Now that his work on Iron Man 3 is done, and the film is setting box office records, writer/director Shane Black is already moving on to his next project – a big screen adaptation of the pulp hero Doc Savage. The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed that Sony Pictures has closed a deal with Black to co-write and direct the film based on the classic pulp hero.
Black had been previously working on his Doc Savage script in 2009 with producers Neal H. Moritz and Ori Marmur, but put the project on hold when he was offered the job of writing and directing Iron Man 3.
A brilliant master of all trades, Clark “Doc” Savage, Jr. trotted the globe investigating all sorts of scientific mysteries and helping people in distress with the help of his five friends- “Monk” Mayfair, “Ham” Brooks, “Renny” Renwick, “Long Tom” Roberts and “Johnny” Littlejohn. The character first appeared in his eponymously -named pulp magazine in March 1933 and quickly became one of the most popular pulp heroes of the 1930s and 40s, rivaling only The Shadow in sales. Although created by Street and Smith Publications publisher Henry W. Ralston and editor John L. Nanovic, it was the series’ main writer, Lester Dent, who fully fleshed out the background and adventures of Doc and his aides. The series proved so popular that it spawned a comic book series from Street & Smith and two short-lived radio series.
Doc Savage continued to be popular even after his pulp series ceased publication in the summer of 1949. In the 1960s, Bantam Books began reprinting the original pulp novels in new, slightly edited, paperback editions. It took to the summer of 1990 to reprint the entire series.
The popularity of the reprint series inspired producer George Pal to produce a Doc Savage film, released in 1975, starring Ron Ely. Although the casting of Doc and his five aides captured the look of the characters, the movie’s campy tone disappointed fans and kept audiences away.
Additional, National Public Radio produced a new 13 episode radio series in 1985. Doc also reappeared in new four-color adventures at various times from DC Comics, Marvel Comics, Dark Horse and Millennium between the 1970s and 90s. In 2007, Doc’s creator Dent became a hero in Paul Malmont’s novel The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril, teaming with Shadow creator Walter Gibson to stop a plot to destroy New York City.
It’s nice to see Sony taking a chance on this project, and I say that not just as a fan of the old pulp series. Given that John Carter turned out to be a financial disappointment for Disney I would expect studios to be skittish over moving forward on any similarly-themed property. But I guess that early box office returns for Iron Man 3 are enough to make them overlook that.