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The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

Retro Reviews: The Vanisher by Kenneth Robeson

Retro Reviews: The Vanisher by Kenneth Robeson

The Vanisher
Author:  Kenneth Robeson
Series:  Doc Savage 52
Original Publisher and Date:  Street & Smith Publications, December 1936
Still in Print:  No
Current Formats and Length:  Mass Market Paperback, 139 pages
Availability:  online
ISBN:  Predates ISBNs

Retro Reviews: The Vanisher by Kenneth Robeson
Brief History

Kenneth Robeson was a house name used by Street & Smith Publications. Ten different men wrote under that name. Lester Dent wrote The Vanisher.

Lester Dent (Oct. 12, 1904 – March 11, 1959) spent his early years in Wyoming and Missouri. In 1926, Dent went to Chillicothe Business College in Chillicothe Missouri and received a degree in Telegraphy. Dent worked as a telegrapher, and during the slow grave yard shift began to write stories. His first published story was Pirate Cay in the Sept. 1929 issue of Top Noch magazine. Soon after, Dent was contacted by Dell Publishing and received a contract to write for them exclusively. In 1932, Dent signed a contract with Street & Smith, and with the help of Henry W. Ralston and John L. Nanovic created Doc Savage. Issue 1 of Doc Savage magazine was published in Feb. 1933.

Dent was a voracious reader and also loved to learn new skills. While writing Doc Savage stories he also found the time to pass the electrician's and plumber's exams, and take courses in technology. He received his amateur radio and pilot's license. He learned to sail a 40-foot schooner and mountain climb. He traveled so much in his life that he was awarded membership in the Explorers Club.

Doc Savage magazine ended in 1949. There are 181 Doc Savage novels, and out of those only 20 were written by someone other than Dent. The March 1944 issue, The Derelict of Skull Shoal, was the only story where Lester Dent's name appears as writer instead of Kenneth Robeson, and it was done in error. After Doc Savage, Lester Dent went on to write mysteries and westerns. His last novel Lady in Peril was published the month he died. In recent years, his work has been republished in omnibus form. Dent created a Master Fiction Plot formula that he used with great success and Micheal Moorcock has recommended it to aspiring authors.

Doc Savage has appeared in magazines, novels, radio, film and comic book formats.

Back Cover Description

Twenty convicts vanished without a trace from maximum security cells, and top businessmen suddenly disappeared. The tabloids trumpeted the reign of a small, deformed man — or woman — spotted at the scenes. Strangely, Doc Savage was framed for the disappearances — and then the murders … But the Horrible Hunchback hadn’t counted on the wrath of the mighty Man of Bronze!

Brannigan's Review

I've always known about Doc Savage, but I've never read any of the books. The first time I had any exposure to him was in Brian Azzarello's comic First Wave through DC comics. It was set in the 1930s and had Doc Savage and his team working with Batman and The Spirit. It was a fun comic and ever since I've been wanting to read one of the old pulp stories staring the man of bronze.

For a book written 79 years ago, I really got caught up in it. Let me start off by stating that if this same story was published today, it would be considered racist and male chauvinistic. I wouldn't say any of it was cruel or hurtful, but it's definitely not politically correct. You have to read the book with the understanding of when it was written and know that the social and political environment then was very different from today.

The story itself started out with a great hook. Twenty prisoners are freed from their prison cells and vanish right under the noses of the prison guards. Doc Savage is called to the scene of the crime as a suspect, but quickly begins to solve the mystery. There's double dealing, murder, dames, and plenty of fist fights and shoot outs. The pacing of the story is all about momentum, getting the reader to keep reading. It still works and held my attention until the end.

As far as character development, there aren't enough pages to really get a strong connections to any of them, so they do come across as a little one dimensional. Some of the reasoning behind the choices of both the heroes and villains are also tenuous, but then I don't expect anyone to read these books seeking depth or allegorical meaning in the text.

The Vanisher is fun junk food fiction. It's a perfect book to cleanse your palate between weightier novels or after your finals and you want a quick book that you don't have to think about. Compared to today's moral standards, there are no issues with violence, adult situations, and language, so it would be safe for teens or adults to read. This is definitely a book to check out at the library or borrow from a friend. You could also buy one used for pretty cheap. I got mine for a buck fifty. I think everyone should read at least one true pulp novel before they die, so why not this one.

Wednesday Comics on Thursday - April 14, 2011

Today I'm going to feature the covers for 3 comics that are based on stories or story ideas.

DC Comics

Doc Savage first appeared in Doc Savage Magazine in the early 1930s. I've never seen the magazines, but I did read all the novels from Bantam Books from the 1960s and 1970s. You can what appears to be a comprehensive list of the magazine and books at

This comic has been canceled.

Doc Savage #13 - Cover: J.G. Jones
Wednesday Comics on Thursday - April 14, 2011
It's the start of "Raise The Khan," a globetrotting six-issue arc written by artist (and Doc Savage fan) extraordinaire J.G. Jones! When is a mummy not a mummy? When it's neither dead nor Egyptian, for starters. So what was a nearly unstoppable bruiser in bandages doing attacking the Egyptian wing of the Met in New York, and taking Johnny hostage on the streets of Cairo? DC Comics

Dean Koontz's Nevermore comes to comics.
"My original intention was to write NEVERMORE as a novel, and I still might do that one day," explains author Dean Koontz. "In the meantime, it is great fun for me to watch Keith Champagne, Leno Carvalho, Darick Robertson, and Tyler Walpole bring the concept to life so brilliantly." Press Release
There will be six issues. There are 6 covers for Issue 1: 3 regular, 2 Retailer Incentive covers, and a variant from Dynamic Forces.  Here are the 3 regular covers and their artists.

Cover A - Darick Robertson (50%)
Wednesday Comics on Thursday - April 14, 2011

Cover B - Tyler Walpole (25%)
Wednesday Comics on Thursday - April 14, 2011

Cover C - Leno Carvalho
Wednesday Comics on Thursday - April 14, 2011
From the moment they first met, Bobby Godric and Nora Watson were meant only for each other. Together, the two built an empire from their true love and hard work. Young, brilliant, and wealthy, the entire world was open to them until fate cruelly intervened, and Nora died suddenly.

Bobby Godric won't take the loss of his soulmate lying down.

Backed by a team of brilliant minds, Bobby invents Project: Nevermore, a way to travel to parallel worlds, searching among infinite earths for an exact, duplicate version of the love of his life. But when his travels attract the attention of THE HYDRA, an alien race conquering every Earth they can find, Bobby finds himself drawn into an ancient war he never dreamt existed, fighting to save humanity from a threat on the verge of extinguishing mankind forever.

All for the sake of love. Dynamite Entertainment

Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time: The Eye of the World #9

Cover: Andie Tong
Wednesday Comics on Thursday - April 14, 2011
In the latest chapter of this thrilling adaptation of Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time, Egwene and Moiraine discuss more while Rand eavesdrops, hoping not to be caught by the Aes Sedai, and the travelers end the first leg of their journey at the city of Baerlon. Put up at the Stag and Lion, they're allowed a moment to catch their breath, enjoy a hot bath, and a hot meal. With Lan continually reminding them that they can trust no one, will Rand even be able to find peace in sleep? Discover the answer in the Eye of the World! Dynamite Entertainment

Wednesday Comics on Thursday - February 10, 2011

After some very light comic weeks, I picked up a lot of comics yesterday. Of course some of these were variants. Here are my favorites:

DC Comics

Victorian Undead II: Sherlock Holmes vs Dracula, #4 of 5
Wednesday Comics on Thursday - February 10, 2011
The game is afoot as Sherlock Holmes and his strange group of allies race against the clock to counter Count Dracula's moves in London against the Royal Family. Will their efforts be enough to stop a darkness spreading over the newly rebuilt London? Elementary, my dear reader!

DC Comics

Doc Savage, #11
Wednesday Comics on Thursday - February 10, 2011
Doc Savage's adventure in the war-torn Zone races toward its unbelievable finish, as the secrets of the Two Who Are One – and Ronan McKenna's disappearance five years ago – are revealed! But Doc's discoveries may have set in motion a terrible fate for the Zone's innocent inhabitants!
DC Comics
Dynamite Entertainment
Sherlock Holmes: Year 1, #1 of 6  
Wednesday Comics on Thursday - February 10, 2011

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's dauntless detective returns in an all-new series of adventures exploring the sleuth's untold origins! Join Dr. John Watson as he meets young Sherlock Holmes in a fateful encounter that will\forever shape both men's destinies! Mysteries and murders most foul abound as we discover clues that reveal just how Holmes became the world's most famous [detective].  Dynamite Entertainment
Other covers

Wednesday Comics on Thursday - February 10, 2011

Warlord of Mars Chapter 1, #4

There are 8 covers for #4. I have seven of them, and have not yet found the missing variant.

Wednesday Comics on Thursday - February 10, 2011

Just as John Carter is getting settled in on Mars, he gets a big surprise: Dejah Thoris. Dejah is a beautiful Martian princess, and protecting her is going to earn Carter plenty of enemies. We've only seen one side of Mars so far, but in this issue we're going to see a whole lot more. Dynamite Entertainment

Other covers:

Wednesday Comics on Thursday - February 10, 2011


The Unwritten, #22
Wednesday Comics on Thursday - February 10, 2011
Tom's accidentally broken the novel Moby-Dick, and he's looking for a way out. What he finds is a path into a whole different ocean, with more trouble (and more whales) than he could possibly imagine.

And remember that endless stairway from issue #2? Well, now we get to see what it's for...


Wednesday Comics on ... Friday - January 14, 2011

Due to forces beyond my control (2 feet of snow) I did not pick up my comics until today. Here are my favorites.

Avatar Press

Fevre Dream, #10

Regular Cover
Wednesday Comics on ... Friday - January 14, 2011

Wraparound Cover
Wednesday Comics on ... Friday - January 14, 2011

Nightmare Cover
Wednesday Comics on ... Friday - January 14, 2011

True Blood Legacy Edition

Wednesday Comics on ... Friday - January 14, 2011
The first True Blood series from IDW took the comic buying public by storm, fast becoming one of the most successful comics in our company’s history. Now, in celebration of this acclaimed series we are proud to release a special Legacy Edition of the first issue, containing all four covers as well as the first script, giving a rare insight into the inner workings of a comic book from initial thought to publication. IDW Publishing

. Star Trek: Khan: Ruling in Hell

Wednesday Comics on ... Friday - January 14, 2011
It’s all-out war on Ceti Alpha V! Reeling from last issue’s devastating loss, Khan Noonien Singh rallies his troops for the ultimate battle for control of their world! The final missing piece of Khan’s life between “Space Seed” and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is at last revealed! IDW Publishing

There are photo variants for the True Blood Legacy Edition and Star Trek: Kahn: Ruling in Hell.

DC Comics

Doc Savage # 10

Wednesday Comics on ... Friday - January 14, 2011
It was the war that changed everything and brought Clark Savage, Jr., and Ronan McKenna together. But the things those men had to do as soldiers would one day tear them apart! Don't miss this thrilling flashback to the history of the First Wave universe; a story that sets the scene for the deadly conclusion of Doc's adventure in the Middle East! DC Comics

Victorian Undead II: Sherlock Holmes vs. Dracula, # 3 of 5

Wednesday Comics on ... Friday - January 14, 2011
Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson form an uneasy alliance with Van Helsing and learn the dark, sordid history of Count Dracula. But what could his true goal be – and is the entire British Empire at risk? The epic miniseries continues!  DC Comics
Note that the actual cover is in rose tones. If I have a chance I'll scan it so you can see the difference.
Retro Reviews: The Vanisher by Kenneth RobesonWednesday Comics on Thursday - April 14, 2011Wednesday Comics on Thursday - February 10, 2011Wednesday Comics on ... Friday - January 14, 2011

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