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– by David Kozlowski

Who was the first superhero? From a strictly comic book point-of-view you’d be right to say Superman or Batman. Both heroes emerged during the late 1930s and were soon followed by Wonder Woman, Captain America, Captain Marvel (aka Shazam), Green Arrow, Green Lantern, The Flash, and more in the 1940s — this was the Golden Age of comics (1930-1950). However, these weren’t the first superheroes. You have to go back a little further to the pulps, cheap fiction magazines known for their beautifully painted and often salacious cover art; titles included: Argosy, Amazing Stories, Black Mask and more — there were upwards of 150 pulp magazines published during their peak (1920-1930). Many great (and not so great) writers cut their teeth in the pulps, such as Robert E. Howard (Conan, Kull) and Edgar Rice Burroughs (Tarzan, John Carter). During this time classic pulp characters arose, such as: The Shadow, Zorro, and The Phantom… and maybe the most famous of them all was The Man of Bronze: Doc Savage.

Clark “Doc” Savage, Jr., was a doctor, scientist, adventurer, inventor, and explorer with an incredible physique capable of great feats of strength, incredible reflexes, telescopic vision, and incredible hearing… he was essentially, Batman, Superman, Daredevil, James Bond, and Indiana Jones all wrapped into one character. Savage also led a small team of diverse rogues and ex-military men with specific skill sets — basically precursors to the Avengers or the Justice League. Great character, right? Street & Smith published over 180 Doc Savage paperbacks (many with awesome monochromatic covers by James Bama). The character has inspired everyone from Stan Lee to Frank Darabont to James Cameron who took cracks at making Doc Savage movies. More recently, Shane Black (Lethal Weapon, Iron Man 3, Predator) has signed on to create a Doc Savage film starring Dwayne Johnson, which created a lot of interest and excitement in the media. Black recently met with PureGrainAudio to share his thoughts and progress on his Doc Savage film:

“I don’t know right now because I’m busy editing Predator. Editing has begun, so that’s a process not of weeks, but months. Predator is still a focus and will be until November at least. Along the way, I’ll see where things land and the chips fall. We talked about Doc Savage with Dwayne Johnson, but Dwayne’s dance card is pretty full.”

Well, that’s hardly reassuring. Dwayne Johnson certainly has the build, wit, and popularity required to properly bring this epic character to life, but since 2013 he’s been averaging five to six films per year, so there’s not a lack of interest in making this film, it’s more a constraint of time. Sigh.

Black adds a little more (depressing) detail:

“If there’s a slot for us, I don’t know. There might be, I think he wants to do it but you don’t always win. So if that’s the case I might have to shift to something. I’m open to it and I’ll just roll with it. In the meantime, if I have an idea that I think I want to sit down and write by myself, I’ll do that too. The only thing I want to create is something prolific, especially as I get older. I don’t know what I’ll do next after Predator, but I do know that I owe it to myself to first and foremost is to be prolific and not just drift.”

So maybe there won’t be a Doc Savage film anytime soon. Perhaps that’s a good thing, as it’s proving ever more challenging for Hollywood to resurrect classic characters and timeworn stories (King Arthur, The Mummy, John Carter), but in the right hands this property has amazing potential… if only The Rock wasn’t so damned busy! What’s your interest level for a Shane Black-directed Doc Savage film starring Dwayne Johnson? Let us know in the comments down below!

  • Kenneth Martin

    It’s about time! Doc, Patricia, and the fabulous five deserve to be in a block buster film! Especially during times of trouble again in the world!

David Kozlowski is a writer, podcaster, and visual artist. A U.S. Army veteran, David worked 20 years in the videogame industry and is a graduate of Arizona State University's Film and Media Studies.