Showing posts with label Ron Fortier. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ron Fortier. Show all posts

Thursday, April 27, 2017

I Saw The Future At Windy City Pulp Con by Len Levinson

Born in New Bedford, Massachusetts, Len Levinson served on active duty in the U.S. Army from 1954-1957, and graduated from Michigan State University with a BA in Social Science. He relocated to NYC that year and worked as an advertising copywriter and public relations executive before becoming a full-time novelist. 

Len created and wrote a number of series, including the Apache Wars Saga, The Pecos Kid, and The Rat Bastards. He has had over 80 titles published.

After many years in NYC, he moved to a small town (pop. 3100) in rural Illinois, surrounded by corn and soybean fields, a peaceful, ideal location for a writer.



I live in a small town (population 3000) way out here on the great American prairie. Therefore I have little contact with the wider world of publishing although I’ve written 83 published novels to date.
Last Sunday (4/23) I attended the Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention in a Chicago suburb called Lombard, and became aware of the future of fiction publishing. Many of you probably have come to this awareness already, but it was a major revelation for me.
I realized that there is a huge, growing indie publishing movement fully underway, and has come into being because traditional publishing has narrowly focused on conventional “safe” fiction, and tends to reject anything new, weird, crazy or bizarre.
This policy has left a huge vacuum now being filled by the new indie press which operates under a different business model. They don’t have offices in Rockefeller Centre in NYC like Simon and Shuster. They operate out of home offices, barns, or other low-cost spaces. Everything is handled over the internet. And they don’t pay advanced. Authors receive royalties only, as in the early days of publishing. And they produce GREAT eye-catching covers that are works of art on their own.
During the convention I spoke with Ron Fortier, publisher and editor-in-chief of one of the larger indie publishers, Airship 27. He said that famous authors sometimes call him about books of theirs that were rejected by their usual publishers, because those books were considered too far out. But nothing is too far out for today’s indie publishers who market, among other items, novels about vampire cowboys, lesbian werewolves from Mars, hard boiled crime-fiction, other action-adventure novels including traditional Westerns, and all kinds of sci-fi, fantasy and sword and sandal fiction. They also publish new novels about characters in the public domain such as Sherlock Holmes. It’s called “the New Pulp Movement.”
I also spoke with Tommy Hancock, Editor in Chief of Pro Se Productions, which is also a major indie publisher marketing hundreds of titles. He told me that the big five publishers are buying up some indie publishers, because they can see where the business is going. But Tommy isn’t interested in selling out. His main interest is exciting new fiction.
Evidently there’s a whole new publishing world out there of which I was unaware, although some of my old books have been republished by indie publishers such as Piccadilly, Destroyer and Blackstone. But I never realized how important this New Pulp Movement is becoming. It is wildly creative, fully energized and intensely ambitious, the new kid on the block fighting for a bigger slice of the pie. The welcome result is more choices for readers and hopefully more income for writers.


50 New Pulp Books To Get You Started

I get asked a lot of questions due to my affiliation with New Pulp and I'd have to say that the #2 question I get asked about it is: “Where do I get started? What should I read first just to see what it's all about? What writers should I be reading?”

I can understand the confusion. More than you know. There is a whole lot of New Pulp out there. Some of it is excellent. Some of it is downright astonishing. Some of it is good, some of it okay and a seriously depressing amount of it just plain flat out no good at all. And those of us who write/read and/or review New Pulp feel the crush of recommending books and writers to those of you unfamiliar with the genre but are desperately eager to know more.

That's why back in June of 2014 I put together a list of “25 New Pulp Books To Get You Started.” The purpose and intention of the list was simply to give New Pulp virgins a place to start getting their brains wet and see if they liked these waters.

Since then, a lot more New Pulp books have been written and I saw the need to add more books to the list and so I did, continuing to add to the list each succeeding year, with assistance from my Advisory Board consisting of Lucas Garrett, Barry Reese and Andrew Salmon. My intention is to keep adding to the list until I get up to 100 and then call it quits. After all, if you can't find something worth reading in a pack of 100 books then maybe you just don't like to read.

Again I feel compelled to remind one and all that this list is not intended to slight anybody as many of you have egos as fragile as spider webs (you know who you are) and are more than capable of taking it as a personal insult that your book isn't on the list. Such is not my purpose or pursuit. This list is intended only to be a helpful starting point for those who have no idea where to start reading New Pulp. And if there is a New Pulp book that you feel should be on the list feel free to contact me at DerrickFerguson@gmail.com and what I'll do is hold onto your suggestion until this time of year in 2018 when it is once again time for me to add to the list.

Okay? We clear on that? Good. Then let's get on with it. If you've never read any New Pulp and are anxious to find out for yourself what it's all about then here are 50 NEW PULP BOOKS TO GET YOU STARTED:





HELMET HEAD by Mike Baron
SGT JANUS, SPIRIT BREAKER by Jim Beard
FIGHT CARD: FELONY FISTS by Paul Bishop (writing as Jack Tunney)
LIE CATCHERS by Paul Bishop
THE REVENGE OF THE MASKED GHOST by Kevin Paul Shaw Broden
ADONIS MORGAN (NOBODY SPECIAL) by Frank Byrnes
NICK NOMAD AND THE HAMMER OF LEMURIA by Myles Campbell
THE MYTH HUNTER: THE LOST CONTINENT by Percival Constantine
DOC ARDAN: CITY OF GOLD AND LEPERS by Guy d'Armen. Adapted by Jean-Marc Lofficier and Randy Lofficier
DILLON AND THE VOICE OF ODIN by Derrick Ferguson
BROTHER BONES by Ron Fortier
TAURUS MOON by Keith Gaston
GREEN LAMA UNBOUND by Adam Garcia
THE GREEN LAMA: CRIMSON CIRCLE by Adam Garcia
YESTERYEAR by Tommy Hancock
TALES OF THE VAGABOND BARDS by Nancy Hansen
TO BATTLE BEYOND by C. J. Henderson
HUGH MONN-PRIVATE DETECTIVE by Lee Houston, Jr.
DIRE PLANET by Joel Jenkins
THE BONE QUEEN by Andrea Judy
SILENCED by Nicole Kurtz
SIX DAYS OF THE DRAGON by Roman Leary
GHOSTS OF MANHATTAN by George Mann
MYTHICAL: HEART OF STONE by C.E. Martin
PROHIBITION by Terrence McCauley
CREEPING DAWN: THE RISE OF THE BLACK CENTIPEDE by Chuck Miller
SNOW FALLS by Bobby Nash
FIGHT CARD: THE CUTMAN by Mel Odom (writing as Jack Tunney)
ONCE UPON A TIME IN AFRICA by Balogun Ojetade
THE STEIN AND CANDLE DETECTIVE AGENCY Vol. I by Michael Panush
HAWK: HAND OF THE MACHINE by Van Allen Plexico
SENTINELS I: WHEN STRIKES THE WARLORD by Van Allen Plexico
THE OLD MAN Series by William Preston
THE PEREGRINE OMNIBUS VOL. I by Barry Reese
RABBIT HEART by Barry Reese
PULP HEROES: MORE THAN MORTAL by Wayne Reinagle
THE VRIL AGENDA by Joshua Reynolds and Derrick Ferguson
THE WHITECHAPEL DEMON by Joshua Reynolds
THE LIGHT OF MEN by Andrew Salmon
DAMBALLAH by Charles Saunders
IMARO by Charles Saunders
SUN-KOH, HEIR OF ATLANTIS by Arthur Sippo
THE AUSLANDER FILES by Michael Patrick Sullivan
BASS REEVES, FRONTIER MARSHAL VOL. I by Various Authors
BLACK PULP by Various Authors
DOCTOR OMEGA AND THE SHADOWMEN by Various Authors
HOW THE WEST WAS WEIRD by Various Authors
LEGENDS OF NEW PULP FICTION by Various Authors
ROCOCOA by Various Authors
THE RUBY FILES by Various Authors



Saturday, April 16, 2016

Bass Reeves Is Gonna Saddle Up And Hit The Outlaw Trail Again!


BASS REEVES
FRONTIER MARSHAL – VOL TWO

Airship 27 Productions is excited to announce the production of a second anthology featuring the adventures of real life western Deputy Marshall, Bass Reeves. BASS REEVES – FRONTIER MARSHALL Vol One  was released in December of 2015 and has gone on to become one of the publisher’s best selling titles. Four popular New Pulp writers; Derrick Ferguson, Mel Odom, Gary Phillips and Andrew Salmon, contributed fictional tales starring this legendary western hero. Bass Reeves was an escaped slave who, during the years of the Civil War, lived among the Indian tribes of the Five Civilized Nations. After the war he was recruited by Judge Isaac Parker to be a U.S. Deputy Marshal and his jurisdiction was the entire Oklahoma territories.



HBO is currently filming a Bass Reeves mini-series with Morgan Freeman as a producer.

Once the book was released, it became an instant hit. Due to this overwhelming response, Airship 27 Productions is currently assembling a new quartet of Bass Reeves western adventures. Volume Two will features four brand new stories by returning writers Derrick Ferguson and Mel Odom joined now by Michael Black and Milton Davis.

Production is scheduled for the end of 2016 with an early 2017 release. So, saddle up, western fans, Marshall Bass Reeves is about to hit the outlaw trail once more. 

BASS REEVES – FRONTIER MARSHAL Vol One  is available inhard copy and on Kindle at Amazon.com.  An audiobook version from Radio Archives is also in production.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Sinbad: The New Voyages Vol. I is Now An Audiobook!


The greatest seafaring adventurer of all times returns to the high seas, Sinbad the Sailor!

Born of countless legends and myths, this fearless rogue sets sail across the seven seas aboard his ship, the Blue Nymph, accompanied by an international crew of colorful, larger-than-life characters. Chief among these are the irascible Omar, a veteran seamen and trusted first mate, the blond Viking giant, Ralf Gunarson, the sophisticated archer from Gaul, Henri Delacrois and the mysterious, lovely and deadly female samurai, Tishimi Osara.  All of them banded together to follow their famous captain on perilous new voyages across the world’s oceans!

And now you can hear the adventures of Sinbad as Airship 27 is proud to present the audiobook version of SINBAD: THE NEW VOYAGES Vol. I as read by Jem Matzan!

Inspired by the classic Ray Harryhausen Sinbad trilogy but re-envisioning Sinbad himself as the son of a Moorish prince and a Nubian princess, this is a Sinbad at once refreshingly new and yet as familiar as an old friend.

SINBAD: THE NEW VOYAGES Vol. I contains the following stories:

“Sinbad and The Island of The Simurgh” by Nancy Hansen
“Sinbad and The Sapphire of The Djinn” by I. A. Watson
“Sinbad and The Voyage to The Land of The Frozen Sun” by Derrick Ferguson

So what are you waiting for? Get over to AUDIBLE right NOW and get yours!






Tuesday, December 22, 2015

LEGENDS OF NEW PULP FICTION



AIRSHIP 27 PRODUCTIONS
Proudly Presents
LEGENDS OF NEW PULP FICTION


Earlier in the year we learned that New Pulp writer/editor/publisher Tommy Hancock was suffering from congestive heart-failure.  A relatively young family man, this was a dangerous condition that threatened not only Tommy but his entire family.  Almost immediately after this news was made public, several members of the New Pulp community began putting their heads together to see if anything could be done to help the Hancocks.

“Jaime Ramos proposed the idea of doing a benefit anthology,” says Airship 27 Productions Managing Editor, Ron Fortier.  “It was such a great idea, I realized it needed to get done and we began planning such a project.” The first thing Fortier did was bring aboard his partner in Airship 27, Art Director Rob Davis. “There was no way this was going to fly without Rob handling the book’s overall artwork and design.”  Fortier then went to Hancock and informed him of their plans. With Hancock’s blessings, he then posted an ad on Facebook explaining the project and seeking submissions from both writers and artists.  “It was always our intention to do this as a traditional pulp tome and thus artwork would be a major element in the final product.”

Much to Fortier’s surprise, and delight, the first creator to volunteer his assistance was Douglas Klauba, one of the finest artists in the field.  Klauba volunteered to paint the anthology’s cover once the book was assembled.  “Honestly,” Fortier confesses, “I was in shock. Doug is an amazing artist and his offering to do the cover was very much an omen that we were about to put together something truly unique.”

Within 48 hours after posting his recruiting ad, Fortier had received 57 commitments by New Pulp writers while 36 artists in the field signed on to do the illustrations.  Amongst these creators were some of the most popular New Pulp writers and artists in the field. In fact, getting so many promised stories in just two days, Fortier begrudgingly realized he and his associates were being handed a giant book and he publicly closed the admission call.  “It was crazy,” he recalls.  “Fifty-seven stories in just two days!  Of course there were naysayers who warned me we’d never get all of them.  They were right, we got 62 instead.”

And so the project began with Fortier reading each entry and then assigning it to an artist to illustrate.  Each tale features one black and white illustration.  Ramos acted as his assistant editor proofing teach story after Fortier with them.  Then, months into the project, Ramos, who suffers from diabetes, found his own health in jeopardy and after having handled half the stories, was forced to sideline himself.  What looked to be a major set-back was averted with writer/editor Todd Jones, a protégé of Fortier’s, volunteered to take on the task of finishing the proofing.

And so, after months of ups and downs. Airship 27 Productions is extremely proudly to present LEGENDS OF NEW PULP FICTION.  A giant treasure chest of some of the finest New Pulp fiction ever produced in an 830 page collection.  Representing the varied genres of pulp tradition, this volume features tales of horror, mystery, horror, suspense, pirates, fantasy, private eyes, crime-busting avengers and westerns to name a few.
“Rob and I kidded during the long months of production that we had everything pulp save for a romance story,” quips Fortier.  “Then in the final days of story submissions, we were sent a romance.  No lie!”

LEGENDS OF NEW PULP FICTION is now available at Amazon.com in both hard copy and on Kindle.  All profits earned by this amazing book are going to Tommy Hancock and his family.  Sure to become a valued collector’s item, LEGENDS OF NEW PULP FICTION is a one of a kind title pulp fans young and old, will cherish in years to come.

AIRSHIP 27 PRODUCTIONS – PULP FICTION FOR A NEW GENERATION!

Available now from Amazon and on Kindle.


(http://www.amazon.com/Legends-New-Pulp-Fiction-Fortier/dp/0692601139/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1450805945&sr=1-2&keywords=LEGENDS+OF+NEW+PULP+FICTION)

Monday, May 20, 2013

Derrick Ferguson Flies With THE WARBIRDS OF MARS!





WARBIRDS OF MARS: STORIES OF THE FIGHT!
Edited by Scott P. Vaughn and Kane Gilmour
Paperback: 476 pages
Publisher: Quickdraw Books (April 25, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0984954813
ISBN-13: 978-0984954810
Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 1.1 inches

Here’s the thing; I love The Internet. I truly do. Yes, there’s a lot crap out there that gets in the way of the good stuff but the good stuff is there. It just sometimes takes me a while to get around it. Take for instance the webcomic WARBIRDS OF MARS that has been around for a goodish amount of time now. I, however have been woefully ignorant of it until I was made aware of the anthology WARBIRDS OF MARS: STORIES OF THE FIGHT and while it’s a hefty introduction to the situation and principal characters at the heart of the series it is one well worth reading due to the interesting mix of talent involved.

The set-up is fairly easy to get hold of: Invaders from outer space attack The Earth while it’s engaged in World War II. The alien invaders actually aren’t Martians but what the hey, WARBIRDS OF MARS is a great title so let’s not spoil it with minor details. The Martians have chosen this time to invade as for years they’ve had agents on Earth, half-alien/half-human fifth columnists that have been working behind the scenes to make the invasion easier. And with the world powers fragmented and not able to work together it’s not long before many major cities and nations are conquered and under control of the invaders. But there’s still hope: human resistance forces are fighting back with every weapon and resource at their command to take back the planet.

The core characters of WARBIRDS OF MARS: STORIES OF THE FIGHT! are an elite cadre of resistance fighters known as The Martian Killers. The leader is Hunter Noir, a fedora wearing, trenchcoated man of mystery who keeps his face bandaged. Jack Paris is your typical wisecracking, two-fisted pilot/adventurer. Josie Taylor is the team’s femme fatale and Mr. Mask is a human/alien hybrid who has joined the resistance, proving to be a valuable asset to the the team due to his having been trained by a samurai master.

These characters all get plenty of time to strut their stuff both in solo stories and in stories where they all work together but WARBIRDS OF MARS: STORIES OF THE FIGHT! also takes the opportunity to show what is going on with other people trying to survive in this hellish brave new world in various locations around the globe and through the eyes of characters both human and alien.

“Hunter Noir” by Scott P. Vaughn leads off the anthology with the origin of the leader of The Martin Killers and how the invasion began. It’s a good origin story with the only bump in it for me is the sudden decision by the protagonist to become a masked man of mystery while being hunted by the enemy and whipping up a costume and new name for himself in no time flat but y’know what? That’s just me. It’s that kind of story and you either go along with it or not. It wasn’t enough to make me stop reading the story and that’s the main thing.

“In The World Today” by Megan E. Vaughn is one of my favorite stories in the anthology as it concerns a small-town movie date and the effects the Martian Invasion has on it. It’s a short slice of small town American life kind of story but it doesn’t skimp on the characterization.

I love the weird western comic book “Desperadoes” written by Jeff Mariotte so it’s no surprise that I loved “Southern Cross” even though it wasn’t set in the Southwestern United States as I might have expected. (Ron Fortier takes care of that part of the country…we’ll get to it soon…be patient) No, Jeff takes us out to the South China Sea for this one as Jack Paris gets involved in Oriental skullduggery.

“The Deadly Triad” by Alex Ness is a nifty little look into what’s going on with the Chinese and Japanese and I greatly appreciated the break from the slam bang adventure of the previous story to take the time out to see what was going on elsewhere in the beleaguered world.

Sean Ellis has long been one of my favorite writers who never fails to disappoint and he doesn’t do so with “The Farmboy’s Adventure” which has an ending that I truly did not see coming and when it did I immediately went back to the beginning of the story to see if there were any clues that I had missed. I’m betting you’ll do the same.

“The Bitter Edge” is by Kane Gilmore and is another origin story. This one concerning Mr. Mask, so called because he wears a German gas mask constantly. He’s a lot of fun to read about as I kinda get the idea that Kane’s inspiration for the character was G.I. Joe’s Snake Eyes. But with Mr. Mask being a Martian/Human hybrid training how to be a samurai warrior brings an added dimension to the character that moves the story into an exploration of identity and self-respect that lifts it a notch above just another action/adventure entry.

As promised, Ron Fortier serves up a wild west romp with “The Monsters of Adobe Wells” which takes The Monster Killers way out west to team up with Sioux warrior Charlie Three-Feathers, a character I wouldn’t mind seeing more of if there are future WARBIRDS OF MARS anthology. And again, the changeup in setting provides readers with another aspect of the war against the invaders. The international aspect of this anthology is one of the best things about it and a western story fits in here just fine.

Megan E. Vaughn returns for “The Skull of Lazarus” which is a story that makes me wonder if Megan is a “Thunderbirds” fan as her Lady Doyle and Jerry reminded me strongly of Lady Penelope Creighton and her bodyguard/chauffeur Parker. This is an adventure built for nothing but sheer thrills and like Ron’s Charlie Three-Feathers, I hope to see more of Lady Doyle.

“Red Sky Phoenix: The Rise of Free Russia” is another snapshot from Alex Ness as to what’s going on in yet another part of the world. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to have even more of these prose postcards in future anthologies (you think they’ve gotten the hint yet?)

“Human Guile” by Chris Samson is where I finally hit a major bump. I’ve read this story twice and still can’t quite wrap my head around what the story is about. It just seemed to me like there was way too much plot and way too many characters doing things I just didn’t understand why they were doing them. For me, motivation is a Big Deal in my fiction. It’s not necessary for me to like or dislike the characters but I do demand that the writer establish why they’re doing what they’re doing and I simply didn’t get that here.

“Surprise” by Stephen M. Irvin is indeed that as I didn’t expect to find a hard-boiled noir story in here but I as I continued reading more and more into this anthology it soon became apparent to me that this concept could and did support a variety of genre stories very well indeed such as J.H. Ivanov’s “The Road Out of Antioch” and “Shipwrecked” by David Lindblad, both of which are out-and-out horror stories with “The Road Out of Antioch” approaching Lovecraftian proportions of cosmic dread. It’s that good, trust me.

“Refined Elegance” by Scott P. Vaughn takes us home and if I had to make a choice between this one and “Hunter Noir” I’d have to go with this one, much as I liked “Hunter Noir.” It’s told from the point of view of Josie Taylor. The Martian Killers have been doing that for quite a while now, the war appears to have no end in sight and Josie is starting to ask herself and her teammates some hard questions the dangerous missions they routinely go on.

The stories are complimented by strong, solid artwork from Jean Arrow, Adriano Carreon, Mike DeBalfo, Bill Farmer, Matt Goodall, Christian Guldager, Robert Hack, Rob Hicks, John Lucas, Paul Roman Martinez, Nathan Morris, Dan Parsons, Nik Poliwko, Richard Serrao and Jason Worthington that serve the needs of the stories they were drawn for, successfully evoking the mood and tone of the prose.

So should you read WARBIRDS OF MARS: STORIES OF THE FIGHT? I certainly think so. One of my concerns about New Pulp is that it not fall into a rut. Masked avengers of the night and scientific adventurers are cool as hell, no doubt about it. But New Pulp can’t survive on a steady diet of those. Stories such as the ones in WARBIRDS OF MARS: STORIES OF THE FIGHT! that gives us mashups of war stories mixed with science fiction, horror, day in the life, hard-boiled noir and other genres provide a refreshing new dish for the palate of our imagination to taste and savor. It’s a solid package as you get a lot of story and art for your money and time. Enjoy.

Monday, April 15, 2013

From the "Victory Lap - The End of the Big Project" File...


Since this is my blog you’re used to me running off at the mouth in this space here that I’ve carved out for my thoughts and updates and news on my projects. But this time I’m turning it over to Sean E. Ali. He’s the extraordinarily talented cover designer for Pro Se Press and the genius behind so many of their covers that readers and fans of Pro Se have salivated over. He also did the artwork and designed the cover for “Dillon And The Pirates of Xonira.” He’s wonderful at his job and his latest project is yet another important milestone in his career.

But it’s also important to Sean in a very personal way and I thought it was only fitting that he be allowed space here to express how important this project is to him. He originally posted it on his Facebook page but it’s so heartfelt and so touching I felt compelled to re-post it here along with the front and back cover of BLACK PULP so that it will hopefully be seen by a wider audience and not lost in an avalanche of FB posts that come after it.

And I think I’ve spoken quite enough. Mr. Ali, the floor is yours…






Now that it's done, I can talk about the latest project I've done for Pro Se, BLACK PULP.

In advance this is more of an op ed thing that's just for me. You're not obligated to read it.

To give you the highlights BLACK PULP is a volume of fiction being published by Pro Se Press which features stories with an African American focus and features stories by : Joe R. Lansdale, Gary Phillips, Charles R. Saunders, Derrick Ferguson, D. Alan Lewis, Christopher Chambers, Mel Odom, Kimberly Richardson, Ron Fortier, Michael A. Gonzales, Gar Anthony Haywood, Tommy Hancock and features an introduction by WALTER MOSLEY!

Yeah "Devil In A Blue Dress - Denzel was in the movie version" Walter Mosley…

Which made this the biggest damn deal name wise this side of Barry Reese's Rook as our first major licensed property. So that's the short version, you want to slog through the longer part below, think of it as the unofficial afterword for BLACK PULP from my point of view…

Here endth the disclaimer.

Some time ago, long before the vast majority of us were born, the public entertained itself with cheaply produced fiction magazines called pulps, that pretty much took them from the Great Depression and the prospect of a second World War into hidden civilizations, steamy underworlds where masked vigilantes dealt out two-fisted justice and literally hundreds of other variations on genres that explored fantastic situations populated by extraordinary people.

It was an amazing time in popular culture. Literally, people were on the verge of the first real wave of mass produced popular media. It was entertainment and escape packaged behind luridly illustrated covers that beckoned to its potential audience with a promise of a story that you'd lose yourself in and, while it wouldn't solve your immediate problems, you'd be satisfied knowing that your heroes came through for you and made their corner of the fictional universe safe for all until your next visit. The best part? You had heroes who were usually from the people, they were special, but for the most part, they were just like you...

Or at least that's how it was for the vast majority of the population.

In most of the minority communities, the representation of race in those early days of the 1930s, 40s and into the 1950s was less than flattering. Given the times and the publisher, African Americans, or (for the sake of accuracy) let's go with the more diplomatic terminology of the day using either Negros or Colored People, found themselves represented in most media of the day as slow witted or under educated clowns and buffoons - caricatures which were holdovers from the old minstrel shows where bugged out eyes, incredibly huge lips and flaring nostrils were pretty much the standard and actually kinder than the bone through the nose, grass skirt wearing variation or the stooped over monkey/ape variant (that still enjoys a certain amount of favor among some classes of the ignorant, bigots and racists today). The surge of graphic entertainment with the emergence of comic books in general and superheroes in particular turned those stereotypes into standard fare for readers, projecting perhaps some of the views of the creators involved as well as reflecting society's view of race at that time.

The one major possible exception may have been in the pages of a particular pulp that clamored for attention on the newsstands.

One of the best examples of diversity from that time in pulp fiction was an organization called Justice, Incorporated. The group was fronted by a swashbuckling adventurer in the form of Richard Benson, known to the public-at-large as the Avenger. He formed a group of like minded individuals in a war against crime which included a Negro couple, Josh and Rosabelle Newton, who were both accomplished academics with college degrees (from Tuskegee Institute, now University) who actually used the stereotypes of their race to infiltrate the underworld and relay information and assistance to their chief as the story needed them. If Benson hadn't shown up in their lives, they probably would've continued on with their lives after their initial appearance in "The Sky Walker", but thankfully someone in the editing department didn't have an issue with the Newtons coming on board as a part of the team. 

Justice, Incorporated was unique even among the pulp hero set, with the possible exception of Diamondstone the Magician who had a Negro sidekick, in giving these two not only equal status, but one that ran counter to the current perception of race at that time. The Shadow had a guy in the ranks of his agents, and while Doc Savage didn't have a Negro cast member, he was generally respectful of the ones he encountered along the way. Josh and Rosabelle were about as close as I got to an African American version of Nick and Nora Charles in detective fiction, or Jonathan and Jennifer Hart from TV's Hart to Hart.

Which is around where I came in.

As a kid I literally went on safari every weekend in used book stores. In downtown Oakland near 14th and Harrison there was this huge used bookstore, which has long since gone away (to this day one of the biggest losses from my childhood), where I had my first encounter with the like of Conan, Doc Savage, The Shadow and The Avenger and Justice, Inc. All of these heroes were caught in a distilled reprinted form and repackaged as paperbacks. I would fill my weekends with these guys who were an extension of the comics I read then and the old time radio shows that I would encounter in the near future and had a fondness for the Avenger in particular because of the diversity of the group and the respect they showed one another despite their different backgrounds.

For the time that the stories were originally written, the Avenger was pretty progressive stuff. In the context of a child growing up in the near post Civil Rights era, it was a good thing to see heroes who looked like me even if they were supporting characters, contributing to the solution of the crisis and serving in a capacity that spoke of their intelligence and their ability to take the limitations tossed upon them based on their race and turn that to an advantage. They basically were a preview of the world to come, in a series that was ahead of its time. So, I went in search of other characters from that time because there had to be a "Negro Pulp Adventurer" series where people who looked like me were actually the lead characters and not just assistants or comedy relief, right?

Wrong.

Okay, maybe more of a "not really".

The closest thing to an African American, Negro pulp magazine at that time was probably more like a version of Reader's Digest called the Negro Digest. Created by John Harold Johnson, founder of the Johnson Publishing Company (who publishes the magazines Ebony and Jet, among others), put together a magazine with a focus on information, opinion editorials, and artistic content relevent to the Negro community but solicited from a diverse number of contributors regardless of race. In fact a column called "If I Were A Negro", where prominent non Negro guest writers were invited to offer opinions and solutions to racial issues of the day led to the magazine's high note with a piece from then First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt which doubled the magazine's circulation overnight. But for me as a kid reading adventure fiction it wasn't quite the same thing as locating a "Black Doc Savage". There wasn't a hero to call my own from that era of pulp adventure outside of glorified sidekicks.

Granted, away from pulps, I came up during a time of great fictional Black heroes. A byproduct of the militant era, mixed with a healthy (or unhealthy) dash of Blaxploitation media, I had heroes in my day by the score, Shaft, Luke Cage Power Man, Black Panther, Storm of the X-Men, Cyborg, Green Lantern - John Stewart, and my personal favorite: Black Lightning. I also saw a surge of multiethnic characters that culminated in a whole comic book universe as the one bright shining moment in comics that I called "The Milestone Era".

Milestone, with the late great Dwayne McDuffie leading the charge, walked the walk on the page and behind the scenes. Their characters were bold brilliant and multi-everything. I had Black heroes, Latino heroes, Asian heroes and even some White heroes. It was everything I wanted to see in fiction in graphic form, in the media content I digested, in examples to my nephews and nieces of four color warriors who leapt tall buildings and saved the day and were accepted for the content of their character more than anything else. 

It was also an era that came to an end pretty quickly with the usual excuses of not having the readership or using the fact that a book where a minority lead was the title character just wouldn't sell. Which killed brilliant titles like Icon, Static, Hardware, Xombi, The Shadow Cabinet and the Blood Syndicate in Milestone and books outside of Milestone like Black Lightning or El Diablo (the series about a Latino City Councilman who wears a mask to fight crime but also deals with racial identity, political intrigue and illegal immigration that ran just under a year and a half) at DC or the brilliant, but barely seen in the mainstream, independent series, Brotherman. All of these being series that I recommend highly if you ever decide to go on an excursion to a comics shop and dive into a quarter bin or seek online at sites like Mile High Comics.

"Hey that's great, Ali," you say, "but what does this have to do with this BLACK PULP book?"

The answer is everything and nothing.

BLACK PULP is the fulfillment of personal dreams and goals that I set out to do "as a young designer more years than I want to remember" ago, which was to make a positive contribution at some point to the body of work displayed by creators that created what I playfully refer to as "content of color". In this book are a lot of creators whose work I've admired over the years: Walter Mosley, Ron Fortier, Joe Lansdale, Gary PhillipsCharles Saunders and Derrick Ferguson, and they are in this volume doing pieces that are not necessarily racial in content, but they have African American leads carrying the action and plot of these short stories. They're retroactively giving nine and ten year old me what I had been looking for then:positive examples of people who look like me, making their neck of their fictional worlds a better place by being who they are.



Granted this book is not going to change society at large in any noticeable way, shape or form. We won't read BLACK PULP today and wake up tomorrow joining hands singing "We Are The World", but I'm hoping you'll read it for the stories and enjoy it enough that you won't opposed to a Black Pulp 2 or a volume with an Asian focus, or a Latino focus, or a Female focus, or an LBGT focus, or a volume where all diversity in our culture is the focus, there's such a wide field of themes and subjects to be explored. It's my hope that this book will take you off your beaten track and make you curious about the possibilities we have yet to tap into, the richness of the larger diversity creative individuals can bring to you. 

In a very real way, this diverse group of writers are providing an example of that with characters of color, yes, but they're also characters with content, complexity with compelling stories to tell. The efforts of this group of authors, and the personal weight of being a kid who didn't have those kind of heroes readily available to him, fueled my own efforts in the design of the book to make sure that a person looking for a hero in the mirror would find one.

It's my hope that reading BLACK PULP will make you hungry for heroes that look like you and more importantly that you find the imagination and will to create those heroes if none exist. And that in doing so, you not only give yourself something to look up to, but by sharing that perspective, you contribute to the greater appreciation of our greater diversity by everyone. Yeah it's a little "We Are The World"-ish, but at least it has the virtue of being a sincere hope.

I appreciate what Tommy Hancock has brought to the table here. I'm thrilled that Gary Phillips put the concept together and I'm impressed that such a wonderful array of talent came together in response to it all. And more importantly, I'm lucky to have been a part of bringing it to you. It's on my short list of works I'm really proud of. I hope it shows in the package we've put together.

And a shout out in particular to Derrick Ferguson who was my silent co-pilot on this one. his input during the creative process on this one was invaluable and appreciated.

BLACK PULP is here.  Be sure to check it out.

And more importantly, enjoy it.



Sunday, October 21, 2012

Kickin' The Willy Bobo With: LUCAS GARRETT Part One


Derrick Ferguson: Who is Lucas Garrett?

Lucas Garrett: I am a thirty-three year old African American, a former United States Marine, and a concierge security officer with over fourteen years of experience in the security industry. I am the second oldest of seven children (five sons and two daughters). In addition, I write unpublished fan fiction, and I am a fan of various forms of literature, television, films, and video games. In particular, those forms of media that focus on crossovers.





DF: Where do you live and what do you do to keep the bill collectors away?

LG: For a year and a half, I have lived in a suburban subdivision in Lawrenceville, Georgia. I work for Allied Barton Security Services as a concierge security officer at a high-rise office complex near the CNN Center, in downtown Atlanta, Georgia.

DF: You are a major Science Fiction/Comic Book/Movie/Classic Pulp/New Pulp/Wold Newton Universe fan. Where did all this begin for you?

LG: That’s a loaded question. My love for science fiction, comic books, movies, classic pulp, new pulp, and the Wold Newton Family/Universe comes from my Dad. He was a voracious reader, mostly of classic literature, history, anthropology, archaeology and linguistic studies. It is because of him that I have a strong love for reading.

When he was younger, my Dad was a fan of the short-lived television series, “The Green Hornet”, starring Van Williams and Bruce Lee. In fact, one of the first comic books my father bought for me, when I was a kid, was Now Comics’ The Green Hornet #2, written by Ron Fortier. The Green Hornet, and later The Phantom, were characters who intrigued me because the mantle of The Green Hornet and The Phantom were passed down from generation to generation. In the case of The Green Hornet, the mantle is transferred from uncle to nephew, whereas for The Phantom, the mantle is transferred from father to son. I loved the family dynamic. And even though The Green Hornet and The Phantom were not Pulp heroes per se (The Green Hornet originated from Old Time Radio, and The Phantom began as a comic strip character), I see Pulp literary elements in the characters and their world.




DF: What are some of your favorite Science Fiction TV shows and Movies?

LG: Science fiction is the final frontier of the mind for me. Therefore, I gravitated to it very early on with movies such as the original Star Wars trilogy, the Star Trek films, Enemy Mine, The Brother From Another Planet, The Final Countdown, The Philadelphia Experiment, Tron, the Terminator films, and the Predator films. Action adventure films such as the Raiders of the Lost Ark trilogy, the James Bond films starring Sean Connery, the John Carpenter films (Escape From New York, The Thing, and Big Trouble in Little China, in particular), Highlander, The Rocketeer, The Shadow, and The Phantom prepared me for my early foray into pulp literature. And, of course, when I was younger, television shows like Star Trek: The Original Series and Star Trek: The Next Generation were big in my home. Although, of the various Star Trek series, including Star Trek: Voyager, I gravitated more towards Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Captain Benjamin Sisko, portrayed by Avery Brooks, is my favorite character from the series.




In fact, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and J. Michael Straczynski’s Babylon 5 were the two television science fiction series I routinely watched in the 1990’s. Moreover, I am a fan of old television series like Automan, Voyagers!, Misfits of Science, the A-Team, Magnum P.I., Simon & Simon, Miami Vice, MacGyver, Mission: Impossible, Airwolf, M.A.N.T.I.S., Kindred: The Embrace, The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., Jack of All Trades, Hercules, Xena: The Warrior Princess, Angel, etc. Currently, on the SyFy Channel, I watch Eureka, Warehouse 13, Sanctuary, Lost Girl, and Alphas. On CBS, I watch NCIS and NCIS: Los Angeles. On Cinemax, I watch Strike Back. Furthermore, I am a big fan of Doctor Who, and J.J. Abrams’ Alias, and I watch them on DVD whenever I get the chance.

DF: Do you think Science Fiction in print has lost some of the fun and sense of wonder that it used to be known for? And if so, why?

LG: I think it has since we live in a technologically-advanced period in human history. We are literally one-step away from Star Trek. All we need now are faster-than-light space vessels, and teleportation. We pretty much have everything else that Gene Roddenberry envisioned. Those who read science fiction, in the past, were trying to make it possible in real-life. I don’t see much of that drive these days. Scientists and engineers have become so successful in giving the public new technological tools and toys, that we have become complacent. Despite the recent launching of the Mars Rover, Curiosity, being a success for the scientific and academic world, very few outside those circles cared. Furthermore, literary works of fantasy, such as the Harry Potter and Twilight series, are usurping literary works based on hardcore science fiction, or science fiction based on scientific fact and logical speculation. The primary reason why books like Harry Potter and Twilight are doing so well is that there is little explanation needed to understand them, if and when, they become feature films.

The K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid) approach is being used to make money off literary science fiction and fantasy properties; because the aim of the publishers is to get enough buzz about a book series, so that it is optioned as a series of feature length films. That’s my take on it. Comic books are in the same boat too. Literary works are now source material for big or small screen adaptations. The literary property is a vehicle to launch a multimedia enterprise that not only markets the books, but also other connected merchandising properties. Very few people write books for the sake of having books published. The Internet and other multimedia enterprises have changed the nature of the game forever.

DF: Who are your favorite Science Fiction writers?

LG: Philip Jose’ Farmer, Win Scott Eckert, Christopher Paul Carey, Rick Lai, Arthur “Art” Sippo, Ron Fortier, Derrick Ferguson, Howard Hopkins, Charles Saunders, Milton Davis, Barry Reese, Jason Jack Miller, Heidi Ruby Miller, William Patrick Maynard, Will Murray, Lester Dent, Walter Gibson, Norvell Page, Philip Wylie, E.E. “Doc” Smith, Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Frank Herbert, Michael Crichton, Howard V. Hendrix, Caleb Carr, Leslie Silbert, and J. Gregory Keyes. A lot, I know.

DF: What were the last five movies you saw and how’d you like ‘em?

LG: THE AVENGERS, CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER, THOR, X-MEN: FIRST CLASS, and BATTLE: LOS ANGELES. I loved them. In particular, BATTLE: LOS ANGELES, since I’m a former U.S. Marine, and I enjoyed seeing what type of battle plan the Marine Corps would have in the advent of an extraterrestrial incursion into our known space and planet Earth. Aaron Eckert was superb in his role as a Staff Sergeant, who had planned on leaving the Corps, but due to circumstances beyond his control, winds up leading a platoon of Marines, and other service members, in launching a counterattack against the alien invaders. I went away thinking that this would be a great prequel to Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers novel. That’s how my mind works. I see crossover potential in almost any media.




THE AVENGERS was fantastic. CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER was outstanding. Initially, I wasn’t a fan of Chris Evans taking on the role of Steve Rogers. Specifically, because Evans had played Johnny Storm in The Fantastic Four films. However, and surprisingly, Evans won me over. Any actor willing to put in the time, and energy, to play an iconic character on film, as Evans did, deserves my respect. And director, Joe Johnston, masterfully told a great story about the first true Avenger in Marvel Comics history, and the world in which he fought. I couldn’t have asked for anything else.

THOR was also very good. Better than I expected, actually. I especially, loved the way the writers showed that advanced technology and science would be perceived by lesser civilizations as being magical in nature.

X-MEN: FIRST CLASS was perhaps the best X-Men film I have seen since X2: X-MEN UNITED. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender were outstanding as the younger versions of Charles Francis Xavier (Professor X) and Erik Lehnsherr (Magneto.)  And the actor to watch, in my opinion, is Fassbender. If a Hollywood studio ever decides to make a feature film about the pulp vigilante, The Spider, then Fassbender is the man you need to play the title role. I can see Fassbender portraying Richard Wentworth, alongside Lena Headey, as Nita Van Sloan. Of course, what won me over about Fassbender was his range in the film, as well as the intentional references to the Sean Connery James Bond films. Fassbender looks like he could be Connery’s son, or grandson. Overall, X-MEN: FIRST CLASS shines because of how logical the evolution of the X-Men, from a top-secret CIA assault team during the Cuban Missile Crisis, to the personal strike team of the Xavier School for the Gifted seemed. It makes complete sense that the X-Men would cut their teeth during one of the most tumultuous times in human history. The Children of the Atom would save the world from nuclear holocaust. It was pure genius, on the part of the scriptwriters, to bring that remarkable idea to the silver screen.





DF: What three Classic Pulp characters would you like to see adapted to movies?

LG: The Spider, Operator #5, and The Avenger.

DF: How long have you been reading comic books and what are your favorites?

LG: I rarely read comics anymore. The last comics I read were Moonstone’s The Spider #1, The Spider #2, and The Spider vs. The Werewolf. The last comic book series I read was Warren Ellis and John Cassaday’s Planetary series. That was two years ago. Since then, I haven’t read any other comics. When I was ten years old, my Dad bought me Classic X-Men #44, Batman #441, and Now Comics’ Green Hornet #2. Therefore, from September 1990 until March 2010, I collected and read comics books of various genres. Mostly superhero comics. Now, unless it comes from Moonstone, or Airship 27, I don’t even bother. Even Alan Moore has disappointed me with his last series about the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

DF: What's the biggest difference you've seen in comic books between when you first started reading them and now?

LG: How complicated they have become. There is too much serialization and tie-ins needed to understand most of the comics out today. There are very few standalone stories in superhero comics being printed these days. And, of course, way too much political pandering, and agendas, in today’s comics that I don’t particularly think need to be in a comic book geared toward preteens and adolescents. When I was coming up, the comics I read the most were Uncanny X-Men and X-Men. Now, there are numerous X-Men, or X-related, titles to look at, and they’re all interconnected. If I had been a ten-year old coming up today, I doubt very highly that my Dad would purchase these comics.

First of all the prices for comics have gone way up. When I was younger, comics ranged from $0.50 to $1.25. Now you have comics that cost four to five dollars, at the minimum. Secondly, in order to follow the story arc for most Marvel and DC comics, you have to purchase tie-in comics. Thirdly, there are too many monumental events happening every three, or four, years. And finally, the characters are not allowed to grow up, grow old, get married, have children, and have a life. It’s idiotic, in my opinion, to have the original X-Men not age, and have lives, and families of their own. Cyclops should not look like a thirty-five year old man. A superhero can be all he or she can be, and still be a normal human being. The problem that I see from the two “big houses” is that they have run out of ideas. It’s easier to invest your attentions in an established character, or world, as opposed to expanding it through time, or creating a brand new one of your own. When I realized that unfortunate fact, I lost all interest in superhero comics.

DF: We're seeing an awful lot of Classic Pulp heroes being adapted into comics these days. What are your thoughts on that?

LG: I am happy if it is done right. When it is not done right, it affects the properties greatly. A great example of it not being done properly is the recent fiasco infamously known as “DC: First Wave.” The writers cannot take characters like Doc Savage and his Amazing Five, The Avenger, and his team, Justice, Inc., and expect them to function properly in a modern day setting.





These characters were tailor-made for the world in which they operated: The Depression era. It was easier in those days to yearn for the ‘Superman.’ Now such a person would be ostracized, and viewed with suspicion, by many people. Because that person would be perceived as being a threat to societal mores, and the wellbeing of the public, and could potentially, inadvertently, or intentionally, change the cultural and political climate of society. Back then, people were on the lookout for the “Great Man” who would save them, and take care of their problems. It was in the cultural psyche. And the pulps gave the readers what they wanted. To modern readers, they would seem antiquated. Obsolete. But they are not. Pulp heroes and villains who are set in their natural settings can still be used to tell great stories. But you cannot change the nature of the character, and their world, and expect longtime fans of these characters to come along. It’s not going to happen.

Derrick Ferguson: When did you first discover Classic Pulp?

Lucas Garrett: It happened around the fall of 1999. At around this time, I was reading Warren Ellis and John Cassaday’s Planetary comic book series for WildStorm Productions, the now defunct imprint of DC Comics. Issues #’s 1 and 5 drew me to the Pulp Hero archetypes that were clear homages to characters such as Doc Savage, The Shadow, The Spider, Tarzan, G-8, Operator #5, Tom Swift, Shiwan Khan, and Fu Manchu. I had remembered The Shadow from the 1994 film starring Alec Baldwin. It was a decent film. The main intrigue for me was The Shadow himself. How could he affect people’s minds? Furthermore, around this time, I became aware of the pulp historian and annotation expert, Jess Nevins, through his Wold Newton website, and his annotation works on The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume One. It was the perfect situation for me because I had had enough of superhero comics. I wanted to read something rooted in reality. The introduction of Planetary, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, the Wold Newton Family, and Universe, and the classic pulps, helped to direct my reading habits as I began to wean myself away from superhero comics. I would occasionally read Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch’s The Ultimates, Grant Morrison’s run on New X-Men, and Chris Claremont’s run on X-Treme X-Men. But that was about it. It was primarily Planetary and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volumes 1 and 2. 

Stay tuned for Part Two as I continue to Kick The Willy Bobo with Lucas Garrett and we talk about Classic Pulp, New Pulp and The Wold Newton Universe

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