The First Doc Savage: The Apocryphal Life of Clark Savage, Sr.

by Timothy J. Rutt (vol. 1, no. 3)

For probably one of the greatest and most complex members of the Wold Newton Family, we know precious little about him. We know him mainly as a name, mentioned occasionally by his son or his son's five aides. Yet he is mentioned by several authors, and is known by several names--Clark Savage, Sr., James Wilder, Professor Daniel Hardin. He was a criminal, explorer, physician, millionaire, genius, and hero. He was also the father of the greatest crimefighter the world has ever known.

Clark Savage, Sr., was the illegitimate son of the 6th Duke of Greystoke and the beautiful Patricia Clarke Wildman. (His real name, so far as we can tell, is James Clarke Wildman; however, to prevent confusion, we will henceforth call him Clark Savage, Sr.) His mother died shortly after his birth, and he was taken in and raised by his father. The Duke's devotion to his son put great strain upon his marriage, with the result that Lady Greystoke was later to leave him.

In his adolescence, young Clark was sent to Eton, and there met his lifelong friend, Hubert Robertson. Both boys were natural athletes, as well as being intelligent and inquisitive, traits that would serve them both well in the years to come.

Clark grew to be a handsome man of average height, wiry and surprisingly strong for his looks. he had bronze-red hair and blue, probing eyes, with mobile features that in later years would acquire great dignity.

After Eton came college (whether Cambridge or Oxford we don't know), where he met and secretly married Arronaxe Larson, daughter of Wolf Larson (see Jack London's The Sea Wolf) and granddaughter of the famous French-Canadian harpooner, Ned Land (see Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea). After college, he was hired by his father as his personal secretary.

Unfortunately, Savage was heir to what Poe called "the imp of the perverse." He fell in with low companions, and spent his time and money with the shadier classes of people who lived near his home. Once, on an impulse, he spent a large sum of money on a treasure map of a sunken galleon somewhere in the Bahamas.

By early 1901, Savage had become financially troubled. Despite the Duke's vast holdings, all that savage received (or was legally entitled to receive) was his salary as the Duke's secretary. he decided that he was entitled to the Duke's estate, and kidnapped the Duke's legitimate son, 10-year-old William Cecil Arthur Clayton, Lord Saltire, in an attempt to have the Duke break the entail. The Duke, not knowing that Clark had engineered the kidnapping, called in Sherlock Holmes to find Cecil. Holmes did, and revealed Savage's part in the crime.

Now a known kidnapper and accessory after the fact in murder, Savage was forced to flee the country. The Duke managed to cover up most of the scandal (and bought Holmes and Watson's silence with a large sum). However, with name changes and other alterations, Dr. Watson published the story as "The Adventure of the Priory School."

Savage and Arronaxe went immediately over the channel to France, and thence to Paris, to look up his old friend Hubert Robertson, by this time a doctor of zoology. He showed Robertson his treasure map and proposed an expedition to claim it. Robertson was impressed, and agreed to go along. They set sail for Canada to get further help from Savage's uncle Alexander Wildman and his wife's grandfather, Ned Land.

Alexander, a wealthy man and still rather young, lent the party enough money to buy a small schooner, the Orion. Ned Land volunteered to go along. The party, along with a small crew, set sail for the Bahamas to look for the treasure.

Unfortunately, a band of cutthroats had learned of their plans and tried many times to steal the map. Failing this, they followed the party in an attempt to steal the treasure and murder them. Savage, fearing for his wife's safety, took her along with them, even thought she was now eight months pregnant.

After eluding their pursuers, they found the galleon and a treasure worth at least $150,000 after taxes (but their is reason to believe that they did not report it all to the British authorities). Their jubilation was short-lived; the pirates, who had found them, attacked in an attempt to steal the treasure.

Near Andros Island in the Bahamas, a desperate battle is fought. The Orion is boarded, but the outnumbered Savage party, in violent hand-to-hand combat, defeats the pirates, killing them and sinking their ship. But not without heavy losses; the crew of the Orion is killed, leaving only the Savages, Robertson, and Land.

A storm brews up, and as it does, Arronaxe goes into labor. Working hard, Savage and Robertson, led by the old sailor Land, steer into a secluded cove where she is to bear her child. As the thunder crashes outside, a son is born...Clark Savage, Jr., a handsome child with bronze skin, inheriting his father's bronze hair and mother's golden eyes.

But this happy moment was also short-lived. Several weeks later, the Orion runs into a reef and sinks, taking with it Arronaxe and her grandfather. By sheerest luck, Savage, his best friend, and son are the only survivors of the wreck and barely make it to land in one piece.

Moved by sorrow for his wife and his past crimes, Savage makes a vow. He will become a physician and surgeon, and fight injustice wherever he finds it. In addition, he will dedicate his son to this cause, making him the greatest scientist and crimefighter the world has ever known.

Savage entered Johns Hopkins as a premedical student, and left young Clark with a group of scientists to oversee his physical and intellectual training.

After completing his internship and receiving his medical degree, Savage found that he was short of money again. His contacts, which he had by this time established all over the globe, informed him of the existence of an ancient Mayan civilization in the republic of Hidalgo, in Central America. With Robertson, he formed an expedition to seek the Valley of the Vanished.

When they reached the Mayans in 1911, they found that they had a very old and vital civilization. Savage impressed them with his nobility and bravery, as well as his medical knowledge. The Mayans made the men honorary members of their tribe and promised them the great resources of their valley. Savage realized that this would be a perfect way to finance his son's training and career, and, swearing eternal friendship, Savage and Robertson departed, leading a donkeytrain full of gold.

Some wise investments left Savage enormously wealthy, and able to devote more time to preparing his son's career, as well as hunting and exploring. From what we know of his own career, he spent most of his time exploring Central and South America, and spent precious little time with his son who had, at the age of 16, already entered Johns Hopkins' premed program.

In early 1917, shortly before America entered World War I, Savage prepared an expedition to Maple White Land with his friend, fellow-explorer and weapons expert Hareton Ironcastle. Savage's correspondence with his cousin George Edward Challenger convinced him that the isolated South American plateau, teeming with prehistoric life, deserved a full, massive expedition.

Ironcastle prepared a special weapon for bagging dinosaurs, apparently a forerunner to the modern-day Taser. A rifle would fire bullets attached to long, thin wires into the creature. The wires would be attached to powerful batteries which would send an electrical current into the saurians, immobilizing them so that they could be pumped full of preservative chemicals and flown back into civilization on a fleet of zeppelins.

The expedition reached Maple White Land, and succeeded in capturing several huge dinosaurs and a variety of smaller ones. Unfortunately, and suddenly, the plateau erupted in violent volcanic activity. Several of the zeppelins were destroyed, and all of the dinosaur carcasses had to be ditched. The entire plateau was destroyed, killing all (or almost all) of the life on it. Savage and Ironcastle were lucky to escape, bearing only a few photographs of the wonders they saw.

Despite the pictures and the story of the surviving members of the expedition, the scientific community accused Savage and Ironcastle of trying to perpetrate a gigantic hoax. Disgusted with their attitude, Savage turned his back on them and lost himself in preparation for his son's career.

There does exist evidence that Savage managed at least one more expedition to Central America, the Yucatan, in the late 1920's. During this expedition, he met Hugo Danner, the biological experiment whose highly romanticized and fictionalized biography was written by Philip Wylie in Gladiator. The last chapter of this book is devoted to Danner's revelations to Professor Daniel Hardin, whose physical description and career outline amazingly parallel Savage's--thus my thesis that they are the same man.

Like Doc, Jr., Danner is a superman, but one who was the result of a biological experiment by his father. Danner's prodigious strength is many times that of Doc's (or any other human who ever lived), and it has kept him isolated from the normal world of men.

Despairing, he unloads his heart to Hardin/Savage, who sympathizes with him. Indeed, it is quite likely that Savage saw, in Danner, what was happening to his own son. Savage and Danner reach for an understanding, an attempt that ends tragically with Hugo's death.

The Meeting with Danner suddenly made Savage aware of what he was doing to his own son--making him a super man, but not a total man. So Savage spent the last years of his life in close contact with his son, trying to find the companionship that should have been theirs in Doc's youth. Together they planned the Empire State Building, the upstate New York Crime College, the Fortress of Solitude. Though Savage had decided his son need humanity, he has not abandoned his plans for Doc's future--and neither has Doc.

Justly proud, Savage and son had dinner on their 86th floor headquarters the night before Doc was to depart to the Fortress on one of the first of his many sojourns there--both totally unaware that it was to be the last time they would see each other.

Things start to happen. Savage, walking down Fifth Avenue one afternoon, is suddenly the target of a high-powered rifle. He escapes, but several days later narrowly escapes the bombing of his car.

Savage confides in his old friend Hubert Robertson, now a director of zoology at the Museum of Natural History. Robertson, too has been the target of several assassinations attempts. They decide, confidentially, to tell Doc of the Valley of the Vanished, and of his heritage there.

Just in case he dies or is killed before Doc returns from the Fortress, Savage writes his son a letter, detailing his plans, hopes, and an exhortation to carry on, unwaveringly, against evil in all its forms. (This letter is mostly destroyed during the events of The Man of Bronze.) Soon after, he is stricken by a mysterious disease and realizes that his journey is at last at an end.

When Clark Savage, Sr., dies, it is not in a blaze of glory (real life is never like that), but quietly, surrounded by his son's friends, Monk, Ham, Renny, Long Tom, and Johnny, men who will help Doc in his crusade for good, a crusade that had its germ in a crime committed thirty years before. As the rain falls on the grounds of the Crime College, the Amazing Five see their leader's father to his final rest, marked, appropriately, by a plaque of bronze. With his death, the world has lost one of its great men--but will see the beginning of a far greater one in the future to come.


Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan (ed,) "The Adventure of the Priory School," The ....of Sherlock Holmes, Doubleday, 1...

Farmer, Philip Jose, Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life, Bantam Books (revised edition) 1975

_____, Tarzan Alive,.......

_____, and Rosny, ....Ironcastle, DAW Books, 1976

Robertson, Hubert...........Explorer's Club (special.....

Robeson, Kenneth (Lester Dent), The Man of Bronze, Doc Savage Magazine, March, 1933

Wylie, Philip Gladiator, Alfred A. Knopf, 1930

Return to the Wold Atlas page.

Return to Wold Newton Chronicles


All rights reserved. The text of this article is copyright 2000 by the author, Timothy J. Rutt. No copying or reproduction of this article or any portions thereof in any form whatsoever is permitted without prior written permission and consent of the author.