HIS NAME IS . . . SAVAGE
Also known as GIL KANE’S SAVAGE
HIS NAME IS . . . SAVAGE is a 1968 magazine-format comics novel considered to be a precursor to the modern-day graphic novel. It was created by the great Gil Kane – who conceived, plotted, and illustrated it along with writer Archie Goodwin. The black-and-white magazine was published by Kane’s own Adventure House Press.
In the 1960s Gil Kane was a well-established and very popular comic artist. He was best known for having co-created the modern Green Lantern and The Atom although in his time he did everything from war to westerns. He was also an early advocate for creators’ rights. As such he set up his own studio in Manhattan and for years did double duty working for DC Comics and doing his own HIS NAME IS . . . SAVAGE as well as BLACKMARK.
Secret Agents were extremely popular in the 1960s kicked off by the James Bond craze. The character Savage was conceived as a secret agent action hero who looked at if you had taken Lee Marvin and James Coburn, stuck them in a blender, and then poured them into Savage’s suit. Next came Archie Goodwin to handle the script. At the time he was working as a writer/editor at Warren Publishing so he worked under the pseudonym Robert Franklin. Larry Koster handled production and Robert Foster did a painted cover that made Savage look like Lee Marvin’s twin.
Savage, no first name given, is in prison when his release is ordered by The Committee. The captain of the prison guards doesn’t want to let him go so Savage has to pretty much beat the living snot out of him in order to get his release. He then reports to The Committee – a secret intelligence organization that answers directly to the President. Why is it that in the 1960s there always had to be a secret organization like S.H.I.E.L.D., I.C.E., or CONTROL? How come the C.I.A. was never good enough? An old enemy of Savage – Simon Mace – is up to no good and that is why they got him out of prison. Savage was supposed to find out what Mace is up to and stop him. In the process we learn that Savage used to be Mace’s right hand man and was in love with Mace’s daughter Sheila. In trying to get himself and Sheila away from Mace he set a bomb – only it didn’t kill Mace and he returned a crazed cyborg – half-man and half-machine. That makes this job personal. Savage questions some old contacts, gets nasty with people, gets violent, and eventually meets up with Sheila again. He still loves her she still loves him. This time she is willing to leave her father for him and she tells him everything she knows – including a hideout in Long Island. Savage tries to take Sheila with him and Mace’s goons try to stop him and the girl gets it instead. Savage cradles her dead body in his arms. I saw that one coming by a mile. Savage figures out there must be a traitor in The Committee and insists upon reporting directly to the President. The President is in New York and about to address the United Nations. But in meeting with the President he figures out the man is a phony and really Simon Mace in disguise. They fight but the secret service knock out Savage and hand him over to Mace’s goons disguised as New York cops. Savage comes to in the car, beats the snot out of the two goons, grabs the car and heads for the United Nations. Mace as the President declares war on the Soviet Union. As everyone stays stunned Savage storms in announces to the world that the president is a phony and rips off his facemask revealing the cyborg visage of Mace. The bad guy hotfoots it with the good guy in pursuit. There is more mind-numbing violence (I love it!) and Mace gets away by boat. Savage gets a helicopter and heads for the Long Island hideout Sheila told him about and sees the boat. Savage calls in a military strike on the hideout and then goes in. He arrives just in time to stop a doctor from mutilating an unconscious President. But then he and Mace get into another knock down drag out fight as paratroopers storm the hideout and engage Mace’s army. More mind-numbing violence ensues (I cannot get enough!) as well as acid in the face. Ya gotta love acid in the face – especially when the bad guy only has half a face.
For once Savage is the one getting the snot beat out of him. But he manages to turn the table on Mace and win the day. Savage saved the President and made the world safe for Mom, apple pie, and the flag. As the ambulance leaves with Savage in it one soldier asks another who he is and the reply gives our magazine its name. “His name is . . . Savage!”
Right from the beginning HIS NAME IS . . . SAVAGE encountered production problems. No printer was willing to take a chance on alienating the large mainstream comic companies. One printer signed with them and the next day canceled because they heard Kane was doing pornography. The same happened again.
Next came trouble with distribution. For some unknown reason local distributors chose not to carry the magazine and returned the copies for credit. It is estimated that out of 200,000 copies made only about one tenth actually reached newsstands. Although HIS NAME IS . . . SAVAGE had been planed as an on-going series only the first issue was ever produced.
However, in 1982, HIS NAME IS . . . SAVAGE was reprinted by Fantagraphics Books under the title GIL KANE’S SAVAGE!
Let’s take a look at the negative stuff before tackling the positive stuff:
- This magazine is black and white. Now that doesn’t bother me but I do know there are some people who will not read sequential art unless it is in color. This might be a turnoff for them.
- The writing is extremely wordy. At first this turned me off and I almost gave up reading the book. But I hung in there and got used to it. It reads as if it had been written as a novel, then drawn from the prose, and then the novel put in as the captions. So we are given descriptions of what Savage is doing – while seeing what he is doing.
- In some cases the prose and pictures do not match. Savage is given a .357 Magnum as his handgun. Later it is described as an automatic. A 357. Magnum is a revolver not an automatic.
- Savage is not a nice guy. He is the hero and you do root for him but he is not a sympathetic character. At best he can be called an anti-hero. In fact, there really isn’t a nice character in the entire story.
- The entire story is an exercise in mind-numbing violence.
Okay now let’s look at the good stuff:
- Gil Kane is one of my favorite comic artists of all time! Most folks sing the praises of Jack Kirby but I think Gil Kane is right up there with him. I can sit and stare at his work for hours – and HIS NAME IS . . . SAVAGE is some of his best work.
- Gil Kane is one of my favorite storytellers. Not only is he fabulous as a comic artist but also HIS NAME IS . . . SAVAGE, BLACKMARK, and STARHAWKS are amazing feats of plotting and story telling.
- The entire story is an exercise in mind-numbing violence. Yeah, I know, I had that down as a bad thing. That is because some folks are turned off by that sort of thing. I’m not. In fact, the violence in this magazine is one of its best selling points. What kind of sick individual am I?
Okay, I’ll admit that being such a huge Gil Kane fan might make me a tad biased. Also, I will readily admit I am a big secret agent fan as well. And I have never made a secret of the fact that I love comic books and anything in sequential art. So I guess it comes as no surprise that I highly recommend HIS NAME IS . . . SAVAGE. If you like great comic art, if you like secret agents, if you love mind-numbing violence then check out this magazine. You will not be disappointed,
I give this magazine Three and a Half Gray Geeks on our rating scale.
Okay Kemosabe that is it for this time around. I thank you for spending some time with me and as always it has been a blast. Remember this compadre as you ride off into the sunset; if you’re going to dream then dream BIG! Adios!