5716 in-depth character profiles from comics, games, movies

Doc Savage stands above an unconscious man, by Boris Vallejo

Doc Savage


Power Level:
Game system: DC Heroes Role-Playing Game

Context

Doc Savage is an iconic pulps  hero, who appeared in 1933. There were many novels, radio plays, movies, comics, etc. starring him – and these still get published.

Along with the Shadow, Mr. Savage was a huge influence on the creation of super-heroes during the late 1930s.

Here are our notes. This is not a full-bore scholarly coverage (in no small part because of the sheer amount of material) – more like what came up when we sat down to write a primer. It uses Wold Newton ideas as canon, because those are fun.


Background

  • Real Name: Clark Savage Jr.
  • Marital Status: Single
  • Known Relatives: Clark Savage Sr. (father, deceased), Patricia Savage (cousin), John Clayton Lord Greystoke (aka Tarzan, cousin)
  • Group Affiliation: Leader of the “Fabulous Five”
  • Base Of Operations: NYC
  • Height: 6’8” Weight: 275lbs.
  • Eyes: Gold-flecked blue (in some accounts Gold-flecked brown) Hair: Auburn (also described as “Bronze” with auburn highlights)


Powers and Abilities

Doc was raised from the cradle to be a new type of man. He received physical training since the age of 14 months. Since that time he has always maintained a daily regimen of exercise. Only rarely has he missed a day. This is the secret of his incredible abilities and musculature. In all, the routine takes about two hours.

According to Monk, it will make you break into a sweat just watching Doc do his workout.

Around the world

From the age of 13 to nearly 17, he was traveling the globe. From one master to another he learned the skills he would require to meet his purpose. This is just some of what his boyhood travels included-

  • Winter survival techniques from fur trappers in the Canadian snow country
  • Animal tracking and woodcraft from an Amazon Indian tribe
  • Flying instruction from the best pilots in the world at the time
  • Diving and sea lore from Polynesians in the South Seas

In India and Tibet he studied yoga, hypnotism, emotional control and how to block his mind from the affects of pain. He also trained extensively in the martial arts of personal combat. It was here that he picked up the unique habit of unconsciously making a peculiar trilling noise during moments of stress or concentration.

In Indochina he learned how to prowl through the jungle with stealth by observing the movements of the great jungle hunters the Jaguar and Tiger. In Africa he met his cousin, the Seventh Earl of Greystoke , who trained him in the art of using trees to travel above the jungle floor.

He learned vocal imitations and ventriloquism from the Great Lander. To develop his other senses, Doc spent several weeks in a school for the blind, eyes bandaged except for daily exercise periods.

He attended a school for the deaf and dumb where he learned sign language and lip reading. Jimmy Valentine  and Arsène Lupin  taught him how to pick locks and open safes.

Equipment, part 1

Doc Savage is a criminal’s worst nightmare. He is a walking fortress festooned with innumerable weapons. Even when stripped to his underwear and scrubbed clean he is as dangerous as nitroglycerin.

It is Doc’s practice to never carry a gun, although he is an excellent marksman. He believes that the man who carries a gun develops a psychological dependence on it and soon becomes helpless without one. He prefers instead to rely on his wits and the various scientific gadgets he commonly uses.

Doc Savage, the man of bronze

Doc and his men routinely wear a light-weight bulletproof union-suit of wire mesh mail that gives protection from the neck to just below the knees. This body armor can stop a slug from anything less than a high powered rifle.

Over this Doc wears a strange looking under-vest. The vest contains numerous pockets that hold various gadgets and small vials of chemicals. The pockets are nested between padding to conceal their presence.

Equipment, part 2

In addition to these items Doc’s clothing is equally as dangerous. Various buttons can be crushed and combined to produce such things as high explosives or flash powder which causes temporary blindness. The lining of Doc’s necktie holds two chemical strands that when twisted together burn with the terrific heat of termite.

The heel of his shoes can be dislodged to rapidly create a thick black smokescreen.

Doc also carries in two false molars a 2-part explosive. He also wears a wig with an interior lining of the same light mesh as the body armor. Attached to the inside liner are two flat sheets that when rolled together create a powerful explosive.

Also, in 1934, Doc discovered silphium, a life-prolonging herb that was used in pre-Christian times by tribal chiefs. There is reason to believe that Doc and his friends (as well as Pat) took a synthesized version of the herb that retarded their aging process.

Man of bronze

His training has made his strength and reflexes a “little short of superhuman,” and his step is “so swift and soundless it seems like magic.” He can effortlessly break heavy ropes, sidestep bullets — even at close range — climb sheer brick walls with the barest of fingerholds, run across a tightrope-carrying two people no less, and much more.

He is a physical giant and protean genius. He has mastered all worldly subjects and is a scientific wizard. Only in the areas of drawing/painting, cooking, and imitating a female voice did his abilities fall just short of genius.


History

Clark Savage Jr. was born on November 12, 1902 on a small schooner in a shallow cove at the north end of Andros Island, Bahamas. Clark Sr. and his exploration partners Hubert Robertson and Ned Land  had been searching for sunken treasure in the area. The rough seas of a storm made the birth more difficult for Doc’s mother, Arronaxe.

Clark Sr. had named the vessel the Orion. It is fitting that Doc was born on a vessel named for the great hunter of mythology. Doc would go on to become a fearsome hunter of men who had become like animals.

The storm got worse. Shortly after Doc’s birth, in the darkness of night, the schooner was dashed on a reef and began to break up. Clark Sr., Robertson and Land struggled to get Doc and his mother to safety. The sea was too violent, and in the darkness Doc’s mother was separated from the group. Arronaxe, weakened by childbirth was lost.

Doc was to be born into a world where he would be raised by men.

Higher ground, part 1

At the age of 14 months, Clark Savage Jr. was entrusted to a board of scientists to begin the rigorous training which would prepare him for a very special purpose in life.

The elder Savage held the belief that with the best training science could offer, his son could be molded into a higher level of human being. A man of the highest morals with a mind and body developed to the greatest degree humanly possible for the purpose of bringing good to the world. Clark Savage Jr. would be that man.

With the loss of his dear wife, his son was now all the family Clark Sr. had. He was determined to leave this world a legacy of hope, and protect the Savage family from his many ruthless enemies.

For nearly 20 years various specialists trained and taught the young, Clark. The boy was gifted with a maturity that was well beyond his years. By the time he was seven, he was able to understand the purpose for his life. He studied and trained with determination. He developed a sense of self image that was inspiring to his mentors.

The boy had a genius mind, and by the time he was 11 he was ready to begin college level material.

Higher ground, part 2

Since the age of 14 months, physical trainers worked with him daily. His diet was scientifically regulated to achieve optimum performance. He received training in various forms of athletics and self defense from experts in these areas. He was routinely pitted against two or three larger boys, then taught how to overcome them.

Each time he succeeded, he was then given a greater challenge by being bound first or some other means of disadvantage.

Clark loved to fight. He lost many, but he learned fast. With practice he learned to control his fear and also urges to be cruel.

He was taught acrobatics by circus professionals. He become creative in the way he handled opponents. By the time he was 12 he was 5” 6” and 150 lbs. He could whip 8 out of 10 grown men.

Facing the world

From the age of 13 to nearly 17, he was traveling the globe. From one master to another he learned the skills he would require to meet his purpose. Concurrent to his training, he was studying the flora, fauna, geology, archeology, history, culture and languages of all these regions.

Doc’s training was interrupted in April of 1917 when the US declared war on Germany. He entered what was being called “The Great War”. Due to his size and maturity, and faked papers, he was able to pass himself off as 16 and join the Army.

His mentors went into a frenzy when they learned of what Doc had done. Secretly however, they were as ready as Doc was to put his training into practice in warfare. Doc’s father yielded considerable influence with certain diplomatic figures in Washington, DC and was able to see to it that Doc was assigned to an air squadron, where he flew a SPAD  fighter.

Clark Savage Sr. had been keeping track of his son’s progress and was confident in Doc’s remarkable abilities. Doc reported to his squadron in France in late fall of 1917, just after his 15th birthday.

The Fabulous Five

In March of 1918, after six successful combat missions he was shot down over Germany during a balloon-busting sortie. Savage was captured and held at PoW camp code-named Loki.

That is where he picked the nickname “Doc” (due to his medical care given to other prisoners). This is also where he met five men who would later become his adventuring henchmen. It is with the Fabulous Five that Doc engineered a mass escape and made it back to his unit.

Brain surgery

Returning from the war in 1919, Doc entered medical school at Johns Hopkins University. He graduated and received a MD in 1925. He spent the following two years studying in Europe under the greatest neurosurgeons and psychiatrists. In the fall of 1927 he returned to New York and began his experiments in brain surgery.

After six months of intensive work he discovered what he called the “Crime Gland”. By the fall of 1928, Doc had developed a method to counter-act the imbalance in this gland, which causes anti-social and criminal behavior.

The “Crime College” was then secretly built in Upstate New York. It opened for “business” in 1930. In early 1933, all of the major preparations were complete. Doc was nearly ready to embark on the career he had spent his whole life training for. He had only to solidify everything in his mind.

He spent considerable time at the Fortress Of Solitude, involving himself in both meditation and final preparation for the battles to come. In March of that year, everything galvanized in his soul. He was mentally, physically, emotionally, morally and spiritually ready ! Doc was 30 years old.

Into the fray

Arriving back in New York, Doc was ready to assemble is group of friends and declare that the time had come. Instead, when he returned, he was informed of his father’s death. The news was an unexpected blow. Doc had counted on his father living to see his work, work the elder Savage had made possible.

There was nothing to do but gather his men and give his small speech anyway. Monk, Ham, Renny, Johnny and Long Tom were ready too. They had been waiting for this moment for many years. To go here and there, to the far ends of the Earth with Doc, helping those who needed it and punishing those who deserved it.


Description

Standing just under seven feet tall, with golden skin and hair just a shade darker. His flake-gold eyes are mesmerizing.

Doc’s “sinew’s wrap his form like great cables (and) seem to flow like liquid bronze,” though these muscles are equally developed so that he does not have the “knotty, bull-necked look” of a strongman.


Personality

Doc shuns publicity for several reasons. Foremost, he does not want his actions and movements to become common knowledge, lest a villain learn of them and gain an advantage. Mystery works to Doc’s advantage. His foes are legion. Because of this, the element of surprise is essential to his survival.

Also, Doc is a genuinely humble man. If he wanted to toot his horn he would have plenty to toot about. It just is not in the big bronze guy’s nature.

Doc’s periodic disappearances also lend an aura of mystery about him. So far as anyone (except his aides) knows, he has vanished from the face of the Earth. He cannot be reached by any method, nor by his aides. He is frequently gone for months. He returns just as mysteriously as when he vanished.

Almost always he brings with him some sort of scientific breakthrough. It could be anything from a new theory of electricity to a pioneering new method of surgery. Doc’s knowledge of science is vast.

When asked where he has been, Doc exercises his somewhat aggravating habit of seeming not to hear a question that he does not desire to answer. It is during these periods of disappearance that Doc retreats to his Fortress of Solitude in the arctic circle for periods of intense study.


Quotes

“So I learned from the newspapers-when I got back today.” (The first words uttered in The Man of Bronze, the first of his adventures)


DC Universe History

Doc actually already has a history in the DCU as well as the Marvel Universe. Dark Horse, Gold Key, and Millennium also published comics of his adventures.

An interesting idea is to explore Doc’s training and adventures as a youth with the DCU as a backdrop. Meeting up with Rima the Jungle Girl in the Amazon. Getting shot down by Enemy Ace in the War. Or even learning how to shoot from none other than Jonah Hex.

Vandal Savage

One other possibility, only because these *are* comics. Doc Savage would almost certainly have either an arrangement or ongoing feud with Vandal Savage, for obvious and not-so-obvious reasons.

In Philip José Farmer’s pastiche novel A Feast Unknown, Doc learns that he is the result of a careful breeding program orchestrated by his ancestor, an immortal Old Stone Age man named Xau Xaz (thus, Doc’s large size and great strength — he has caveman blood !).

Xau Xaz is one of “The Nine”, a powerful group that secretly influences world events for their own selfish purposes. Substitute Vandal for Xau Xaz, and you’re all set !


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Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

Tell me more about the game stats

Doc Savage

Dex: 09 Str: 05 Bod: 06 Motivation: Upholding the Good
Int: 12 Wil: 10 Min: 10 Occupation: Adventurer, Scientist, Surgeon
Inf: 10 Aur: 08 Spi: 08 Wealth: 020
Init: 035 HP: 125

Powers:
Comprehend Languages: 08, Hypnotism: 03, Recall: 10, Super Hearing: 02

Skills:
Accuracy (perception)*: 12, Acrobatics*: 09, Animal Handling: 06, Artist: 10, Charisma*: 10, Detective: 10, Gadgetry*: 12, Martial Arts*: 09, Medicine: 13, Military Science: 10, Scientist*: 12, Thief: 09*, Vehicles*: 09, Weaponry*: 09

Bonuses and Limitations:
All Powers have the “Considered a Skill” bonus

Advantages:
Attractive, Connoisseur, Credentials(L), Expansive Headquarters (Skyscraper Headquarters, Hidalgo Trading Co., Fortress of Solitude, Crime College), Genius, Intensive Training, Iron Nerves, Leadership, Lightning Reflexes, Omni-connection, Omni-Scholar, Sharp Eye, Sidekicks(The “Fabulous Five”, Monk – Chemist, Long Tom – Electrical wizard, Ham – Brilliant Lawyer , Johnny – Archeologist, Renny – Engineer), Slowed Aging

Connections:
Police (High)

Drawbacks:
MIA to Danger, Public ID

Equipment:

  • VEST [/BODY/ 08, Partial (vest)]. Here is a sample of what Doc packs in the vest-
    • Glass-walled anesthetic gas grenades the size of robin’s eggs
    • High power explosive grenades the size of ball bearings
    • Lock-picking tool set
    • Silk line & rubber-coated grappling hook
    • Hypodermic kit including truth serum vials
    • Smoke grenades
    • A pouch which contains a pencil-thin collapsible periscope which can be converted into either a telescope or a microscope by switching accessory lenses. With lenses removed it also can be used as an underwater snorkel
    • Fog bombs that deposit a dust that emits a green glow when exposed to ultraviolet light
    • Chalk that writes invisibly, but becomes visible when exposed to ultraviolet light
    • A vial of red solution that resembles blood
  • He can be assumed to have the above as well as 8 AP AC Omni-Gadgets(x4) hidden on his person.
  • Superfirer machine pistol [BODY 04, AV 05, EV 05, Range: 05, Ammo 10, Q#3, Ammo was color coded and had “Mercy” bullets that could do Bashing damage)

By Jackson and Sébastien Andrivet

Helper(s): JKCarrier, Jeff Sines, Jeff Rovin, Perry, VBTusky, John Colagioia, Manual Of Bronze (Millenium Comics)

Source of Character: Pulp Novels, Various Comics, Motion Pictures

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