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

Examining Dr. Nikola

Posted by at 10:00 am Monday, June 26, 2017 in English Pulp, Proto-pulp, Villain Pulps
Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Examining Dr. Nikola

Dr. NikolaWhen it comes to series centered around the villain, we usually think of Fu Manchu or perhaps Fantomas.

But a character that appeared before them and may have been an influence is Dr. Nikola.

Created by Guy Boothby, he appeared in five novels between 1895 and 1901 that were serialized in English magazines. Dr. Antonio Nikola seems the model of a sinister Italian. Elegant, cultured, he is slim with dark hair and eyes, with olive skin. Highly intelligent and with psi powers, he is unscrupulous, but honorable (like some other super villains). His constant companion is a black cat, Apollyon, who perches on his shoulder.

His goal is not so much world domination or to run a criminal enterprise, but the search for a formula that will resurrect the dead and prolong life. But too often in the works it’s not clear what his goal really is. It’s a problem with early characters where the author doesn’t know how to use a character to its fullest.

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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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Fanzine focus: ‘Awesome Tales’ #4

Posted by at 10:00 am Wednesday, December 14, 2016 in Fanzines, Fu Manchu, New Pulp, Pulps
Estimated reading time: 1 minute

Fanzine focus: ‘Awesome Tales’ #4

'Awesome Tales' No. 4After too long, we get a fourth issue of Awesome Tales, a fanzine produced by Black Cat Media (R. Allen Leider) and packaged/published by Bold Venture Press.

The cover story of this issue is Leider’s Devil Doctor story, “The Manchurian Menace,” which has the doctor and his daughter after a Chinese scientist in WWII China.  He has the secret of the atomic bomb, and is pursued by Nazis, Japanese, OSS, and MI-6.

Other stories in this volume include a new Pink Reaper story, a Domino Lady-like new pulp heroine by Patrick Thomas. I’ve only seen one other story with this character, so not certain where else she has appeared.  Patrick has several other series, such as the Mystic Investigators.

KT Pinto provides another story, this time with private eye Raphael Jones, and Robert Water has a story about conquistadors in Central America.

Hopefully we will see another volume soon. This is a nice series and wish we would see issues more often.  Am told that v5 will come out in February.

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Meet Fantômas

Posted by at 10:00 am Monday, March 7, 2016 in Arsene Lupin, Belphegor, Fantomas, French pulp, Fu Manchu, Judex, Roulatabille, Villain Pulps
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Meet Fantômas

Fantomas“Fantômas!”
“What did you say?”
“I said: Fantômas”
“And what does that mean?”
“Nothing…Everything!”
“But what is it?”
“No one…and yet, yes, it is someone!”
“And what does this someone do?”
Spreads terror!

Fantômas, Lord of Terror, Genius of Evil, is probably one of the most important villains in popular literature, more so that he carried his own series. When we think of villains who also starred in their own series, we think of Fu Manchu, maybe some of the very short-lived villain pulps, whereas Fantômas appeared before them and in many ways has had a wider influence.

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Fanzine focus: ‘The Pulpster’ #24

Posted by at 10:00 am Wednesday, March 2, 2016 in Conventions, Doctor Death, Fanzines, H.P. Lovecraft, Non-fiction, References, Review, Street & Smith, Thrilling
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Fanzine focus: ‘The Pulpster’ #24

'The Pulpster' #24The Pulpster is the program book for PulpFest, and this time we look at the most recent Pulpster, #24, from Pulpfest 2015. I wasn’t able to attend, but got it.

Each issue of The Pulpster is packed with articles on the pulps, rounded out with artwork, and professionally printed. They stand up to any fanzine. Many articles are written by several of the major pulp researchers, and many articles are organized around the theme for PulpFest. For 2015, the theme was H.P. Lovecraft at 125.

The cover is a photo of Lovecraft taken at age 25. The rest of the issue features several great articles, plus one piece of fiction.

Tying to theme, we get a retrospective of Lovecraft’s legacy from several authors. Each one contributes about a half page write up, and many of the authors have themselves contributed Lovecraft-esque works. So these was an enjoyable set of pieces.

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Dr. Mabuse, pulp villain

Posted by at 10:00 am Monday, February 22, 2016 in Foreign Pulps, Villain Pulps
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Dr. Mabuse, pulp villain
Rudolf Klein-Rogge as Dr. Mabuse in "Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler" (1921)

Rudolf Klein-Rogge as Dr. Mabuse in Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler (1921)

Dr. Mabuse is a character that may be known to some. Mostly through the various Dr. Mabuse films by Fritz Lang and others.

But few may know that he started as a villain in the pulps, inspired by other pulp villains. And when you know a bit more about the background of the character, it’s almost sad that he’s not seen as more of a pulp character.

Norbert Jacques created and introduced the character in the novel Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler in 1921, which was first serialized in Berliner Illustrietren. Jacques was inspired by previous villains such as Dr. Fu Manchu, Dr. Nikola, Fantômas, and Svengali. His goals with the character were apparently to have a commercial success and to make political comments. But things didn’t work out.

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