Tommy Hancock interviewed me for his online magazine BIBLIORATI and I think it's a pretty good one that you can read and enjoy HERE.
Tuesday, March 7, 2017
Tuesday, December 22, 2015
AIRSHIP 27 PRODUCTIONS
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.
Thursday, January 8, 2015
It’s been a while since the original Kickin’ The Willy Bobo Interview with Tommy Hancock. In that time, the flamboyant and outspoken Mr. Hancock has been hard at work doing what he does best: being the spokesman of Pro Se and the public face of New Pulp. So I thought it about time we caught up with him on the anniversary of that first interview and here he is 12 MONTHS LATER…
Derrick Ferguson: Have there been any major changes in your life personally and professionally since we last talked?
Tommy Hancock: Nothing major, other than dealing with a few health issues that seemed to get in the way of creativity and spreading the word of Pro Se some. But overall things have remained much the same. Still have a great wife, three kids I totally do not deserve, and enjoying every day - and this has been happening daily for a while- hearing from a writer, artist, or fan about their interest in Pro Se and the work that everyone involved is doing.
DF: How do you feel Pro Se has grown in the past 12 months?
TH: Pro Se won’t stop growing. Not only are we adding titles and creators right and left, but our numbers on all levels are on an upswing. More importantly, though, I think Pro Se’s greatest growth has been in its appeal to more readers and different audiences. We spent 2014 laying a lot of groundwork for expanding our readership and, although much of that won’t see fruition until this year, we’re already finding that what we do appeals to an extremely broad base. Being identified both as a Genre Fiction and a New Pulp Publisher has helped open up several titles that have sat dormant for months, even years to readers, that we always knew were there. And now we are finding them or, in a lot of cases, they are following all the bread crumbs Pro Se’s left in various ways and finding us.
DF: How do you feel that you personally as an editor and publisher have grown in the past year?
TH: As a publisher, I have gained a tremendous amount of focus on just what Pro Se Productions is capable of. When I started out, I was like a wide eyed kid at a candy store, not only wanting to taste every little thing I could, but working up ideas on how to make it all even better. I’m still that kid, but I understand what I have the privilege of managing now isn’t candy, but little bits of magic. Not my magic, I’m not the wizard, I’m just the guy who gets to pull them out of his hat. And that’s not only a blast, but it’s a responsibility. One that I feel like I understand better than I ever have before.
It’s also one that all publishers approach in different ways. Some aren’t big fans of how I do what I do, others have said they think it’s the best way to go. Me, it’s what works for me. Pro Se Productions is a publishing company, but we’re a company with intentions, with various plans that all boil down to one mission- getting the best stories out to as many readers as possible.
As an editor, I think I’ve matured as well. And a lot of that I owe not only to having so much wonderful work that I get to help edit, but to one man. Joe Gentile, the mad genius behind Moonstone Books, has taught me more in five or six sentences over the last few years concerning editing than any course, seminar or book ever could.
DF: Is the direction Pro Se heading in now the same as it was a year ago?
TH: Yes, most definitely. I think we’ve discussed before that I sort of had a five-year plan for Pro Se from 2011 forward. It is moving exactly the direction I wanted it to when we started publishing novels and anthologies in 2011. Could things be better? Well, sure, every book could sell thousands and millions of copies. But we are heading in what I consider the right direction for what we want to do long term. And that, simply put, is to be around for many years to come and to be a defining voice in New Pulp and Genre Fiction.
DF: Where do you see Pro Se in five years?
TH: Well into the next phase of our plan to be around awhile. We are building a catalog now and have done quite well at that. Five years from now, I hope to see us still adding to that catalog, but also to have several properties that readers are just seeing debut now or in the last few years, to have a collection of flagship titles to rival any company out there. We’ve grown at an amazing speed intentionally and that may level off beginning in the next two to three years, but growth won’t stop. We’ve been building the house from the ground up so to speak, hopefully in five years we’ll be expanding, adding on bells and whistles to our many rooms.
DF: What’s the best thing about dealing with writers? The worst?
TH: This can be answered with the same answer. Their excitement about their work. It is thrilling and invigorating to bask in and be a part of the fire that burns in a writer, or any creator for that matter. It is one of the major reasons I do this.
And as for that being the worst thing, let me explain. Sometimes writers, and being one myself I have been guilty of this, believe that what they have is the best possible work ever and nothing can make it better and the world has to have it now. And all of those are wonderful emotions and feelings and attachments to have. But when a work comes to a publisher and the writer cannot let go of those feelings, then it becomes somewhat problematic at times. I’m proud to say that issues arising because of this have been few and far between at Pro Se. And also, I believe every writer should commit to that passion should stand up for their works. But there has to be a willingness to compromise when working with a publisher and although most every writer we have understands that, not all do and find their way to self-publishing or other avenues that are just as valid as what we would provide them.
DF: How do you see the New Pulp Community these days? Is it still a community?
TH: I am told on a regular basis that I’m one of the organizers of the New Pulp Movement, and I suppose I am. Not that I invented New Pulp, as I didn’t, or that I was the first to envision the concept, because again I was not. But I did have a hand in organizing several publishers and creators under a unifying ‘New Pulp Movement’ banner of sorts.
So there’s my answer. No, I don’t think New Pulp is a community and I really haven’t ever seen it that way. A community denotes a group of people all existing together and working in concert to better the group as a whole on a consistent, regular basis. And although New Pulp publishers and creators have done that and continue to do that every day – if one of us succeeds, then all of us float a little bit closer to the top is a concept I believe in – I do not see New Pulp as cohesive conceptual village all having the same goal. There’s a reason why I suggested calling it ‘The New Pulp Movement.’
Movements move, and hopefully forward. And not only that, but Movements grow and change and rise and fall…and the people, the movers, they change also. Sometimes the faces change, other times the place the movers have in the Movement shift for better or worse, but everything in a successful movement continues evolving, expanding, becoming something different. And just about the time you think it’s matured into one thing, it pushes even harder and is on its way to being something else. That’s what New Pulp is to me.
DF: Do you think that New Pulp will ever have respectability?
TH: It sort of depends on what you mean by that. I think New Pulp is very highly respected within a particular niche, that being that cadre of fans that identify themselves as New Pulp fans. Now, there’s at least one other niche that hasn’t always had the highest regard for what we do, but even that has changed in the last few years. If you mean do I think we’ll ever have the respectability of being considered ‘proper’ literature and completely mainstream, God, I hope not.
One of the great things about New Pulp, and in a larger sense specific Genre Fiction, is that there’s a roughness to it, a rawness that allows each writer to come at it individually, to put in appropriate elements shared by others, but also to leave a mark on a story, on a genre, on a reader that is uniquely the creator’s own. I would argue that being mainstream and literary, that that sort of respectability requires creators to give up that edge, that individuality to a large degree. So, no, in that sense, I hope New Pulp is never respectable.
DF: Are you working on any writing projects of your own?
TH: I have several things that are due, some a long time now, for Pro Se and others. Thankfully, I have patient publishers and can only hope the readers are as patient. Running a publishing company, especially one as aggressive as Pro Se has become, takes a lot of time. Writing has taken a back seat and will have to for a bit longer, probably through March. But, yes, there’s several things on the burners…and, of course, new ideas brewing as well.
Derrick Ferguson: What is the one thing above all others we should be eagerly looking for from Pro Se in 2015?
Tommy Hancock: The best damn Genre Fiction and New Pulp on the market between the covers of every single book bearing the Pro Se logo.
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
‘BLACK PULP’ A PHENOMEMON, PUBLISHER ANNOUNCES SECOND VOLUME
In April 2013, Pro Se Productions, a Publisher known for balancing tales harkening back to classic Pulp Fiction with stories pushing the boundaries of modern Genre Fiction, released a title that caused a ripple in the Genre Fiction and Pulp communities. BLACK PULP is a collection that takes the wonderful style of Pulp Fiction, established in the early 20th Century, and wraps it around fully realized black heroes and heroines, something that was not done in Pulp’s classic era. This bestselling collection features work from a variety of authors, including bestselling authors Walter Mosley and Joe Lansdale as well as notable authors such as well-known crime author Gary Phillips, Imaro creator Charles Saunders, Mel Odom, Christopher Chambers, Gar Anthony Haywood, Ron Fortier, Kimberly Richardson, Michael Gonzales, D. Alan Lewis, Derrick Ferguson, and Tommy Hancock.
Co-editor of BLACK PULP, crime novelist Gary Phillips observed, “While revisionism is not history, as the films “Django Unchained” and “42” attest, nonetheless historical matters find their way into popular fiction. This is certainly the case with New Pulp as it handles such issues as race with a modern take, even though stories can be set in a retro context.”
Pulp fiction of the early 20th century rarely, if ever, focused on characters of color and the handful of black characters in these stories were typically portrayed stereotypically. BLACK PULP brings some of today’s best authors together with up and coming writers to craft stories of adventure, mystery, and more -- all with black characters in the forefront.
BLACK PULP offers exciting tales of derring-do from larger-than-life heroes and heroines; aviators in sky battles, lords of the jungle, pirates battling slavers and the walking dead, gadget-wielding soldiers-of-fortune saving the world to mystics fighting for justice in other worlds.
Various outlets, including the Los Angeles Review of Books and The Huffington Post, covered the release of BLACK PULP and positive reviews continue to stack up.
“BLACK PULP,” Pro Se Productions publisher and Black Pulp co-editor Tommy Hancock, "has been a phenomenon for Pro Se. Not simply because sales have been spectacular for the resources available to us, but also because this title has brought awareness of the company to many writers, whole communities that we’re happy to be associated with. And it’s not simply because it’s a great book with fantastic talent telling unbelievably good stories. It’s more about discussion, about bringing new stories into this classic style, individuals and entire groups getting a voice in a way they didn’t because of society in the early 20th Century. New Pulp is what we call this type of fiction because of the chance to blend the best of the past with the sensibilities of today. You really see that with BLACK PULP and the impact it’s had. And we want that to continue. It’s why there will be a BLACK PULP II and other similar volumes as well.”
Currently, ASIAN PULP is in development from Pro Se and will, like its predecessor, feature Pulp stories, this time with Asian protagonists. ASIAN PULP is slated for a mid 2014 release.
BLACK PULP II is currently being developed as well. Many of the authors in the original volume are returning, as well as new names. BLACK PULP II is scheduled for late 2014/early 2015 release.
The collection that started it all, BLACK PULP features a new essay on the nature of Pulp, both classic and modern, by award winning bestselling author Walter Mosley.
The other writers contributing original works to the anthology are: two-time Shamus award winner Gar Anthony Haywood, two time Award finalist Kimberly Richardson, Dixon Medal winner Christopher Chambers, critically acclaimed novelist Mel Odom, hip-hop chronicler Michael Gonzales, and award winning leading New Pulp writers Ron Fortier, D. Alan Lewis, Derrick Ferguson, Charles Saunders, Tommy Hancock, and Chester Himes award winner Phillips. This collection also features a classic story by Joe R. Lansdale, winner of the Edgar Allan Poe award, and multiple Bram Stoker awards.
BLACK PULP is available now from Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/d8wjtph
and via Pro Se's own store at https://www.createspace.com/4248056!
It is also available via Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords as an Ebook, with format and design by Russ Anderson.
With a pulse pounding original cover by artist Adam Shaw and stunning cover design by Sean Ali, BLACK PULP delivers hair raising action and two fisted adventure out of both barrels!
For more information concerning BLACK PULP, BLACK PULP II, or ASIAN PULP, including interviews and review copies when available, email Morgan Minor, Director of Corporate Operations at Pro Se at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on Pro Se Productions, go to www.prose-press.com.
Like Pro Se on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ProSeProductions.
Thursday, January 9, 2014
Derrick Ferguson: Who is Tommy Hancock?
Tommy Hancock: It might be easier to answer with who I’m not, but we’ll leave that for another interview. I am a father of three kids I dearly love (Braeden, Alex, and Kailee), husband to Lisa, who is overdue for her mental evaluation because she is still putting up with me, and an avid idea guy. By that I mean I have ideas for stories and projects and events and…and…well, stuff all the time. I’ve always been that way and it’s driven me into a whole lot of interesting directions. Probably defined me more than anything else has, that urge to create, to get ideas out. It’s definitely shown me my strengths and weaknesses.
DF: Where do you reside and what do you do for a living?
TH: I live in Melbourne, Arkansas, a little town north of Batesville, Arkansas, which is a slightly bigger town about 90 miles north of Little Rock.
I am currently an investigator for an Attorney. Not necessarily Pulp material, but sometimes it gets really interesting. And definitely inspires stories.
DF: Tell us something about your background.
TH: Grew up that kid who wrote his first story in third grade and used his friends as the heroes. Never stopped writing after that. By eighth grade, turned the stories into a script that we used to talk our English Teacher, Mrs. Sifford, into letting us act out. Moved into theater that way, into audio drama from there, and somewhere along the way I collected comics, old time radio, books, and Pulps. My parents and little sister didn’t really understand how I was a part of the foursome they called a family because my interests didn’t fit any of theirs. So, I sort of got on a kick of searching out similar minds. Took a while, but found a whole passle of ‘em in 1997 in the world of Fan Fiction. From there, while I built a pretty neat family of my own, worked on my own original stuff until Pro Se happened.
DF: What are your influences?
TH: As eclectic as my interests. I am a huge Mystery/Detective fan and a writing influence is most definitely Robert B. Parker. But I draw a lot from Hammett, from L’amour, Stuart Kaminsky, Steven J. Cannell (his television work), and a handful of Pulp types as well.
Also, my writing is heavily influenced by my love of old TV and radio shows. There’s something about the economy of 23 minute shows that I love and has given me the ability to tell a story in short form tightly and succinctly.
I also have three major influences, believe it or not, that are musical in nature. The body of works of Jimmy Buffett, Johnny Cash, and Meatloaf hugely impact my storytelling. All three have different ways to tell a story, but they share one things-the almost cinematic way the stories they tell unfold.
DF: Which do you like better: writing, editing or publishing?
TH: That’s a hard question to ask simply because, to be honest, they’re the same for me. Not that that they are the same activity, but what I derive from each is the same. The concept of contributing to new stories, to being part of a creative process, to putting even just a little bit of me into a tale…I can do that as an author, editor, and publisher. So, really, they’re all equal with me.
I’ve got a huge focus now on all aspects of creating, not just putting words on the page. I am a major part of the storytelling process in publishing and even as an editor. Also, my creativity has taken on a life of its own, evolving through conventions, events, and such. I’ve learned that I am as much a part of the story as the stories we publish and I write. So, being in panels, joining in discussions about writing and such, and coming up with special events is a new thing creatively for me in the writing sense. Although, to be honest, I’ve always made room for the creative stuff I wanted to do.
DF: What is your philosophy of writing?
TH: It’s pretty simple. Have the idea first. Don’t write until You have the idea. And even then, don’t write until the idea has You. I am not a believer in the concept that stories go where they want to once the writing process starts. The writer is the driver at that point. But I firmly feel like while the idea is still just that, an abstract construct teasing one’s mind, then that is the moment where anything can happen. And when it does, when the idea has you enough, then You write. And You write until it’s done, even if that takes five years and you do other stories in between. I have several ideas in progress and some that are just pieces…that I will write, that will end up in something I do. Because the ideas had me before I started writing them down.
DF: What writing projects are you working on now?
TH: A lot that I’m really behind on. One of the curses of doing a ton of things is that other things get left behind. But that’s part of growing and I’ve tackled the ‘No, this can wait’ philosophy that anyone who is overwhelmed sort of slides into. I’m working at this moment on a few things, including The Rook Volume 7, ‘Nomorrow (the follow up to my first novel, Yesteryear), The Adventures of Nicholas Saint, all for Pro Se. Then I’m working on a Fight Card novella as well as a comic book and a couple of other things I can’t reveal for Moonstone. I also have a two book deal with Dark Oak Press, one being a hard-boiled detective novel, which I am working on currently.
DF: What’s the best thing you’ve written so far?
TH: Either “Lucky”, a story based on the Nightbeat radio show for a collection this past year from Radio Archives or my first published story, “Crossing Contention”, a western short featuring Virgil Earp, a story published by Airship 27.
DF: Where did your love affair with Pulp begin?
TH: Standing in an Kmart looking up at a spinner rack that had books on it and pulling a Doc Savage omnibus off of it. Started like blazes right then and didn’t stop.
DF: What’s the best advice you can give an aspiring writer who wants to venture into the wild and wooly world of New Pulp?
TH: Read. Read what it is You think You want to write. Then, when You decide to write for a Publisher, read what they publish. That is a must, as far as I’m concerned. A question I always ask new writers who approach Pro Se is ‘What of ours have You read?’
DF: How has New Pulp grown from where it was to where it is now?
TH: I think the readership has grown, although not where any of us want it to be. I also think, and this may irritate a few people, that New Pulp has sort of reached its capacity in the way most companies have approached it. We feed a niche and that niche has plenty to eat with Pro Se and other companies out there, not to mention what is out that really is New Pulp even though it doesn’t call itself such. If Pro Se and others want to continue on, want to leave a mark outside our little circle, then we have to consider different ways of doing that without compromising what we want to produce.
Part of that means, at least for Pro Se, using the wide brush that I’ve always painted what Pulp is with. To appeal to readers who wouldn’t think to pick up a book that someone says is a super hero book or a mystery book, to find writers, artists, and stories that fit what we do, but also to widen the reach of our work, New Pulp has to push beyond itself.
DF: What is the fascination that we as writers and readers have for the Classic Pulp Heroes?
TH: I can tell you what it is for me. It’s to make sure their stories go on. When I love a character, the two words I hate the most are ‘The End’. So I enjoy reading new stories of established characters, even bad ones, because at least I know the story goes on. They keep on living.
DF: Tell us The Secret Origin of Pro Se.
TH: Well, one secret that isn’t really is I didn’t start Pro Se. I have a partner, Fuller Bumpers, who worked as a writer and actor in LA for several years, who came back to Arkansas to be a lawyer and have a family, but couldn’t beat the bug of wanting to create. Fuller brought me on board as we got to know each other in our regular jobs and he found out I was a creative like him. We started out looking at audio drama and that was fun, but not where either of our hearts really were. So, with my learning about the New Pulp Movement (not yet named such at that point), we decided to push in that direction and resurrected the Pulp magazine, then moved on to books and the rest is what Pro Se is today.
DF: Why have your own publishing house?
TH: That’s a question that probably should be harder to answer than it is. Because I wanted to. I wanted to have books I’d want to read and although some companies were doing what I liked, I knew the only way I’d really get books that I’d love to have on my shelf was to have a hand in producing them.
DF: What can we expect from Pro Se in 2014?
TH: A lot. I’m pretty well known for teases, you know, hinting at what’s coming…so that’s what I’ll do in response to this. A new imprint that takes a rather unique look at Genre Fiction... Women of Fantasy (and that's all I’m allowed to say at this point)... a Crossover that will shake one Universe at home in Pro Se to its foundations...a New Pulp Novel by a Classic Pulp Author...Another new imprint that will definitely pull back the steamy underbelly of Pulp and show how raw it can be…and the launch of something that no one else in our corner of publishing is doing that we think it is high time for. And that isn’t all…have to leave people wanting more.
DF: Where do you see Pro Se five years from now?
TH: I don’t really have a clear concept of where Pro Se will be in five years. I have a plan, one that I’ve sort of kept close to the vest. In five years, we’ll be in the third phase of it and all I can say is, if it goes anywhere near like I plan, then Pro Se will be a little bit of everywhere.
DF: What’s a Typical Day In The Life of Tommy Hancock like?
TH: Very busy. Literally a juggling act. I get up, I pulp, I take care of the family, go to work, Pulp when I can get the time there, come home, do the family thing, then Pulp more.
Although that is pretty much a day in day out sort of thing, I’ve been fortunate. I’ve had people say, “wow, to be so focused on Pro Se and Pulp, that’s gotta be a lot of work and lonely.” It is a lot of work, but the instant it feels like work to me, I’ll walk away. And as far as being alone, not in the least. I’ve got a great staff at Pro Se. Morgan Minor is the best wingwoman ever. And then I have a circle of friends, sort of my own little Algonquin Round Table, that figuratively and at least digitally literally surround me and keep me going. So, I’m good with a Pulp filled daily routine.
Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we need to know?
Tommy Hancock: That’s about it. Thanks for the opportunity
Saturday, November 2, 2013
Daggone that Barry Reese. You may recall that awhile back Barry posted over at his blog a list of his 10 Favorite Classic Pulp Heroes. Me being a blatant copycat I quickly followed suit with my own list.
Well, now he's done it again but this time it's a list of his 10 Favorite New Pulp Heroes. And quite naturally I again have followed in his illustrious footsteps and done the same.
Some of you might nitpick about my placing Captain Hazzard on this list as he was created back in 1937. My argument for that is this: there was only one story published and with his four Captain Hazzard novels, I consider Ron Fortier to have sufficiently re-imagined the character enough for him to qualify as a New Pulp hero. If you think I'm wrong, feel free to let me know and we'll jaw about it. Okay? Okay.
And I also have a special shout out of my own to Joel Jenkins who made my list twice. So without further delay here's my list of my Favorite New Pulp Heroes:
10: The Imposter (Created by Richard Lee Byers)
9: The Merkabah Rider (Created by Ed Erdelac)
8: Captain Hazzard (Re-Imagined by Ron Fortier)
7: The Pulptress (Created by Tommy Hancock)
6: Damage, Inc. (Created by Joel Jenkins)
5: The Gantlet Brothers (Created by Joel Jenkins)
4: Elisa Hill (Created by Percival Constantine)
3: The Black Centipede (Created by Chuck Miller)
2: Lazarus Gray (Created by Barry Reese)
1: Mr. Brass (Created by Joshua Reynolds)
More information about Mr. Brass can be found here and if you haven't yet read any of his adventures, I heartily suggest you do so.
Sunday, July 28, 2013
Monday, April 15, 2013
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?
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 Phillips, Charles 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.
Friday, July 27, 2012
William Patrick Maynard, currently the talented writer who is bringing a new audience into the world of Sax Rohmer thanks to The Terror of Fu Manchu and The Destiny of Fu Manchu had some really nice things to say about Airship 27's Tales From The Hanging Monkey which contains stories by Bill Craig, Joshua Reynolds, Tommy Hancock and myself. Bounce on over to the Black Gate blog to read for yourself what he had to say.