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

Review: ‘Tales of the Shadowmen, Vol. 14’

Posted by at 10:00 am Wednesday, January 31, 2018 in Arsene Lupin, Black Coat Press, English Pulp, Fantomas, Foreign Pulps, French pulp, Fu Manchu, Harry Dickson, Judex, Madame Atomos, New Pulp, Nyctalope, Occult Detective, Review, Rocambole, Roulatabille, Sar Dubnotal, The Black Coats
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Review: ‘Tales of the Shadowmen, Vol. 14’

'Tales of the Shadowmen, Vol. 14: Coup de Grace'The end of 2017 meant that there’s another volume of Tales of the Shadowmen out. The Black Coat Press series is now up to 14 volumes. This one is subtitled “Coup de Grace,” which means final blow or death blow. But is it for good or evil?

As noted previously, this annual series makes use of Philip José Farmer‘s “Wold Newton” concept, mixing in a variety of literary characters, with a focus on the various pulp and pulpish characters of France and Europe, such as Arsene Lupin, Fantômas, The Nyctalope, Rouletabille, and many others, as well as those from other countries. Several authors will come back with further stories of the same characters, creating loose series within the volumes.

The latest volume gives us:

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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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Dare Devlin, a new Doc Savage pastiche

Posted by at 10:00 am Wednesday, September 6, 2017 in Doc Savage, Fu Manchu, New Pulp, Pastiche, Review
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Dare Devlin, a new Doc Savage pastiche

'Dare Devlin: Supreme Adventurer'A new (kind of) Doc Savage pastiche is Dare Devlin: Supreme Adventurer by Dafydd Neal Dyar. His first appearance is in a new book from PULPlications, both hardback and paperback, along with a limited edition hardback with an extra story.

I say he is “kind of” new, as he’s based on Dyar’s prior pastiche work. Many years back he wrote a Doc pastiche who he named “Doc Wildman” (1978), using the “real” name of Doc as per Philip José Farmer. When he later did stories of this character, both in print and online, he decided to rename him “Doc Hazzard” (1988), based on the name of the obscure Doc pastiche Captain Hazzard. Now he has revamped his pastiche (and I believe reusing some of the original stories) as Dare Devlin. Not having read these earlier stories, I am not sure how the characters compare to each other.

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Examining Dr. Nikola

Posted by at 10:00 am Monday, June 26, 2017 in English Pulp, Proto-pulp, Villain Pulps
Estimated reading time: 3 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: 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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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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