Doc Savage: Skull Island
by Will Murray, cover illustration by Joe DeVito
Doc Savage vs. King Kong!
Eighty years ago in February, 1933 the Street & Smith company released the first issue of Doc Savage Magazine, introducing one of the most popular and influential pulp superheroes ever to hit the American scene. Doc Savage was the greatest adventurer and scientist of his era, and while his magazine ended in 1949, he influenced the creators of Superman, Batman, Star Trek, The Man from UNCLE and the Marvel Universe—to name only a few.
While that first issue of Doc Savage was fresh on Depression newsstands, RKO Radio Pictures released one of the most important fantasy films of all time. Everyone knows the story of how King Kong was discovered on Skull Island and hauled back to New York in chains, only to perish tragically atop the world’s tallest skyscraper, the Empire State Building.
As it happened, that was where Doc Savage had his world headquarters. For decades, fans have wondered: Where was Doc the day Kong fell?
On the eightieth anniversary of these fictional giants, Altus Press is proud to release the first authorized clash between The Man of Bronze and the Eighth Wonder of the World—Doc Savage: Skull Island. Written by Will Murray in collaboration with Joe DeVito, creator of KONG: King of Skull Island, Doc Savage: Skull Island is a new pulp epic.
The story opens when Doc returns from his secret retreat in the North Pole to discover the cold corpse of Kong lying on his doorstep.
“I know this creature,” Doc tells his dumbfounded men.
Tasked to dispose of the remains, the Man of Bronze then relates the untold story of his epic encounter with Kong back in 1920, after Doc returns from service in World War I, long before Kong became known to the civilized world as “King” Kong.
Doc Savage: Skull Island is a multi-generational story in which Doc and his father—the man who placed him in the hands of scientists who made him into a superman—sail to the Indian Ocean in search of Doc’s grandfather, the legendary Stormalong Savage, whose famous clipper ship has been discovered floating, deserted, her masts snapped by some incredible force.
The quest for Stormalong Savage leads to the fog-shrouded Indian Ocean and—Skull Island! There, Doc Savage faces his first great test as he encounters its prehistoric dangers and tangles with the towering, unstoppable Kong.
“When Joe DeVito brought this idea to me,” says Will Murray, “I knew it had to be written with reverence for both of these immortal characters. So I used the locale of Skull Island to tell a larger story, an untold origin for Doc Savage. It all started back on Skull Island….”
“Pulling off the first ever face-off between Doc Savage and King Kong was both challenging and exhilarating,” adds DeVito. “Will’s unique take on the tale scatters the primordial mists surrounding Skull Island long enough to reveal secrets of both classic characters hidden since their creation.”
Doc Savage: Skull Island has already been hailed as “The Doc Savage novel that Doc fans have been waiting on for 80 years!”
Doc Savage: Skull Island will be released in March, as the fifth entry in Altus Press’ popular Wild Adventures of Doc Savage series.
A review by Jim Beard
If you’re like me, you probably wondered what exactly we’d be getting in the new Doc Savage novel, SKULL ISLAND, it being both a Doc story featuring King Kong and a way to celebrate the 80th anniversaries of both legendary creations. Well, after reading the book, I’m happy to report that author Will Murray’s put some definite heart and soul into it and crafted what is now my most favorite of the recent “Wild Adventures of Doc Savage” series of novels.
But, that said, it’s different from just about any other Doc book you’ve ever read, something we’re clued in on by the “Will Murray” byline and the absence of the traditional “Kenneth Robeson” house name.
For me, the story was literally one that I didn’t want to put down; it’s that engaging. It begins at the end, right after Kong’s infamous nosedive off the Empire State Building, which leads directly to Doc’s involvement – or, rather, his telling of a tale to his aides of when he first met the giant simian. Yes, the great majority of the novel is a flashback to Doc Savage’s early days and therein is found its fascinating core. In essence, what we have here is the heretofore Secret Origin of Doc Savage.
Doc and his father – yes, you read that right; his father – head off on a quest for Doc’s grandfather, Stormalong Savage, which takes them into strange waters and exotic climes…and ultimately Skull Island. There they run afoul of enemies of many different stripes and discover wonders beyond their imagining. And a humongous ape-like “god-beast” called Kong.
Murray’s defining of the relationship here between Clark Senior and Clark Junior is practically worth the price of admission alone. This is a young Doc, fresh out of World War I and not exactly the bronze hero of the pulp adventures we know so well, and it’s with that admission that I can see some potential backlash with diehard Doc fans. This is a Doc who has not quite found his mission in life yet, nor honed all his skills and formed his famous tenets – most especially the rule against killing. This Doc kills and kills in often savage ways, which at points drenches the narrative in a bloodbath that may even disturb some readers. But, and it’s important to point this out, there’s a method behind Murray’s seeming madness – it all leads to something and something significant, namely the forging of the Doc Savage of the famous pulp adventures. And Murray does this all with style and careful thought and exciting imagery and action.
One of the things I loved about this novel is its use of language, precisely that which flies back and forth between elder and younger Savage in many bouts of witty verbal “fencing.” Will Murray has obviously crafted all his Doc books with care, but in SKULL ISLAND I believe I saw even more attention to detail, to dialogue, to atmosphere and to adventure. The story moves right along, only slightly bogging down a bit past its mid-section, and really defines the term “page turner.” Murray gives this one his best and finest and the book benefits from that in ways too numerous to list.
As I said before, this is a story of origins. Here we learn the origin of Doc’s trilling, of his disdain of guns and his inexhaustible search for knowledge, even the origin of the Hidalgo Trading Co. hanger. We also discover more information on the Savage family then we’ve ever had revealed to us before and hints of not only some of Doc’s other early adventures – did you know he was on the Titanic? – but also those of his father and grandfather, both famous explorers in their own right. Heck, we even hear about Doc’s uncle, another adventurer in the family. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the author is suggesting here that readers might care to hear more of these adventures, as separate works.
But, again, it’s the relationship between father and son that really stands out in the novel, one that careens between dysfunctional and loving, and it’s that which will stay with me for some time to come. In fact, knowing the fate of Clark Savage Senior in 1933’s MAN OF BRONZE will perhaps add another layer of pathos to your reading of SKULL ISLAND.
And, oh yes, King Kong is here, too. You will discover much more about his origins, also, as well as Skull Island’s original inhabitants. And that’s all fascinating as well. Dinosaur fans will especially have reason to love this book. Kong and his environs are not given short shrift in the slightest; the King looms over this book with all the weight and gravity he deserves.
In all, I’m a richer pulp fan for having read SKULL ISLAND. Will Murray takes our expectations and delivers upon them while still striking off on his own path, assembling a story that will please both Savage and Kong aficionados and remind us all just how cool pulp can be. There’s heart and soul here, like I said, and I for one can’t quite see how Murray will manage to top this one….but I know he will, somehow.
Get this book and settle in for a trip to the South Seas and beyond, Savage style.
About the Series
Doc Savage was the most successful pulp adventure hero of his time. From 1933 to 1949, Lester Dent and other writers penned 182 original exploits of the Man of Bronze and his iron-fisted friends, writing as Kenneth Robeson.
Scientist. Surgeon. Strongman. Superman. Doc Savage was a man without equals. He operated on a global stage, fighting supercrime, discovering lost cities, stopping wars, and uplifting a troubled mankind during the depths of the Great Depression.
Now, in these difficult times, Doc returns in a new series of untold exploits conceived by his originator and brought to life by Lester Dent's natural successor, Will Murray.
The Wild Adventures of Doc Savage is no updating or reimagining of a classic character. This is the authentic Man of Bronze in his own era, taking on new challenges and conquering a new generation of foes and fans.
Doc Savage is back. For real.