Sunday, September 15, 2019
Tom Johnson: Tom was an early pulp fan after discovering The Shadow and Doc Savage in paperback reprints in the 1960s. It wasn’t long before he found the rest of the pulp heroes. Returning from a tour in Vietnam he met a fellow fan that introduced him to Fred Cook’s BRONZE SHADOWS. Tom and his wife, Ginger, were fascinated with the concept of Fred’s fanzine and subscribed to every pulp fanzine on the market until 1982 when they published their own pulp fan magazine, ECHOES, then in 1995 they began a string of fiction magazines that would last for another decade. Over the years Tom has created new pulp heroes, as well as writing new stories featuring the original characters.
Three of those new pulp heroes are The Black Ghost, The Masked Avenger, and The Mind Master.
Tom also researched and wrote histories of such pulp characters as Dan Fowler (G-Men Detective), The Phantom Detective, The Black Bat, Secret Agent X,and The Belmont Shadow (From Shadow To Superman), as well as Operator #5’s Purple Wars, The Green Ghost and The Black Hood. These he published in his FADING SHADOWS magazines. When ALTUS PRESS came along, Marr Moring picked up Tom’s research books and some of his new pulp stories, publishing them in more professional volumes. Tom was also special guest editor for ALTUS PRESS’ Triple Detective series.
Now retired from writing, Tom is enjoying the many new writers in new pulp, and especially their continuing stories in the original pulp series. It’s like a return to the old days to pick up a new Phantom Detective, Moon Man, or Dan Fowler.
Sunday, September 1, 2019
A NEW ARTIST COMES TO ECHOES
From the very beginning,Echoes had some of the best art appearing anywhere in the pulp fanzines. If I attempted to name all of our artists, I am sure I would miss someone, and they would swear I did it on purpose, so to keep from losing a friend, let me just say they were all fantastic! However, our first artist was the highly talented Frank Hamilton, whose illustrations filled the first two years of the magazine, and made Echoes one of the best for its time. Unfortunately, Frank left Echoes after the second year, and his art was certainly missed from our pages.
However, it was about this time that I saw a piece of art in another magazine, which illustrated a scene from The Spider. I don’t remember in what magazine, maybe it was Nemesis, Inc., but I’m not positive. I immediately wrote the publisher and told him that I loved the art, and asked who in the world is “Wilber”? The publisher sent me a nice letter, along with Ron Wilber’s address. I quickly wrote to Ron, and as usual, stuck my foot in my mouth, something I’m notorious for doing. I told him how much I loved the piece of art, and said something like, “I just read the story you ‘copied’ the art from.” Needless to say, he wrote back, telling me he hadn’t “copied” anything! Well, of course, what I had meant to say was, “the scene that had influenced his art.” Not copied.
But, regardless of my stupid blunder, Ron didn’t abandon us. Soon afterwards, he started sending artwork to Echoes, fast and furious. His first piece appeared in issue #26 of Echoes, two issues after Frank’s last piece, I believe. Frank had been with us for two years. Ron Wilber stayed with us for the next 18 years! And he remains a friend to this day, even if I do stick my foot in my mouth every so often. And we still love his art. He arrived on the scene at the right minute, helping to save Echoes after we lost Frank Hamilton. This in no way diminishes the work from our other talented artists, but Ron was a dynamo, turning out plenty of art to sustain the magazine.
The only controversy we have ever had with his art, and I’ll never understand the reason for it, were the complaints on Ron’s semi-nudity. First, I am not a fan of erotica, though I am a fan of his artwork. But the semi-nude pieces we printed in Echoes went no further than what you would find on a cover of Weird Tales or the Spicy pulps. Some of the other publishers were reproducing ‘those’ covers in their own publications, as well as using Wilber’s art, but we were the ones taking the flack. I even got into a debate with a pulp dealer at the time who was complaining about the art, who sold Weird Tales and the Spicy pulps, and argued my case, but he said it this way: “When someone ‘buys’ a Weird Tales from me, they know what they are getting. So I can offer them for sale. But when you print a piece of art like that, your subscribers ‘don’t’ know what they are ‘buying’ until it arrives in their mailbox.”
I never won my argument, and those that were upset about Ron’s art never stopped complaining. And we never stopped using his art. I am continuously amazed that someone would collect Weird Tales or a Spicy with a nude woman on the cover, or buy, read and collect comic books with big bosomed, half naked women on the cover and throughout the book, and then complain about Ron’s illustrations. But I forget, they know what they are buying. The next time you are near a comic book rack, check out the covers on some of them, and then tell me why those sexy, semi-nude women are okay, but Wilber’s are not. I still don’t understand the controversy.
Well, enough about complaints. For us, two things come to mind when we think about Ron Wilber. Of course, first of all, we think that Wilber’s black and white illustrations are among the best out there. And second, Ron is reliable! If you want a special piece of art, he will get it to you. On time, and you will be satisfied with it! We’ve had our share of artists who wanted to do something their way, when we begged for them to do it the way we wanted it. Once you’ve had trouble with an artist, you seldom go back to them. And they don’t come back to you, unfortunately. Ron Wilber has never balked at a special assignment. When we told him how we wanted it, that’s what he gave us. He is a true artist, and can do it your way!
The real controversy, in our opinion, is that Ron Wilber is not working in the comic book industry right now! He is as good as anyone out there. Better than many! His phone should be ringing off the hook!
Sadly, Ron Wilber passed away in late 2016 at the young age of 51. He had only recently lost his mother and was in a depression. His art will be missed.