1933-03 The Man of Bronze

Cover Date: March 1933
Cover Artist: Walter M. Baumhoffer
Volume 1 #1 (Issue #1)
Copyright Date: Friday, February 17, 1933
Author: Lester Dent, John Nanovic, and Henry Ralston
Editor: John Nanovic
Bantam Edition #1 October 1964
Sanctum Edition #14
Story Length: 51,100 words
WHMC: The collection contains eighteen folders for this story, f. 39-46.
Recurring Characters. Doc Savage and his Iron Crew are all in this story.


The Man of Bronze by Kenneth Robeson (page 3)
Outpost in Hell by Bill Cook (page 34)
Snow Tricks by Lester Dent (page 103)
Tigers of the Sea by Harley James (page 111)
Treasure Trove (by Lester Dent) (page 124)

The Contents page notes that the magazine is available on the third Friday of the month.  Annual Subscriptions are $1.00 or ten cents per issue.

“The Man of Bronze” is actually the second version of this story.  In 1932, John Nanovic and Henry Ralston collaborated on a story that was titled “Doc Savage, Supreme Adventurer.  This is the foundation upon which “The Man of Bronze” was erected.  Many of the items Dent included in his version were already present in the prototype story.  The embellishments and enhancements by Lester Dent sealed the deal with gold.

Synopsis: Doc Savage returns to his New York headquarters, located on the 86th floor of a prominent building, to learn that his father has died mysteriously. While conferring with his five associates, an assassination attempt is made on Doc.  Apprehending the shooter, Doc’s men are surprised to find that the man is a Mayan who speaks an extinct language.  Doc attempts to hypnotize the man and interrogate him but the native jumps to his death rather than reveal any knowledge. Doc Savage locates important papers his father hid before his death.  These documents reveal that Doc Savage has a land grant in the Central American republic of Hidalgo. Doc and his men travel to Hidalgo and from there into the remote jungle interior where the land grant is located.  They discover a lost tribe of the Mayan Empire.  Throughout their journey they encounter resistance and attacks from some unknown malefactor. These obstacles continue even in the remote jungle valley. The criminal mastermind utilizes a deadly disease as a weapon.  This is the same disease which was used to murder Doc’s father.  Doc Savage develops a cure which heals the sickened people.  Doc and his men are adopted into the tribe. They then learn that the legacy is an enormous golden treasure to be used by Doc Savage and his men in their quest against evil. The tribe is attacked by the villain who is using the Mayan warrior sect as his agents.  Events culminate with the defeat of the warriors and the death of the villain.

An assassin uses a double-barreled elephant gun made by Webley & Scott in an attempt to kill Doc Savage.   The gun is described as a .577 caliber Nitro-Express rifle.

Information presented in subsequent stories from 1933 clearly places Doc’s headquarters building at the same location as the Empire State Building. However, this does not appear to be the case in “The Man of Bronze.” In this book, the location described fits the Chrysler Building as headquarters and the Empire State Building as the site from which the assassin fired.

Remarks place the Fortress of Solitude is on an island inside the Arctic.

Monk is called a “Houdini of the test tubes” referring to magician Harry Houdini’s amazing abilities. Houdini was both a magician and an escapologist.  As the Doc Savage stories progressed, Doc Savage was revealed to be a master escapologist, often finding himself in many situations that mirrored Houdini’s stage performances.

Even though this is the first documented adventure, the narrator implies the multitude of scars on Monk’s skin come from the group’s past adventures. Given the degree of scarification, the author indicates that many more adventures occurred prior to this story.

The invisible chalk that fluoresces under ultra-violent light is used in this story. It was an invention of the elder Savage.

Barney Oldfield, a famous racer, is mentioned in the story. Oldfield was the first racer at the Indianapolis 500 to set a 100mph lap time. In 1917 he created a sensation with his streamlined racer, the Golden Submarine. Barney Oldfield also created a racial controversy. John Arthur “Jack” Johnson was the world heavyweight boxing champion from 1908 until 1915. Johnson was also a fast car enthusiast. He was also black.  A race was proposed between Oldfield and Johnson to be held at the dirt track in Sheepshead Bay, New York. The AAU refused to issue Johnson a license due to his race. The July 9, 1932, issue of the Modesto Bee carried an article which mentioned this race and stated that Willie K. Vanderbilt was head of the committee at this time. A permit was eventually obtained through a little subterfuge and the race was held. Oldfield easily outdistanced Johnson and won the race.

Monk complains that someone pulled a whizzer on him when he is tricked.  In wrestling, a whizzer is also known as an overhook.

The signature anesthetic gas that Doc Savage uses is not yet present in the series.  Instead, the men use a gas that temporarily paralyze those exposed.

Hidalgo is a fictional country. In Spanish, the word refers to the nobility. Hidalgo is also the name of a state in Central Mexico.  The country that best fits the description from the story is Guatemala.

The Hidalgo Trading Company is not mentioned.  Doc keeps his plane at the North Beach Airport.  The airport was originally named for aviator Glenn Curtis.  It is now known as LaGuardia Airport.

One of Doc’s planes is an autogyro.

Locations mentioned in the story are Biscayne Bay in Florida, Havana, Cuba, Belize (British Honduras), and Ambergris Cay.

The two-hour exercise routine that Doc Savage practices daily appears here.

The first thing that generally comes to mind after reading the expression “Red Death” is likely to be “The Masque of the Red Death” by Edgar Allen Poe.  So just what was the “Red Death” as described in the story?  The symptoms include red patches on the victim’s neck and fever.  Doc determines the disease is a version of Parrot fever.  In the story, Doc Savage produces a treatment for the “Red Death.”  Doc examines some of the sick natives before making a foray into the surrounding jungle.  He returns with a collection of plants with which he treats his patients.   The comments about an epidemic of Parrot fever a few years earlier are factual in nature.  The headline below is from 1930.

Spanish words and English meanings: Blanco Grande means “large white” while Rubio means “blond or fair-haired.” Avispa means “wasp.” Monja means nun.

Monk refers to Don Rubio as a “gink.” This is an insulting term for a person.

The Mayans figure prominently in the legacy left to Doc Savage by his father.  King Chaac is the leader of the Mayans.  In Mayan mythology Chaac is the rain god.

We also find that Princess Monja speaks excellent English, and we are left to wonder who taught her. Of particular interest is her name. Why is a Mayan princess named Monja, which means ‘nun” in Spanish?

Morning Breeze and his men try to murder several of Doc’s men.  Monk witness Johnny being tossed into a sacrificial well. His thoughts are interesting:  “One of the most brilliant living geologists and archaeologists snuffed out at the dawn of his career.”  My personal take from the series is that Johnny is one of the older members of the group.  This comment comes at the earliest part of the series and may be a mistake or the development of Johnny’s character took a different turn.

An aerial battle ensues between Doc’s plane and the blue plane used by Don Rubio.  Renny uses an aircraft type Browning machine gun to shoot down the other craft. Dent describes the weapon as having a rifle-like stock which sounds like a BAR (M1918 Browning Automatic Rifle). But the weapon is described as using cartridges in a metal link belt.  This would most likely make it a M1919 Browning Machine Gun.  While not standard, some M1919 Browning machine guns were fitted with rifle stocks.  This is likely the weapon Dent is describing.

Doc’s famous supermachine pistols make their first appearance although they are not named as such.  The weapons are described as having sixty round magazines and being fully automatic. These are weapons of Doc Savage’s own design.


On March 18, 1933, Norma and Lester Dent took a cruise on the RMS Mauretania. Over the next ten days they visited the Caribbean, Central America, and South America, returning to New York on March 30. The ship’s registry showed Dent’s place of birth as “La Plata, Wisc” while Norma Dent’s was listed as “Carlton, Mass

  • March 18, 1933, Departure from New York City
  • March 22, 1933, La Guaira, Venezuela
  • March 23, 1933, Curacao, Dutch West Indies
  • March 24, 1933, Cartagena, Colombia
  • March 25, 1933, Colon, Panama
  • March 28, 1933, Havana, Cuba
  • March 30, 1933, New York, New York

“The Man of Bronze” is a “lost race” novel. This particular type story mechanism is attributed to H. Rider Haggard who was an author from the time of his published work, “King Solomon’s Mines” (1885) until his death in 1925. Haggard also wrote a story published in 1895 titled Heart of the World. This story centered on a lost Aztec city, a golden treasure, and a beautiful princess named Maya. The basic idea in Haggard’s story closely parallels that of the people of the Valley of the Vanished in “The Man of Bronze.” The lost civilization in Haggard’s story was located in the Tabasco region of Mexico.  This Mexican state is situated on the border with Guatemala.


Back in 1995, at the Dent estate sale held after Norma Dent’s death, fellow Doc Savage enthusiast Mark Lambert purchased a copy of “Tarzan and The Jewels of Opar” complete with Dent’s name written on the inside cover.

“Gladiator” by Phillip Wylie was published in 1930.  The story’s hero, Hugo Danner, possesses superhuman strength. Aside from being viewed as a prototype Doc Savage character, there is another interesting similarity.  Doc Savage finds fortune with the Mayans.  Wylie involves Danner with an  archaeological expedition to Mayan ruins at the end of the story.

Thomas Gann published “Discoveries and Adventures in Central America” in 1928. Only 27 years old, Gann first came to British Honduras in 1894 as a medical officer and a vigorous interest in the countless Mayan ruins dotted throughout the countryside. Gann wrote over forty books detailing his experiences and was recognized as an authority on Central American archeology. Dent made use of some passages from Gann’s work in the Doc Savage series. 

It is noteworthy that Thomas Gann spent much of his time exploring in Guatemala.  British Honduras, which is where he was stationed borders Guatemala on the western side. British Honduras was renamed Belize in 1973.

Another author makes an unannounced contribution to “The Man of Bronze” with Phillips Russell’s publication in 1929 of “Red Tiger: Adventures in Yucatan and Mexico.” Phillips C. Russell (1884-1974) was a prolific author and served on the faculty at the University of North Carolina from 1931-1954. 

Lester Dent describes the beach at Belize City in British Honduras in “The Man of Bronze.”

The smell of the beach was strong in their nostrils – sea water, wet logs, soft-shell crabs, fish, kelp, and decaying vegetation making a conglomerate odor.”

This is remarkably similar to Russell’s description of the same location in his “Red Tiger” travelogue.

“To the alien nostril it seems to be a fetid compound of sea water, wet logs, soft shell crabs, fish, kelp, and decaying vegetation.”

Some descriptive passages from “Red Tiger” later appear in “They Died Twice.”


NEXT: The Land of Terror