Thursday, April 30, 2009

Pulp of the Week - Doc Savage #5

July, 1933 - Pirate of the Pacific

Lester Dent was on a roll. Pirate of the Pacific is another rousing adventure that takes Doc and the fabulous five to the south Pacific in search of a pirate intent on taking over the entire island nation of the Luzon Union.

Interestingly, this is a direct, continuous sequel to the last adventure, The Polar Treasure. The first 3 chapters deal with the return of the under-the-ice submarine, the Helldiver, to Manhattan and the disposal of the treasure. The sub is attacked by the pirate's men, but escapes to safety. Doc and Company head to the South China Sea where after a lot of shooting and explosions and daring escapes (along with a lot of racist references to 'slant eyes' and 'yellow skin') they prevail.

This story is packed with adventure. Gun fights, fist fights, boat chases, sword fights, and the sinking of an ocean liner. Lester Dent jams a giant mass of good old fashioned adventure into 130 lean pages. Other than the tacky references mentioned previously this is a great read.

Some of the gadgets used are bullet-proof vests, gas masks, gas bombs, and of special interest is the telewatch, a wristwatch sized remote TV receiver that Doc hooks up to a camera and transmitter that are nearby. Doc also demonstrates that he is a master of disguise.

Another item of interest is Doc explaining why he doesn't typically carry a gun. "The reasons I don't carry a gun are largely psychological. Put a gun in a man's hand and he will use it. Let him carry one and he comes to depend on it. Take it away from him and he is lost - seized with a feeling of helplessness. Therefore, since I carry no firearms, none can be taken from me to leave the resultant feeling of helplessness."

I give it an 8 out of 10. It is a product of its time and reflects the prejudices of the day. Dent was harsh on the Arctic Native people in The Polar Treasure, and on the Chinese and "Half-Castes" here. I am curious to see how other ethnicities fare in the upcoming books. He is even-handed to blacks, hispanics, and native Central Americans, so perhaps he is not too hateful of non-Europeans. I guess I will find out as I continue to read. I only have 177 books to go! Five Doc novels in three months. Perhaps I will finish faster than the 16 years they took originally publishing Doc Savage Magazine.

For this review I read my copy of the Bantam Paperback #19, 2nd Printing August 1977. This is 15 books after the previous part of the story. I'm sure I would be just as annoyed by the out of order reprint doubles.

The Bantam cover is by James Bama. The Pulp cover is by Walter Baumhofer.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Tannhäuser Tuesday - Doc Savage Pt 1

This week is a peek behind the curtain as I work on my Doc Savage Tannhäuser Custom. Here you see a shot of my garage work table. I got that blue tool box as a kid. It had a junior sized hammer, saw, and other tools. Now I use it for my hobby tools.

I use extra plain white tiles for my palate. When the paint dries I just scrape it off with my single edge razor blade.

Here you can see the pieces of my Doc Savage figure (standing). I am combining two HeroClix figures. The Criminal figure is providing the legs. I have already cut the torso off the legs. It is laying behind the legs from the Doc Samson torso, arms, and head. The red Samson legs are also to the side.

I have primer painted the upper parts and painted and inked the bronze skin. I will be painting the pants and shirt different shades of tan.

I have now added putty for Doc's trademark ripped shirt. I also carved the hair and added a widow's peak. This is the figure's current status.

Here is my HeroScape Doc Savage. The figure is from Bob Murch's Pulp Figures. This guy is a bit short for Doc Savage, hence my HeroClix kit bashing. I will be using a similar paint scheme.

The U-Chronic History
Clark Savage, Jr.

Clark Savage, Jr. was born during a storm on the Orion, a schooner anchored off the coast of Andros Island, Bahamas on November 12, 1901. From birth he was raised by his father to be a scientist and adventurer. He has followed that path his whole life, training vigorously for two hours each day to further his abilities. He is a medical doctor, a linguist, an engineer, and one of the finest pilots in the world.

Clark entered medical school at Johns Hopkins when he was 16. His schooling was interrupted when he joined the Aviation Section, Union Signal Corps in 1917. He was already a proficient pilot.

While flying a balloon busting mission, Clark is shot down and captured by Reich forces. He is sent to the Loki prison camp and befriends William Harper Littlejohn, Andrew Mayfair, Theodore Brooks, John Renwick, and Thomas Roberts. These men would become his closest friends. Three months after meeting, the men escape.

Together they perform numerous covert operations for the Union Army. Eventually, the older men convince Clark to finish medical school. Clark gets his M.D. in 1926.

While Clark is establishing his criminal rehabilitation facility in upstate New York, his father secretly finances the construction of the Empire State Building.

Clark and the Fabulous Five continue covert Ops for the Union. When his father is murdered, Doc discovers that his father had a secret source of funding - a massive gold mine in Central America - operated by a hidden Mayan tribe that has survived into the modern era. After meeting with the members of the tribe, Doc Savage is fully funded to wage his war on injustice.

Gadget Master
Once per game Doc may change Equipment Packs.

Super-Machine Pistol
Close Combat Weapon - Add 1 to the result of each die.
Mercy Bullets - If the target figure would be killed, instead it is knocked out. The figure is still removed from the battle, but in a campaign game or series of linked scenarios the figure may return in the next game.

Bullet-Proof Vest
Roll 2 additional defense dice and cancel 1 Natural 10.

Wrist Radio
When a figure with a wrist radio makes an attack, add 1 Attack Die for each friendly figure with a wrist radio on the same path.

Golden Gaze
At the start of each turn you may choose one figure on the same path as Doc. Have a Mental Duel - If Doc wins you may choose if that figure loses its Movement or Action Phase this turn.

Stun Grenade
The target figure loses either its Movement Phase or Action Phase (target figures choice)

Concussion Grenade
Pushes adjacent figures 3 circles away from the grenade circle. If a figure cannot move two space on the same path, they take 1 Automatic Wound.

Wrist Radio
When a figure with a wrist radio makes an attack, add 1 Attack Die for each friendly figure with a wrist radio on the same path.

Stun Grenade
The target figure loses either its Movement Phase or Action Phase (target figures choice)

Smoke Grenades

There you have it - the first draft of the Man of Bronze. Let me know what you think of the powers. I will be working on the character card and tokens.


© 2009 Peter Miller

My custom additions to Tannhäuser are not created by, distributed, or endorsed by Take on You, Asmodee, or Fantasy Flight. Tannhäuser and all related characters are trademarks of Take on You and © Take on You LTD. Doc Savage is trademark and © Condé Nast Publications. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Pulp of the Week - Doc Savage #4

June, 1933 - The Polar Treasure

Now this is more like it! After a couple of lesser issues, Lester Dent comes roaring back with a ferocious tale of double-crossing pirates and lost love. This is a really solid adventure story and just a great read.

When Doc goes backstage to congratulate the brilliant violinist Victor Vale he steps right into a decades-old mystery. The luxury liner Oceanic had been lost at sea with only a few survivers. The blind Victor Vale and a few of the crew were all that lived. Rumors were that $50 Million in gold and jewels had been aboard. Well, the other survivors were after Victor and Doc and his men were caught right in the middle of it.

This adventure is full of two-fisted excitement, polar submarines, and another beautiful, capable young woman to be rejected by Doc. He is attracted to her, but knows his life of adventure cannot allow the kind of relationship she would want.

Highlights include the first mention of Doc and his men being honorary Police Captains, Doc using a two-part tracking spray that works based on smell, and several mentions of dope and people using dope, including the villains getting some Inuit people doped up.

Doc is also revealed to be a composer. The concert he was attending at the start of the novel was a performance of one of his pieces. Victor Vail, the blind violinist says of Doc's composition, "In my humble opinion, and to the notion of other artists, that composition is one of the most masterly of all time."

At one point Doc is so overcome that, "His throat was cramped with emotion." He also chuckles and jokingly calls his men "a bunch of bums." This novel is chock full of good humor, daring heroics, punching, polar bear wrestling, and machine guns. Oh, and an aerial dogfight and a massive Renny and Monk throw down against the walrus-like captain of the polar submarine, the Helldiver.

I give it a 8 out of 10.

Pulp Cover by Walter Baumhofer. Bantam Cover by ? - if you know, leave a comment.

For this review I read my copy of Bantam #4 - July 1972 4th printing. Amazing. The 4th story published was reprinted by Bantam as #4. Must have been a mistake...

I have ordered the 1975 Doc Savage movie DVD from the Warner Bros Archive. I hope it is not as bad as I remember it. I'll post a review when I get it. I only seen this movie once and that was 34 years ago.

© 2009 W. Peter Miller

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Tannhäuser Tuesday - B.P.R.D. Liz

The U-Chronic History
Elizabeth Sherman Crowley

Elizabeth Sherman Crowley was born in 1926 in suburban Oceanside, NY on Long Island. Her father was an accountant and her mother was a painter. Her mother's family has a secret history. A history full of tragedy and strife; horror and dismay. Some women in the family are cursed with the ability to spontaneously combust - without harm to ones self - and some have learned to manipulate this fire. They were called firestarters, later they would be called pyrokinetics.

Elizabeth's maternal Grandmother had the gift as did her Grandmother before her. The pyrokinetic trait has been passed down through the generations for years, nearly always skipping a generation or two before manifesting itself again. The gift has often resulted in the child being orphaned... These girls grow up alone and in fear, often having a lifetime of problems.

Elizabeth's Great-Great-Grandmother was burned at the stake as a witch. She survived, of course, and escaped into the countryside, eventually finding her way to New York City. Elizabeth was born in a lovely home on Long Island. She was a bright kid and discovered her powers at a particularly young age. She had her first outburst at 4. Elizabeth's parents were terrified, but when the girl's grandmother revealed similar powers, they slowly came to an uneasy acceptance. With her grandmother's help, Elizabeth had control of her ability by the time was 6. Elizabeth felt much better knowing she was not alone.

Elizabeth excelled in school and entered Columbia University at 17, studying mythology and folklore. After graduation she went through a bad patch, got knocked around a bit and got into a bit of trouble. Finally, to avoid charges and investigation, she enlisted in the Union Army in 1949. After bootcamp, her talents were noticed and in 1950 Elizabeth was shipped off to Trevor Bruttenholm and the BPRD.

Elizabeth finally found her niche in the world and is a happy, devoted Field Agent of the BPRD. She is friends with Abe Sapien and shares a special bond with Roger, after all, Elizabeth's energy returned him to life. She also has a bit of a crush on Big Red, but has never acted upon it.

At the beginning of each Game Turn you MUST add one Pyro Token to Elizabeth's card. During her Action Phase you may remove or add one Pyro Token. At the end of her turn, if Elizabeth has 4 or more Pyro Tokens, she has to release the Pyrokinetic energy. Roll a number of Attack Dice equal to the number of Pyro Tokens on her card. All figures on Elizabeth's path make separate Shock Rolls against that Attack. Elizabeth is now unconcious and will remain that way until she receives First Aid. If attacked she gets no Shock Roll.

Combat Pack
Liz can project a Fireball at a single circle up to 6 circles away on the same path. Roll an Attack Roll equal to her Combat Value plus an additional die for each Pyro Token removed. The defender makes a normal Shock Roll.

Loose Cannon
Liz may take her Sequence at time during the Game Turn, even interrupting another figure's turn.

Liz may end her turn on restricted circles that contain fire with no ill effects.

Stamina Pack
Blast Zone
Liz may attack all adjacent figures. Remove any number of Pyro Markers from Liz's card. Make an Attack Roll equal to the number of tokens removed. All unblocked Natural 10s count for 1 additional hit. Every adjacent figure - friend or foe - must make a separate Shock Roll.

Massive Heat
Liz will not be the target of Automatic Wounds if she has 3 or more Pyro Tokens on her card.

First Aid

Mental Pack
Colt 45 1911 A1

Loose Cannon
Liz may take her Sequence at time during the Game Turn, even interrupting another figure's turn.
BPRD Training
Liz may solve objectives using the Skills of any BPRD team-mate as if they were her own.

Hero/Horror Clix Liz Sherman
rebased for HeroScape


© 2009 Peter Miller

My custom additions to Tannhäuser are not created by, distributed, or endorsed by Take on You, Asmodee, or Fantasy Flight. Tannhäuser and all related characters are trademarks of Take on You and © Take on You LTD. Liz Sherman is trademark and © Mike Mignola. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Tannhäuser Tuesday - Play Aid 2

by littlewars

With the release of Operation Novgorod it is now necessary to track the Game Turns in order to use Irina Kravchenko's "Martyr" Special Item. You can do this with a spare die or you can use this month's play aid, a Turn Tracker.

You move the counter down the track at the start of each new turn. The track allows everyone to keep tabs on the amount of VPs the Matriarchy may gain in the event of Irina's demise. It is scaled to fit below her Character Sheet.

Click on the image above for a high res version of the Turn Tracker.

The Operation Novgorod expansion also features the Scenario "Last Of An Ancient Breed" in which you must keep track of Game Turns. On the reverse side is a general Turn Tracker for use in these kind of Scenarios.


A while back I made some blank cards for use in creating custom characters. As a bonus this month, I have made revamped cards for both Hero and Trooper characters. Click on the images below for high res versions.

• Blank Hero Character Card:

• Blank Trooper Character Card:

Included below are two versions of the skill icons for the the Character Cards. Click on the image for a high res version.

The cards above are handy if you have an image without a background.

In the example below, I used a nice Bruce Timm marker rendering of "The Master Of Men", The Spider. I copied and pasted the illustration onto the Character Card and trimmed away the white area. I then cropped the image to fit the background. This took about ten minutes to make:

You can download a file that contains all the jpegs above, as well as transparent png versions, at the end of this column.

The png files are handy if you have an image with a background. In the example below, I've taken a Joe DeVito painting of "The Man Of Bronze" and pasted the transparent Character Card on top of it. I then repositioned the image to fit in the "window". This took about five minutes to make:

Download a file that contains high res 300 dpi cards and skill icons, in both jpeg and transparent png format, here.

Next month in Part II, U-Chronic Token Of The Month will feature a Health Indicator for the custom Character Cards, as well as blank Equipment Tokens. In the meantime, be sure to visit Savage Tales every Tuesday for the finest in Tannhauser customs!