Thursday, December 26, 2013

Blogging Dan Barry’s Flash Gordon, Part Nine

“The Martian Baby” by Dan Barry was serialized by King Features Syndicate from November 15, 1954 to February 5, 1955. The story gets underway in another tranquil setting with Flash and Dale enjoying a picnic in the country(Dale is supporting a very short, but stylish new haircut) only to have their peaceful interlude disturbed by a flying saucer that buzzes them so closely they are forced to run for cover. The saucer lands and reveals its occupant is a Martian baby crying for its mother. The baby is far heavier than it appears, absorbs all moisture (staying dry during rain), and munches away on flowers. Apart from that, the little tyke with the Mohawk seems human. While Dale’s maternal instincts quickly come to the fore, another saucer appears and obliterates the baby’s ship with a death ray beam. Flash, Dale, and the baby seek shelter in the woods. Dan Barry gives readers a glimpse of the exotic and beautiful alien female piloting the saucer which immediately defuses the seriousness of the threat in accordance with the gender views of the fifties. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE NEXT FRIDAY.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Blogging Dan Barry’s Flash Gordon, Part Eight

“Peril Park” by Dan Barry was serialized by King Features Syndicate from August 31 to November 13, 1954. I’ve begun to develop a fondness for Barry’s rather unique take on the character. He is a far cry from Alex Raymond, but his version is not without charm and these early 1950s strips did much to influence the Flash Gordon television series of the fifties. “Peril Park” opens with a tranquil scene of Flash and Dale enjoying a summer day boating on the lake when Flash discovers a message in a bottle. The twist is that the message was written 600 years in the future by a woman called Elda who claims to be held captive on an island in the very lake where Flash and Dale are relaxing. Dale is eager to let the matter lie, but Flash cannot and, with Dr. Zarkov’s help, he whisks forward six centuries via the time-space projector in Zarkov’s lab. The time travel scenes are rendered in a highly inventive fashion that suggests an influence on the trippy astral projection art pioneered by Steve Ditko on Marvel’s Doctor Strange a decade later. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE ON FRIDAY.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Robert E. Howard and the Yellow Peril

Many pulp writers were influenced by the success of Sax Rohmer’s Yellow Peril criminal mastermind, Dr. Fu Manchu. The best of the early imitators was Achmed Abdullah’s The Blue-Eyed Manchu while the pulp era brought Robert J. Hogan’s The Mysterious Wu-Fang and Donald Keyhoe’s Dr. Yen-Sin to give the Devil Doctor a run for his money. Today, the best remembered Fu Manchu clone is undoubtedly Ian Fleming’s Dr. No. Marvel Comics’ The Mandarin and The Yellow Claw are the other two characters who have burrowed the furthest into popular culture’s collective memory of the past century. Having to choose the one of the scores of imitations that came closest to matching Rohmer for style and yet was distinct enough to avoid being nothing more than a shameless copy, I would have to single out Robert E. Howard’s Skull-Face and Erlik Khan, the Lord of the Dead. Howard’s reputation as a story-teller has grown over the past few decades to allow him to escape the looming shadow of his immensely popular sword and sorcery hero, Conan the Barbarian and be recognized as a singular talent who mastered many genres during his all too brief life. Sadly, his Yellow Peril thrillers are still largely unknown outside the circle of Howard completists. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE TOMORROW.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Forgotten Heroes of Pulp Fiction: Jim Maitland

World War I veteran, H. C. McNeile (better known by his nom de plume of “Sapper”) was a bestselling author of the last century whose works are quickly fading into obscurity. His most famous creation, Bulldog Drummond is best remembered for the old-time movie and radio series rather than the nearly twenty novels where the character first appeared. “Sapper” also wrote numerous stories and books about a Holmes-like consulting detective, Ronald Standish as well as two books about Jim Maitland, the monocle-wearing two-fisted defender of honor who personified the ideals of the British Empire while traveling abroad. Maitland first appeared in the 1923 collection, Jim Maitland, a fix-up of several short stories that chronicle his adventures before and immediately following the Great War. Modern critics have dismissed Maitland as an overgrown bully. This is a slur against the character that fails to recognize the extremes of nationalistic fervor in the last century. The worst example of this occurs in the tale where Jim overhears a “bloody foreigner” speak out against the British Empire and insists on settling the matter of dishonor with a duel to the death. It is interesting to note that the Old West’s concepts of lawlessness and devaluing of human life were not unique. To Continue Reading This Article, Please Visit The Black Gate on Friday.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Resurrection of Dr. Mabuse

Norbert Jacques’ Weimar Republic criminal mastermind, Dr. Mabuse has proven a potent allegorical figure for communicating the chaos of socio-economic collapse. From the original Roaring Twenties figure of Jacques’ fiction and Fritz Lang’s epic two-part silent film and its Depression-era sequel to the character’s rebirth which bookended the rise and fall of the Berlin Wall and the beginning of the modern police state with its intricate and intrusive surveillance systems, Mabuse’s long cinematic history incorporates Expressionism, film noir, krimi, Euro-trash, and now modern independent film. Ansel Faraj is the ambitious young man who has brought Dr. Mabuse into the twenty-first century. A mere twenty-one years old, Faraj has already written and directed twenty-five independent films for his Hollinsworth Productions over the past seven years. Dr. Mabuse, newly released on DVD, shows a surprising polish and sense of artistry rarely found in the work of young filmmakers. Most surprising is how well Faraj makes use of his modest budget to the film’s overall advantage instead of its detriment. The Spartan production values assist in creating the dreamlike quality of the film. This can best be appreciated by watching the film in its entirety. Judging the results by the trailer fails to do justice to the neo-Expressionistic mood Faraj has managed to capture here. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE ON FRIDAY.