16 Oct, 2013
Tony Lee interviewed writer Chris Roberson (iZombie, Fables) and talks about his upcoming Doc Savage series from Dynamite Entertainment, and more! Doc Savage #1 is available for advance order now! Special thanks to Nick Barrucci at Dynamite.
TL: Chris, you’re best known in comics fandom for your work in the Fables universe and iZombie, both for Vertigo. What brought you to this project?
I’ve been hinting (not so subtly) to the good people at Dynamite that I adore Doc Savage since we first started talking a few years ago. Another publisher had the license at the time, but I would mention to Dynamite from time to time that it was a shame they didn’t have a “Doc Savage type” in their lineup, and that maybe we could work something out, either using a public domain character, or another license, or an original character that would fill the role. When the news came out last year that the previous publisher no longer controlled the license, I immediately started firing off emails to Dynamite, letting them know that if they ever got hold of the license, I wanted to write it. And I kept mentioning it, every time we talked, for MONTHS. Finally, and possibly just to get me to shut up about it, they gave me the chance to write the book!
I was an enormous fan of the original Doc Savage novels, which I read in the Bantam reprints with those glorious James Bama covers. Doc Savage-inspired characters have turned up in my stories and comics ever since I started writing. Both “King” Carmody and Jon Bonaventure Carmody in the Bonaventure-Carmody novels were definitely in the Savage mold, as was the background character Campion in iZOMBIE and, more recently, Gladiator Gladstone in the pages of EDISON REX (not to mention Edison Rex, himself!). Getting the chance to work on the “real deal,” though, is something else entirely!
TL: With your series ‘Masks’ at Dynamite, will Doc Savage be doing double duty?
That question came up during the original run of MASKS, actually, and I still feel that Doc doesn’t quite fit in that story. I think he fits in that WORLD, which is why I had the Shadow make an oblique reference to him and they were infiltrating the Empire State Building. But MASKS was all about masked vigilantes and dark avengers, and Doc is neither of those. He doesn’t wear a mask, and he’s not a vigilante. He’s a doctor, scientist, and adventurer, and everyone knows his name.
TL: The solicitation for the new series states that you’re bringing Doc Savage to the present date over the first eight issues. With other franchises (Buckaroo Banzai comes to mind) trying the same group dynamic but failing to grab the audience, how do you see the Doc in the 21st Century?
I think it’s important to ground Doc in his original setting, in the 30s and 40s, to establish who he is and why he does what he does. But then rolling forward decade-by-decade to the present day, the trick is to keep the core of the character and his setup intact, while adding in new elements that make the character resonate in a contemporary setting.
TL: How does Doc Savage feel about the current political and technological climate?
We’ll see when we get there!
TL: At the end of the first arc, are we looking at a descendant of the original Clark Savage Jr, a rebirth of Doc, a Doc in his hundreds in an old folks home or a Doc that’s been brought through time? And whichever one it is, will his Fabulous Five friends come with him?
In the first few issues, we establish the explanation for how Doc is still running around 80 years after his first appearance. He ages, but very slowly, at about a quarter of the rate of other people, for reasons that will be explained. So he appears to be in his 20s in the first issue, and just a couple of decades older than that when we catch up to 2013 by issue 7. And the Fabulous Five and his cousin Patricia will be on hand, as well, aging at more normal rates, so that gradually new assistants and associates will be joining the team, replacing those who have retired as time goes on.
TL: Which villains are we likely to see? And will Doc Savage still be perform his ‘brain reorientation’ surgery?
With one exception, Doc Savage never faced the same villain twice. And that exception only came back for one return appearance. The reason for that is that Doc doesn’t treat crime as something that innately evil people commit, but as a disease that can be cured. A disease both of society, but also of the proper functioning of the criminal’s brain. And that’s what leads him to run his “Crime College” in upstate New York, where criminals are “rehabilitated” through surgical and chemical means. And the morality of that is something that we’ll definitely be exploring as the series progresses.
TL: The Doc Savage stories of the thirties were very much a ‘mens club’ mentality of the time. How do you intend to fix that in modern times? Will Clark Jr’s cousin Patricia be taking a larger role?
Patricia won’t appear in the first issue, because it’s set at a point in time before the character was introduced. But she’ll play a major role in the second issue and onwards. And as new aides and assistants join the team, we’ll start to see a much more diverse cast of characters, both in terms of gender and ethnicity.
TL: What do the readers have to look forwards to over the next year?
Spills, chills, and thrills!
TL: Doc Savage is to many a dinosaur, a story of yesteryear that’s had countless reboots in comic form. What do you say to these people to get them to give your take a try?
Sherlock Holmes predates Doc Savage by several decades, but there have been two successful television series and a movie franchise featuring the character in just the last few years alone. There isn’t anything intrinsic to the character of Doc Savage that means he can’t appeal to contemporary audiences. But it’s the job of the storytellers to find the core of the character and then work out a way to make it compelling and entertaining to a new audience. That’s what we’re trying to do, anyway!
Tony Lee is a #1 New York Times bestselling author with work including Superboy for DC Comics, Spider-Man and The X-Men for Marvel, both Tenth and Eleventh Doctor ongoing Doctor Who series for IDW, The Gloom and Agent Mom for MTV, the Baker Street Irregulars series of children’s graphic novels for Hachette / Franklin Watts, and Doctor Who, Dorian Gray, and Bernice Summerfield audio dramas for Big Finish. He wrote a MacGyver series for Image Comics with show creator Lee David Zlotoff, has co-written a Star Trek: The Next Generation / Doctor Who series for IDW, and adapted Amanda Hocking’s Hollowland novel into comics for Dynamite. He is currently writing Battlestar Galactica: Starbuck for Dynamite.