In March, Dynamite is releasing a new Doc Savage series called Ring of Fire. It comes from writer David Avallone and artist Dave Acosta with covers by Brent Schoonover and Anthony Marques. The series brings together Doc, Pat, The Five and the mystery of Amelia Earhart. I chatted with Avallone about the new series and mixing classic pulp heroes with historical figures.
DAN WICKLINE: I know that you’ve been writing Doc Savage for Dynamite for a while now, but I’m curious where your interest in the character started? You’ve got a strong feel for the character and the era. Did this come from working on the project or were you into the series prior to writing him?
DAVID AVALLONE: Actually, my only Doc Savage comic previous to this series was an Altered States one-off, but I’m glad I give the impression I’ve been doing it for a while! My feel for the character and the era comes from one place: my father. He was a kid in the 1930s and he loved Doc Savage, and I grew up in the 1970s with the whole collection of the Bantam reprint paperbacks in the house. So I not only grew up with Doc, I grew up around someone who thought and spoke like a man of that era. Further, my dad was always watching movies from the 1930s and 1940s and that added to my familiarity with the period. King Kong (1933) is still one of my favorite movies, and those characters are right out of a Doc Savage supersaga.
DW: The new series, Ring of Fire seems to have a lot of elements going on in the first issue alone. Pat’s dream, An attack on a government facility, an important video call and reference to a famous missing historical character. How did the concept for the series come about and did the pieces just come together or was there more digging involved to make it work?
DA: I’m a nut for research and history. When Joe Rybandt asked me to come up with a Doc Savage story, I hauled out a book called The Timetables of History, which I’ve had since college. It’s this crazy thing which encapsulates all of human history, by breaking it down into years, and then breaking each year into categories: politics, art, technology, etc, and giving you the highlights from each year. I went through the mid to late thirties looking for things that might have caught Doc Savage’s attention. The disappearance of Amelia Earhart jumped out at me, as did a few other things. I came up with three pitches, and Dynamite liked them all and let me choose. I decided to go with Amelia, because I have a great affection for her. Maybe Dynamite will eventually give me the chance to do the other two stories someday.
DAN WICKLINE: You start the first issue off with 6 pages of silence, except for one word. That’s an interesting way to start off a new series. From a writer’s perspective, what do you gain by going that route?
DA: Silence can create a kind of trance. Some of my favorite movies do this. The big battle scene in Kurosawa’s RAN, the opening five minutes of Fellini’s OTTO E MEZZO. (Yes, I realize those are some dang pretentious references, but I was just talking King Kong a couple of answers ago…) I wanted to open with a nightmare, and it struck me that sound effects might break the trance-like feeling I was going for. And then after the nightmare you have one page of Pat Savage alone in her apartment at night. More silence. From there on in… the issue gets pretty “loud” for contrast.
DW: Now I read the script for the first issue, and I’m fascinated by the fact that your panel descriptions read like they’re out of a 1930’s pulp as well as the dialogue. Do you do that on purpose to keep the right feeling for the series?
DA: I wish I could say I did it on purpose, but frankly I think that’s just how I write. And talk. The pulp is in my blood, for good or ill. It’s possible I might alter my style if I was working on a very different kind of book, but I can’t say it was conscious.
DW: The first issue gets to the action early and often and it moves quickly. But the issue is more setup than answers. What can you tell us about the series going forward? How big is the danger for Doc and the Five and how much does Pat work into it?
DA: I think the key to “how big is the danger” is right there in the title, if you know what the “Ring of Fire” is. Not just to Doc and the Five, but to every resident of the Pacific Rim. Pat’s nightmare is prophetic, reflecting the villain’s plan. Pat is key.
DW: You’re working with Dave Acosta on the series. What is it about his art that fits the pulp feel and how does your working relationship go? How much photo reference do you put together for a project like this to send to him?
DA: The first thing Dave and I worked on together was the afore-mentioned Doc Savage Altered States one-off. He has a great feel for the period, and puts as much thought into the designs, the props, the backgrounds, the characters as I do. He’s a perfect fit for this series. Whenever we work together I start a Pinterest board and we both upload a lot of material. I try to think of every single thing that might need a reference. Every gun, every plane, every car, every boat, every location. And Dave incorporates it all, beautifully. If you’re curious, you can go on Pinterest and look up “Twilight Zone The Shadow” and see the board for the last series we did together.
DW: Taking a step back from the series and looking at it from the point of view of a reader. What do you think is the thing that will get fans most excited about Doc’s newest adventure? What will get them to come back for more?
DA: Dave and I are trying to create a “supersaga” that would have made Lester Dent proud. For the fans it’s a chance to see Classic Doc, the Fabulous Five, and Patricia Savage in an authentic 1930s milieu, interacting with some of the real people and the real circumstances of the period. The action is spectacular, the dialogue (if I’ve done my job), is snappy and funny along the lines of a solid 1930s adventure movie, the villain (once revealed) is creepy and cunning, and his plan is apocalyptic and awesome. If you love 1930s sci-fi action-adventure this should taste like the real thing, just poured out of a new bottle.
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