Blog: Writing about all things pulplish

The Spider #63: ‘The Withering Death’

Posted by at 10:00 am Friday, August 4, 2017 in Pulp, The Spider
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

The Spider #63: ‘The Withering Death’
The pulp cover in lurid, pulpy red!

The pulp cover in lurid, pulpy red!

“The Withering Death” was originally published in the December 1938 issue of The Spider Magazine. The dry, ghastly severed hand brought its grisly warning to New York. Its citizens must pay the extortioner’s price or die, their living bodies slowly, agonizingly transformed into rigid mummies! The police were helpless, and only Richard Wentworth, in The Spider‘s weird garb, could wage battle — against the master murder-chemist who killed to corral a fortune!

A very enjoyable romp with The Spider. As usual, the action is pretty much non-stop. The plot is typically over-the-top, very typical of the “weird menace” type of story. I’ve always compared The Spider with The Shadow as follows: The Shadow is based in reality, for the most part; The Spider is based on fantasy. Think of The Spider as The Shadow on steroids. Yes, there are plot holes. And yes, there are some loose threads at the end. But the story moves so quickly that you hopefully won’t notice them too much.

Read more

Read More

The Spider #32: ‘Slaves of the Dragon’

Posted by at 10:00 am Friday, July 7, 2017 in Pulp, The Spider
Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

The Spider #32: ‘Slaves of the Dragon’
The Spider cover — lurid as always!

The Spider cover — lurid as always!

“Slaves of the Dragon” was originally published in the May 1936 issue of The Spider Magazine. White slavery, the loathsome traffic in women’s bodies, was stripping America of wives, sisters, and sweethearts. Richard Wentworth, valiant champion of human rights, knew that an Oriental master criminal was captaining the slavery syndicate, guessed the unspeakable purpose behind those wholesale abductions. But with Nita van Sloan hopelessly lost, with G-men harrying him relentlessly, can The Spider outwit his most formidable foeman and save America’s doomed womanhood?

Here’s another slam-bang “Yellow Peril” story of The Spider. It has all the things you’ve come to expect in a Spider story. Plenty of fast-paced action. And although written by Norvell Page, the story doesn’t have the quick, and annoying, wrap-up at the end. Yes, it ends quickly, but somehow it seems more complete and doesn’t seem almost arbitrary, as some of Norvell’s Spider stories do. There are still a few loose ends, but not many.

Read more

Read More

The Spider #28: ‘The Mayor of Hell’

Posted by at 10:00 am Friday, June 16, 2017 in Pulp, The Spider
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

The Spider #28: ‘The Mayor of Hell’
The pulp cover — a bit less lurid, this time.

The pulp cover — a bit less lurid, this time.

“The Mayor of Hell” was originally published in the January 1936 issue of The Spider Magazine. Combined forces of the Mayor of Hell — the crooked Law and the vengeful Underworld — besiege Richard Wentworth, otherwise known as The Spider, nemesis of criminals! Mourned as dead, The Spider must start life anew, without friends or funds or hidden refuge, so that the Mayor of Hell’s bloody-handed henchmen may find their just reward — in death!

This is a respectable Spider outing, but it lacks the “wow” factor that makes The Spider tales so iconic. There are no living mummies… no dissolving humans… no plague of spiders and snakes. It’s just a straightforward story of The Spider battling against one master criminal who called himself “The Mayor of Hell.” As usual, The Spider can trust no one except for his close-knit group of assistants. Everyone is suspect, the Mayor of New York, the governor, the legislature, and, of course, the entire police force. Everyone is corrupt. And maybe that is the “wow” factor in place for this story. If so, it’s not really enough to make it a great story. It ends up being fun to read, but not compelling.

Read more

Read More

The Spider: two origin stories

Posted by at 10:00 am Friday, May 26, 2017 in Pulp, The Spider
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

The Spider: two origin stories
 The Spider - bloodthirstiest of the pulp heroes!

The Spider — bloodthirstiest of the pulp heroes!

The Spider was a pulp hero who rivaled The Shadow for popularity in the 1930s and 1940s. If any pulp character could be described as “blood and thunder” this would be the guy. Nearly every adventure was a frenzy of blood and death. And fans of the magazine series had every right to wonder, “how did it all start?” In the first adventure, way back in 1933, The Spider appeared fully formed for the most part, and although hints of his early years were dropped, much was left unspoken.

What was Richard Wentworth‘s first exploit as The Spider? How did he meet his faithful companion Ram Singh? These were probably the two biggest questions, and they were finally answered in 1942 in issues number 104 and 105. Rather than publish a full-length novel to answer these two questions, they appeared in two short stories published in the back of the magazine. Both were written by regular Spider author Norvell W. Page, and helped fill in the gap in The Spider’s back-story.

Read more

Read More

The Spider #89: ‘The Spider and the Slave Doctor’

Posted by at 10:00 am Friday, May 5, 2017 in Pulp, The Spider
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

The Spider #89: ‘The Spider and the Slave Doctor’
 Pulp cover for The Spider and the Slave Doctor.

Pulp cover for “The Spider and the Slave Doctor.”

“The Spider and the Slave Doctor” was originally published in the February 1941 issue of The Spider Magazine. Young Doctor Gilmuir bravely faced execution for a ghastly murder he didn’t commit! And Richard Wentworth, the only man who could save him, must first crush the slaves of the Man in the Red Mask — the master-killer whose nation-wide terror plague was calculated to monopolize all life-giving drugs!

This story is a real stinker. It’s a prime example of an entry into the series that had passed its prime. There are some pretty good scenes, but there are also a lot of ragged and loose ends. There is evidence that the story was edited heavily before publication… very heavily and crudely. It’s almost as if the first chapter was simply hacked off. The story opens in the middle of the action, and references are made to things that happened before. This isn’t just a style of writing, where things are explained as you go along. No, there are just important pieces missing, and that’s all there is to it. If the missing scenes could be restored, this might be a fairly well-done story. But as it is, I can’t recommend it.

Read more

Read More

The Spider #42: ‘Satan’s Workshop’

Posted by at 10:00 am Friday, April 7, 2017 in Pulp, The Spider
Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

The Spider #42: ‘Satan’s Workshop’
Into the corpse grider with her!

Into the corpse grider with her!

“Satan’s Workshop” was originally published in the March 1937 issue of The Spider Magazine. There was no clue to the kidnapping of wealthy, powerful men and beautiful, talented women. The Man Who Dealt in Death — a devil-brain that was using science and surgery, death and torture and extortion, to enslave the city’s great. The Spider answered the challenge of the Laboratory of the Lost — gambling life and more against weird dangers that no man had ever faced before!

I found I really liked this story, but for reasons that had nothing to do with plot. Now, don’t get me wrong. It was a great plot. There’s some fantastic weird-science stuff in it: transplanting a person’s abilities by stealing their hormones, giving a person a ten-year case of leprosy in only three months… and then let’s not forget “the grinder” which is basically a gigantic meat grinder intended for living humans. (See the cover.) Oh, yeah, the plot’s great. But that’s not why I liked this story. I liked it because it was a bit slower paced, and as a result was better thought out. Very few loopholes in the plot. The action actually makes sense. And it’s all because this story was written by Emile C. Tepperman, instead of Norvell Page.

Read more

Read More