Welcome back. Hope you’ve been enjoying the discussions we’ve been having so far as much as I have. Our next one is going to take us from Sebastian Red’s mystical Wild West for a bit. But don’t worry; we’ll be going back there soon enough. It’s just that I thought you’d appreciate some insight into the current project I’m working on so let’s go visit 1933 and Sovereign City, the current home of Doc Daye, Lazarus Grey and Fortune McCall
Fortune McCall is a character who, like most of my characters has been around for a long, loooong time. More than ten years in fact. He first found life in a fanfiction series I wrote for DC Legends entitled “Blackhawk International” where I created a 21st Century team of Blackhawks and Fortune McCall was handpicked to head up a new team by the original Blackhawk, now aged and running a worldwide multi-billion corporation.
It didn’t take me long to realize that Fortune and his team had far more potential as original creations so I requested that story be removed from the site and reworked the character. He was still set in the 21st Century but now he was an independent adventurer, sailing around the world on his luxury gambling ship, The Heart of Fortune and still assisted by his team of six close friends, all specialists in their fields.
And now that I had set him firmly in what my friends laughingly refer to as The Fergoverse, I reworked his background: Fortune McCall is a prince of the North African country of Khusra which I’ve mentioned in a couple of Dillon stories. As a prince he has enjoyed a spectacularly diverse education in America, Switzerland, England and France in disciplines both academic and martial. Equally at home in a laboratory, a classroom or a dojo, Fortune (I haven’t revealed his true name yet) is equally dangerous in a boardroom or a battlefield.
You see, his father wanted all of his sons and heirs to be equally capable of taking over as king so he never favored one over the other, making sure they all received the same education and training. However, tradition must be observed and the line of succession goes from oldest to youngest. And guess who the youngest is? Yep. Fortune. He’s the youngest of eight brothers.
Now, while some may find this a sucky situation, Fortune saw it as a wonderful opportunity. Enjoying considerable wealth as a Prince of Khusra, he didn’t have to worry about money. And since there are seven potential kings, the chances of him ever having to rule were slim to none. He could therefore enjoy all the benefits of his royal birth with none of the responsibilities.
So Fortune has his gambling ship built, takes on a whole mess’a his people to crew and work the ship and with his friends set off on adventure galore. As a huge fan of Marvel Comics’ The Black Panther, I envisioned Fortune McCall as a seafaring T’Challa, not bound to any one country. I could do one story with him in Italy fighting The Decided Ones and then in the next he could be in Australia hunting down packs of mutated dingoes roaming the streets of Perth.
Cackling wildly, I set about writing a Fortune McCall novel and got about 16000 words into the sucker when I got an invitation from Tommy Hancock. And that’s a name you’re going to hear a lot as we get deeper into this tale. So let me give you a brief background on this chap:
Tommy Hancock is a writer, living in Arkansas who I’ve known for a good 15, 16 years, now. We only met face-to-face for the first time at Pulp Ark but online we’ve collaborated on many a project and stayed up late many a night chatting on IM about characters, stories and ideas. In recent years Tommy has really made a name for himself as the spokesman and spearhead of The New Pulp Movement. But for our purposes here, we’re more concerned with his status as a publisher and editor.
Tommy and his partner run Pro Se Press which is creating quite the respectable reputation as a publisher of quality New Pulp fiction and Tommy also is largely responsible for the previously mentioned Pulp Ark.
The first thing you have to understand about Tommy Hancock is that he gets more ideas in a week than the average person has in a month. Even if he lived another 77 years he’d never be able to give adequate wordage to all the characters, concepts and stories packing the inside of his already full-to-busting brain.
One of these ideas is The Sovereign City Project. Tommy contacted Barry Reese and myself and asked us to each create a character for this city, which would be a shared environment between the three of us. The idea being that we’d lay the groundwork and foundation for Sovereign City and then after a year, the Project would be thrown open to other writers.
Now, I originally had no idea of placing Fortune McCall into this as I already had other plans in mind for the character, including a team-up with Dillon and indeed, pitched Tommy another character who was more or less a Shadow-analog to compliment Barry’s Lazarus Gray (an analog to The Avenger) and Tommy’s Doc Daye (a Doc Savage analog)
Tommy contacted me after reading my initial pitch and said that while he loved the character, he was puzzled as to why I hadn’t created a black character. Yeah, that’s right; the character I had pitched to Tommy was a white one.
My thing was this: at the time I’d never written a pulp character in the 1930’s. Since then, that’s changed (Details Later) and to be brutally honest, I wasn’t confident in my ability to credibly create and portray a black adventurer in the 1930’s. Given the climate, the culture, the racial issues…I admit it, I folded like Robert Duran in the seventh round of the Duran/Leonard rematch because I didn’t think I could pull it off.
However, Tommy had a little more confidence than I did…and we’ll talk about that the next time we get together.
Until then, feast your eyes on this: the artist is the infinitely talented Peter Cooper and I consider it the definitive look of Fortune McCall. I dunno if you can but I see a lot of Eisner and Simonson in there. And yeah, there will be more about Peter later on as well.
As always, thank you for your time and kind attention. Go read something good and I'll talk to you soon.