Tuesday, December 21, 2010

ALL PULP FLASHBACK-Early ALL PULP Columns from our First Month!

I was inspired to trundle out my testmaking skills when I was interviewing wonderful Wayne Reinagel, the author of the PULP HEROES Trilogy. I know, I know it looks like something teenage girls have monopolized over the last century but it’s a valid testing technique that beats multiple choice or true & false.  The good thing with these are there are absolutely NO wrong answers because it’s solely opinion based. Even the analysis is entirely subjective and I’ve been faulted as an easygoing educator! Well, here goes:

(Circle only one answer per line, please. It’ll make it a lot easier for self-scoring. Don’t worry, I trust you!)

  1. Sherlock Holmes or Nayland Smith
  2. Lex Luthor or Fu Manchu
  3. Crimson Pirate or Captain Blood
  4. Tarzan or John Carter of Mars
  5. Edgar Rice Burroughs or Ottis Adelbert Kline
  6. Hercule Poirot  or Nero Wolfe
  7.  Doc Savage or the Avenger
  8. The Shadow or the Spider
  9. Walter Gibson or Norvell Page
  10. Solomon Kane or Van Helsing
  11. Allan Quartermaine or Indiana Jones
  12. Walter Gibson or Lester Dent
  13. Lee Falk’s Phantom or Ka-zar
  14. H.P. Lovecraft or Stephen King
  15. Billy Zane’s Phantom or Alec Baldwin’s Shadow
  16. Doc Thompson or P.B. Pugh
  17. Bronze Pastiches or Silhouette Pastiches
  18. Disney or Universal
  19. Marvel or DC
  20. Radio’s Green Hornet or Radio’s Shadow
  21. Rocketeer or Sky Captain
  22. FaceBook or MySpace
  23. Boxing or Wrestling
  24. Judo or Karate
  25. Man from U.N.C.L.E. or I Spy
  26. Wild, Wild West or Brisco County, Jr.
  27. Buck Rogers or Flash Gordon
  28. Gene Autry or Roy Rogers
  29. Daniel Boone or Davy Crockett
  30. Jules Verne or H.G. Wells
Whew! We’re done!! Well, was that easy or harder than you thought? There you have it! If it was easy for you than you’ve embraced pulp fiction & the other genres it’s identified with. If you thought it was tough than you’re still cataloging, categorizing & sorting out where you stand. Eureka! Don’t get miffed with me; a few questions into this P.O.P. Quiz didn’t you get the impression I was taking a scatter gun approach? If I hadn’t, I would have lost anyone who was just getting acquainted with pulps!  To those seasoned pulp aficionados I’ll graciously thank you for coming along for the romp. See, tests can be fun just like school should be for everyone! Next time expect a P.O.P. Quiz that will most definitely be black & white without any shades of grey. I promise! Anyone who knows me, knows I don’t make promises lightly. I promise you! 

It's with a good bit of sadness that I realized that Moonstone's tenure as publisher of The Phantom had come to an end. I wanted to look back at what I think they did well with the property (and maybe a little of what didn't work so well for me) but before I begin, let me say this: If you're one of those pedantic fools who don't believe the Phantom is a pulp character because he never appeared in a pulp magazine... go away. Seriously. I'm not one for rigid notions about what pulp is or isn't: it's a sensibility, a recognition that there's nothing wrong with embracing escapism as simply what it is. Pulp is about yearning for adventure and wanting to be transported from the dreary nature of our everyday lives, replacing household chores and bills with excitement, terror and good old-fashioned fun.

The Phantom is all that and then some.

Created by Lee Falk, The Phantom has existed in comic strips, novels, comic books and movies for decades. But it wasn't until Moonstone got the license in 2002 that I really became a fan (or is that Phan?). Don't get me wrong -- I had bought and enjoyed all the issues of DC's 1980s revival but I simply wasn't gung-ho about the character.

I bought the first issue and was hooked, not just by the gorgeous artwork of Pat Quinn but also by an engaging and easily accessible story written by Ben Raab. I found the idea of a generational hero very appealing and I liked the way they handled issues in modern Africa. This was even more the case when Mike Bullock became the writer in 2006, after a series of up-and-down stories by other writers after Raab's run. Bullock brought in all sorts of real-world issues, from organ harvesting to the often violent politics surrounding The Phantom and his home. It definitely helped set The Phantom apart from the other costumed heroes that were running around, while still making me feel like I was reading the Lee Falk Phantom. In fact, it was during the early days of Bullock's run that I went out and bought a large series of newspaper strip reprints, allowing me to read the original Phantom stories. So if nothing else, Moonstone encouraged me to go back to the source and embrace the full range of The Phantom's history. I owe them a tremendous series of Thank Yous for that.

It wasn't all wonderful, though. When I  first bought Phantom Generations, I felt enormously ripped off. I thought I was buying a comic book but instead I got a prose story with splash pages. It wasn't that it was poorly done but I don't think it was fairly marketed to be what it was (to be fair, I had the same problem when I picked up the Spider series, only to discover I was paying nearly four bucks for a prose story with spot illustrations). I also wish there had been more of an attempt to maintain artistic consistency. The books ranged from gorgeously slick work to steady workmanship quality, with occasionally forays into the stiff. The stories remained fairly consistent (particularly when Bullock was at the reigns) but from issue to issue, I had no clue how the story would be depicted artistically. 

Now The Phantom is at Dynamite and I haven't yet sampled their series. The early word was that it would be a serious updating of the mythos. If so, I hope it's more along the lines of their Lone Ranger work and a little bit less like their Project: Superpowers, where some of the characters are recognizable only by their costumes. I'll miss the Moonstone Phantom no matter what, though. The worst of their issues were still better than the majority of DC or Marvel books and when they were at their best, it was one of the most criminally underrated titles on the market. Thanks for the memories, Moonstone.

As one of the Spectacled Seven, Sarge is definitely the fount of pulp enthusiasm amongst our storied lot! His posts to his various Pulp themed Facebook pages are prime examples of his way of communicating with fans. Sarge writes in a style that can only be called ‘living pulp’, writing as if the myriad of pulp characters he loves so much are real, breathing icons…so without further ado, immerse yourself in Sarge Portera’s ‘living pulp’ style…

WEAPONS OF CHOICE-An Introduction by Sarge Portera

I was truly touched when a genuine pulp character from yesteryear sent us guest passes to WEAPONS OF CHOICE! This is not just the name of my spanking brand new column for ALL PULP, but the name of a very exclusive hunting lodge and fishing camp that caters to pulp heroes and villains alike!! Our host asked to remain anonymous but was well acquainted with my dad and grandfather!!! He’s well aware of my wife’s health and thought that while she’s at a SNF, me darlin’ daughter and I might enjoy lunch at this legendary gun range.

While dining at their sumptuous luncheon buffet, our host asked why a gun shy person like myself would volunteer to write a regular column on assorted High Adventurers’ weaponry. When I refreshed him on our family’s history, he felt that our conversation would make for a fitting first installment of WEAPONS OF CHOICE!

“I thought the two of you might enjoy the diversion!” The elder statesman of Pulpdom said this as he greeted Alanna and I with warm handshakes. “I’m so happy you found your way here! Maybe next time, Marci can come, too!”

“Well,” he asked after a few moments, “what do you two think of the place?” Between refreshing gulps of ice cold loganberry and mouthfuls of Dagwood sandwiches and sweet potato fries I nodded my head.

“As one of the founders of this out-of-the-way establishment I’ve taken the liberty of issuing permanent guest passes for your family and acquired permission for you to use WEAPONS OF CHOICE as your column’s name,” said the gray-haired and copper-hued pulp character as he steepled his fingertips. He continued, “As I recall back in the sixties there were six men in Buffalo who would answer to the name of Albert Portera. In fact, didn’t one of them have numerous gun club trophies, but would faint at the sight of blood?”

Again I nodded, but managed to swallow another mouthful of beef-on-weck heaped with horseradish. My eyes teared as I wiped my mouth with a fine linen napkin as Alanna stifled a snicker. “That would’ve been my great Uncle Carmen’s son! He and my dad passed away last year.”

“You mean they both entered the Great Mystery in 2009!” said our host, hinting at his Native American heritage. “So if I remember correctly your dad used to go hunting and fishing with your mom’s brothers? By the way, how is your mother doing?”

I nodded again, this time filling him in about my mom still living on the Westside of Buffalo. The mystery man said how much he admired her artwork, especially her black ink illos of knights of yore and colorful jungleman watercolor paintings.

As we made small talk, somehow the conversation got back around to my aversion to guns in general.

“I don’t know if you would call it a full-fledged phobia but the only guns I’m comfortable with are of the squirt gun variety,” I joked.

“Seriously, it goes way back!” I continued, “When I was about six or seven and peering out my Aunt Mary’s picture window at the small crowd milling around the Circle Theatre. I loved that little movie theatre mainly because that’s where I recall seeing a re-issue of “Snow White”. My youngest aunt broke my reverie when she declared, ‘Ya know Aunt Mary’s first husband was shot down in cold blood right outside of the Circle Theatre?’

‘You mean Uncle Vinny’s dad was murdered there?’ I asked bewildered.

‘Yes! Just like John Dillinger!!” Aunt Donna added as she nodded her curly head.

'Tomorrow mornin’ I’ll show you where the Tommy gun bullets knicked the bricks,' she volunteered.

My eyes almost popped outta my head from this revelation. I had seen photos of Uncle Vinny’s papa, but this Dillinger fella I didn’t know. This news fell right on the growing stack that grew a week or two later when I spotted another family member’s name at Mount Calvary Cemetery a week or two after my aunt’s revelation.

I tagged along with Grampa Gus when he went to visit his wife’s grave. You see, I never met my maternal grandmother but I would recognize her in an instant from all those sepia toned photos that showed off her flaming red hair. Although my grandfather co-created Doc Diamond with my dad, he regaled me with tales of the Sadow replete with haunting laughter on the drive out to the cemetery.

'When we finally drove through the heavenly like cemetery gates I snatched up the bouquet of flowers Grampa Gus had bought and beat a quick path to the Buttita family gravesite. I stopped short and carefully read the name and dates beside my grandmother’s info and pointed.

‘Who’s this?’ I asked.

‘Oh, that’s Uncle Joe’s and your Grandma’s brother!’ Grampa calmly answered.

Judging by the date I asked if he was killed during World War II.

 ‘Yes but not in battle!’ my grandfather calmly replied. ‘He was killed gangland style while he was crossing the street from the Field and Stream Club to your Uncle Pete’s place. You know? Just up the street from the Circle Theatre.’

Well, that clinched it for me and has gotten me outta jury duty once or twice. I abhor guns, but I’m fascinated by the gun play that fills the pulps.”

Our host chuckled at my plight and called it an interesting paradigm that would make for a great first installment for WEAPONS OF CHOICE. Then he inquired, “What was the original subject going to be for your first time out?”

“I was thinking of going with lethal versus nonlethal weaponry or a tour of this compound,” was my reply.

“Well, there you go! Why don’t we visit the rifle range or better yet the labs? You could always write a column about biological warfare!” our host said as he stood up.

“You mean like Wayne Reinagel’s use of black scorpions or the deadly Purple Rose of Pulpdom?” I asked.

“No!” our host shook his head and laughed menacingly. “I was thinking more on the lines of bed bugs!”

Sarge Portera