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A look at the Dell pulp heroes

Posted by at 10:00 am Monday, February 10, 2014 in Dell, Hero Pulps, Publishers, Pulps, Villain Pulps
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

A look at the Dell pulp heroes
George Delacorte

George Delacorte

In the next in this series of articles, I take an overview of one of the major pulp publishers and their pulp heroes: Dell Magazines. Kind of.

Established in 1921 by George Delacorte, Dell Publications was a publisher of books, magazines and comic books. Pulp magazines weren’t a major part of their business, but they did a lot of pulps. Several writers got their start at Dell, such as Lester Dent. But, they really didn’t do many pulp heroes.

In 1942, they started Dell Paperbacks, and became a major publisher of paperbacks. They were known for their “mapbacks” for mystery stories in the early years. Other imprints they used include Dial Press, Yearling Books, and Laurel Leaf Library. The book line is now part of Random House.

The non-pulp magazines were sold off in the 1990s and still exist as a separate company. Mainly publishing puzzle magazines, Dell pretty much publishes the last remaining fiction digests, in many ways the last remnants of the pulps such as Asimov’s SF, Analog, Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine.

So, what about pulp heroes? As noted, they really didn’t do them, certainly nothing like The Shadow, Doc Savage, or the like. They did do a few series in their All Detective Magazine. There was the Major Lacy/Amusement Inc. series that originated at Fiction House and moved over to All Detective in 1933 where he went up against the super crook Scarlet Ace. Altus Press has reprinted the whole series, with new stories planned soon from Pro Se Press‘s Pulp Obscura series. See my prior posting on this series.

There was the one-off character The Whispering Monk that appeared in one issue of All Detective in 1933. I know very little about this character, other that he was one of those rare characters who maintained three identities. An ex-cop whose father, also a cop, was murdered, he went after crooks as the Whispering Monk. After killing the crooks, he would stuff a cartridge up one of their nostrils as a warning to others. I am unaware of this story being reprinted, but I’d love to see it.

All Detective (July 1934)In All Detective from 1933 to 34 was the 11 stories in the Dorus Noel series by Arthur J. Burks. Set in Chinatown, Noel is an undercover police agent who faces bizarre crime and criminals, including a Fu Manchu-like character. Off-Trail Publications has reprinted the whole series.  See my posting on that series as well.

But in 1935, Dell seemed to try to get into the hero pulp field with two characters that each only lasted three issues. And both are bizarre.

First off is Doctor Death, properly a villain pulp. We’ve covered him in past postings. He first appeared as a European super crook in the Nibs Halloway series in All Detective in 1934. Killed off in his first appearance in the second Nibs story, he returned in the fourth story to die again. This was repeated in the fifth and sixth Nibs story. But it was decided to make Doctor Death the star of his own pulp, and so All Detective (last issue: January 1935) was renamed Doctor Death (first issue: February 1935).

Now written by Harold Ward, Doctor Death was an insane scientist out to reduce the human population by occult or science means. As noted, he lasted but three issues, tho there were two additional stories written. Altus Press has reprinted both Doctor Death series. See my posting on him (them?).

The other one was Terence X. O’Leary. Created by Arthur Guy Empey, a former solider, O’Leary was a long-running war character. He was an infantryman who did duty as a military policeman, secret service agent, foreign legionnaire, and aviator. He ran in several pulp magazines since 1926 published by Dell (War Stories and War Birds) and even Fawcett (Battle Stories).

Terence X. O'Leary's War Birds (June 1935)In 1935, War Birds (last issue: February 1935) was renamed Terence X. O’Leary’s War Birds (first issue: March 1935) and turned into a bizarre future war science fiction series. Now O’Leary went up against Unuk, High Priest to the God of the Depths, a 500-year-old madman who has seized an island in the South Pacific, kidnapped scientists and turned them into zombies to perfect amazing weapons to attack the United States. He would also go up against Queen Satania and Umgoop the Horrible. Wow!

Like Doctor Death, this new O’Leary ran only three issues. Only one has been reprinted. Unlike the Doctor, O’Leary did appear in further issues of War Birds (yes, it was re-retitled, a rarity), War Stories and Battle Stories. I do wish someone would reprint the whole run of this bizarre series of SF war. Please!

The only other continuing series I am aware of is Lynn Vickers, G-77, a G-Man series that ran from 1935 to 37 in Public Enemy which was re-titled to Federal Agent. I think someone is planning on reprinting this series, but not certain.

If there are other series, I am not aware of them. Any I missed? Let me know.