Showing posts with label Voodah. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Voodah. Show all posts

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Story Behind The Story: "Voodah of Thunder Mountain"

If you’re on social media at all by now you’ve no doubt heard about LEGENDS OF NEW PULP FICTION. It would be damn near impossible for anybody interested in New Pulp to have escaped or avoided seeing the news about it. After all, it’s a totally unprecedented event in the New Pulp Community. And an event that I believe once and for all establishes that the new Pulp Community is a Community in every sense of the word.


Last year Tommy Hancock (and if I have to tell you who he is then you’re in the wrong place) had to be hospitalized due to congestive heart failure. This was a source of horrendously bad news to everyone in New Pulp. You know that game; “The Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon”? It’s based on the Six Degrees of Separation concept which puts forth the notion that any two people on Earth are six or fewer steps apart. Well, Tommy Hancock is kinda like that. Just about everybody and anybody in the New Pulp Community can be connected to Tommy in one way or another. Just follow the steps and I guarantee that somehow, someway, whoever you name can be hooked up with Tommy Hancock.

It was Jaime E. Ramos and Ron Fortier that came up with the brilliant idea of a benefit anthology to assist in defraying the medical costs Tommy’s treatment would incur and sent out the call for writers and artists to submit stories and artwork. Sixty writers and thirty-six artists answered the call, including Yours Truly.

So now that I was in, what exactly was I going to write? I didn’t want to contribute a Dillon or Fortune McCall story. That would have been too easy. And in keeping with the title of the book I wanted to write a story about a pulp legend/archetype. One that has fascinated me for a very long time: The King of The Jungle.

The best known one is Tarzan, of course. Everybody knows him. Marvel Comics had Ka-Zar, Lord of The Savage Land who himself was based on a Classic Pulp hero, Ka-Zar The Great. There was Bomba the Jungle Boy, Polaris of The Snows who basically is Tarzan raised in the Arctic (the stories are actually pretty good and well worth looking up) Ki-Gor and comedic versions of Tarzan; the best known and most beloved being George of The Jungle. There were even female versions of Tarzan: Sheena, Queen of The Jungle, Jana of The Jungle, Rima and Shana The She-Devil.

But no matter how high or low I looked, I couldn’t find a black King of The Jungle with a pack of bloodhounds and a search warrant. As a kid discovering Classic Pulp during what I refer to as The Big Pulp Boom of The 1970s, I had gotten used to not finding any black pulp heroes so I didn’t hold out any hope I would find a black King of The Jungle. Even though that would seem to be a natural, wouldn’t it? I mean, in Africa you expect to trip over black Kings of The Jungle every ten feet or so.

The best advice my father gave me when I started out writing came about during one of our conversations about James Bond where I asked him why wasn’t there a black James Bond. My father replied; “Well, when you become a writer I guess you’ll have to make one up.” And in the spirit of that simply yet brilliantly profound wisdom I decided that my story for Legends of New Pulp Fiction would feature a black King of The Jungle.

Here’s where Lou Mougin enters the picture. He’s written for number of prominent comic book companies including Marvel where he wrote what stood for many years as the definite origin of The Swordsman in Avengers Spotlight #22. But that’s far from his only professional credits. Observe: View a chronological list of Lou's work

Lou and I bonded over our mutual love of fan fiction years ago. He’s written plenty of it and I read as much of it as I could find. I didn’t know he was Lou Mougin then. I knew him under the name he used to write fan fiction and its probably a good thing I didn’t as talking to professional writers makes me nervous as hell. By the time I knew who Lou was, we’d become good online friends and nervousness didn’t even enter into our conversations. Lou is also an astounding historian and is always steering me to fascinating characters and creators that I have never heard of and I’ll always be thankful to him for pointing me in the direction of Matt Baker and Voodah.

Matt Baker (1921-1959) is generally acknowledged as being the first successful African-American comic book artist here in America. The majority of his work was done during the 1940s and 50s where he took over the Phantom Lady, redesigned her into the incarnation we best know her for and drew her for about until a dozen issues until it was cancelled. Matt Baker was the foremost artist of what was then known as “Good Girl Art”: artwork depicting gorgeous women in sexy, skimpy outfits and often in provocative poses and situations. Much of his Good Girl Art is highly sought after today as collector items, particularly his Phantom Lady work. He also drew a significant amount of romance stories and the adventures of Sky Girl, an aviation heroine.



But it’s his King of The Jungle character Voodah that interests us. Lou asked me if I’d ever heard of Voodah and I replied that I had not. As he is wont to do, Lou obligingly sent me links so that I could download copies of Crown Comics, which is where Voodah appeared. The truly fascinating thing is that while Voodah was depicted as being a black man in the stories themselves, on the covers he was portrayed as being white. Indeed, after a few issues, in the actual stories Voodah suddenly switched from being a black man to a white man.



After reading the stories and letting the character marinate around in my brain cells for a few days, I got the notion of re-imagining Voodah for a modern day audience (as he’s a public domain character now) and perhaps in that way honoring the memory of Mr. Baker’s original character. It would also fall in line with my idea of presenting a Classic Pulp archetype in the Legends of New Pulp Fiction anthology.  

And that’s the long and short of how “Voodah of Thunder Mountain” came to be. On so many levels it’s one of the most satisfying stories I’ve ever written and it’s such a pleasant surprise that to date I’ve had at least half a dozen readers contact me to tell me how much they enjoyed the story and Ron Fortier has asked me if I’m going to be writing more Voodah stories. At this point I don’t think I have a choice in the matter. Am I right?






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