The Man Who WAS Doc Savage!

Figure 1 – Doc Savage Portrait by James Bama (with Ham, Monk, Renny, Long Tom, and Johnny)

…and Flash Gordon, and The Shadow, and The Avenger, and Conan, and Buchanan, and… and….

Before I start, I want to state that I have no rights to any images used here and am not using them for any commercial purpose; they are being used under the Fair Use doctrine. If any copyright holder objects to any image being used, please contact me and that image will be removied from this column.

Figure 2 – Steve Holland, World’s Greatest Illustration Model

Okay, legalities aside, do you all (let’s not see the same hands all the time, kids!) recognize Figure 1? How about Figure 2? Know who that is? Nope, you’re wrong, it’s not him—it’s famous illustration model Steve Holland, from the book Steve Holland, World’s Greatest Illustration Model by Michael Stradford.

Anyone who’s been collecting paperbacks—we all know who you are—for any length of time has probably got a bunch for which Steve was the model, not to mention the various men’s magazines and whatever he’s modeled for. It’s amazing to me that until this year I had no idea who he was! I can thank Michael Stradford for cluing me in and showing me some of the work this fantastic male model did over the years he was modeling. As mentioned above, he was the model James Bama used to create his iconic Doc Savage covers (I believe the number he did was 62!), and other artists, like Bob Larkin and Joe DeVito, also based their Doc portraits on Steve (see Figures 3-6).

Figure 3 – Steve Holland in Doc Savage Pose

Figure 3 shows Steve in a typical Doc pose, and Figures 4 and 5 show, respectively, Bama’s and Larkin’s Doc covers (AFAIK, DeVito did the Will Murray-written Doc book covers).

Figure 4 – James Bama Doc Savage painting

As you can see, the other artists found it either necessary—due to readers’ expectations or editorial design—to continue with the Bama model.

Figure 5 – Bob Larkin Doc Savage painting

But long before that, Steve was on TV (1954-55) as Flash Gordon (Figure 6), where he played alongside Irene Champlin as Dale Arden, and Joseph Nash as Dr. Zarkov. The series was filmed in Germany with a limited budget and, according to Wikipedia, critics have panned it. (Before his acting career, which didn’t last long, Steve was the model (Wikipedia again) for Fawcett Comics’ Western hero Bob Colt.)

Figure 6 – (L-R) Irene Champlin, Joseph Nash, and Steve as Flash Gordon

Me, I didn’t know any of that, as in the ‘50s I only remember watching George Reeves as Superman, and not that particular series (I did see some of the Buster Crabbe Flash Gordon serial episodes somewhere at that time).

After his acting career fizzled, Steve became a model and, as noted before, was the model not only for Doc Savage, but for all sorts of cover men, both genre and non-genre—everything from fantasy (Conan) to Western (you name it, but my favourites are Western books like Buchanan by “Jonas Ward” (William Ard) and Louis L’Amour, to detective and everything in between; he also modeled for “Men’s Magazines” and comics. Among the series he modeled for were  The Avenger (artists Peter Caras and George Gross), The Spider (Caras and Robert MacGuire), Operator #5 (Gross), and others. He modeled for Nevada Jim (Bama again), Tarzan, The Phantom, Matt Helm, and Magnus Robot Fighter as well—even The Hulk! When modeling for Warren magazines (Eerie, Creepy, etc.) he often portrayed all the figures in a given story or cover.

Figure 7 – Ed Valigursky cover with Steve

I’ll bet I could hit my bookshelves and grab at least five in the same number of minutes without even trying hard; he was on SF covers by Emsh, Valigursky and other artists. You can bet that I’ll be watching all my book covers for Steve from now on.

I’m not intending to give you all the information that’s in this particular book—Michael has written several and has a new one coming out soon. If you wish to obtain a copy of any of them for yourself, you can mosey on down to Michael’s website and check them out for yourself—even buy a book while you’re there. They’re fascinating, and I will probably be reviewing and talking about another one—The Torn Shirt Sessions—at another time, possibly next week. By the way, I did receive PDF copies of both these books for review purposes, but this review is not biased by that fact; I actually asked the author because I find Steve’s career very interesting. After reading just this one, I find myself hooked, and will probably be purchasing the others as soon as I can.

Comments? Anyone? Yeah, this time you can all raise your hands. Here, or on Facebook, or even by email (stevefah at hotmail dot com). All comments are welcome! (Just be polite, please.) My opinion is, as always, my own, and doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of Amazing Stories or its owner, editor, publisher or other columnists. See you next time!

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