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.

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Meet the first Spider

Posted by at 10:00 am Monday, December 11, 2017 in Johnston McCulley, Pulps, Villain Pulps
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Meet the first Spider
'Detective Story Magazine' (Oct. 22, 1918)

Detective Story Magazine (Oct. 22, 1918)

Mention the name The Spider and most pulp fans will recall the popular and long-running hero pulp published by Popular Publications. But while the most popular character in the pulps to use the name, he is not the first.

That honor goes to Johnston McCulley‘s early pulp villain who appeared over a year in Street & Smith’s Detective Story Magazine in 1918-19. He is McCulley’s second serial character, following Black Star, also a villain, and soon followed by the pickpocket Thubway Tham.

After that McCulley would go with heroes as serial characters, either “vengeance heroes” (going after a group of villains who have done wrong to the hero) or Robin Hood-like “bent heroes” (who steal from bad guys and give to others).

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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: 5 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: 3 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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