Saturday, November 14, 2009
Doc Savage and Uncomplicated Heroism
by Scott D. Parker
I’ve been thinking a lot about heroes recently, super heroes specifically. The comics industry lives and dies by heroes. The early pulp era had their share as well. I’ve been reading “The Land of Terror,” the second Doc Savage novel. Published in April 1933, this novel is darker than the debut book. Doc actually takes out some of the bad guys and doesn’t give it a second thought. I’ve read that this story is among the darkest of all the Savage novels Lester Dent wrote.
The thing that strikes me about Doc is his infallibility. Simply put, the man can do no wrong. He has his Fabulous Five (Monk, Ham, Renny, Long Tom, and Johnny) and Dent describes these guys as without peer in their respective area of expertise. Doc exceeds them all. Like Tarzan, Doc Savage is incorruptible and he shies away from the ladies. If he was a cowboy, he’d wear a white hat. You never have to worry if Doc will do the right thing. His word is good all across the globe. If Doc Savage is on the case, the public can breath easier. If you’re up to no good and Doc’s after you, winning is not an option for you. Plain and simple, Doc will prevail. He uncomplicated in his goodness.
Nowadays, all our heroes are all complicated and they wear gray hats. Hell, some of them wear the black hats. There’s nothing wrong with this kind of heroes and, frankly, they are interesting to read and follow. But where did the true-blue heroes go? Where are the heroes who, when they walk on stage, you don’t have to wonder what they’ll do?
More importantly, what happened to them? I’m pondering this question and one of the things I come up with is war. World War II, with all of its carnage and violence, spawned numerous literary creations, the hard-boiled, violent detective novels of writers like Mickey Spillane being but one example. Could a genuine hero like Doc Savage survive the war? Part of me thinks not. His magazine was cancelled just four years after V-E Day. Did our world become so complicated that an uncomplicated hero no longer fit in it?
I don’t have the answer although I think war and the violence of war is a factor. For those of you who wonder about things like this, what’s your take on uncomplicated heroes in a complicated world? Are there any out there now, on TV, in books, movies, or comics? If so, who are they? If not, why? Maybe we can think about this together.