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.
Thursday, August 15, 2019
Ginger Johnson: With her husband, Tom, she published ECHOES and several genre magazines, contributing articles and fiction. She created Mr. Minus, a new pulp hero in the mold of Captain Zero, plus helped compile essays on the new pulp heroes. A long time fan of Doc Savage and the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs, she became a pulp fan in the 1960s with the explosion of pulp reprints. She has also written western and mystery short stories, The Cowboy From Texasand The Suicide That Wasn’t.
Thursday, August 1, 2019
BETTY DALE, CHARLOTTA & LEANNE MANNERS
Betty was with Secret Agent Xfrom the very first, although a few novels featured her in no active part, she merely gave the Agentinformation over the phone. However, she was usually right in the middle of his cases, and getting captured, being drugged, put in dungeons and tortured, the usual fate of a pulp female. At least once in every novel, Agent Xwas forced to penetrate a criminal stronghold to rescue the young reporter.Shesaw the Agent's true face for the first time in City Of Madness(December 1936). She remained with the Agentfor another year of the magazine, making her final appearance in the December 1937 issue, titled Plague Of The Golden Death. At that time she was dropped from the series (but the Agentstill finds other fair damsels to rescue).
Betty had relatives in a town named Branford (no State given, but assumed to be New York), an aunt and cousin. The cousin, Paula Channing, is very wealthy in her own right, and popular in the community (City Of The Living Dead, June 1934).
Also important to the series was the love interest for the Agent'stwo aids, Jim Hobart and Harvey Bates, though the two ladies involved were only featured in one novel each, their parts were very important and deserve mention:
Leanne Manners (The Murder Monster, December 1934): Leanne was a red-haired young girl from a mid-western town. The fiancée of Jim Hobart, she was refined and educated (and also a graceful dancer). Agent Xgot her a job at the Diamond Club, where she quickly became the star of the nightclub show. However, she actually had another job there, which consisted of keeping tabs on the mobsters that frequented the club.
Leanne and Hobart were soon to be married, but she only appeared in the one novel and was never mentioned again. However, as Jim Hobart only remained with the Agent for two more years it might be assumed that they did get married and, due to the dangerous work he was involved with, he was released from active service by the Agent.
Charlotta (City of Madness, December 1936): Darkly beautiful, her narrow velvety-lidded eyes were almost black and extraordinarily shrewd. High cheekbones accentuated a small, pointed chin. Her rouged lips suggested determination without in any way detracting from her beauty. She wore a short, flared black skirt and the postage stamp apron of a housemaid.
Though American born, nature had endowed her with brains as well as beauty, and she had served Russia in the early days of the war. Her mastery of foreign languages and her love for adventure had enticed her to seek fortune in strange lands at an early age. She later left Russia and transferred her abilities to the French Intelligence Service. Wherever adventure and intrigue could be found, there too was Charlotta.
Harvey Bates fell in love with her (and so did I) in the novel and she returned his love. But after this novel Bates was only active in four more cases and seldom placed in a position of danger. Thus, it might be assumed that Charlotta added the name of Bates to her own - and Agent Xonce again lost another very capable operative.
With Harvey Bates and Jim Hobart gone, Secret Agent Xbecomes a Lone Wolf crime fighter.
Monday, July 22, 2019
“A Piece of Something Big” by Harry Reed: Curtis Kruger is locked up in an Arizona jail when a mob lawyer bails him out and brings him to California where he’s to do a job for the mob capo B.J. Baldoni. Baldoni claims that his daughter is enamored with a black boxer, and he wants Kruger to beat the boxer up. Kruger may be small, but he has a kung fu iron fist. While serving in the Navy in Japan Kruger had boxed, but after discharge remained in Japan to study karate, eventually calcifying one of his hands into a deadly weapon. He does beat up the black boxer, but that gentleman ends up dead from the strike of an iron fist, and Kruger is tagged with his murder. There is a lot of mystery behind what is going on. Thankfully, Kruger has a buddy in the police department who knew him in the Navy, and believes he is being set up. In fact, there is a Japanese karate expert with an iron hand in the background who wants Kruger dead, and he’s waiting around to do the killing himself. There is quite a bit of karate in the action, and even the background reminds the reader of Burns Bannion, an ex Army Ranger who stayed in Japan to study karate. I’m sure the Bannion novels were a model for this novel, and it is a good story. The book was published in 1972, shortly after the Bannion run, and copyright by Josephine Reed, which may mean Harry was dead by the time the book was released. That, or Josephine Reed wrote the book, which I highly doubt. The writing is too masculine. It is a very good read.
Thursday, July 18, 2019
The Tokaido Road by Lucia St Clair Robson. Promoted as a Japanese erotica and martial arts novel, I would question the claim of erotica, as it just wasn’t there. However, martial arts fans will enjoy all the action. This is feudal Japan, probably in the 1400s. When her father fails to bribe the official, Lord Kira correctly, he is removed and his name pulled from record. He commits suicide, which is the only thing left for him to do. However, his daughter wants his named revenged. Kinume Asano, known as Cat, and her mother have no way to survive, so Cat sells herself to a pleasure house. But Lord Kira is keeping an eye on her, and serves her a blowfish not properly prepared. Her client eats the fish and dies, but she knows it was meant for her. She changes clothes with the dead man and escapes. Now she must travel the Takaido Road to reach her sensei, Lord Asano’s samurai, and her master. The story is Lady Asano’s journey down this long and dangerous road, the adventures she has, and the friends she meets along the way. Of course, Lord Kira has his samurai harassing her along the way, but they don’t know that Cat is a master samurai also, and she makes them look like fools. However, the journey is hard and dangerous, and the companions she meet teaches her many things, like how to be humble, and trust in others. Even love comes hard for her, until she discovers how others see her, and are willing to suffer hardships for her. This was an exciting read, and I felt there could be only one ending to the journey. I kept dreading the final page, knowing it could only end one way. I will say no more, as I would give the end away, but I encourage readers to read this yarn to the last page. The action and adventure will keep you turning the pages. Highly recommended.
Tuesday, July 16, 2019
Joel Jenkins: He lives in the misty reaches of the Great Northwest, shadowed in the perpetual gloom of the Rainier Mountain. This former rock vocalist for such bands as Static Condition and Red Die #5 enjoys spending time with his family, weightlifting, weapons collecting, and oil painting. Joel wrote The Dust of Death, featuring Eel & Adder. The story first appeared in
DDT #28, and later reprinted in TALES OF MASKS & MAYHEM Vol 3.