Friday, January 31, 2014

Sgt. Janus Returns

Jim Beard made quite a splash in the New Pulp community when he introduced an original occult detective character in Sgt. Janus, Spirit-Breaker in 2012. There has been a rich history of Holmesian occult detectives, but Beard appeared to have been the first to hit upon the brilliant concept of having each short story in the volume narrated by the detective’s client. It was a simple, but highly effective means of giving eight different perspectives on the character. Beard also took the unexpected decision to kill off his character at the end of the last story in the collection. Imagine if A Study in Scarlet had concluded at the Reichenbach Falls and you have a clear notion of what a bold and unexpected move it was to make for an author who had already managed to raise the bar in a genre that many believed had been exhausted of fresh ideas. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE.

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Return of Rick Steele

Last year was my introduction to author Dick Enos and his Rick Steele adventure series. I suspect this year will be the one where both author and character make real headway among fans of New Pulp. The fourth Rick Steele adventure, The Yesterday Men, was just published. If you’ve read the first three titles in the series, then you know Enos loves to confound reader expectations by delivering widely varying pulp adventures from alien invasion to the preternatural to lost civilization adventures. The Yesterday Men is both more of the same and something completely different. Rick Steele, for those unfamiliar with the character, is a hard-nosed Korean War veteran turned test pilot who somehow can’t avoid dragging himself and his supporting cast into adventures. Rick is a likable, but imperfect hero. The 1950s setting may seem like an odd one for New Pulp. It was the end of the era for serials and pulps alike, but it was also the Golden Age of Television and adventure strips were still the rage in newspapers. It was the era when the author adored Sky King and Steve Canyon in his formative years. It marked the final heyday of the innocence of American popular culture and the Rick Steele series captures this perfectly. Rather than crafting an idealistic vision of an artificial world (like so many 1950s sitcoms and movies did), the America of the Rick Steeleseries is one where darkness hangs around every corner. The characters don’t know quite what to make of it, but the reader is all too familiar with what is to come. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Blogging Dan Barry’s Flash Gordon, Part Eleven

“Tympani” by Dan Barry was serialized by King Features Syndicate from April 27 to July 9, 1955. The strip gets underway with Flash returning to Earth and taking Dale out to enjoy a symphony orchestra concert. Dale’s hair has reverted to its classic look, happily. The concert goes awry when the orchestra launches into a piece and the audience is deafened by the cacophonous sound. Taking to the streets, they discover every car horn in the city is going off causing accidents and traffic jams. The situation spreads over the globe with factory whistles going off, sonar jamming, rockets misfiring, etc. Soon train accidents cripple the food industry and fuel truck accidents leave people without heat in winter. Dr. Zarkov is busy researching sound vibrations to try to get to the root of the problem that has threatened civilization. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE ON FRIDAY.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Blogging Dan Barry’s Flash Gordon, Part Ten

“The Trail of the Vulke” by Dan Barry was serialized by King Features Syndicate from February 7 to April 26, 1955. This is an interesting tale that sees Barry re-examining two of his favorite themes -- myths and religious fanaticism. The story kicks off with Flash driving up to Dale’s house for a dinner date and finding her home dark. Warily, he enters the house and Barry shows us menacing shadowy figures watching from the window in the front room. It turns out to be a surprise birthday party for Flash thrown by Dale and the Space Kids. Improbably, they have arranged the rental of a rocketship from the Space Academy to allow Flash and the Space Kids to travel to Zoriana and pay a visit to Cyril and Mr. Pennington. Barry gets some mileage out of portraying Flash as henpecked having to ask Dale's permission to go on an adventure. In no time at all, Flash and the boys are off to the stars and arrive on Zoriana in due course. Arriving at the gates of the city, they find a mass migration in process with an exodus of nomadic people seeking shelter within the walls of the city. The people of Zoriana have returned to their pagan ways and believe their god has punished them with the scourge of an invisible monster known as the Vulke. Pennington turns the people away at the gates as the city is already overpopulated and poverty and disease are spreading rapidly. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE.