Saturday, March 3, 2018

Doc Savage

I love pulps.  The cheesier the better sometimes.  But not Doc Savage, so much

The problem with Doc Savage is he is a Super Man. 

Sposebly the first superhero, and he has a utility belt like Batman, and Fortress of Solitude like Superman, but something about him leaves me cold.

He's the best at everything, and achieved all that with sheer will and constant training.  He is a perfected man, trained since birth, and with a mighty will he triumphs over everyone.  He won't kill.  Even when it is called for.  And yet he isn't beyond taking away all of someone's personality.  He thinks destroying a brain's identity is preferable to life in prison. 

He is privileged to carry a special badge, and can boss cops around and they extend him full deference, but he is not a police officer.

His purpose in life is to do good as he sees it, but nothing is said about the source of his values system.  He probably trained his ethics 'scientifically'.

He's like an Ayn Rand hero, in capability, with the impulses of an Ayn Rand villain.  His wealth?  From all his smarts?  No, he rooked a lotta gold from an isolated meso-American tribe in Central America.  He's got them slaving away, sending him 2 million, minimum, every other week.  

That whole Perfectability of Man business got us in a lot of trouble over the past century and even today.  The originator has an excuse, having created Doc Savage in the mid 30s before there were so many EXTRA fresh examples of what evil is wrought by the concept of an ubermensch

"But Superman and Batman are like that!  Perfected men."

Well, Superman is an alien, taught by mortal men.  His deal isn't being better than everyone else, like Savage.  His deal is always doing the right thing, even when it is impossible.  He is a Christ figure.  And truly can back that up.  A big blue boy scout.  Doc Savage is a mortal made god-like.  And that kind of hubris is not to be encouraged or you get nemesis. 

Batman?  He knows men are not angels, inherently good.  He knows what evil lies in the hearts of men.  Like the Shadow.

Plus Savage is taciturn enough to be unlikable.  He has his assistants, but they are supercargo.   The best in their fields of Chemistry or Engineering or the Law or Geology...  Well, second best.  They make a point that Doc Savage is better than them at their own specialty.  So what is the point of them?  Other than to bicker with each other.  Constantly.  It's aggravating. 

I think I will read something better after this.  Like Raffles the Cracksman.  Enough of this Progressive wet dream out of the New Deal.


The Neon Madman said...

Boy, that brings back memories. I read a fair amount of Doc Savage back -well, never mind how long ago. I pretty much agree with your assessment, too. There was also a fair amount of what would be considered racial stereotyping in a few that I remember as well, however that was not uncommon in those days.

John in Philly said...

Once you read Farmer's "A Feast Unknown," you never quite see Doc Savage or Tarzan in quite the same light!

Zendo Deb said...

All the golden age and silver age comics got caught up in the whole "not a vigilante" insanity.

Which is why The Punisher was sort of a relief. And V-for-Vendetta. It is also why I think the DC television re-imagining of the Green Arrow worked originally. He was a vigilante, without apology.

And do we want to talk about Sin City?

Zendo Deb said...

As for Superman "always" being good. The original story of Superman V Batman (not the travesty that the suits in Hollywood would green-light) was an examination of Lord Acton's "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely" maxim as applied to an all-powerful alien, tired of cleaning up the mess. (An aging Batman comes out of retirement to try and stop him.)

And Doc Savage was only the first 20th Century superhero. The oldest story we have - Gilgamesh - is pretty much a story about a superhero, who wasn't always good to the people around him. He even had a side-kick, Inkido.

Hercules, Perseus, Jason (?), Achilles and others could all be said to be superheros. The tales of the Celtic Heroes contain a few with out-sized powers, some of which could prove dangerous even to their allies.