Saturday, September 17, 2011

All Pulp Interviews: Moonstone’s Return of the Monsters - Martin Powell

Cover: Dan Brereton
This Halloween, Moonstone heads back to their monstrous roots with the Return of the Monsters Event. Return of the Monsters features four stand-alone tales of pulp’s mightiest heroes facing off against some classic monsters. One of those titles called The Spider vs. The Werewolf by writer Martin Powell with art by Jay Piscopo. All Pulp sat down with Martin Powell about this upcoming book.

All Pulp: Tell us a little about yourself and your pulp interests.

Martin Powell: I’ve been a professional writer for over twenty-five years, and although I’ve written everything from educational science books to children’s stories, my creative roots have always been firmly set in the pulps. A neighborhood friend introduced me to the Doc Savage paperbacks when I was about eleven years old, and James Bama’s fantastic ultra-realistic cover paintings really grabbed me. I just had to see what was going on inside those books.

Art: Jay Piscopo
Finally, I found the paperbacks at a nearby department store—there seemed to be a zillion of them. My pocket contained just enough spare change for one book—about sixty cents—and it was a tough decision. Ultimately, "Devil on the Moon" came home with me, mostly because I was keenly fascinated by the Apollo 11 moon landing, and that evening I read the novel cover to cover. I was hooked.

I knew nothing whatsoever about pulp magazines, had never even heard of them. Although I did notice on the inside of the book that it had originally appeared in "Doc Savage Magazine" in 1938. I was very intrigued. I visited the big library downtown in search of back issues. No luck. Happily, I returned to the department store with some birthday money and bought six more paperbacks, but I didn’t actually find and purchase my first authentic Doc Savage pulp magazine until about ten years later. Along the way I learned more about the pulps themselves, including other great characters like The Shadow, The Avenger, and especially The Spider, through the great books of Philip Jose Farmer.

Eventually I would collect the entire series of 182 Doc Savage paperback novels, and lots from the other characters, too, and today I have a nice collection of the original pulps which I’d never ever part with.

Art: Jay Piscopo
AP: Your story for the Return of the Monsters Halloween event is called The Spider Vs. The Werewolf. What can we expect from this titanic throw down?

MP: Actually, it’s called "The Werewolf War Massacres." I couldn’t resist giving it a more Norvell Page-inspired title. Hopefully Moonstone will go for that on the inside front cover. No one could dream up pulp titles like Norvell, and I’ve always tried to mimic him as best I can. As for the story itself, it has more depth, is more action-packed, is more vicious, and has richer characterization that most of what I’ve gotten to write for the Spider in the past, thanks to its greater page length. I had a lot more space to work with, which was a luxury. It’s a horror story, to be sure, but it’s also about how the nightmare of war has changed two men.

AP: The Spider Vs. The Werewolf has a classic pulp hero battling a classic monster, a combination that even though done in some regards hasn't ever really been done the way Moonstone is doing it with the Return of the Monsters event. What do these genres have in common and how do they differ in ways that complement each other?

Return of the Monsters Cover Art By Dan Brereton
MP: Well, I’ve always thought of the Spider as a sort of werewolf himself, and I’ve written him that way, in that he seems to transform into an alternate personality. The real question in my Spider adventures is which is the true identity, Wentworth or his lethal alter-ego? Which one is wearing the mask? The Spider is sort of a composite of Count Dracula and Mr. Hyde. He’s one of the original monster-heroes, and can be genuinely terrifying. The major difference is the Spider actually cares about us. Sure, he’s crazy as Renfield at times, but he also has a conscience, a lot of heart, and something of a messiah complex. It was a very easy, compatible fit combining the Master of Men with a gothic supernatural element. They seemed made for each other.

Art: Jay Piscopo
AP: The Return of the Monsters Halloween event brings back several classic monster archetypes to Moonstone’s lineup. How does this version of the Werewolf compare and contrast to previous versions of the character?

MP: This mystery-adventure is set in 1937, so the public at that time weren’t very educated on exactly what werewolves were supposed to be. The Wolf Man starring Lon Chaney, Jr. was still a few years away, so I based my monster mostly on lycanthrope mythology and folklore. Both the aspect of transforming under the full moon and being vulnerable only to silver weapons are Hollywood-created devices, so I ignored them. My werewolves change unpredictably, at any time, just like the creatures of legend. That makes them much more frightening and dangerous, and they are very tough to kill. However, I did strive to make the werewolf in this story ultimately a sympathetic character, which I think is very important. He’s a creature without any personal physical control. He can’t help himself.

AP: What appeals to you about pulp heroes battling classic monsters? What was it that excited you about pitting the Spider against a werewolf?

Art: Jay Piscopo
 MP: I’m always excited about a new Spider story, especially getting to write an adventure of this length. Also, although "The Werewolf War Massacres" is not exactly an origin tale, it does provide us with a gruesome glimpse into Richard Wentworth’s past while he was a soldier in World War One. We get to see the Spider’s personae beginning to take form. The added excitement, for me, was finally getting to work with prolific artist Jay Piscopo, who understands and loves the 1930’s period pulp atmosphere as much as I do.

AP: You’ve been spearheading the Spider’s comic book adventures for Moonstone. What’s ahead for the book and character?

MP: That’s largely up to Moonstone. We have discussed a couple ideas, both dealing with larger formats which I’d really like to do. I have an especially massive apocalyptic epic in mind, with my regular Spider artist Hannibal King, which would resurrect one of the Spider’s classic and most deadly enemies. Also, Jay Piscopo and I have had a grand sweeping adventure planned which would team-up the Spider, Operator 5, and G-8 and His Battle Aces for the very first time.

AP: What, if any, existing pulp, monster, or comic book characters would you like to try your hand at writing?

Cover: Dan Brereton
MP: People who know me well realize that my favorite fictional worlds are the original 1933 King Kong, the classic Universal monster movies, the Hammer Studios horror films, and the Dark Shadows television series. So, I felt quite at home among the Spider and werewolves. I’ve written several Dracula stories over the past twenty-five years, and I just wrote a prose filmbook of Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man for Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine, which should be on sale before Halloween. I also have a new graphic novel reviving Dick Briefer’s classic pre-code Monster of Frankenstein horror series coming up, illustrated by Nik Poliwko, and will be published by Michael Hudson’s Sequential Pulp Comics, an imprint of Dark Horse. I have something in the works specifically for The Creature from the Black Lagoon with another publisher, too, but that’s all I can say for now. As for other pulp heroes, I’d love a shot at Doc Savage someday. The Shadow, too. And Tarzan most of all.

AP: What does Martin Powell do when he’s not writing?

MP: I’m a full-time writer, but I do have a lot of other interests. I haven’t watched commercial or cable television since 2004, and I fill some of that time with model kit building, collecting vintage books, and hunting for fossils. Some of my best times are spent playing with our beagle and three cats in our newly purchased 1925 bungalow, which we’re decorating in its proper 20s and 30s period. I suspect gardening will become another passion come next spring, now that we have our own yard. Among other things, I’m really looking forward to growing my own pumpkin patch. As Vincent Price once said, "There’s a whole world up on the stage and screen, but there’s a bigger world off of them. The person who limits their interests, limits their life."

AP: Where can readers find learn more about you and your work?

MP: You can find me on Facebook and at my Blog.

AP: Any upcoming projects you would like to mention?

MP: Yes! I’m very excited to be writing a number of graphic novels for Sequential Pulp/Dark Horse Comics. Currently in the works are Martians, Go Home, The Hound of the Baskervilles, the Frankenstein book I already mentioned, plus a very cool upcoming werewolf project. Also, I’m writing several graphic novels based upon books by Edgar Rice Burroughs and licensed by his estate, including Caspak: The Land That Time Forgot, Number 13 (based on The Monster Men), and The Cave Girl, with more to come which I can’t talk about yet. All dream projects, to be sure. However, I’m most excited about the first graphic novel of my The Halloween Legion, from the same publisher. It’s a very exciting, very productive time for me. I’m very lucky.

AP: Thanks, Martin.

MP: It’s been fun. Thank you.

The Spider vs. The Werewolf is solicited in August Previews for an October in store release.