Thursday, March 10, 2011

Doc Savage (no relation to Michael or Dan)

That pulp novel above is from 1982. It was a little late to be milking the cool out of some radio affiliation. By the 1980s broadcasting was being taken for granted. But this is how I discovered Doc Savage. I had missed the 180 some other magazines somehow, probably the same way I happen to miss those Danielle Steel novels.This one had the key phrase "Radio Exploits."  That's just the kind of thing that gets me curious.

Radio history is filled with cases where actors moved from medium to medium, usually from radio to Television. Fictional characters often made the leap too, but it's rare that one so obscure has held on so long. Here is a case where a fictional character came from a pulp magazine in the 1933 and moved into radio, then into books, then eventually a movie in 1967. But the character didn't die there. Unlike most of his peers in that golden radio era, he lived on in a series of pulp novels into the 1980s. Then inexplicably he was resurrected on radio in 1985 by NPR. Just last Fall Variety printed an article that the film was back on schedule minus Schwarzenegger. I guess that makes it time to revisit his radio exploits.  

Doc Savage was created by the Street and Smith publishing company. They were the makers of the Shadow pulp Magazine based on the famous radio program. Publisher Henry W. Ralston, and editor John L. Nanovic crafted the basic frame work. But it was writer Lester Dent who crafted most of his stories. Marilyn Cannaday wrote a nice biography of Dent, Bigger than life: the creator of Doc Savage. The bio is gentle but Dent was some kind of manic hyper-graphic type: a 200-lb man dictating 60,000 words a week into a Dictaphone including all 26 original radio scripts. The Doc Savage Magazine was printed by Street and Smith from 1933 into 1949—a total of 181 issues.

There were three Doc Savage radio series, the first two were broadcast during the time the pulp mag was in circulation. The first was in 1934 a series of 15-minute shows. It ran for 26 episodes on the Don Lee network. It did well enough to get national syndication. So far as I know there are no surviving transcriptions. In 1943 Street and Smith tried again this time over WMCA-AM in New York City. that series went on for another 26 episodes. In 1985, NPR ran 13 half-hour episodes of The Adventures of Doc Savage. These were all-new original scripts but based on the existing cannon.

I suspect that after all these years that Doc Savage is done with radio. But Bantam books reprinted a string of the the original Street and Smith Doc Savage mags in 1964 reinvigorating the series. that's part of the reason the books were still being published in the 1980s. With a feature film pending, it's always possible for a fourth radio series.