roll or stumble along through life.

A part of my youthful enjoyment came from books, comic books, TV, and movies—Popular Culture. A lot of it became benchmarks in my life that I always have to refer to. One that stands out for me is Doc Savage.

Doc Savage: Man Of Bronze Bantam Books Cover By James Bama

Doc Savage: Man Of Bronze Bantam Books Cover By James Bama

In late grade school I discovered the Bantam Books paperback adventures of Doc Savage. Those novels followed me all through junior high, high school, and even into college. I have to admit that the James Bama covers were what caught my eye as a kid when I browsed the shelves of Nick’s Newsstand in my hometown of Huntington, West Virginia. Nick’s News was a cornerstone in my life where I found and bought many of the comic books that would become my career.

If you’re reading this column, then more than likely you know of the artist James Bama. The Manhattan born artist was incredibly popular in my life because not only did he paint the incredible, eye catching Doc Savage Bantam Book covers, he also did tons of commercial paintings for toys, models, and other pop culture items of my youth in the 1960s. I was familiar with his Western Art as well. As a kid, his cowboy and western paintings were just the type of art that held my young eyes captive. It was as if James Bama had the same pictures in his mind that I did, only he was able to put them to paper and canvas. I still marvel at how anyone could ever draw that well. His work has always struck a chord with me, as a kid and as an adult.

I feel he reached an untouched level of greatness with his Doc Savage covers. How could anyone resist buying these books if they saw them on the stands? I couldn’t.

Doc Savage-The Majii And The Golden Man

Doc Savage-The Majii And The Golden Man

The best part of discovering Doc Savage paperbacks was that the stories inside equally matched the painted covers by Bama. The author was listed under the name of Kenneth Robeson, which many years later I discovered was a “House Name” used by various writers in the publisher’s hire. The bulk, if not all, of the Doc Savage books were written by Lester Dent, creator of Doc Savage.

Dent’s stories were not written for children, meaning they were not as many of today’s books, dumbed down for kids. I also don’t mean they were “Adult” as far as cuss words, sex and gore, they were true adventures with action. Yes, there were more times than not that I had to look words up in the dictionary, but Stan Lee had me doing that with Marvel Comics of the ‘60s. That’s a good thing.

Lester Dent churned these stories out. I have read where he wrote a book a month! Each book averaged around 140 pages. There were some occasions where he did two a month. This is just the Doc Savage books. He was also writing all sorts of other stories and prose as well at the time. Lester Dent was the definition of Prolific. Others of that time were, but I don’t believe any others had the high content that Dent did. Just my opinion.

The Doc Savage books got me into the novel adventures of The Shadow, The Avenger as well as the work of Edgar Rice Burroughs. I cannot think of better fiction to grow up reading than these. It formed so much of my own writing career as well as deep respect of how to tell a story filled with character and action with intelligence.

I can remember being completely stunned one day when I read the copyright to the story I was reading was 1933. WHAT….1933??? That was older than my parents. That got me to do some searching, which was harder way back before the internet. Being young, I was amazed that stories so good and so relevant were written so long ago. Being a teenager, nothing old was cool, but I was given a lesson in respect that day.

Ron Ely As Doc Savage 1975

Ron Ely As Doc Savage 1975

I cannot tell you how many times I have read, re-read, bought, and bought again these Doc Savage Bantam Books. They are a treasure for all ages. I also have to tell you that in 1975 when the Doc Savage-Man Of Bronze film was released, I was skeptical. I had already been “tricked” with the 1966 Batman TV show. Tricked meaning I wasn’t expecting the camp version. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed and grew to love it for what it was, but I was expecting a serious Batman show, just as James Bond was a serious film.

In 1975 I also knew that technology really wasn’t ready to produce Doc Savage on the level the books had. I knew technology as a whole really wouldn’t be able to bring The Fantastic Four, Superman, or The Avengers to any kind of level that would be as awe inspiring as the comic books. I still feel I was correct in this thinking. The Superman movies were state of the art for the time in the ‘70s, but even then I knew they weren’t good enough to coming close to matching what was in the comic books. I enjoyed them for what they were, but it was more settling for me than a home run. I’m very thankful that I have lived long enough to see technology catch up with comic books being able to represent the content on TV and the big screen. Even more proud that I could have a creation of my own represented on the TV screen in the manner I created it (Wynonna Earp). I cannot begin to explain that feeling to you.

I realize I may have rambled a bit in this column this week, but my main point is that from the 1930s to present day 2018, the Doc Savage books are as relevant entertainment now as they were so many decades ago. I don’t hesitate in the least to recommend you picking one up and reading it yourself or giving it to a child of 11 and letting them discover the same thrills people of all ages have for many, many decades.

Doc Savage And His Fabulous Five

Doc Savage And His Fabulous Five

I look forward to the possible upcoming Doc Savage film starring Dwayne Johnson. I believe he is a perfect choice to play the part and I know technology is more than ready. My only hesitation now is that I pray they cast his “Fabulous Five” team to match that within the books, especially the character, Monk.

If you get the chance, find a copy of a Bantam Books Doc Savage and enjoy the best 140 pages of action/adventure you’ll ever read.


Beau Smith

The Flying Fist Ranch

@BeauSmithRanch on Instagram and Twitter



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