Blog: Commentary from the den of a pulp super-fan

‘Three With a Bullet’

Posted by at 10:00 am Wednesday, February 7, 2018 in Hero Pulps, Johnston McCulley, New Pulp, Pro Se Press, Review
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

‘Three With a Bullet’

'Three With a Bullet'Three With a Bullet is a collection of three new stories by three different authors with three different classic pulp heroes: The Man in Purple, the Masked Rider, and The Purple Scar from Pro Se Press.

All three of those characters have (or are being) reprinted by Altus Press. Pro Se Press published Three With a Bullet, but not in their Pulp Obscura line, which has new stories of classic pulp characters. I was surprised by this because they have put out a collection of new Man in Purple stories, but none with the other two. In fact, Airship 27 has been putting out new stories of the Purple Scar.

The Man in Purple was one of Johnston McCulley‘s short-lived “bent heroes” from the 1920s. Richard Staegal — helped by his girlfriend, Betty, and his chauffeur and assistant, Broph — robbed from the unjust rich and gave the money to the poor, similar to McCulley’s better-known character The Crimson Clown. Richard would dress in an special all-purple outfit with hood, and once he had finished using the outfit he would use a vial of acid to dissolve it all. He was pursued by Detective Troman.

But this story by Chuck Miller is set in the 1930s on the eve of the Bonus Army’s march on Washington, D.C. The Man in Purple has been long gone. And we learn why: Richard had retired from being the MiP and married Betty. But their marriage went soar, and they divorced. Broph went his own way. And Detective Troman became a drunk and lost his job after failing to capture the MiP.

Later, Richard was confronted by an old foe that tried to kill him, but instead was killed, and Richard made it seem it was he who had died and took on a new identity and gotten married.

A “Man in Purple” comic strip appears in a socialist newspaper that seems to know things about the MiP that few knew. Then a new MiP appears at socialist rallies. Richard looks into things, and finds a large conspiracy. With the help of Broph and Troman, he is able to put an end to things and set things up for possibility coming out of retirement.

Not being a big Western fan, I am not very familiar with the Masked Rider. The character seems a Lone Ranger-type of character, with his loyal Indian companion. He was first published by one of Martin Goodman’s pulp lines before beyond sold to Standard Publishing (Thrilling), and he appeared in 100 stories. This story by Christofer Nigro has the Masked Rider going up against zombies. Not having read any of the original stories, I can’t say how accurate this story is with the original.

The Purple Scar was the last of Thrilling’s pulp heroes, and was fairly short-lived. Really plastic surgeon Miles Murdoch, whose policeman brother was murdered by criminals and his face scared by acid. Fashioning a horrifying mask based on his brother’s visage. On a trip to Chicago with his nurse (and love interest) Dale in a story by David White, Dale is kidnapped for use in a horrible experiment. A Nazi scientist is trying to create a super-soldier and is experimenting on kidnapped women. And Miles thinks he knows who it is: an old class friend.

Overall this is a good collection of stories. Not sure if we’ll see another like it. Check it out. Maybe we’ll see further new stories with these characters.

What do you think?