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

A look at Street & Smith’s ‘Crime Busters’

Posted by at 10:00 am Monday, April 24, 2017 in Detective Pulps, Hero Pulps, Lester Dent, Street & Smith
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

A look at Street & Smith’s ‘Crime Busters’

'Crime Busters' (November 1937)Street & Smith kicked off the hero pulp trend with The Shadow in 1931. They eventually followed that with Doc Savage in 1933. While those were successful, their subsequent series were not, as they tried western (Pete Rice), detective (Nick Carter), and air adventures (Bill Barnes).

Next they tried to copy the success of The Shadow and Doc with The Whisperer and The Skipper.

Walter Gibson suggested something different. A pulp magazine that would contain about three novelettes (long short stories) of different serial pulp heroes, from which successful ones could be spun out in their own magazines. Editor John Nanovic decided to go with that idea, but made some changes (probably not for the best).

In 1937, they dumped The Whisperer and The Skipper, and retitled Best Detective Magazine (which was mainly reprints) as Crime Busters.

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Meet The Black Star

Posted by at 10:00 am Monday, April 3, 2017 in Johnston McCulley, Pulps, Villain Pulps
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Meet The Black Star

"Detective Story Magazine' (March 5, 1916)Johnston McCulley, the prolific writer who created Zorro, created many other serial pulp characters that many of today’s pulp fans are unaware of.

His first serial character was The Black Star, a villain who appeared in Street & Smith’s Detective Story Magazine from 1916-30, though most stories appeared between 1916 and 1921. The stories appeared under both McCulley’s name and one of his pseudonyms, John Mack Stone.

The Black Star pre-dates Zorro by a couple of years (and Zorro doesn’t appear to have been created with the intention of making him a serial character).

The series sets down several elements we will see in further McCulley characters. The Black Star wears a sack-cloth hood, black with a jet black star on it. (He also wears a mask underneath the hood.) Such a hood will be used by characters such as The Thunderbolt, The Bat, and The Green Ghost.

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‘Pulp Adventures’ #24

Posted by at 10:00 am Wednesday, March 22, 2017 in Comics, Fanzines, H.P. Lovecraft, Reprints, Review
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

‘Pulp Adventures’ #24

'Pulp Adventures' #24Pulp Adventures #24 (Winter 2017) kicks off 2017 with this great pulp fanzine from Bold Venture Press. As always, we get a collection of classic and New Pulp fiction (with some notes) and this time also a pulp graphic novel, under an Emmet Watson cover, which ties to one of the stories reprinted here.

For classic pulp, we get:

The cover feature, “Sheridan Rides Again,” is a post Civil War adventure by Sam Merwin Jr. that first appeared in an issue of Thrilling Adventure in 1941. Accompanying this reprint is an article that appeared in the same issue by Merwin that explains the historical background of the story. A prolific pulp writer (mysteries and science fiction mainly) and editor (several leading science-fiction pulps), most of his works are out of print. Bold Venture plans on reprinting more of them soon.

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Not Zorro, it’s The Whirlwind

Posted by at 10:00 am Monday, October 17, 2016 in Altus Press, Hero Pulps, Johnston McCulley, Review, Thrilling
Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Not Zorro, it’s The Whirlwind

Alias The WhirlwindAltus Press has given us yet another complete collection of one of Johnston McCulley‘s lesser-known pulp characters, with Alias The Whirlwind.

This is the third such collection, and reprints all the stories of The Whirlwind, another pulp character set in the 1700s Spanish California. He ran for seven stories over about a year (around 1934) in Thrilling Adventures magazine. I like that the cover design fits in with the other McCulley collections they’ve done.

I was surprised by how much this character is like Zorro, but also different. I wish I had read some of the Zorro stories, to better be able to see the differences and similarities. My knowledge of Zorro is through the movies and TV shows, plus Alex Toth‘s Zorro comics.

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Johnston McCulley’s The Bat

Posted by at 10:00 am Monday, October 3, 2016 in Altus Press, Hero Pulps, Johnston McCulley, Reprints, Review, Thrilling
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Johnston McCulley’s The Bat

'The Bat Strikes Again and Again!'Most pulp fans are familiar with The Black Bat, but how many know of the early character called only The Bat?

The Bat was published in Thrilling Publications’ Popular Detective pulp from November 1934 to February 1935. This is before both Thrilling’s The Black Bat or DC’s Batman, who appeared in 1939, but after all the major pulp heroes who started in the early ’30s (The Shadow, Doc Savage, Phantom Detective, Moon Man, G-8, The Spider, Secret Agent X and Operator #5). Altus Press has reprinted the whole series as The Bat Strikes Again and Again!

Now, these four short stories of this character were published under the C.K.M. Scanlon house name. Per Will Murray, in the introduction to the Altus Press reprint, this hid, for some reason, Johnston McCulley, the creator of Zorro. Many fans may not know that McCulley created several other early pulp characters, which I’ve covered previously. One would think that with his fame, they would not have wanted to hide the fact that he wrote them.

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Pulp comics: ‘Fatale’

Posted by at 10:00 am Friday, September 30, 2016 in Comics, H.P. Lovecraft, Pulps, Review, Weird Fiction, Weird Menace Pulps
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Pulp comics: ‘Fatale’

"Fatale" Vol. 1A different pulp-inspired comic from the team of Ed Brubaker and Sean Philips is Fatale. It followed their interesting Incognito series, which was inspired by pulp heroes.

Fatale is inspired by a mix of crime noir and Lovecraftian horror. And like Incognito, we get a series of essays in several issues from Jess Nevins and others. The series ran 24 issues (originally planned as 12) from 2012-14.

The story concerns a mysterious femme fatale named Joséphine. She seems long lived and never ages, with flashbacks at different parts of her life going back to the ’30s, with the main storyline set in modern times. Jo is being pursued by a dangerous cult that wants to sacrifice her to their Lovecraftian gods. And the leader has very real and sinister powers.

Jo has an effect on men, something she can’t always control, that compels them to help her — as a lover, guardian, or the like. And it usually doesn’t work out well for the men in question.

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