Like many guys my age, I became enthralled with the adventures of Doc Savage, through the paperback reprints of the 60s, 70s and 80s. I was delighted a few years back to find that these thrilling stories were written by a man from La Plata, Missouri named Lester Dent. He used the pen name of Kenneth Robeson. The super strong, gadgeteer Doc Savage and his five assistants paved the way for such heroes as Indiana Jones, James Bond, Superman, Batman, the Fantastic Four and Johnny Quest.
So why does the state of Missouri rarely acknowledge Lester Dent and Doc Savage? Why do they spend money time and money promoting about Laura Ingles Wilder, who was born in Wisconsin?
I have found very few articles about Lester Dent and Doc Savage in the state’s media. Two good ones I found online are from Rural Missourian and one from an unknown source on the Truman University - Pickler Memorial Library website. However, you can find numerous articles from local newspapers and magazines about Laura Ingles Wilder’s connection to Missouri.
I will admit up-front, I despise the works of Laura Ingles Wilder. Especially the TV show Little House on the Prairie. This goes back to my horrible, tortured childhood in Lebanon, Missouri. I was often told by the adults in the community that I should watch Little House on the Prairie (and the Waltons) because it was “better for me” than the shows I liked.
That could be one of the reasons that Wilder’s Little House franchise is promoted by the state of Missouri over Dent’ Doc Savage. Wilder’s world is seen as good, old-fashion, wholesome entertainment, whereas Dent’s world is filled with modernism, science fiction/horror, and excitement, which is frowned upon by many in Missouri (especially in the Ozarks). Although, it should be noted that Dent always maintained that Doc Savage had “Christlike” qualities.
The Little House books talk about the world so many in the Missouri want to embrace. They want to keep Missouri a world of one room schoolhouses, church dinners and barn raisings. Even in the Great Depression, Doc Savage had television, jet planes and a telephone answering machine. Doc Savage had at his disposal the things we take for granted.
Part of the reason Doc Savage isn’t mentioned as much is Doc Savage has only been successful in the publishing world of paperback novels, comic books and magazines. He had a short lived radio show in the 30s and one on NPR in the 80s. He also had one movie, Doc Savage - Man of Bronze, in 1975. It stared TV Tarzan Ron Ely and Paul Gleason (later in the Breakfast Club). I seem to be the only person who liked this movie. There wasn’t a sequel.
Of course, Little House on the Prairie ran from the mid 70s through the 80s on NBC. Every week the Ingles family suffered one hard ship after another. That long running TV series, whether I like it or not, gives Wilder more publicity worldwide than Dent and Doc Savage has gotten.
Finally, the state of Missouri may prefer Wilder because her stories frequently took place in Missouri, where Dent sent Doc Savage and his five pals off on adventures around the world. Doc Savage also lived in a penthouse in New York.
Needless to say, I would still like to see Lester Dent and Doc Savage recognized more by the state of Missouri. The state of Missouri should be ashamed for ignoring Lester Dent’s contribution to the literary world and pop culture. Maybe some of our state officials should stop trying to block the President’s health care reform and give Lester Dent and Doc Savage their due.
Of course, opinions, like this one, explains why I’m called the Super Villain of the Ozarks!!! Mwu-HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!