Straight from Dynamite, here's a Writer's Commentary from David Avallone talking about the fourth and final issue of Doc Savage: The Ring of Fire. Cover from Brent Schoonover, interiors by Dave Acosta. This series is particularly topical as it deals with the mystery of Amelia Earhart, who is suddenly in the news because of a photo that might be here and her navigator.
Issue Four: we reach the end of our Supersaga. Spoilers below; read the book and come back and to find out what the hell I was thinking when I wrote it.
Amelia and Pat. I would like to have had this conversation stretch out for half the issue. I had a lot of thoughts about them, and a bunch of backstory written…but I just couldn't justify, at any point in this story, them sitting down for a nice long chat, so it had to be what they could get to while escaping. There's even an explanation for their prophetic dreams. Maybe someday I'll get to turn this adventure into a novel and tell you everything you missed. I could have done 12 issues of this, but that wasn't in the cards this time.
I rewrote Doc and Sunlight's conversation here more than anything in the book. On the one hand, they're archetypes, and even in Lester Dent they speak like archetypes. On the other hand, this is a very familiar scene in the epic adventure genre, and you want to be as original as you can.
In Panel Two, I love the look on Sunlight's face. He's embarrassed to tell Doc Savage that Amelia has escaped. Throughout this series, Dave Acosta's work has been amazing and every page conveys the maximum amount of drama, while not missing out on great little character details like this. Also on this page, the superlative coloring of Morgan Hickman. The island at night looks just how I imagined it, and just how I wanted it.
Pages 4, 5, & 6:
Sunlight presents his plan, and Doc attempts to engage the Vice Admiral's morality and honor. There was tension within the Japanese military about war with America, and I wanted Matsui and Osato to represent both sides of that debate. History demonstrates, tragically, who won that argument in the long run. Matsui's list of objections to the Ring of Fire/Superwave Modulator are based on the principles of the Bushido Code. Matsui is ticking off all the ways in which the weapon breaks those rules. Of course, so does the atomic bomb…
I asked my friend Anna Maltese, a martial arts expert, if a Japanese naval sword could cut through a chain. Hell no, apparently. There was a glut of swords made at that time, and they were mostly crap. So no easy way out of the manacles for Doc. Sorry, Doc.
Pages 9 & 10:
We finally rip Doc's shirt. Is everybody happy now? I'm sorry it took almost four whole issues. A good page to mention the fantastic lettering of Taylor Esposito… who accepted "SHHRIP" as the appropriate sound effect for that. Also, just as Doc has his trademark "sound" — the trilling he makes while in thought — according to Lester Dent, Sunlight is a growler.
Pages 11, 12, & 13:
I always knew that Amelia would likely not survive my series: the joy of writing about her, and "bringing her back," was always tempered by the knowledge that I couldn't really write a happy ending to her story… because we don't live in a world where she got that. So I had to write this scene. Maybe I'm weak for my own work, but it was heart-breaking. Dave's panel of their last embrace absolutely kills me. It's perfect. Like everything else he did in this series, it's everything I wanted and better than I could have imagined.
There is a popular 1980s "cult film" that is an homage to Doc Savage: a movie about a brilliant scientist/doctor/musician/adventurer who travels the world with a team of amazing specialists, writing wrongs and fighting supervillains. Dave had to introduce that concrete wall a few issues back so I could have my little nod towards Buckaroo Banzai. I thought it would add just the tiny touch of lightness amid the unfolding tragedy, for the few who recognized the reference.
In the final panel, is Pat referring to her emotional state, or what kind of bullets she has in her pistol? Or both? That's up to you to decide for yourself, dear reader.
Pages 18 & 19:
I did a lot of research on Amelia Earhart for this series, including reading the recent biography EAST TO The Dawn by Susan Butler. I mostly used this research as a way to understand Amelia as a person (and a character,) and used very little that was specific. The one vital "discovery" in the research was the poem "Courage," which I'd never seen before. It is by Amelia Earhart, it is beautiful and I decided to let it play in "silence" for the finale, mirroring somewhat the silent dream sequence that opened the first issue.
And so we come to the end. Evil is defeated, at a terrible cost. Doc can hope that the last of his lost superweapons has been destroyed and Pat can accept the heroic fate of her beloved Amelia. As a lifelong James Bond fan, I couldn't resist captioning this final image — certainly inspired on some level by You Only Live Twice — with: The End, But Doc Savage Will Return. Indeed he will, and I hope to be a part of it when he does.