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

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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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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Fanzine focus: ‘Pulp Adventures’ #20

Posted by at 10:00 am Wednesday, March 9, 2016 in Domino Lady, Fanzines, Johnston McCulley, New Pulp, Proto-pulp, Review, Western Pulps, Zorro
Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Fanzine focus: ‘Pulp Adventures’ #20

'Pulp Adventures' #20Pulp Adventures #20 (Winter 2016) is the sixth issue of the new version from Bold Venture Press.

As with the others, we get a collection of classic pulp fiction, new pulp fiction, and non-fiction articles, all under a Norman Saunders cover (a western this time). In my view, this blend of new and old pulp fiction (with occasional pre-pulp and post-pulp) that doesn’t focus on one pulp genre (we get western, horror, science fiction, sports, and pulp hero in this one) makes this one of the best pulp fiction fanzine coming out now. You might not like everything that appears in an issue, but I know you will like something.

So what’s in this issue?

In the area of proto-pulp is the classic horror tale, “The Horla” by Guy De Maupassant. It first appeared in 1886 in a French periodical. For me, this is the most well-known story of his, which tells through the use of journal entries of a man being driven insane by the presence of a ghostly entity who seems to haunt or possess him. This story influenced many, including H.P. Lovecraft.

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Fanzine focus: ‘Pulpdom’

Posted by at 10:00 am Friday, August 7, 2015 in Adventure Pulps, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Fantasy Pulp, Fanzines, Johnston McCulley, Non-fiction, Pulps, Review, Science Fiction Pulps
Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Fanzine focus: ‘Pulpdom’

"Pulpdom" No. 46A long-running pulp fanzine that recently made the move to being an online publication is Pulpdom. Pulpdom has a distinguished history that goes back many, many years under the editoriship of Camille “Caz” Cazedessus Jr.

The fanzine got its start as ERB-dom in 1960, with Caz and Al Guillory Jr. as the editors and publishers. Clearly devoted to Edgar Rice Burroughs, Caz soon took over with the death of Al. He ran it for several years until ending publication in 1976 with No. 89.

Caz later got back into publishing with a revival of The Fantasy Collector with No. 201 in December 1988. It was renamed The Fantastic Collector with No. 228, and soon re-incorporated ERB-dom into the zine with No. 248 (double-billed as The Fantastic Collector No. 248/ERB-dom No. 90). These zines reprinted classic pulp fiction from the early 20th century, usually of the “lost race,” high adventure, SF adventure types from Burroughs, A. Merrit, Talbot Mundy, H. Rider Haggard and the like, along with articles and reviews on these types of pulp fiction (and of course Burroughs’ work).

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Fanzine focus: ‘Pulp Adventures’ No. 17

Posted by at 10:00 am Wednesday, June 10, 2015 in Fanzines, Johnston McCulley, Review, Science Fiction Pulps, Western Pulps
Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Fanzine focus: ‘Pulp Adventures’ No. 17

"Pulp Adventures" No. 17The third issue of the new Pulp Adventures, #17, is now out. We get another great collection of pulp fiction with a Norman Saunders western cover. We don’t have any similar series of pulp reprints out there now, so this fills, in my opinion, a real need.

Let’s look at what we get in this issue.

First off is “I’ll Make the Arrest” by Charles Boeckman. Boeckman is an overlooked pulp author who in the last couple of years has become better known — in part because he’s still alive! Several of his works have now been reprinted. This is a murder mystery reprinted from Manhunt, a mid-’50s digest. The editorial from this issue is on this story, and we learned that it was turned into an episode of the early TV series Celebrity Playhouse. Information on how to obtain a copy of this episode on DVD is given, along with an ad for a collection of Boeckman’s other works.

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