Azzarello Reimagines Doc Savage

First teased back in May by DC Comics on its blog The Source, Doc Savage is making his return to comics this November in a one-shot co-starring Batman.

The special, not unlike the Jeph Loeb/Darwyn Cooke "Batman/The Spirit" one-shot that introduced Denny Colt to new readers in 2007, will lead directly into a six-issue miniseries in 2010 featuring Doc Savage, Batman, The Spirit and several other non-superpowered DCU heroes and classic Street and Smith characters like The Avenger.

Brian Azzarello ("100 Bullets") will write both the "Batman/Doc Savage" Special, illustrated by Phil Noto, and the miniseries, illustrated by Rags Morales, and the Eisner Award-winning writer spoke with CBR News after details of Doc Savage's upcoming appearances were discussed during the DC Nation Panel at Chicago Comic-Con this past weekend.

Doc Savage was created in 1933 by Street and Smith Publications' Henry Ralston, editor John Nanovic and Lester Dent, the main writer of the pulp magazine series. Street and Smith originally published 181 issues of "Doc Savage" Magazine between 1933 and 1949. Doc was portrayed as a superb physician, surgeon, scientist, adventurer, inventor, explorer, researcher, and musician and Dent himself compared him to Sherlock Holmes, Tarzan and Abe Lincoln.

In the 1960s, Bantam Books reprinted all 181 stories, plus one unpublished novel, bringing the character that influenced future fictional heroes ranging from Superman and Batman to James Bond and Indiana Jones to a new generation of readers (for instance, Doc's real name is Clark Savage Jr., and his secret hideaway in the Arctic is known as the Fortress of Solitude).

While he's been featured in a movie and radio serials, Doc's also no stranger to comics. He appeared in DC Comics between 1987 and 1990 in a four-issue miniseries and a 24-issue ongoing series mostly written by Mike W. Barr and Savage tales have also been told by Marvel, Gold Key Comics, Millennium Publications and Dark Horse over the years.

CBR: What were your thoughts on Doc Savage coming into this project? Are you a long-time fan or did you have more of a working knowledge of the character?

BRIAN AZZARELLO: "Fan" might be a strong word but I was definitely aware of him. I read a lot of books when I was younger. If [DC] wanted Doc Savage straight ahead Doc Savage, I probably wouldn't be involved but the way that we're doing it, I'm pretty excited about it.

Did you bring DC the idea of doing a Doc Savage series or did DC seek you out?

I've been kind of involved with this for a long time. [DC Executive Editor] Dan DiDio knew I was a fan of this stuff. I just called myself a fan so I guess that makes me one, right? [laughs] He'd been trying to acquire the rights for a while and we got them, he told me and it was like, "Let's do this." And it just went from there.

The plan right now is to introduce Doc Savage to readers in the "Batman/Doc Savage" Special and that's going to lead into a project called, "First Wave." Is that correct?

I don't know what it's going to be called but it's not going to be called "First Wave." That title just doesn't do anything for me. It's not evocative.

Before we discuss the series, let's talk about the one-shot. Is that story set in current DCU continuity?

No. No, no, no. We have our own continuity. That's what we're creating here. It's something brand new. We're taking old characters and creating something new with them.

So is it set in present day?

It's timeless. There are airships and cell phones. Computers and Tommy guns. Trains are a viable form of transportation. For lack of a better touchstone, think "Batman: The Animated Series." Was that in the 1940s or was that now?

Will the "Batman/Doc Savage" one-shot stand alone or does it roll into what you're doing with Rags Morales in the series?

It will roll in but it's definitely going to stand on its own. We're setting up the rules that we're going to play by.

So if Batman exists in this world does Superman?

Batman, yes. Superman, no. The world that we're creating has no superpowers.

Is Bruce Wayne Batman in this world?


Was a world without superpowers one of your stipulations for taking on this project?

Dan came to me because he wanted that kind of world. The pinnacle of humanity in this world is Doc Savage. He's top of the food chain.

Will readers need prior knowledge of Doc Savage heading into the one-shot or the series?

What. Do you think I want 10 guys reading this?

Ten guys in their seventies.

Those 10 guys in their seventies are going to be the guys who get pissed off. "He obviously doesn't understand Doc Savage. That's not my Doc Savage" That's exactly what I want them to say.

But I guess your hope is to bring them around, as well?

What I've found is when people hate what you're doing, they follow it even closer. But this is not for them. We're taking these characters and like I said, we're creating something new. They can be made relevant and viable.

What makes Doc Savage work as a hero for today's generation of readers?

It's surprising how many correlations can be drawn to some people's favorite characters. Doc was kind of the first. He and Superman share the same vacation home.

So we'll see the Fortress of Solitude?


And what about his supporting cast, the Fabulous Five?

Yeah. There are all going to be there.

It's also been announced that Doc Savage will be joined by other classic characters like The Spirit, the Blackhawks, Rima the Jungle Girl in the series that follows. And those will be reinterpretations, as well?

I don't mind sharing who the characters are going to be because I guarantee, they are not going to be the way you are expecting them to be. So yeah, the Blackhawks are in it but you're going to look at these Blackhawks and you're going to be like, "This is not the way that they've been depicted before."

Will The Spirit be the same Spirit as the one Darwyn Cooke introduced into DCU a few years back?

No. Well, yes. The Spirit is Denny Colt. Okay? It's him. You're Canadian, right? Well, I'm not going to disrespect Darwyn at all. [laughs] I know he's a national treasure up there.

When will we see this series?

Sometime next year.

Is it an ongoing series?

It's a six-issue miniseries. But oversized.

And it was announced at Chicago Comic-Con that The Spirit will star in a new solo series coming out of this. Will there be more spin-off titles?

Yeah. There are going to be a number of series spinning out of this.

And will you be involved in all of those?

To some extent, yes.

Will you be overseeing the universe?

Yeah. I'm God. [laughs] In a universe without magic or superpowers, I'm God.

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