Tuesday, April 29, 2014
“Return to Mongo” by Dan Barry was serialized by King Features Syndicate from January 2 to March 24, 1956. The story gets underway with a party celebrating Dr. Zarkov’s newly discovered young adult daughter Zara and her arrival on Earth after growing up on an otherwise deserted swamp planet with her mother. Flash, Dale, and the Space Kids are at the party when Zarkov is alerted to the discovery that Mongo is once again entering Earth’s orbit and threatening our world’s stability. Willie, who still has the ability to psychically grant wishes, inadvertently teleports everyone from the party to Mongo. Flash and the Space Kids are immediately set upon by Queen Azura’s cowled servants who nearly massacre them. Working as a team to defeat Azura’s servants, Flash and the Space Kids are overcome by a paralyzing gas as they explore a nearby cave. They are subsequently captured and brought to Queen Azura’s palace where they learn she is plotting to overthrow Prince Barin. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE ON FRIDAY, MAY 9.
“The Swamp Girl” by Dan Barry was serialized by King Features Syndicate from October 31 to December 31, 1955. Just as Dan Barry guided the strip closer to its origins, he took two sidesteps in introducing a back-story for Dr. Zarkov that Alex Raymond never intended. “The Swamp Girl” introduces us to a hot-tempered, beautiful young woman called Zara whose mother was the sole survivor when her rocket crashed on the swamp world of Malagua twenty years before. As the story begins, Lisa, Zara’s mother is succumbing to malaria just as her daughter has finally succeeded in repairing their rocketship. Zara sets off to visit her father’s home world of Earth and fulfill her mother’s dying request that her daughter bring the father she has never met to see her mother before she dies so that her mother may reconcile with him. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE ON FRIDAY, MAY 2.
Thursday, April 24, 2014
“Space Circus” by Dan Barry was serialized by King Features Syndicate from September 5 to October 29, 1955. “Space Circus” is significant for being the first time in the Dan Barry strips where Flash’s past adventures on Mongo are now an integral part of the storyline. One wonders if reader response prompted King Features to request a change of direction from what would be considered a reboot today to a direct sequel to the original storyline of the early 1930s. “Space Circus” gets underway with Flash abducted by a flying saucer while out driving on a desert road late one night. Abduction by UFO was a relatively new concept in the 1950s, but one that was spreading rapidly as a fear that many shared during the Cold War era. The aliens are from the planet Mesmo and are depicted as Asian caricatures. While a number of the inhabitants of Mongo were Asian in appearance, they were traditionally portrayed as exotic and not as demeaning cartoonish representations. While there were certainly many more offensive Yellow Peril figures in comics of the era, the Mesmans are a far cry from the seductive and imposing inhabitants of Mongo as Alex Raymond portrayed them. Flash soon finds himself sold as a slave in the middle of a metropolitan city on Mesmo. He is purchased by The Great Barno, owner of the Interplanetary Spectacle. Flash finds communication with the telepathic, but seemingly mute Mesmans impossible. He is brutally punished during his training as a trapeze artist. At night in his cell, Flash befriends his fellow circus performers: Hukko, a captive Hawkman from Mongo; Dr. Manimo, a four-armed Anterran physicist; Groz, a captive from the tree kingdom of Primeva; and Hugar the strong man. The camaraderie between the captives helps make circus life bearable until the fateful night they are involved in an accidental train crash that derails the circus train and sends hurling off a bridge into the lagoon far below. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE.
Friday, April 18, 2014
“Starling” by Dan Barry was serialized by King Features Syndicate from July 11 to September 3, 1955. “Starling” starts off with Flash visiting Dr. Zarkov one evening to find his old friend depressed as the U.S. Government has turned down his request for an additional million dollars funding to finish construction of the Super-S Rocket. It is a nice hint of direction for the strip to come which will take the series closer to its roots. Flash and Zarkov are startled by the discovery of a prowler outside, but the man gets away. Over the next few days, similar disturbing incidents occur. Flash and Dale are nearly run down by a speeding car while out walking one afternoon on the grounds of Zarkov’s estate. Later, a crate is dropped off the roof of a downtown building when Flash is walking beneath and just misses him. Shortly thereafter, Zarkov receives a telephone call from B. B. Remsen, the billionaire industrialist requesting an interview with Flash. Upon visiting Remsen’s estate, Flash is outraged to discover Remsen hired his goon, Byron to test Flash’s reflexes by nearly running him down with a speeding car and dropping a crate off a building. Byron was the prowler at Zarkov’s estate who learned of the need for financing for the Super-S Rocket. Remsen agrees to finance the rocket if Flash will take on a unique assignment. Remsen’s very wild granddaughter, Starling wants to travel in space and Remsen wants Flash to pilot the rocket that will take her to the stars. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE.
Saturday, April 12, 2014
The paperback original (PBO to collectors) was the immediate successor to the pulp magazine as the home of pulp fiction. Marvin Albert was one of the bright lights of the paperback original market for detective fiction. Albert’s work is revered in France where he is considered a master of the hardboiled form, but he is largely forgotten Stateside since his work lacks the literary polish of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler and was never as shocking as Mickey Spillaine. Albert never broke new ground, but he did excel at crafting hardboiled private eye stories in the classic tradition from the fifties through the eighties. Much like Max Allan Collins or Michael Avallone, he also supplemented his income adapting screenplays as movie tie-in novels for the paperback original market. Oddly enough, Albert’s specialty was bedroom farces where Hollywood adaptations were concerned. Albert utilized a number of pseudonyms during his career (many of which were reprinted under his real name in later years). He published three mysteries featuring tough private eye, Tony Rome in the early 1960s. The books were published in the byline of Anthony Rome as if to suggest the tales being told were real cases. Tony Rome is remembered today thanks to a pair of campy Frank Sinatra vehicles in the mid-sixties which portray the character as a middle-aged playboy drooling after bikini-clad lovelies half his age. The fact that the private eye operated out of a houseboat drew comparison to the later Travis McGee private eye series. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE.
Tuesday, April 1, 2014
Despite the title, this article is not intended as a forum for a continuation author to lament how unforgiving his critics are. Bad reviews are tough to avoid for any writer and, in this instance, I’m the one bad-mouthing another continuation writer. I do not feel pangs of guilt since the author in question is not only talented, but very successful and lauded in his industry. In other words, I’m an insignificant mouse picking on an elephant and that hopefully protects me from charges of betraying one of my own. I recently read Benjamin Black’s The Black-Eyed Blonde, the first Philip Marlowe continuation novel in nearly 25 years. I can think of only one nice thing to say about the book and that is at long last Robert B. Parker need no longer be disparaged as the man who wrote the two worst Philip Marlowe mysteries. I am a fan of Black’s original historical mysteries, but my familiarity with his work did nothing to convince me he was a good choice to revive Raymond Chandler’s classic private eye hero, particularly when a talent such as Ace Atkins is out there and writing new Spenser mysteries that do justice to the originals. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE ON FRIDAY.