Why Doc Vandal isn’t Doc Savage

When you’re writing a character inspired by another, it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of writing a copy instead of an homage. Yes, Doc Vandal is very clearly inspired by Doc Savage; he’s an almost superhuman super scientist who lives near the top of the tallest building in New York with a handful of aides and fellow adventurers. The key lies in how you differentiate the new character.

With Doc Vandal, it all started with one simple statement: Doc Savage lives in our world, Doc Vandal doesn’t. Doc Vandal’s world is deliberately more fantastic than Doc Savage’s. Doc Savage has an assistant named Monk Mayfair who is often described as apelike. Doc Vandal’s oldest associate is a silverback gorilla.

On it’s own though, a change like that is little more than filing off the serial numbers and maybe turning up the volume.

Use your inspirations as a foundation. They are the beginning, not the end. Doc Vandal fills the same role in his world as Doc Savage does in his, but the two characters got there in very different ways. What’s most important though is to find your own voice and tell your own stories.

Also, remember it’s been eighty years since the 1930’s. Doc Savage and his team were six white males, and that’s just not something that would work today. Not only does a modern audience expect a more diverse cast, but limiting your characters that way artificially limits your story space. A wider range of characters offers a wider range of story opportunities and any writer would be a fool not to take advantage of that.

 

 

What Were the Pulps?

When you think about it, the entertainment scene was very different during the 1930’s. No television, No Internet, no portable media players. In a world like that it’s not surprising that people turned to reading, and the pulps were there to catch their attention.

Big, floppy, and brightly colored, the pulps were designed to draw the eye. Behind the lurid cover, each monthly issue (most were monthly magazines) contained about two hundred pages of story on cheap paper with black and white illustrations. You could find pulps on any subject; from romance, to westerns, crime, and even star-spanning adventure.

For many, they took the place that would later be occupied by everything from TV to paperbacks. At only ten cents apiece, they offered good value for money, and were a great way to escape the Depression.

While they remained popular throughout the thirties, the war really proved their death knell. On the one hand, paper became more expensive, forcing the pulps to shrink in size. On the other, the post-war era led to an explosion in paperback publishing and the newly designed mass-market paperback took much of the readership that hadn’t been lost to new forms of entertainment like television.

Only one of the 1930’s pulps survives today, Analog Magazine, originally known as Astounding, has been publishing science fiction since 1930, although it has now dropped to bi-monthly frequency as of 2017. It has also changed sizes again, so as to fit on the same presses as the current publisher’s word search and other puzzle books.