And now for something completely different. Following the recent run of posts about the creation of the covers for the Pandora Zwieback novels Blood Feud and Blood Reign, IndyFest Magazine #85, and the comic books The Saga of Pandora Zwieback #0 and The Saga of Pandora Zwieback Annual #1, I thought you’d be interested in a different sort of cover-art story—for a onetime crossover of characters you wouldn’t expect!
Painter Bob Larkin, in case you didn’t know, is an art legend whose paintings have graced a ton of covers, movie posters, and trading cards; his covers for Marvel Comics—including Dazzler #1, The Savage Sword of Conan the Barbarian, Planet of the Apes, The Hulk!, Haunt of Horror, and Monsters of the Movies—are instantly recognizable by longtime collectors, even if they didn’t know that he was the artist. But what you may not be aware of—unless you’re a fan of 1930s pulp-fiction heroes—is that he’s primarily regarded as one of the top Doc Savage artists in the world. Probably the #2 Doc painter of all time, right behind his friend and mentor, James Bama, who established Doc’s iconic look of cropped, widow-peaked hair and ripped shirts in the 1970s, when he was painting the covers for Bantam Books’ reprints of Doc’s pulp-era adventures.
James Bama’s 1970s cover for the first Doc Savage novel, The Man of Bronze.
Created in 1933 by editors at publisher Street and Smith and developed by pulp-fiction writer-for-hire Lester Dent (under the house name Kenneth Robeson), Clark “Doc” Savage Jr. was the king of the pulp adventurers: a multitalented genius whose superhuman muscles were outmatched only by his incredible brain. In fact, Doc was so superhuman that the creators of a certain Man of Steel “borrowed” a few elements in the development of their own character—where do you think the first name Clark, and the Fortress of Solitude, came from? Doc had them both first. Aided by five associates who were experts in their fields—but whose knowledge of each field still couldn’t surpass Doc’s—and his two-fisted cousin, Patricia, Doc fought all manner of bad guys and madmen, and built a fanbase that continues to grow to this day.
In the 1970s, Bantam Books acquired the reprint rights to Doc’s adventures, and it was Bama’s eye-catching covers that grabbed the attention of a new generation of readers (me being among them). When Bama departed the series, he left some pretty big shoes to fill, but Bantam’s art director knew exactly who could fill them: Bob Larkin. Just take a look at these covers (just three of many), and you’ll know Bob was the right artist for the right job.
So, you ask, what does all this Doc Savage talk have to do with our resident Goth adventuress, Pandora Zwieback? Well, everything in this particular case; I just wanted you to have some background for what follows.
A few years ago, publisher Dynamite Entertainment acquired the comic book rights to Doc (and ignored all attempts made by me and others to get them to hire Bob for covers). And like most publishers these days, they print sketch cover variants for certain issues: covers that, beyond logos and price boxes, are completely blank so that you can get artists to draw on them. And when I snagged a copy of one of those sketch covers, I knew exactly which artist I was taking it to, and what I wanted him to draw…
One night, while I was talking to Bob, I asked him if he’d be interested in taking the blank sketch cover and doing his own version of the Ron Wilson cover for Marvel Two-in-One #21, a 1976 comic that teamed Doc Savage with the Thing from the Fantastic Four (Two-in-One was a series in which the Thing teamed up with all sorts of Marvel characters, usually in stories that lasted only one issue). You see the cover there to the left: Doc and the Thing, crashing through a wall.
However, as I explained to Bob, I didn’t want him to reproduce Wilson’s art. I wanted him to draw, not the Marvel version, but the real Doc Savage (in other words, the Bama and Larkin version), and instead of the Thing, I wanted somebody special charging alongside Doc—a certain Goth adventuress. Bob loved the idea, and it didn’t take him long to turn my idea into an actual pencil drawing:
Damn! Makes me wish it were a real team-up!
And so there you have it: Pandora Zwieback, “guest-starring” in the second issue of Dynamite’s Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze. A team-up that will never actually happen…but it certainly makes you think of what that might be like, doesn’t it? A happy, sarcastic Goth chick popping into the 1930s to go adventuring with Doc and his gang…hanging out with Pat Savage…probably running into her immortal, shape-shifting, monster-hunting mentor, Sebastienne Mazarin…
Yeah, that definitely has some possibilities. 😀