Doc Savage #8 The Crimson Plague 1977 – Final Marvel Magazine Appearance

In a funereal foreward by Editor John Warner , Marvel reveals this issue would be the final Marvel magazine of Doc Savage with hopes they may continue it in the future. Unlike the fantastic sword and Sorcery character Conan the Barbarian, Doc Savage was a Pulp Hero too generic for contemporaneous readers of the time. After all, the audience was hungry for the grim side of horror and darkness of fantasy after the veil of censorship had finally been lifted on the gruesome content excluded from comics for decades.

Thus Doc Savage character fell back into obscurity among mainstream genre fans. Nowadays, you’d be hard-pressed to seek any fan at a comic-con that could list a factoid or two about Doc or his 5-pack team of crusading geniuses. Known as the Man of Bronze, Doc Savage excelled in his own adventure series during the golden age of pulp magazines from 1933 to 1949. With the intelligence of a mastermind and the brutality of a prize fighter, Doc Savage skirmished with ravenous dinosaurs, ferocious polar bears, nefarious madmen, and countless other formidable adversaries. In the 1960s, the character was re-birthed in paperback form by bantam books as they released a 200 issue series reprinting his greatest adventure stories from the pulp era. With lurid cover art, Doc Savage’s popularity spurred Marvel to adapt the original superhero to Magazine/comic book form in the 1970s. Alas, the glory was limited as the series was short-lived.

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The story in his Marvel swan song was surprisingly not an adaptation of one the pulp stories. Instead, the cover has him grappling with a lovecraftian squid creature, the Octo-brain.

At their headquarters on the 86th floor of the empire state building in 1930s New York, Renny receives an invitation to star in a Hollywood film. Needing an agent, Ham suggests himself to represent him on the trip. Meanwhile, Doc Savage returns from a grueling quarrel that claimed the life of his biochemical friend in Acapulco. Doc was galliant enough to ward off the fearsome apparition of the octo-brain, which zaps the intelligence of its victims.

In tinsel town, Renny and Ham were lured there as a ruse to be captured by 0cto-brain. Agile Hollywood stuntmen act as the the octo-brain’s henchmen to pummel and seize its victims. The remainder of Doc’s crew set out to save octo-brain’s next targets– a French Botanist in Paris, and an a British astronomer.

Without Doc Savage accompanying them, the crew is overcome and kidnapped by the synergistic team-up of acrobatic stuntmen and stifling tentacles of Octo-Brain.

The Victims are brought back to the mastermind’s headquarters in Los Angeles. The motivation for these astute captives comes to light as Doc Savage closes in on the villain. A labyrinthine machine is generating the octo-brain’s power. A megalomaniac named Randolph Dorn has hooked his brain up to a brain bank to leech off the knowledge of his brilliant victims. Every appearance by him with the stuntman was a projected illusion cast onto noxious gas.

 

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Randolph Dorn, Octo-Brain mastermind

Defeating his moment of glory, Doc Savage wallops Dorn in his humongous brain, shattering all the knowledge that he had gained. Dorn’s ultimate goal was to consume Doc’s brain, which he considered the greatest mind of all. However, Dorn is finally thwarted when Doc Savage tosses him into the volatile machine, engendering it to explode, frying Dorn’s brain to a crisp.

Back at the hospital, Doc is able to re-install the brains of the victims by reversing the psychological manipulation. Dorn never brain washed them, only copying their knowledge. Savage was able to unlock the hypnotic repression of their affliction.

Overall: The expansive storyline kept me entertained, however generic the plot was. Doc Savage’s crew are a creative bunch with a perfect mixture of wit and humor. It’s sad this character hasn’t caught on with much success because the adventures seem endless with this bunch. The Doc Savage world has the flexibility of being sci-fi, fantasy, and action. Expect more Doc Savage reviews as I procure more of the Bantam novels.

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JBM

Literary Heathen

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