The simmering tensions of what would become World War II are the backdrop to a new Doc Savage story investigating the disappearance of Amelia Earhart. Scheduled to debut March 29, Doc Savage: Ring of Fire by David Avallone and Dave Acosta sends the Man of Bronze on a mission requested by FDR himself.
Avallone, who worked on the Doc Savage: Altered States one-shot, is re-teaming with his Twilight Zone: The Shadow artist Acosta for this four-part series that is looking to bring back the style - and a few supervillains - from Savage's long history. Newsarama spoke with Avalone about Savage, the Johnny Cash inspiration, and the return of the classic villains, the Silver Death's Heads.
Newsarama: David, Doc Savage: Ring of Fire – is this a Johnny Cash homage? What’s it about?
David Avallone: Doc and his crew investigate a mysterious volcano in the South Pacific, the disappearance of Amelia Earhart. Spectacular 1930s action-adventure ensues.
Nrama: I can’t shake the subtitle: "Ring of Fire" for many people, recalls Johnny Cash. What’s going on?
Avallone: I’ve been waiting for this question: congratulations for being the first to ask. The “Ring of Fire” in our title refers to something other than the charms of June Carter, but I’m big on homages so there may be something in there. You’ll just have to look closely…
Nrama: Ok. So this is your first spin with Doc Savage - what’s your take on him?
Avallone: I did a Doc one-shot for Dynamite’s Altered States series, but those were “What If?”s, and this is my first “classic” Doc story. For me, Doc is the soul of dedication and focus. His father raised him and had him trained to be this weapon, this instrument of civilization and justice. Maybe the most basic thing that sets him apart from a lot of other heroes - particularly now - is that he’s not even a little “tortured.” He has no regrets, doesn’t long for a “normal” life. His life has purpose and he wouldn’t want it any other way. He’s Sherlock Holmes and Tarzan rolled into one, but he’s not a drug addict and he isn’t lonely or lost.
Nrama: And this is set in 1938 - what is it about this time period that interested you to set this story in?
Avallone: My dad was born in 1924. He was a huge pulp fan, and I was raised with the culture of the 1930s. So beyond anything else, I love the visual feel of the period, and I know (from our previous work together) that Dave Acosta can really draw the 1930s beautifully. Also, I love the language of the time: it’s a very lively time for picturesque, funny slang.
Speaking specifically about Doc… I would be happy to write him in any era, but for my first big Doc story I wanted to return to his roots and write a story that could have been published in the period… complete with all five of his crew, and Pat, and some classic villains.
Nrama: Who or what are the Silver Death's Heads said to be after Doc Savage in this miniseries?
Avallone: And speaking of classic villains… the Silver Death’s Heads were a criminal organization previously defeated by Doc in one of the original Lester Dent stories, Death In Silver. When we meet them in chapter one of Ring of Fire they seem to be trying pretty hard to kill Doc and his men. As to their long term plans… I wouldn’t want to spoil that for the readers.
Nrama: And let's not forget Amelia Earhart, who is a part of this. She disappeared in 1937 - what's going on here?
Avallone: Since the day she vanished, the final fate of Amelia Earhart has been the subject of speculation and conspiracy theory. Given that Doc’s cousin Pat is another famous aviatrix of the time, it occurred to me that they’d be pals, and that Pat would be haunted - perhaps literally - by her friend’s disappearance. Pat’s desire to look for Amelia coincides with the volcano emergency that sends Doc and the Fabulous Five into roughly the same region of the South Pacific. But is it a coincidence? Seems unlikely…
Nrama: Big picture, what are your goals with Doc Savage: The Ring of Fire?
Avallone: Philip Jose Farmer called the Doc Savage adventures “supersagas,’ a term I like quite a bit. My goal was to write a supersaga in the classic style, one that Lester Dent would have approved of, but completely accessible and enjoyable to someone who’d never encountered the character before. Raiders of the Lost Ark is a great example: a1930s adventurer introduced mid-adventure, and the audience goes along for the ride without needing an origin story or a history lesson. I’m not Lawrence Kasdan or Steven Spielberg, but I think it can be done, and I’m giving it my best shot.