Sunday, October 31, 2010

And Lastly for ALL PULP's Halloween done by Powell!!

TIPPIN' HANCOCK'S HAT-Reviews by Tommy Hancock
“The Hound of the Baskervilles-A Sherlock Holmes Mystery”
Originally written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Graphic Novel Adaptation written by Martin Powell
Graphic Novel illustrated by Daniel Perez
Published by Stone Arch Books

Sherlock Holmes. The name conjures a very specific image. Angular nose, deerstalker cap, pipe, violin. And a stalwart companion named Watson. Now, there have been twists on the original, some fairly decent, some gut wrenchingly bad. I am a firm believer, though, that except in a couple of cases, the best way to retell a Holmes story is to keep all the tropes that Doyle gave us originally. Interpret it your own way, sure, but leave Holmes Holmes.

I, for one, am glad Powell and Perez believed that, too.

“The Hound of Baskervilles” from Stone Arch Books is a graphic novel retelling of one of the best Holmes stories ever. Equal parts mystery and horror story, “Hound” tells of an ancient curse plaguing a family on the English Moors. Watson and Holmes are brought in to hopefully save the Baskerville family line from an alleged hell hound stalking members of said family. That’s the basic concept that almost anyone familiar with when they hear the story’s title. What they get in this version, however, is that and so much more.

Powell faithfully adapts Doyle’s work, keeping the story as we know it intact. What he adds to his interpretation, by the turn of phrase, the sharp, effective dialogue, and the pacing of the tale (The whole novel is condensed into 37 pages) is a tension that keeps the reader turning the pages. We get a Holmes who is self assured, focused, and ready to tackle the issue both intellectually and physically. We also get a Watson worthy to be Holmes’ wing man. Powell sees Watson for what Doyle meant him to be. A complement, not a foil, to Holmes. And that shines through plainly in this volume.

Perez’s take on the story is simply dead on phenomenal. Although a hint of cartoon winks his eye in his work, it’s a welcome shine added to the work. There are excellent moments captured all throughout the book, but my absolute favorite is a scene of Watson firing his gun. That’s a poster moment for me.

“The Hound of Baskervilles: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery” is an excellent graphic novel telling of a classic tale and is accessible by all ages. Kids will thoroughly enjoy the action and the dialogue and adults equally get a true helping of Holmes/Watson goodness.

Five out of Five Tips of Hancock’s Hat (Five tips are reserved only for those who have channeled Dent, Gibson,Doyle,  Page, or one of the long gone, but not forgotten greats.)


TIPPIN' HANCOCK'S HAT-Reviews by Tommy Hancock
“Dracula Lives!”
Written by Joshua Reynolds
Published by Pulpwork Press

The title of this book itself will make a person pick it up off the shelf. Yes, its one in a long list of cliché sounding references to the ultimate vampire used hither and yon in books, comics, and movies, but it’s catchy. It sings. The difference between this and other tellings of the return of the worlds’ favorite undead aristocrat is a major one.

This book is in no way like anything that has come before it. Trust me. Read the first sentence of this paragraph again. It’s a true statement.

The title tells it all. This is a story of Dracula living again. The way Reynolds brings Vlad back from the grave and squarely plants him firmly in the Twenty First Century, however, is both original and nostalgic. At some points, it reads like a good ol’ fashioned heist and chase movie from the 1970s. Other parts squarely compare to some of the best Ian Fleming pages ever written. Still yet more of it smacks of Le Carre at his best. The originality comes in with the way that Reynolds takes these various types of stories, including a fantastic exploration of what makes his central character tick, and turns them into a high octane, faster than fast and well paced espionage/horror/adventure/noir novel as well as a more than proper return of one of the few villains that truly defines evil in the Pulpiest of ways.

The plot is actually fairly simple. A former government man turned mercenary is hired to procure a rare artifact. Who hires him as well as why he was really hired is a mystery for more than three quarters of the book. Almost immediately after being retained, various other parties show interest in our focal character, Jonas Cream, and the chase is on. I mean it. Chase. Literally around the world. That’s the plot, or at least as much as I’ll reveal. For hints at what remains of the plot, read the title again.

There are a couple of things about “Dracula Lives” that might have been better for me as a reader. One is the number of people pursuing Cream throughout the book just gets plain confusing At times, I thought one person was with one group, but then maybe they were associated with another interested party and…well you get the point. Now, this in part was Reynold’s intent obviously, to keep the mystery interesting and lively. But keeping things straight early on in “Dracula Lives” required a bit of re reading and took away from the experience a bit.

A second issue is a little harder to explain without giving major plot points away. Let’s just say the way a titular character reacted toward the end of the novel to a situation went against everything that had been established about said character thus far. I totally would have had the reaction I took issue with, probably one much worse, but as a reader it was jarring when….well when that happened.

Those two points, however, are minor in comparison to the pulp goodness that Reynolds has wrought with “Dracula Lives.” The action starts in the first two pages and doesn’t even really stop at the last period of the book. The characters are exciting and each one stands on their own, no cookie cutter comparisons here. The political machinations and the resultant spy hijinks are well crafted and expertly delivered. Oh, and then there’s the title character and his various children. Wow. Yeah, that says it…wow.

In a nutshell, Joshua Reynolds leaves no doubt indeed that “Dracula Lives” when you close this book. What is in doubt, though, is just how happy a life it might be for ol’ Fang Face. Obviously much more is to come as various and sundry mortals mobilize against the evil that has returned and I will definitely be on the blood splattered frontlines just to watch.

Four out of Five Tips of Hancock’s Hat (usually reserved for heads of state, arresting officers, and little old ladies, which is pretty darn good.)


TIPPIN' HANCOCK'S HAT-Reviews by Tommy Hancock
“Just Another Day in Paradise”
A Collection of Short Fiction by Katherine Tomlinson Available through

Pulp comes in many shades and although most of them concern good versus evil, over the top action, and high adventure, some are more sullen, somber, and sadistic. Dark fiction has haunted Pulp since its inception, from Lovecraft forward. The combined fascination and horror at our innermost fears, things that go bump in the night, and the worst evil being within our own hearts lives on well in this collection of short dark fiction from Katherine Tomlinson.

“Just Another Day in Paradise” is a compilation of short staccato punches to the midriff and the reader’s troubled consciousness. Tomlinson moves ably from the mundane being made monstrous to the supernatural becoming the normal, each type of story causing chills and thrills. Tomlinson shows a great grasp on the voice of each of her characters, regardless of gender, disposition, or any other aspect of said creations. And when I say ‘voice’, I’m not just referring to how they are portrayed. I really mean the voices that speak to each of these people living in Tomlinson’s world, the conflicting desires and terrors that drive them all, the feral motivations wrestling with higher level morals and ethics. Tomlinson seems to crawl inside the head of each of her cast of characters and, by the time she is through, divulge them of everything dark and hidden right onto the written page.

The strongest tale by far for me was ‘Tired Blood’, which concerns a world where humans exist right beside creatures of the night. This, according to Tomlinson, is the beginning of what will one day be novel length adventures set in this universe. Instead of this type of ‘they live among us’ story being clichéd, Tomlinson writes this tale as if it were a straight ahead police procedural/mystery story, which it is. She doesn’t dumb it down for her readers, either. There is no hand holding with this story, no exposition explaining why the world is this way opening the story. You know why by the end of it, well at least some of why, but its handled with the most respect to the intellect of the reader and to the benefit of the story itself.

Other stories that stand out include the title story, ‘Tiger Bone Wine’, Sweet Tooth’, The Anticancer (a mechanic who is a real wizard…literally), The Sin Eater, among others. Actually, there’s not a bad tale in the lot on the whole. The greatest drawback to this collection of short fiction is…the fiction is too short at times. Tomlinson does an excellent job of setting up individual worlds, distinct viewpoints in each tale, but in some instances it’s just not enough. A few stories, ‘Kingdom of the Cat’ comes to mind, could have gone on a few more paragraphs and been outstanding instead of just good.

Katherine Tomlinson’s ‘Just Another Day in Paradise’ is a guaranteed delightfully disturbing  diorama of darkness that haunts the human soul and even the nonhuman psyche.

Four out of Five Tips of Hancock’s Hat (usually reserved for heads of state, arresting officers, and little old ladies, which is pretty darn good.)


TIPPIN' HANCOCK'S HAT-Reviews by Tommy Hancock

"Wild Bill Hickok and the Philosopher's Stone" a tale from the anthology VAMPIRES VERSUS WEREWOLVES, Age of Adventure, Wayne Skiver, Publisher

Written by C. William Russette
Mixing things in stories is problematic at times, especially for authors who don’t mix well. Even mixing similar things, like say vampires and werewolves can present some issues. A writer has to steer clear of clichés, remain true to the basic concept of each creature type, and sprinkle enough of his/her self into the flow to make it…well, flow. It gets even more complicated when the combining and mingling of ideas, concepts, and tropes involves several aspects of the tale, such as monsters and genres and literary devices. Hard sell to make sometimes for a lot of writers.

Not for C. W. Russette.

“Wild Bill Hickok and the Philosopher’s Stone”, a short tale that appears in the newly released Age of Adventure anthology “Vampires Vs. Werewolves”, takes a lot of ideas and characters that probably were never meant to exist in the same story and stirs ‘em together with a big spoon into a pretty satisfying literary Brunswick stew. The title character is indeed Hickok of Old West fact and fiction, stood up alongside other men plucked from the era. Russette’s handling of known characters is deft, precise, and done in a way that would make you think he knew all about Hicok, Rudibaugh, and others. He also gives the impression of an author who understands the psyche of such men and what would drive them on even in the face of, well, monstrous odds.

And to his monsters. Russette blends the horrific existence of creatures of lore into this Western scarefest so well that the terror of their existence and actions blend almost seamlessly with sixguns shooting, horses running, and men living and dying in the sand. The monsters don’t seem added in, they seem a part of the fabric of the tale told. This is truly a feat to note since westerns are not Russette’s typical genre of choice.

It is obvious that Russette is not stomping familiar ground at times, particularly in dialogue as well as description. Sometimes it is not enough, sometimes too much. That should not, however, keep one who enjoys Old West action laced heavily with occult influences and monsters to boot, from diving headfirst into “Wild Bill Hickok and the Philosopher’s Stone.”

Three out of Five Tips of Hancock's Hat-This is reserved for stories I really like and see more potential to tip the hat to the author in the future and will definitely read again.

Reviews from the 86th Floor: Reviews by Barry Reese-FIRST REVIEW OF THE ALL PULP HALLOWEEN REVIEWATHON!!

"Beastly and Bloody" a tale from the anthology VAMPIRES VS. WEREWOLVES, Age of Adventure
Written by Tommy Hancock
This story is a bit of an oddity, in that it mixes ancient mythology with a classic clash between a vampire and a werewolf. The twist, you see, is that the combatants have a relationship that dates back centuries and is one that almost all fans of literature are familiar with. I won't give too much away here but I will say that I found the story quite engaging, with some wonderfully brutal action. This lives up to the title in more ways than one. It's also the perfect springboard for more adventures starring these characters: in fact, upon finishing it, I assumed that this was the beginning of a series and said as much to the author, who assured me that he was indeed planning to continue the tale.
The author is able to effectively create well-rounded characters with an economy of prose. This is not a story that takes the modern approach of spending pages of self-pitying prose on the main characters, where they bemoan their fates. Here, the characters are conflicted because of their relationship but this is pure pulp goodness: this story MOVES. I quite liked it.
4 out of 5 stars!

Saturday, October 30, 2010


VER CURTISS, Pulp/Comic Artist
AP: Thanks for joining us, Ver! To start with, how about telling us a little about yourself -- in other words, what's the secret origin of Ver Curtiss?
VC: The secret origin? Well, if I told you, it wouldn't be a secret! But what I can tell you is that I live in Northern Virginia with my wife Linda. My wife is the Virginia native, but I lived in Idaho, California, and Tokyo before finding myself on the East Coast. Besides doing my art, I run a small, one-man computer troubleshooting company (since art doesn't really pay the bills). So until I find the proverbial rich "patron of the arts" who can't live without my art, I'll spend my days chasing virii, Trojans, worms, and other nasty data-eating critters, while producing art on weekends and between clients.
AP: You're quite an accomplished artist -- what mediums do you like to work in?

VC: Thanks! Though I'm not always sure what my art is really accomplishing. Actually, it would be easier to ask which media I don't like to work in. As a self-taught artist, ink and graphite are my two oldest friends. Seems like just about every artist starts with pencils and pens, just after graduating from crayons. I also like using fine-tipped ink pens and markers. But I really love using Sumi ink and a brush. Sumi's a Japanese ink made of soot and ash, which is much darker than standard India ink. Of course, the brush takes a lot more time than markers, but the results can be well worth it. I enjoy sculpting, though I don't get to do it very much because of the cost of materials and the cost to my back (I live with chronic back pain, and sculpting can tend to really aggravate it; much more than the art table or easel). Photography's always been a favorite of mine, as has painting. I've used acrylics and watercolors a lot in the past, but I've been teaching myself oils these last few years. With water-soluble oil paints, it's easy to get some really nice results without my entire home smelling of turpentine and linseed oil. I also love using the airbrush, but the tedious cleaning of all the little parts can be a real buzz-kill. And I like my art to be fun.
As you can tell, I prefer keeping things "old skool" in my artwork, but I'm not against doing stuff digitally when appropriate. I've actually been using the computer to help my art for about twelve years. But unlike a lot of the "new skool" digital artists out there, I see the computer as more of a tool than an all-inclusive solution. Pure digital art just seems to lack "soul" to me, for some reason. I'd rather ink or paint by hand, but there are some things which are easier and quicker on the computer. Like any good medium, I think the computer should free the artist rather than constrain him. ANY medium should merely be a means to an end, and that end is self-expression.
Lastly, I really enjoy making art from the unexpected, what some would refer to as "found art". For instance, a few years back, when all my clients insisted on giving me all the CDs they were getting in the mail, I found myself gifted with spindles and spindles of AOL, NetZero, Prodigy, and a plethora of other promotional CDs. As soon as the client would say something like, "I hate to just throw these away, and figured you could use them," I knew I was going to be handed a bunch of AOL CDs. So after receiving literally hundreds of them, I decided to start making cyber-skulls out of the CDs and worthless computer components (also gifted to me). Some of the skulls would appear to grow from old motherboards, some had pulsing neon lights, etc. Just last week, I saw a picture of my CD skulls on a major Steampunk site and a German Web page; I don't know how they found them, but it was cool seeing that they were finally being appreciated. But they aren't the only "found art" I produce. Recently, I found a perfectly preserved dead bumble bee on the sidewalk next to my mailbox, and created what can only be called a "Cyber-Bee" or "Steampunk Bee". It took a lot of traditional small watch parts and some very small electronics, but turned out much better than I'd even hoped for. Now the owner of the local art gallery I display at is anxiously awaiting a whole series of Steampunked insects. My good friend Ron Hanna (of Wild Cat Books fame) loved the Cyber-Bee so much, he decided to encourage my art with a gift of ten mounted exotic bugs from Thailand, and I just finished a Steampunk rhinoceros beetle from the collection Ron gave me. Part of me can't wait to do more, and part of me is asking "What the frak am I doing, super-gluing this this watch jewel to a dead bee's eyeball?" But I guess that's art! So I guess you'd call super-glue, broken clockwork, and bug parts my newest media.


AP: What artists inspire your work? 

VC: Now that's quite the question! I'd have to say my earliest inspiration was John Romita (Sr.). I really started drawing when I was about eight or nine. More than anything else, I wanted a Spider-Man poster, and the only way I could get one was to make it myself. So for quite a while, Romita Sr and Ross Andru were the entire art world as far as I was concerned (I was Spidey-crazy as a kid). Not long after that, I discovered John Buscema and some of the other comic luminaries of the time. But as a teenager, I discovered Frank Frazetta, and it was like everything came into focus! Frazetta opened my eyes to the true power of art! After seeing Frazetta, it was no longer a matter of just wanting to reproduce WHAT I saw on the printed page, but now I desired whole-heartedly to learn HOW real art was made and WHY it could speak to me like it did. I wanted to learn all I could about his art which inspired me so.
Since that time, there have been a great number of artists whose work has inspired me. Michael Golden's early work on the Micronauts taught me the value of contrast. The classic Art Nouveau artists Parrish and Mucha taught me the importance of beauty and elegance in art, etc., etc., etc.. There have been SO many since then, I could never name them all! But I try to learn as much as I can from each one. In recent years, there have been so many important artists in my life! The incredible Steve Rude, Mike Mignola, Kenichi Sonoda, Ugetsu Hakua, Samura Hiroaki, Ryan Sook, Gil Elvgren, Walter Baumhoffer, Shirow Masamune, Andrew Loomis, Dave Stevens, etc., etc., etc. And when I get a bad case of "artists' block", all I have to do is pull my Frank Cho books off the shelf, and the beauty and simplicity of his line-work makes me want to draw again!
I guess that's both the curse and the blessing of being a self-taught artist. When you go to school to learn art, you may have half a dozen influential teachers. When you're self-taught, you might have hundreds! Each new artist you discover not only touches your soul with the beauty of their work, but they ingrain a little piece of themselves into your artistic style.

AP: How did you come to develop an interest in the pulps?

VC: It seems like such a cliché answer, but I discovered the Doc Savage paperbacks as a kid, and loved them. I'd known of Doc from the short-lived Marvel comics series of the period, and just loved reading a prose novel of the same "super-hero" I was reading about in the comics. I read every Doc Savage novel I could find, and did several book reports on them. I remember one in particular. Not only did I write the report, but decided to jazz it up a bit by drawing a poster-sized reproduction of Boris Vallejo's beautiful cover. The teacher loved it, and consequently the first A+ she ever gave a book report went to "The Boss of Terror". After a while, I moved on to other things, as kids will. But almost twenty years later, I happened to be working/living at a group home for juvenile offenders, and discovered a Doc Savage paperback on a shelf of donated books for the kids to read. I picked it up, read it, and found that the magic was still there. Admittedly, it wasn't the best of the Doc novels ("The Motion Menace"), but it sparked something special again, just like the books did when I was a kid. I asked my supervisor if I could keep it, and started scouring the SanJose bookstores for more Doc Savage books. When I left the group home a few years later, I took with me dozens of great Doc paperbacks, and left behind a bunch of my duplicates, just to inspire future readers. And though I have all the Bantam paperbacks now, I still have that magical first copy of "The Motion Menace".
From there, the habit just grew. My wife gave me a beautiful copy of the original pulp "The Green Master" for our first wedding anniversary. That was the first true pulp I ever held. Little did she know what she was starting! A couple of years later, I saw Ron Hanna's newsgroup posting looking for artists for his new pulp fanzine, and thought, "I can draw Doc!" And the rest, as they say, is history.

AP: You have a strong connection to Ron Hanna and Wild Cat Books -- can you tell us a little about that? 

VC: That first drawing I submitted to him was a real catalyst. It accomplished two things: 1. It introduced me to Ron, and we started corresponding. We met at Pulp Con a few times, and became fast friends. When he decided his life needed a change of scenery, my wife and I offered our spare bedroom to him and his cat (despite my allergies). And we've been best buds since. He's a true brother to me, and we absolutely love doing projects together. 2. That first piece literally revived my art from the dead. In college, I'd worked as full-time lead artist at a graphic design company, as well as doing a twice-weekly cartoon strip for the college paper, all while providing just about any other art the small college needed (murals, graphics for the teachers, yearbook design, special event posters, etc), and trying to do paintings for my own enjoyment as well. I was so burnt out on art by the time I graduated, I didn't want to do ANY art beyond the occasional doodle during grouphome meetings. So for about five years, my art was as dead as disco. Then when I did that first piece for Ron, I found the fun in my art again, and thought, "I'll have to draw again sometime." Ron liked it so much, he asked me if I'd do more work for him, and before I knew it, I was in almost every magazine he published. I look at those old pieces, and just want to gag at how primitive they were. In essence, I was teaching myself how to draw all over again. Art isn't like riding a bike. You can't just forget about it for half a decade and hop back on at the place you left off (at least, I couldn't). You don't quite start from square one, but it's darned close!. Yet Ron saw the potential in my art, and kept pushing me to do more, while simultaneously encouraging me to do better. He has a true gift to do what I always refer to as rescuing "lost" artists and writers. A lot of his "kittens" (as he refers to the Wild Cat Books family) have shared their similar experiences with me. He sees a spark of potential, and fuels it into a full creative blaze.
I firmly believe that the creative spark is a huge part of how God made humanity in His own image. People instinctively create! Give any small child a crayon, and they start drawing (often all over the walls if you don't watch them closely). They don't need to be told what to draw or how to draw; they just DO it. Play music, and they'll begin to sing along (usually with their own lyrics, made up on the spot). And if they don't sing to the music, they'll dance to it. That's the Divine spark within the human heart! God is the great Creator, and being made in His image, we have a built-in need to be creative as well. Unfortunately, as we "grow up", we seem to forget HOW to create, or we just lay that creative nature aside! It's a real tragedy, but it happens to more people than you'd think. I truly believe the Lord put Ron Hanna on this earth to rescue "lost" creative types: artists, writers, etc. And he does that job wonderfully! Ron rescued my own creative spark, and he continues those rescues to this day.

AP: You've worked for Moonstone as well as other publishers -- can you tell us a little about what you've done for them, specifically about the Black Angel character?

VC: I've worked with several publishers, but Moonstone's been a real dream come true. I've always wanted to work for a real comic publisher, and it's finally happened. I started working with them when Martin Powell (writer extraordinaire) introduced Joe Gentile (Moonstone's publisher) to some of the work I'd produced for Ron, portraying the pulp character Domino Lady. Not only was Martin involved with Wild Cat Books, but he was also one of the lead writers on the Moonstone prose collection of original Domino Lady stories. Joe Liked what he saw, I guess, and the next thing I know, I'm working on the Domino Lady prose book, providing an illustration for each of the stories. It was a lot of fun. When Moonstone decided to do a revival of "Air Fighters", including Black Angel, they asked me if I'd be interested. They didn't have to ask twice! And the really cool part was the fact that I got to work with Martin Powell again! He's writing the adventures, and they're absolutely great! I can't wait to see the characters all develop and see what sort of surprises he has in store for us! I'm hoping we're going to see a lot more of the Black Angel character in the near future.
I've read most of the stories from the original "Air Fighters" of the 1940s, and they really don't hold a candle to what Martin's already been able to do with the character. But don't worry, he's being as true to the original as possible, so don't expect modern-day adventures. Black Angel spends her time kicking Nazi backsides! She's a very unique character, combining both compassion toward the innocent and ruthlessness toward evil, as well as more than a little bit of sexiness. The stories are a lot of fun to do, but I have a feeling both Martin and myself are just getting warmed up! Keep watching!

AP: If you had a dream project, what would it be? 
VC: Only a handful of people know, but I've actually been working on my own graphic novel for about seven years now. Most of that time was spent on research and just trying to get the story right. The story takes place in ancient Japan during the Sengoku period, often called the "time of the Warring States". It's known as the bloodiest period in human history, and deservedly so. The story's called "Makigari", and I'm hoping to have the first portion of it ready to shop out to publishers soon. My dream would be for Makigari to get picked up by a comic company and distributed both here in the States and in Japan. I think American readers will enjoy it, without having to know anything about Japanese history, because a lot of the story centers around the human condition and universal experiences (loss, grief, hope, redemption, vengeance, etc.), and there's also a lot of action and warfare (not only physical warfare on the battlefield, but psychological and spiritual as well!). I think a Japanese audience would enjoy the fact that I portray some familiar historical figures in a completely new light, and I'll be pitting them against unfamiliar enemies and allies. There's a HUGE twist to the story, which you'll just have to wait to see!

AP: There's a lot of discussion about the modernization of classic pulp heroes -- what do you think about that? is it okay to update characters or do you prefer to see them as close to their original incarnation as possible?
VC: I honestly waver back-and-forth on this question. I typically prefer to see the pulp era characters kept in the pulp era. It's such a unique period of American history! The Art Deco and Art-Nouveau influences were everywhere, making it a potentially stunning era for any good artist to portray. And a good writer should recognize all the various cultural influences of the time. America was just clawing its way out of the Great Depression, leaving millions out of work and crime on the rise. The environment was an even bigger concern than today, due to this little thing called the Dust Bowl. The big cities were all on the rise, and finding their own identities. The world was on the brink of another "Great War", due to a frustrated little German oil painter with a silly mustache. It's such a great era, so rich in potential stories! Yet most artists and writers barely touch on any of that, often leading to stories which are mediocre at best.
I think that's why so many people want to modernize the pulp heroes. They think that the pulps would be more appealing if modernized, so people can relate to them easier. But I believe the real reason for wanting to modernize the pulp characters is that it's EASIER. The writers and artists know today's world, and are spared from having to due research if the characters are modernized. It's very disappointing to me. As a reader, I don't relate to a character because they happen to breathe at the same moment I do. I relate to them because they share the human experience in all its grit, grime, and glory!
On the other hand, modernization of characters CAN be quite good when in the right hands. Look at Batman and Superman, Both of these characters are originally from the tail-end of the pulp era, yet they continue to amaze and entertain audiences to this day! Why? Because they continue to portray the human experience. Superman the Kryptonian takes the "glory" to occasionally ridiculous extremes, but Clark Kent's always there striving through life in his human guise. He's easy to relate to for almost every guy out there. It took him... what... almost five decades just to tell the woman he loved who he really was. That's a guy any other guy can relate to! And Batman most certainly is easy to relate to in the "grit and grime" aspect of human nature.
AP: Are there any "new" pulps that you really enjoy?
VC: Not to sound like I'm playing favorites, but I've really enjoyed some of the "modern" pulp heroes I've had the opportunity to work on. Kevin Olson's "Spring-Heeled Jack: Gunfighter" comes to mind immediately, as does Barry Reese's "Rook", and John French's "Bianca Jones" character. I freely admit I don't get to just kick back and read these days, but I will almost always insist on reading a book before I illustrate it. I've been impressed with these characters and their stories. The Rook stories are a bit like the mutant love-child of "Weird Tales" and the detective pulps, and I love the series because of it. Spring-Heeled Jack is based on the legend by the same name, but Kevin's taken him from the streets of Victorian England, and dropped him smack-dab in the middle of the Old West as a gunfighter! Talk about shaking things up! and John's character Bianca Jones is a feisty little police detective who tracks down and kills some big monsters in the streets of modern Baltimore! I guess I like characters and stories that mix together things you'd never expect to be combined. It's that whole peanut butter and chocolate idea, but with monsters, maidens, and a fare share of madness (at least in Jack's case).
AP: What's coming down the road from you? Any new projects you'd like to mention?
VC: I'm hoping and praying that Makigari will be done sometime in the coming year (finally!). I think my friends and family are all sick of hearing about it! I'm also hoping for more Black Angel stories. And anything else Moonstone (or other publishers) cares to throw my way would be welcome. I have to admit, my life is the very definition of the word "freelance". I never know what each new week will hold. It might be filled with a bunch of computer clients with serious virus problems, or a publisher looking for artwork, or a gallery looking for something unique to display. I guess only the Lord knows what you'll see from me next. I certainly don't!

Friday, October 29, 2010


BILL SPANGLER – Journalist , Comic/Pulp Writer

Hi, Bill. First of all, thanks for dropping by ALL PULP HQ and agreeing to sit in the hot seat. You’ve had a really great career in so many different writing fields. Let’s see how much we can cover in the next few minutes. Ready to go? Excellent.

AP –Let’s start with a little background data. Who is Bill Spangler, where do you reside? What is your education background and when did you first start writing professionally?

BS –Joyce and I live in Quakertown, which is southeastern Pennsylvania, about a half-hour south of Allentown. I’ve got a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Penn State. My first professional writing job was for the newspaper in my home town. I was a sportswriter, believe it or not. I was 16. I wasn’t a sports fan then, and I’m not now, but that was the job that was available. I grew up in a town in Western Pennsylvania called DuBois. A lot of people want to give that name the French pronunciation, but it’s actually pronounced due-boyce. DuBois’ only claim to fame was that Tom Mix grew up there. No wait, that’s not exactly true. The movie Groundhog Day held its world premiere in DuBois because it was the closest town to Punxsutawney that had a theater.

AP – Was journalism the first career that involved writing for you? What papers did you work for and what was it like seeing your first ever by-line?

BS – The sportswriting job was the first paying writing job I had, but I was writing well before that. I remember writing a story about a time machine in the second grade, and I’m told that I was hand-printing neighborhood newspapers even before that. I worked primarily on small daily and weekly newspapers in Pennsylvania. One daily I worked for lasted only seven issues. Let’s say their business plan was less than complete….

As for seeing my by-line for the first time, I think I still have a clipping of that article somewhere in my files, so, yeah, it meant a lot to me.
AP –What are the major differences between reporting and fiction writing, aside from the obvious? Do you prefer one over the other?

BS – For me, the major differences were in the things reporting calls for in addition to the writing. Reporting demands a lot of time; you’re going to spend a lot of nights and weekends covering meetings and other events. That’s fine if you’re 23 and single, but it can be problematic if you want to have a life. Sometimes, reporters have to be able to ignore other people’s feelings and generally be obnoxious in order to get to the facts. That can have all sorts of repercussions, both to the reporter and to the people he’s talking to. Also, reporting involves writing and researching at a speed that I found difficult to maintain sometimes. I’m hesitant to make a generalization, but…the newspaper editors I worked with liked good writing. But when they had to choose between good writing and fast writing , they’d go with fast writing every time.

I think I prefer writing fiction over newspaper work, but I still do non-fiction when a good opportunity presents itself.

AP –Tell us about your comic writing career. How did that get started and what were some of your early published comics?

BS – I had written for some fanzines while in high school, but I really wasn’t giving much thought to getting paid for writing comics until the direct market boom of the 1980s. A lot of companies were advertising for new talent, and one of them was Malibu Comics. I sent a proposal for a character I called Bloodwing to Malibu. I assumed that it would be rejected, but I was hoping to get some personalized feedback. To my amazement, Malibu bought it. I’ve worked with a lot of licensed characters; Robotech; Alien Nation; Tom Corbett, Space Cadet, but I’ve sold some original characters too. In addition to Bloodwing—which I used to describe as The Shadow meets Blade Runner—there was the Argonauts, which is very pulp-influenced. I was also one of the writers involved with a character called Jordan Risk. I like to think of him as a gentleman adventurer, in the tradition of the Saint. He appeared in a limited series in the late 1990s called The Deception.
AP –Who was the one artist you most enjoyed working with in that period?

BS – Good grief, I can’t limit myself to just one; how about three? Tim Eldred and I worked on a lot of Robotech stories together and I think we made a good team. We did 18 issues of Invid Wars and a one-shot called Firewalkers. I also enjoyed working with John Ross and Fred Perry. John and I did Argonauts: System Crash for Alpha Productions and an adaptation of H.G. Wells’ Time Machine. Fred and I did eight issues of Tom Corbett, Space Cadet for Eternity.

AP –How did you first get involved with pulp writing?

BS –As I mentioned, I wrote for some fanzines while in high school. One thing I remember doing is a series of sword-and-planet stories about a character I called Jon North. I probably didn’t know the term sword-and-planet just then, but that’s what they were. I think those were probably my first pulp stories. And my comic work was pulp-influenced from the beginning. Now that I think about it, I wrote some fanfiction in high school that might qualify as pulp to (although the term fanfiction probably didn’t exist back then). There was a Man from UNCLE story and one based on The Prisoner, believe it or not.

AP –Were you always a pulp fan or was it something you recently discovered? And how did that come about?

BS – I don’t think I encountered the classic pulp characters like Doc Savage or the Shadow until high school. But I was a big fan of series characters like Tom Corbett and Tom Swift Jr. before that, and I like to think that’s a type of pulp. Also, my favorite comic book characters as a kid were more pulp-oriented than super hero oriented—people like Adam Strange and Magnus, Robot Fighter.

AP –Tell us some of the pulp stories you’ve had published and for what outfits?

BS –Well, my first project was when the esteemed Ron Fortier asked me to contribute to Airship 27’s first production, Lance Star, Sky Ranger. I wrote “Talons of the Red Condors” for that. I did a Commando Cody story called “The Secret Citadel,” for the first issue of a magazine called Thrilling Tales. And I’ve got a story in The Green Hornet Chronicles Vol. 1, an anthology just published by Moonstone Books. The story’s called “Mutual Assured Destruction.”

AP -What is it about writing pulps that is different from other genres? Why do you enjoy working in it?

BS –With pulp-style writing, you’ve got larger-than-life characters with clearly-defined goal. And, in general, they achieve these goals. They make a real difference in the world around them. It’s hard to do that in the real world, and I think people like experiencing that vicariously. At least I do. lso, I have a weakness for stories that show some type of hidden world or culture set against the mundane world, whether it’s dueling spies, dueling aliens, dueling time travelers or whatever. If you know where to look, or how to look, the world can be a very strange place indeed.

AP –With so many publishers, prose and comics, and now movies, focusing on pulps, there seems to be a real renaissance of the field. Why do you think this is so? And do you think it will last?

BS – I think one reason why we’re seeing this resurgence is that the classic pulp characters were created at a time when there was a lot of economic and social instability, and we’re seeing the same sort of instability now. But I think the pulp tradition never really went away. Even before this recent renaissance, we had characters like James Bond and Dirk Pitt and Indiana Jones. I don’t know if the current interest in pulps has peaked yet or not. It’s bound to start fading eventually, but, with companies like Moonstone and Airship 27 out there keeping the faith, I think the interest will remain pretty strong.

AP –Having done comics, pulps and sci-fi, which is your favorite? Is there a genre you would not feel comfortable writing?

BS – My favorite genre is science fiction, whether it’s in prose or comic form. I’m not a big fan of westerns, but that’s just a matter of personal taste. I can’t say that I’ll never write one. Pulp writers are supposed to be versatile, after all…
AP –What’s on the horizon for Bill Spangler? What new projects do you have coming out in the near future and the long run? Go ahead and plug away.

BS – I’ve been spending most of my time recently working on young adult science fiction, and what I guess is called a historical thriller—something in the style of William Dietrich’s Ethan Gage books. While this isn’t in the future, I think I am going to plug the Green Hornet anthology again. There are a lot of names familiar to All-Pulp writers in that. And fans of old-school space opera might want to check out the recent Tom Corbett, Space Cadet comic I scripted. It was a four-issue limited series, and there was a paperback collection that you should be able to order at your local comics shop.

AP – Bill, this have been terrific. Thanks ever from the entire gang at All Pulp.

BS – My pleasure.


Just in time for Halloween!  El gorgo spins you an eerie tale of greed and horror.  6 pages of free EC-style comic goodness.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


The Book Cave, one of the best known pulp focused podcasts (and ALL PULP’S official podcast) was the launch pad for a major announcement this week. Tommy Hancock (Editor in Chief at Pro Se Productions, Pulp Ark Organizer and Coordinator, Author, and one of ALL PULP’s Spectacled Seven) revealed during the ALL PULP news segment on this week’s Book Cave with host Ric Croxton, that he was part of a very special project.

When contacted by ALL PULP, Hancock said, “I’m really excited to finally be able to talk about what’s been in the works. Several weeks ago, pulp historian/author/legend Tom Johnson brought an idea he had to myself and Barry Reese (Writer, Editor, Columnist, and one of ALL PULP’s Spectacled Seven), something he would like to see done in and for the pulp community. Tom, having sort of retired last December, didn’t want to necessarily take on the project, but was eager for someone to, so he pitched it to me and Barry. And without hesitation, we jumped at the opportunity.”

This project will be a book entitled TURNING THE PAGE: TODAY’S PULP HEROES and will focus on pulp heroes created since 1955. According to Hancock, “the concept is basically to provide both an encyclopedic reference guide to all the wonderful heroes created after the end of the glory days of newsstand pulps as well as to have some brief analytical discussion about these characters as well.” Although comparable to past character encyclopedias, Hancock pointed out, “This book will not simply be a compilation of entries about these heroes. Our goal is to write brief, concise essays on each character, giving an overview of their creation, their fictional and publishing history, and then to wrap it up with some commentary on the characters. These characters aren’t simply the forgotten children of Doc Savage, The Shadow, and other iconic personas. They are a part of pulp history in their own right and have their own identity. They are the harbingers of Pulp’s Renaissance and deserve to be treated as such.”

As for what qualifies a character for inclusion in this book,, Hancock stated, “The character must have at least had one published appearance from 1955 to the present and must have been the lead character. There will be future volumes for supporting characters, villains, sidekicks, etc. This appearance can be in an eformat, but only in an organized e-mag or ebook format. The appearance, regardless of format, must be in prose. I know there are many characters out there who appeared only in comics that can qualify as modern pulp heroes, and again they will get their due in a coming volume of TURNING THE PAGE, but our focus currently are those heroes who have seen life in the written word.”

As far as how to submit a character for consideration, Hancock commented, “We have a list of creators we will be contacting. Tom has done a heckuva job already sending us profiles of not only his characters, but also of characters whose creators are difficult or impossible to contact. But, just because I say we have a list we will contact does not mean creators need to wait to contact us. If you have a character that you have created that has had a published appearance and you want to offer them for inclusion in this book, then send us information on them, or better yet, some of the material they have appeared in so we can do them justice in the book. You can write up a profile of the character like a fact sheet, a short synopsis of the character, or a combination of both along with stories the character has appeared in. There is no format for submission, just give us all the information you can so we can do the best work we can in presenting your character.”

In terms of art in the book, Hancock said, “If you want your character to have an image in the book, that’s great, but we are not hiring artists or negotiating with artists. If you send us images of your creation, you must have worked out any permissions or negotiations with the artist prior to us printing it. You will have to sign a written statement to that effect. We’d love to have art, but our focus is the profiles.”

The goal is to include at least 200 profiles in the initial volume of TURNING THE PAGE. As for how it will be determined which characters make it into the first volume, Hancock said, “That will be a decision made by myself and Barry. Some characters with multiple appearances will appear, some with single appearances will be included Some of both will have to wait until the next volume. And if we have more than 200 entries for this first volume, there WILL BE a #2. Guaranteed.”

Hancock and Reese will be publishing TURNING THE PAGE under the company name of THPulp. “This is my own personal stand alone imprint,” Hancock explained. “This is not associated with any of the companies or projects I have worked with or for. This is for projects, like TURNING THE PAGE, and others that are really personal to me and that I want full and total involvement in every step of the way.”

Hancock and Reese are the editors and authors of TURNING THE PAGE: TODAY’S PULP HEROES The book designer is Ali, the formatter and designer behind other projects Hancock is involved in. As for Tom Johnson’s role, Hancock said, “Tom is the reason this volume will exist. He has provided many, many profiles already for us to work from and he has even completed the introduction for the book. This book, though not authored by Tom Johnson, is most definitely because of and inspired by Tom Johnson.”

The targeted publishing date for TURNING THE PAGE is March, 2011. This means that submissions for inclusion of characters into the book can be sent immediately to All questions can also be directed to that email. Hancock does point out, however, that “if you can’t remember that email and you know me and/or Barry by some other email or on face book, you can get us that way too.”


Wednesday, October 27, 2010


AP: Who is Joshua Reynolds?

JR: An influential 18th Century English painter with a fondness for portraits. Also, me. I was born in the great state of South Carolina, the only state too small to be a country and too big to be an asylum. I come from a long line of pirates, swindlers, preachers, bandits, judges and opportunists and I like to feel that I'm keeping my end up in regard to them, having fancied a career in at least two of those occupations. I'm married to a wonderfully supportive Englishwoman, who snatched me from the backwoods of rural Cackalackee and brought me to the disturbingly sedate region of South Yorkshire as soon as everyone's back was turned.   

AP: Where do you live and what do you do to keep the bill collectors at bay?

JR: Currently I live in Sheffield, England with my lovely, patient, tolerant, calm, patient wife, and besides the occasional bit of ghostwriting and copywriting, I mostly use what any red-blooded American uses against the bill collectors-caller ID and a good pair of running shoes. I kid, I kid. I've never run from a bill collector in my life.

I bury them in the backyard, like a sensible person.

AP: You've had around seventy-five short stories published as well as the DRACULA LIVES! novel.  Add to that the reviews and essays you've done.  Where does the energy come from to write all that?

JR: I sold my soul to the Devil at the crossroads for a heart made of ten hearts. Baboon hearts, too. High performance, all the way. Seriously though, I write fast and I don't sleep much. It works out well, don't it? 

AP: You've written in a lot of genres; pulp, horror, steampunk, fantasy, sword and sorcery, southern gothic...what's your favorite?

JR: All of the above! I'll write most anything as long as its got a good beat to it. 

AP: What's your definition of Pulp?

JR: Fast-paced, plot-orientated fiction, with little regard for the rules and conventions of modern genre.  If its got Hitler's brain in a robot body fighting a ghost-hunter who's also a zombie, WITH NO EXPLANATION for how those characters got that way? And no need for said explanation? That's pulp. It's the equivalent of a literary adrenalin shot into the brain. Good pulp should make the reader see sparks and smell stories. 

AP: You've written a lot of horror stories set in your native South Carolina.  Why is South Carolina so full of terror for you?

JR: Instead of a straight answer, here's an anecdote. In South Carolina, there is a county. And in this county is a town. And just outside of this town is a road. And branching off of that road is a dirt trail. And lining that trail is a chicken wire fence, blocking off the dark trees from the rutted path. The fence goes the length and width of that patch of woods, cutting across property lines and walking paths. And on that chicken wire fence are bones. Hundreds of bones, of all shapes and sizes, from all manner of formerly living things. And above these bones, in the branches of the trees that shade the path are wind chimes made of yet more bones, and they rattle ALL THE TIME.  

I have never seen the house at the end of that path, though I know it's there. I don't know who lives there, or why they line their fence with bones. I just know that there are more bones every time I see it, and there are more wind chimes and that the sound they make gets louder every year.  

And sometimes, just sometimes, at night, before I go to sleep, I wonder what that fence is supposed to keep out...and then, I wonder if it's keeping something in.   

AP: You have an affinity for classic horror characters such as Dracula and Frankenstein.  Why do those characters fascinate you?

JR: Short answer? Because they persist. I'm fascinated by what makes some characters stick around in the public consciousness while others fade away. Dracula wasn't the first literary vampire, but he's the best known...why is that? Why did he become a pop-culture powerhouse instead of Carmilla or Ruthven or Varney? Why do these characters resonate so strongly with us? Why is Frankenstein a cultural slang term for 'bad science'? 

Also, I just dig 'em, y'know? I mean Frankenstein, dude. With the lightning and the arms and the GRAARGH and the ice floes and stuff? That's just cool. That dude needs to fight a Yeti ASAP, know what I'm saying?

AP: Tell us about DRACULA LIVES!

JR: No.

Fine, if you insist. Dracula Lives! is the first in a series of short novels concerning the resurrection of Dracula into the modern day and the unpleasantly gory hi-jinks which ensue. There are spies, secret organizations, Satanists and, of course, vampires. Also an Aztec mummy. It wears its influences proudly on its bloody sleeves-from Ian Fleming to Brian Lumley to Colan and Wolfman's Tomb of Dracula comic. If any of that trips your interest meter, this is the book for you.

AP: One of the most interesting things about your work is how you mix genres.  Such as horror and espionage in DRACULA LIVES!  is this something you do deliberately or is that just how your brain is hardwired?

JR: Well, first off, I'm not a big believer in 'genre'. It's a marketing ploy that I think is, at the best of times, unfortunately necessary, and at the worst of times is an active disservice to the books that it's applied to. That said, I have one real rule when it comes to writing: 'whatever sells the story'. I'll mix and match whatever elements seem necessary to produce a saleable work of fiction...if that's gorillas on blimps or cowboy-vampires, I'll do it. Too, continuing along that mercenary line, I've found that you need to do something a bit different to get noticed by editors and readers alike.  Something simultaneously recognizable and unique is the best bet, so I often juggle genres to achieve that. 

Basically, I do it because it works. 

AP: What are your plans for future Dracula novels?

JR: Well, short-term, there are two more books forthcoming-Dracula Unbound! in October 2011 and an as yet unnamed third book slated for 2012. After that, well, I guess it just depends on how well they sell. I'd love to write one a year for the next ten years, but really, it all relies on how popular the series is with book-buying public. 

So, if you like the first book, buy multiple copies. Seven or eight apiece should do nicely, I think. 

AP: What can we expect from you in 2011?

JR: Oh heck, lots of stuff. The aforementioned Dracula Unbound!, of course. I've got a story in Airship 27's upcoming third volume of Sherlock Holmes, Consulting Detective. I've got stories being turned into audio productions, I'll be appearing in a number of short-fiction markets, including Innsmouth Free Press and a forthcoming time-travel anthology from Permuted Press. Too, there's several things I'm waiting to hear about as of yet. 

AP: What's a typical Day In The Life of Joshua Reynolds like?

JR: I'm up at six in the AM to see the wife off to her job, then it's an hour or so on the interwebs as I guzzle my morning coffee, checking e-mail and hunting for new short-fiction markets to submit to. After that, I spend a few hours editing what I wrote the day before, then I dive into whatever I'm working on for the day. Once I hit my page count for the day on that particular project (barring deadlines), I switch up and move onto something else.  I generally have short stories on the go at once, staggered according to relative deadlines, and at least two novel-length works, as well as the odd book review. I take a break about five to update my various blogs and facebooks and such, cook some dinner for the wife, then it's back to work for another hour or two. 

I try and get in a good eight to twelve hours a day, five to six days a week, if possible. Sometimes it's less, sometimes it's more. 

I keep busy, is what I'm saying. 

AP: Here's your chance for a gratuitous plug or shout out.  Go.

JR: Ooh, there's so many people I could give a shout out to...too many, in fact. So instead, I'll opt for the gratuitous plug(s): Dracula Lives! is on sale now at Amazon for the amazingly low price of $8.95, which is a bargain, when you think about it. Then again, you could splurge and grab a copy of Jim Anthony, Super-Detective: The Hunters written by myself and Micah Harris. That'd be great. Oh, you could pick up the two new anthologies from Woodland Press, Specters in Coal Dust and Mountain Magic: Spellbinding Tales of Appalachia, both of which feature stories by me. Or, you know, if free stuff is your bag, you could head over to Dunesteef Audio Fiction Magazine or Cossmass Infinities and give a listen to what stories of mine they done produced into some really stunning audio-performances. 

AP: Anything else we should know about Joshua Reynolds?

JR: Plenty, but you wouldn't believe me if I told you. 

A complete listing of the published works of Joshua Reynolds can be found here:

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Tommy Hancock, Pulp Ark Coordinator and Pro Se Productions Editor in Chief, announced today that a benefit book is being organized in conjunction with Pulp Ark, the convention/creators’ convention held in Batesville, Arkansas next May 13-15, 2011.

“So much is going on with Pulp Ark,” Hancock commented, “but we want to make sure that we do something to benefit the reason we are even having this convention; that is, we want to further the Pulp field by getting it in as many hands as we can and we want to encourage more people to read.”

To that end, Pulp Ark is putting out a call for writers and artists to contribute to a benefit book that will be on sale at the event. All proceeds from this book (which will be printed through at this point) will go to
organizations aimed at putting pulp fiction titles in libraries around the country.

Hancock said, “Pulp has a history of being looked down upon. Lately, though, that is changing and more and more are taking note of this wonderfully varied field. We’d like this book to be a way to put more books like it in libraries that can never have enough pulp fiction on the shelves. Maybe if someone picks up a pulp title at the library, just maybe they will like it enough to buy one on their own from one of us putting this great stuff out. And they are reading. That’s the best part.”

The book, entitled ‘THE CASE OF THE BLOODY PULP AND OTHER STORIES’, can include up to 14 stories. Each story must be 15,000 words in length if authors wish to contribute. Eleven spaces for stories remain as of today. One of the three slots already filled is titled ‘THE CASE OF THE BLOODY PULP’ and is not only the lead story in the book, but also the centerpiece of an interactive Pulp Ark long drama unfolding over the entire weekend.

Artists are also encouraged to participate. “We can do pulp fiction without artists, but they are a mainstay to the field and we definitely want them involved.” Each story can contain up to two illustrations, but with this being a benefit book, Hancock stated he would accept whatever writers and artists will be willing to do. “We have three stories,” Hancock said, “so, there will be a book, no doubt. We’d really like it to be a massive tome, though, as we have planned.”

Any writer or artist interested in contributing to this benefit book can contact Hancock at or 870-834-4022. There are again 11 remaining slots for writers and all 14 available for artists. 



AP – First of all, thanks for dropping by All Pulp HQ, Aaron and agreeing to sit in the hot seat for us.  Let’s get cracking with some personal information. Who exactly is Aaron Smith, where do you reside and what’s your day job?

AS –Well, I’m 33 years old, so I seem to be one of the younger writers in the recent pulp revival. I live in Ringwood, New Jersey which is a nice mountainous town away from the noise of the cities that I lived in for most of the earlier part of my life, a great place to get the peace and quiet that I like. For my day job, I run a produce department for a large supermarket chain. I’ve been with the company for 17 years now and it’s not a bad job, although my goal would be to write full-time or, failing that, to make enough writing that I could just supplement my income with a part-time job. Actually, even if I was making a ton of money writing, I’d probably still have some kind of day job, just to keep myself from becoming a total hermit! After all, everybody needs some kind of interaction with other human beings to keep the inspiration coming. I also have to mention my absolutely wonderful wife who somehow…and I wonder if this qualifies as a superpower…manages to put up with all my eccentricities, my curmudgeonly moods, my mad rants about things that annoy me, and all my crazy mood swings that go from high-as-a-kite to the deepest bowels of crankiness. Really, she’s marvelous and I don’t know what I’d do without her. She’s also been incredibly supportive and motivating over the two years or so that I’ve really seriously been doing pulp writing work.      

AP – Where in all that background did you first get the idea you wanted to be a writer?  And was the transition from dream to reality an easy or difficult one for you?

AS –Becoming a writer was, in my case, a long process that evolved slowly over the entire first thirty years of my life. I suppose I always had a writer inside of me but it took a long time for that egg to really hatch and for me to really start doing what I do now. It started, I guess, with the things that really jumpstarted my imagination as a kid. My earliest memories of things really shaking up my mind include Star Wars which was probably the thing that did it for a lot of people of my generation. George Lucas created the great epic of our generation, I suppose. It’s too bad he dropped the ball with the prequels. Then there was my grandmother, who used to tell me bedtime stories about Jack the Ripper! Somehow, I didn’t grow up to be a serial killer, but I did become a writer. Some people might say that’s equally scary, but I think I turned out okay. I always made up stories as a kid, but they were mostly in my head and not on paper, but I was writing internally from an early age. Imagination was vital to my sanity in grammar school. I was a skinny little kid and considered a nerd. I didn’t have much self-confidence and sometimes the only thing that got me through those long days of being picked on and laughed at was pretending I was somebody else and that the school was part of an adventure, like James Bond infiltrating a base full of Spectre agents or Captain Kirk in disguise on a hostile alien world. Imagination was a defense mechanism for me and maybe that’s where the writer came from! But for some reason it took me forever to really decide to just write. Somehow I managed to try almost every other creative endeavor first. I wanted to be a comic book artist at one time and I could actually draw really well for a while there, but I just don’t have the discipline it takes to draw for hours on end, day after day. Writing comes easier to me because it’s so internal and mental. I can “write” all day and put ideas together, but I only have to sit and actually type for a short portion of the time that the creative process is actually taking place. When I was a little older, I got into music and played guitar for a few years, but I eventually realized that I liked being a guitar player more than I liked playing the guitar, if that makes any sense. In other words, I liked the feeling of being the character more than the act of playing. When I realized that, I decided to try acting. I studied it for awhile and did theatre for several years, did some Shakespeare and some other stuff, worked with some great people who are still good friends of mine now and even had a part in a movie that, unfortunately, was never released (but I got together with my wife during the filming of that movie so, in that sense, I was better paid than any Oscar winner ever was!). The acting was fun, but it’s impossible to pursue that type of work and have a regular life. When you have to work a full-time job, you can’t just drop things on the spur of the moment and go chasing after audition opportunities. So I stopped acting eventually. After that, I just kind of lived for the remainder of my twenties. I wrote a little but never anything too serious, never tried to publish anything. Then, two years ago, I was floating around on the internet and I saw this little ad on some site about some editor looking for pulp writers and I inquired and suddenly I was writing every day and things were actually getting published! Was the transition an easy one? Yes, once I got started it was, but it was a long road that I travelled to get there. But had the road been shorter I might not have had all the experiences that inspire my work now, so I guess it worked out perfectly.      

AP –What was your first published work?  Describe the feeling of seeing your work in print for the first time.

AS –My first published story was “The Massachusetts Affair” in SHERLOCK HOLMES CONSULTING DETECTIVE Volume One from Airship 27 Productions. It’s been almost 2 years and I still get a feeling of amazement thinking about the fact that my career as a writer began with the chance to write a Holmes story! What a great privilege to be able to work with the most famous character in all of detective literature! Seeing that story in print, on real pages, wrapped in that great cover by Mark Maddox was one of the greatest thrills of my life. And after the book came out, it only got better when several people told me that I had succeeded in capturing the essence of the world that Conan Doyle had created. I can’t really say that it was difficult though, and I can’t give myself the credit, because Doyle gave us such a great set of toys to play with. When you have characters as real and alive as Holmes and Watson and their supporting cast, they do tend to write themselves once you get your mind to Baker Street and the right mood is there.    

AP –How did you become affiliated with Airship 27 Productions?  What was the first work you did for them?

AS –That little ad I came across on the internet, the ad I mentioned before, was what led me to Airship 27. I wrote to Ron Fortier about his need for pulp writers and he replied asking me to send him a short sample of my prose writing. I sent him this short piece I had concocted about Adolph Hitler interviewing a vampire for a job in the SS. Ron liked it and asked me to work for Airship 27. It was only after the first few emails went back and forth that I realized that I was communicating with the guy who had written the great Green Hornet comics that I’d read nearly twenty years before! That just blew me away that a writer whose work I’d loved so much thought my stuff was good enough to publish! And Ron has been just incredible ever since. He brought me into the world of pulp writing and he’s a great editor and a great friend and the Obi-Wan Kenobi of my writing career. The first work he gave me to do for Airship 27 was a Black Bat story. I started on that but before I finished it Ron wrote me back and asked if I’d be willing to put the Bat on hold to do a Holmes story first and I jumped at the chance. I’ve had stuff coming out from Airship 27 pretty steadily ever since and it’s been a pleasure to have my stories published alongside work by great writers like my friends Andrew Salmon and Van Allen Plexico and Tommy Hancock and so many others and to see my stories illustrated by artists like Rob Davis and Pedro Cruz.  

AP –Were you always a pulp fan?  If not, how did you ultimately become one?

AS –I guess I could say that I met and was inspired by all of pulp’s cousins before meeting pure pulp. I’ve always been heavily into serialized adventure fiction, but not necessarily the actual pulp magazine characters. For most of my life I’ve been a fan of comics, especially the classics of the superhero genre, stuff by Stan Lee and all his collaborators like Buscema and Kirby and Gene Colan and Steve Ditko and also the DC side of things done by people like Gardner Fox and Dennis O’Neill and the great Joe Kubert who just doesn’t stop producing incredible work even now in his eighties! Every title that guy worked on in the 80s and 90s turned to gold  I was reading Sherlock Holmes when I was 7 or 8 and I got into Ian Fleming’s Bond books not long after that. Then of course there’s the two great science fiction franchises of Star Trek and Star Wars and the classic science fiction authors who sort of sprang out of the pulps, guys like Asimov and Bradbury and Roger Zelazny. And there’s Bram Stoker who certainly solidified the whole vampire genre and probably influenced almost every horror writer who came after him. So I was into all these fictional worlds that have a pulp essence to them, but my interest in the actual pulps only came along after I started to write some of the classic pulp characters.     

AP-What is it about pulp that you enjoy that can’t be found in other genres?

AS – Pulp strikes fast and hits hard and is all about telling the story with as much impact as possible. Pulp is, I think, perfect for me because I’m a pure storyteller. I don’t try to do anything except tell my stories. In other words, I don’t consciously try to create a style or be too artistic or fancy with how I do things. Sure, there are moments when I look back at something I’ve written and realize that I’ve done something or connected words in a certain way that surprises me, but all that happens subconsciously. I have a story to tell and I try to tell it as well as I can but I also work very quickly and hammer it out before the initial impact and whatever it was that appealed to me about the story is lost. That’s what makes pulp unique. It has an urgency to it that, I suspect, came from the old time pulp writers needing to bang this stuff out in a fast and furious manner in order to put food on the table! I recently read a novel which was very good and so I went online to see what else the author had written and there was nothing because she had apparently taken 10 years to write the book I’d just read! That would be like torture to me, to spend a decade on one story! I have way too many ideas to be stuck on one thing for so long. By the time I’m halfway through one story, I have the next one formulating in my head already. I like to fire all my bullets rapidly and reload right away and find another target to shoot at. Pulp is pure creative instinct and that may be one of the reasons why certain writers who came out of the pulps were so unique; they didn’t worry about stylistic choices as much as they just shot from the hip and their real, natural styles and ideas came out because of that. I mean, look at guys like Robert E. Howard and HP Lovecraft! Those guys weren’t intentionally planning out those incredible worlds that they managed to put on paper. Their universes are too real for that. That stuff came straight from their guts and that’s why it’s so effective and so influential even today. The best pulp writers dragged the lakes of their souls and put what they found out there for the world to see. Pulp doesn’t compromise.    

AP - Give us a list of the classic pulp heroes you’ve written and which was/is your favorite?

AS – I’ve written the Black Bat, three stories, though only one has been published so far. I’ve done a couple stories with Dan Fowler, G-Man. I have two short stories out there about the Three Mosquitoes, who were World War I fighter pilots. I did a Wild Bill Hickok story for the Masked Rider anthology. I’ve also done a few other classic pulp hero stories with others, but those books aren’t out yet, so I’ll leave them for a future interview. Out of the ones I’ve just listed, I guess I’d have to say that Dan Fowler beats out the Black Bat by just a slight margin as my favorite. The reason for that is that because Fowler is an FBI man he sort of falls right on the borders of two great genres. A Fowler story can kind of straddle the line between a detective story and a spy story. Fowler investigates crimes like a Dick Tracy, but the whole United States can be his playground because he’s Federal and not tied to one particular city like a police detective would be. So a Fowler story can put him pretty much anywhere in the USA and be a detective story at the same time. In the two Fowler stories I’ve done so far, he’s been in a whole bunch of different cities, faced some twisted, exotic villains, and I’ve had a lot of fun writing about him. There are cases where I know I have one story to tell about a character and then the well runs dry, and there are those characters who I feel like I could write about over and over and over again. Dan Fowler falls into the second category.

AP – You wrote a short novel starring Sherlock Holmes’s friend, Dr.Watson. Tell us about this book and how it came about.

AS – SEASON OF MADNESS came about because I usually have several books that I’m reading at any given time. I like to alternate books. It had been years since I’d originally read the Sherlock Holmes stories, still not knowing I’d be asked to write one. At the same time, I was reading Stoker’s DRACULA, a book I’d started to read earlier and never quite finished. So I was reading Holmes and Dracula simultaneously and something clicked. I was thinking about the characters of Dr. John Watson from the Holmes stories and Dr. John Seward from Dracula and I realized that there are a lot of similarities between these two men. Both were medical doctors; both had a habit of recording their experiences, Watson in his written records of his adventures with Holmes and Seward in his phonograph journals; and both were “sidekicks” to their brilliant and eccentric mentors, Holmes and Van Helsing. They both lived in London at the same time too, so I decided that they should meet. I wanted to do a crossover between the worlds of Holmes and Dracula without either of those main characters appearing. With Dracula, I decided I wouldn’t use him because he’s dead. Stoker killed him off at the end of his book and who am I to resurrect him? I also wanted to use Watson without Holmes because I have this thing about defending Watson. One thing that’s always bothered me, and this came mostly from the Basil Rathbone /Nigel Bruce movies, is Watson’s reputation (among those who haven’t read Doyle’s original stories) as a bumbling idiot. Watson is NOT a stupid man! Sherlock Holmes would not associate with a moron! John Watson is a very intelligent, very courageous man in the medical field who is a trusted companion to an absolute genius. Watson is us. It is through his eyes that we see Holmes. Doyle used Watson as narrator so that we could see the genius of Holmes in a way that we could understand. There is nothing weak or inferior about Watson and I wanted to show that by placing him in the role of a man who could solve a mystery without Holmes being around and step into the lead role with Seward as the junior partner of this new crime-solving duo. My original idea was to do SEASON OF MADNESS as a graphic novel or maybe a comic book mini-series. I pitched the idea to my friend Pedro Cruz who is an excellent artist from Portugal. He liked it and I began to write a script. Halfway through that, I began my association with Airship 27 Productions and wound up doing my Sherlock Holmes story. The success of the Holmes book made me consider doing SEASON OF MADNESS as a prose novel instead. I pitched the idea to Ron Fortier and he liked it and I sent him some samples of Pedro’s work and he agreed to have Pedro illustrate the novel and also gave Pedro some other illustration work for other Airship books. It worked out great for all of us and SEASON OF MADNESS became a sort of sequel to that first Holmes volume. I’d like to say one more thing about this. Whenever someone asks me about SEASON OF MADNESS, I try to see if they’re familiar with the original sources of both main characters. I’ve been finding that almost everyone has read some Holmes, but there are a lot of people who have never read DRACULA. If anyone who’s reading this hasn’t read Stoker’s book, don’t be fooled into thinking you know the story already because of all the supposed adaptations and pastiches out here. It’s a great horror novel that climbs to far greater heights of creepiness and mood and atmosphere than anything that drew from it. You’re missing a great experience if you haven’t read it.            

AP – Who is Hound Dog Harker?  Where did he first appear and will we be seeing any more of his adventures in the future?

AS –Hound Dog Harker is my own original pulp character, but I can really only claim about a third of the credit for his existence. Not long after I began writing pulp, I discovered a series of movies from the 1930s starring John Howard as the character Bulldog Drummond. I loved those movies, sort of a cross between James Bond and Will Eisner’s THE SPIRIT. Drummond was created, in a series of novels, by Herman Cyril McNeile. The films came later. I immediately did some searching to see if the character was in the public domain to see if I could use the character in new stories. I learned two things. First, the character is still owned and unavailable. Second, the Drummond of the novels is quite different from the character in the movies and not in a way I’d be interested in working on anyway. So I put that idea down for awhile. Meanwhile, I was working on SEASON OF MADNESS. As I got to the end of that book, I began to realize that it just wasn’t going to be long enough to fill a whole novel. I had told the story I’d set out to tell and I wasn’t going to stuff it with filler just to get to a certain word count. I had to come up with another solution. I decided to make it a two-story book with SEASON OF MADNESS as a short novel, and a short backup story to fill up the remainder of the volume. I started to think about ideas for that second story and I decided it should somehow connect to either Holmes or Dracula. I thought about the various other characters I could use. I didn’t want to use Holmes or Van Helsing because I didn’t want their popularity to overshadow the main story. I thought about Lestrade, but he already had a major part in the Watson/Seward story. Then I thought about the various characters in DRACULA and I remembered the very end of the book where Mina Harker mentions that she and Jonathan, several years after the events with Dracula, have a son who they call Quincy after the one member of their group who died in the final battle with the vampire. That was when I realized I had the perfect idea to fill that book up. Hound Dog Harker is little Quincy all grown up. He’s raised by Jonathan and Mina, growing up with this feeling that his parents are hiding some dark secret about their past, but never really learning about the whole Dracula business. As a young man, he fights in World War I, rising to the rank of Captain and earning his nickname of Hound Dog. By the 1930s, he works for British intelligence as a character that is very much like the Bulldog Drummond that John Howard portrayed in those movies. He’s sort of a pulp-era James Bond with a knack for finding himself assigned to cases that have some sort of connection to strange or seemingly supernatural or super-scientific events. His first adventure, “Attack of the Electric Shark,” appears in SEASON OF MADNESS. There will be a new Hound Dog Harker story out soon, once again as the backup feature in another Airship 27 book, a book with a main story by one of my fellow Airship writers. I do have an idea for a third Harker story too, but I haven’t started to work on it yet.                

AP -Who is Red Veil and where will she be appearing?

AS – The Red Veil is my other brand new pulp character to come out from Airship 27. She’s my first attempt at writing a pulp story with a female hero. She’ll be appearing in a new anthology called MYSTERY MEN. When I learned that Airship 27 would be putting out a book with new original pulp heroes, I of course wanted to be involved. Ron told me that he wanted a new female pulp character, so I came up with Red Veil. Her story is basically a tale of the American Dream coming true and then being snatched away, and how one woman deals with such a thing happening to her. The Red Veil is Alice Carter, a young woman who survived a rough childhood in England, made her way to America, married a handsome young police officer, and then had her heart broken when her husband was killed in the line of duty. Without saying too much, because I want people to actually read the story before they know the story, Alice reacts to this tragedy by taking the law into her own hands. It’s a pretty dark story and she’s a pretty dark character once she really gets going. I created her and I’m not even really sure if she’s sane or not! She’s got a little of the Shadow in her, a pinch of the Spider, and a lot of the terrible wrath that comes when a woman gets really, really pissed off at the world and its injustices.      

AP –Besides your pulp work, what else do you have coming from other publishers?

AS – The main thing that I’m waiting to see the release of is my science-fantasy novel GODS AND GALAXIES. It’s been attached to a certain small publisher for quite a while now. There seem to be ongoing delays to its release, but I hope that will all be sorted out sooner rather than later. It starts out as a love story about a man who meets a woman who is quite different than any woman he’s ever encountered before. Eventually, he finds out just what makes her so different. The book eventually turns from that quiet beginning into a full-out, fast-paced, brutal space adventure. Somebody compared it to a modern variation on John Carter of Mars. All I can really say is that it’s among my most personal works so far. There are big parts of me in that main character and there are a few people I know who might recognize themselves in the story too, although the names have been changed to protect both the innocent and the guilty writer! I really hope that whatever the publisher is going through gets resolved soon so that I can see that book available. It will be my first full-length novel and I hope it has enough cross-genre appeal for a lot of different people to give it a shot. That’s the only thing I have definitely coming out that’s not really pulp work, but I always have other stuff in progress. I have a long horror novel that’s not far from completion, but it’s on hold at the moment. I actually dug a little too deep into the pits of my own soul for that one and had to take a break!    

AP –Is there anything you would like to plug here?  Feel free to give our readers a sneak-peek at what’s coming from Aaron Smith in the year ahead.

AS –I have plenty of new stuff coming out in the next few months. From Airship 27 Productions, there’s the second Hound Dog Harker story, there’s the Red Veil debut in the MYSTERY MEN book, and there’s SHERLOCK HOLMES CONSULTING DETECTIVE Volume 3 in which I have two short stories. Then there’s the line of magazines being published by Pro Se Productions. Tommy Hancock was kind enough to offer me a position as a staff writer for his magazines and he’s done an amazing job of getting pulp stuff coming out on a monthly basis again. I have the first stories of two different series out there already. In MASKED GUN MYSTERY # 1 we have the first of my stories with my character Lieutenant Marcel Picard, a former NHL hockey player who retires from the game to become a homicide detective. I’ve already written the second Picard story and I’m working on a third. Picard was inspired by a conversation I overheard in a restaurant one evening, so ideas can come from anywhere. Also, just last week Pro Se released FANTASY AND FEAR # 2 which includes my “100,000 Midnights,” which is the first in my new series of vampire stories. This is a series that just grabbed me by the throat and wouldn’t let go and it’s going to be a series of eight stories which I eventually hope to see collected into one volume after they’ve run in the magazines. It’s partially inspired by all the vampire material that’s come from Stoker and others and it’s also my own take on vampires and other supernatural lore. So I’m trying to pay homage to what’s come before while still infusing it with my own unique point of view. In addition to those two series, there are also a few standalone stories in the adventure and fantasy genres that I hope to see included in the Pro Se magazines in coming months.            

AP - Aaron, this had been a lot of fun. Thanks so much for joining us here at All Pulp.

AS –Thank you for having me and I hope I’ve been an interesting enough subject that some of the people reading this will want to check out my work.