Thursday, August 25, 2011

Blogging Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon, Part Nine – “The Tusk Men of Mongo”

“The Tusk Men of Mongo” was the ninth installment of Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon Sunday comic strip serial for King Features Syndicate. Originally printed between February 7 and April 18, 1937, “The Tusk Men of Mongo” picks up the storyline where the eighth installment, “The Forest Kingdom of Mongo” left off with Flash and Dale unknowingly venturing into Tusk Men territory. The Tusk Men are a Neanderthal-like race of blue-skinned men with prehensile tails. They live in tribes and have fashioned crude tools such as axes. One of their scouts spies Flash and Dale and despite Flash carrying a makeshift spear, they are quickly overwhelmed by five of the Tusk Men.

Flash and Dale are bound and led many miles away to a vast network of caves where the Tusk Men dwell. There, we learn that the Tusk Men can speak a simple form of English as well as their own bestial language, and that they are cannibals who have captured Flash and Dale to devour them. The tribe is ruled by One-Tusk who claims Dale for his mate. Dale pleads for Flash’s life is to be spared to no avail. Just as he is about to be pitched into the flames, Flash breaks free of his bonds and fights against his captors. The Tusk Men greatly outnumber him and the Earth man is quickly recaptured. Death appears unavoidable.

A predatory tigron (a tiger with a single horn on its head) attacks One-Tusk just as Flash is about to be burned alive. Taking advantage of the distraction caused by the tigron’s attack, Flash rescues One-Tusk by lassoing the tigron and throwing it into the flames. His actions win him a reprieve. One-Tusk offers Flash the chance to hunt with the tribe. If Flash is successful in providing for the tribe’s feast, his life will be spared. If he fails, Flash will be eaten instead.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Blogging Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon, Part Eight – “The Forest Kingdom of Mongo”

“The Forest Kingdom of Mongo” was the eighth installment of Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon Sunday comic strip serial for King Features Syndicate. Originally printed between October 25, 1936 and January 31, 1937, “The Forest Kingdom of Mongo” picks up the storyline where the seventh installment, “The Undersea Kingdom of Mongo” left off with Flash, Dale, and Zarkov winging their way to Prince Barin’s kingdom when they are ambushed by Ming’s air fleet. Their rocket ship is shot down and crash lands in an unknown forest near Mount Karakas. Ming orders Lu Chao, the commander of the air fleet to recover Flash’s body while Flash, an injured Zarkov, and an unconscious Dale stagger off into the forests.

Flash and Zarkov seek shelter in a nearby cave where Dale recovers consciousness. Lu Chao and his fleet arrive at the scene of the crash to discover the stolen rocket ship has been consumed by flames. Taking no chances that Flash might have survived, Lu Chao orders his men to set fire to the forest before they depart leaving the trio cut off by flames at every turn.

Flash, Dale, and Zarkov flee before the flames. Entering a clearing they come upon a number of prehistoric beasts who are also fleeing the spreading forest fire. Flash scrambles up a tall tree and spies a nearby river. The trio takes to the water clinging to a felled tree when a carnivorous ursodile surfaces and approaches them.
Thinking quickly, Flash breaks off a branch from their floating tree and dives into the water to tackle the ursodile head on. As the creature lunges for the kill, Flash jams the branch between its jaws, rendering it helpless. Reuniting with Dale and Zarkov, the trio sees they are completely cut off from coming ashore by the raging fire. Lu Chao reports to Ming that no one could have survived the forest fire and the rocket ship’s explosion. At long last, Flash Gordon is dead.


William Patrick Maynard was authorized to continue Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu thrillers beginning with The Terror of Fu Manchu (2009; Black Coat Press). A sequel, The Destiny of Fu Manchu is due for publication in December 2011. Also forthcoming is a collection of short stories featuring an original Edwardian detective, The Occult Case Book of Shankar Hardwicke and an original hardboiled detective novel, Lawhead. To see additional articles by William, visit his blog at

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Blogging Marvel’s The Tomb of Dracula, Part Thirteen

The Tomb of Dracula #65, “Where No Vampire Has Gone Before” starts off with Rachel Van Helsing returning to Quincy Harker, Frank Drake and Janus to tell them that Dracula is no longer a vampire. Frank is skeptical, but Janus and Quincy believe that Satan has stripped him of his supernatural powers and left him in the 20th Century as a mortal man out of time. Quincy and Rachel point out the ethical dilemma they face. They have no right to hunt and kill Dracula if he no longer is a vampire despite the many murders he committed when he was undead. From there the scene switches to a cemetery where the unnamed bounty hunter (who with his Stetson and western dialogue is also a man out of time) digs up a vampire and interrogates him with a fiery cross held to his forehead until the vampire confirms that Dracula is in Boston. We then find Dracula, homeless in an alleyway where he meets a junkie prostitute named Harriet. Dracula innocently (for once) accepts her invitation to go back to her apartment where a couple of her dealer’s hired muscle break in and rough Harriet up for having stolen heroin. Dracula gallantly defends her and though mortal (as he is reminded after he is shot in the shoulder), he is still the fierce warrior of old and easily hurls one of the goons threw a third storey window to the street below. The former vampire is arrested along with Harriet and one of the hired guns, but is later released and declared a hero and has his picture taken by a newspaper photographer. Back on the streets, Dracula finds himself, homeless, penniless and hungry for food for the first time in five hundred years. After running into trouble on the streets again, he resolves to seek out his daughter, Lilith and ask her to turn him into a vampire once more. Meantime, Quincy, Rachel and Frank learn of his recent exploits when the 11:00 news carries the story of an anonymous hero who saved a woman from a mob hit. The next morning, Dracula hijacks a private plane and forces the pilot to take him to New York as he is aware his daughter is living in Greenwich Village currently. A witness to the hijacking recognizes him as the hero seen on television the night before and reports the hijacking to the police. The issue ends with the bounty hunter picking up Dracula’s trail in the police station and realizing his quarry is no longer a vampire. Content that his job has just become easier, the nameless bounty hunter checks out of his hotel and heads for New York.

Issue #66, “Showdown in Greenwich Village” starts off with Dracula in Greenwich Village at winter. He is cold and lost with no way of finding his daughter. He mugs a husband and wife hoping to find enough money for food and shelter, but is run off by an angry mob. He seeks shelter in a church, but refuses a priest’s offer of help having forsaken God as a child centuries before. He wanders into a disco bar and has just enough money to buy his first hamburger (which he dislikes) when he is picked up by an attractive divorcee named Ann Keats. Dracula humorously chooses the identity of Drake and tells her he is in Greenwich Village looking for his daughter. Ann has friends in the village who trace runaways, but Dracula is unable to provide a photograph or any information on Lilith. He and Ann are accosted by a street gang upon leaving and Dracula easily beats them off, but is stabbed in the process. Dracula goes back to Ann’s apartment and tells her his true identity. While Ann thinks he’s delusional, he places a long distance call to Boston to check on Domini, but refuses to tell his wife where he is. Just then, Francis Leroy Brown, the bounty hunter breaks in and a violent battle ensues that ends in Brown’s death, but not before he shoots Dracula several times. The former vampire slips into unconsciousness as Ann calls for an ambulance. The issue ends with Lilith reading a New York Times article about her father surviving a fatal encounter with Brown as she realizes he is now a mortal and is obviously looking for her.


Thursday, August 4, 2011

Blogging Marvel’s The Tomb of Dracula, Part Twelve

The Tomb of Dracula #59, “The Last Traitor” starts off with Quincy Harker, Frank Drake, Rachel Van Helsing, and Harold H. Harold feeling uneasy that Anton Lupeski has armed them with rifles and silver bullets as the group plots to assassinate Dracula at a feast in honor of his son’s birth to be held that weekend. Gene Colan’s depiction of Lupeski is eerily lifelike. The group is conflicted by their contempt for Lupeski and their desire to end Dracula’s reign of terror. Marv Wolfman gets in some nice digs about Freedom of Religion protecting Satanists as well as Christians with Lupeski saying that one day they will see whose God is stronger. We then switch to a brief domestic scene between Dracula and Domini as the vampire expresses his awareness that Lupeski seeks to undermine his power at the upcoming feast in his son’s honor. The vampire then sets out to hunt and picks as his victim an attractive night school teacher whom Dracula saves from an attempted rape by one of her students only to attack her himself. From there the action quickly shifts to the night of the feast in Janus’ honor. Lupeski, clad in his ceremonial mask and robes, proclaims the infant Janus the New Leader of the Dark Church just as Quincy, Rachel, Frank, and Harold burst in and the gunplay begins. Lupeski’s bloodlust gets the better of him and he brandishes a rifle as well and in the ensuing battle, Janus is inadvertently struck by a bullet and killed. Dracula is overcome with rage as he knocks Lupeski to the ground and crushes his face with his bare hands, killing the treacherous high priest. Domini turns in prayer to the portrait of Christ that hangs in the deconsecrated church and declares there are to be no more deaths. She orders Quincy, Rachel, Frank and Harold to depart quickly. She then informs Dracula that she acts on Christ’s commands and beseeches her husband to turn aside from his dark path and embrace her Savior. Dracula’s anger gives way to bewilderment as he transforms into a bat and flees from the church telling Domini he cannot do what she asks of him.

#60, “The Wrath of Dracula” is simply a stunning character study of an enraged lost soul in his darkest hour. Dracula drives Domini off and proceeds to destroy the deconsecrated church (with the exception of the painting of Christ that he is unable to touch). As his anger subsides, his grief turns to introspection as he recalls his cruelty to his first wife and his misogynistic behavior toward his female servants and finally his broken relationship with his daughter, Lilith. Overcome with emotion, he flies to the top of a building in downtown Boston in the midst of a terrible storm and declares that his entire life has been a lie that must finally end. Filled with all of the pain he and his family have endured, he swoops down to attack an attractive woman braving the rain far below only to check himself when confronted by her young son. Climbing atop a church tower in the heart of the storm, Dracula begs God to strike him down and end his suffering. When the lightning fails to kill him, he is once again enraged believing that God mocks him because he is already damned. Dracula vows to end God’s power over mankind and transforming into a bat, he flies off into the night. The issue ends with a brief epilogue showing Domini at Janus’ grave at dawn as she promises her son to find a means of resurrecting him.