One of the great tropes of modern heroic fiction is the “dark reflection,” where we get to see a villain that’s very similar to our hero – so much so, … Continue reading Murder Unlimited!
Pulp Super-Fan Michael Brown is back with a review of The Adventures of Gravedigger Volume 3. He gave the book 5 stars and said the following:
Finally Barry Reese gives us the third and final volume of his latest New Pulp hero(ine): Gravedigger.
For those are not familiar with Gravedigger, she is a hero with a mission. One of a long line of sinners who have died and been given a second chance of redemption, Charity Grace has three years to take out bad guys or be condemned to hell. Set in the fictional Sovereign City (created by Pro-Se Press publisher Tommy Hancock), she has plenty to work with.
She is aided in this by a small group of agents she has pulled together, which included a past Gravedigger who mentored her. These characters are also part of the storyline as their activities with Charity are shown.
With The Adventures of Gravedigger, Vol. 3, we get the conclusion of the storyline. Charity will finish her three years as a Gravedigger, though we may (probably?) see another (or several?) Gravedigger in Barry’s universe of stories. At the end, Charity will be judged: She will either go to hell, or be allowed to move on to heaven. And like a few past Gravediggers, she may choose to stay on Earth, maybe helping a future Gravedigger. What happens? You’ll need to read this volume.
In the meantime, several things happen in this volume, which has one novel. Gravedigger goes up against a villain known as The King. The outcome of this mission leaves her associates in disarray, and The Dark Gentleman, Barry’s Phantom Detective pastiche, is killed. In the wake of this, Charity learns more about The Voice (we basically get the “origin” of the Gravediggers), the being or force that charged her as a Gravedigger, and stands in judgement.
So I’m glad this trilogy is concluded, but sadden to see the last of this character. But it will be interesting to see if we get another Gravedigger in future stories.
From the updated timeline in this volume, we should see an eighth Lazarus Gray volume, and looks like we will be getting a series of volumes focused on Gray’s group, Assistance Unlimited, but set in the “future” of the 1960s. There are also notations for a volume titled The Second Book of Babylon that looks interesting, as well as another. No idea when these volumes will appear, but I hope soon. No sight of any additional Peregrine volumes.
Thanks for the kind words, Michael! It was bittersweet ending Charity’s series but I think it turned out well. I’m glad you enjoyed the book and the overall trilogy.
Articles about how to write flawed or antiheroic characters usually focus on how to make them acceptable to readers: pit them against worse antagonists, show them transgressing arbitrary rules or challenging an oppressive status quo (I have some added suggestions). But I think it’s also sometimes difficult for us as writers to find them acceptable.
The classic example of this is Star Wars (or Episode IV: A New Hope if you insist). Early in the film (as you probably all know), a bounty hunter named Greedo confronts Han Solo with an eye to collecting the bounty on him. Han draws a gun under the table and shoots Greedo, killing him. It’s not a gunfight; Greedo wasn’t attempting to kill him (though it’s obvious he was ready to) so Han shooting first isn’t self-defense as we usually define it. It shows he’s not a classic hero like Flash Gordon, who’d…
View original post 398 more words
Back in the 1990s I was a big fan of a series called Protectors. It was written by R.A. Jones and revived a number of public domain heroes originally published by Centaur Comics. When that series ended, most of these characters returned to publishing limbo… until R.A. Jones revived them in a series of novels set in the Golden Age. The first of these, The Steel Ring, was a tour-de-force of superhero prose… and it was followed by The Twilight War and House of Souls, two more instant classics. I loved these books… and it was with no small amount of excitement that I accepted an offer to write a companion series set alongside R.A.’s incredible work with the Steel Ring.
I’ll be writing a series of novels that will appear in alternating years to the Steel Ring books – the first of which will be published in the fall of next year. I’ll also be using heroes originally featured in the Centaur publishing line and while my series will be self-contained, there will be inevitable “Easter eggs” that connects my work to R.A.’s.
This is what my editor Jeff Deischer posted today in announcing my association with the project: Some very exciting news! Barry Reese has agreed to write a new novel in RA Jones’ Steel Ring universe, tentatively titled The Liberty Guard. When RA told me he wanted to continue the series (it had started off a a one-shot), I pitched him a number of ideas. He’s reached the point in the series when Liberty Guard fits chronologically, AND coincidentally it meshes well with his plans for the Steel Ring. I knew he didn’t want to write Liberty Guard, focusing on his own series, so I asked Barry if he’d be interested, since he is a well respected pulp AND superhero writer. The plan is to release this next autumn. Updates as we progress. To be clear, this novel will stand separately from the Steel Ring — in the same universe but using different characters. Glad to have you aboard, Barry!
I’m looking forward to working alongside one of my favorite writers in R.A. Jones – and I’ve long been a fan of Jeff Deischer’s works so this is a nice opportunity to collaborate with him.
Look for more details – including a list of the character that will be appearing in LIBERTY GUARD – in the near future. You do get to see the team’s leader accompanying this post (that’s TNT TODD) so let that whet your appetite!
Finished writing the tenth volume of Lazarus Gray today – always feels nice to type those magic words, “The End.” Pro Se now has volumes 8, 9, and 10 in various stages of production and I plan to take a long break from Sovereign City. I’ll definitely miss Lazarus and the gang but considering I’m now three books ahead of the releases, it makes sense to take a breather and focus on other things.
Volume ten will feature not one, not two, but three brand new villains in a novel-length tale. I think it turned out pretty well and it’s set in and around the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Next up is a mystery project that I haven’t publicly announced yet but it’s set in another writer’s universe – three books have appeared in his line so far and I’ll be writing a spinoff series. It’ll mark my first time working with a particular publisher, as well, so there will be a lot of firsts for me. Look for a full announcement soon.
Our art today is from George Sellas and features Eun Jiwon, a member of Assistance Unlimited.
In classic pulp hero tradition, most of The Peregrine’s enemies don’t make return appearances. But The Warlike Manchu is the exception to the rule — in fact, he appeared in each of The Peregrine’s omnibus editions! Obviously inspired by Sax Rohmer’s classic Fu Manchu, The Warlike Manchu does not consider himself a villain at all. He’s out to rule the world with an iron hand because that’s how humanity needs to be governed, lest our baser natures get the best of us. The Warlike Manchu was one of Max Davies’ tutors during his time preparing for his role as The Peregrine but when he learned of the Manchu’s connections to organized crime, Max refused the offer to rule at the Manchu’s side.
Aided by a group of assassins dubbed The Ten Fingers, The Warlike Manchu controls every manner of vice in Asia and eyes expanding his empire to the West. Though Chinese by birth, my take on The Warlike Manchu incorporates elements of various Asian mythologies to play up The Warlike Manchu as the ultimate “yellow menace” from the old pulps. He hates the Japanese but is willing to use their trappings and folklore to his own advantage, for instance.
The Peregrine and The Warlike Manchu have become the most bitter of enemies, clashing again and again. The highlights of their feud include:
“The Abomination” – In this story set in 1939, The Warlike Manchu re-enters The Peregrine’s life for the first time since they parted ways in 1922. Allied with an Egyptian necromancer named Ibis, The Manchu revives an ancient entity of pure destruction known as The Abomination. The Peregrine foils their plans for world domination but The Manchu escapes.
“Blitzkrieg” – Set in 1940, The Warlike Manchu returns with a new pupil, a German named Hans Merkel, who has adopted the guise of the Japanese god of death, Shinigami. Merkel is The Peregrine’s true opposite number — like Max, he is haunted by the spirit of his dead father but in Merkel’s case, he slew his own father and enslaved his spirit. In this story, The Warlike Manchu kidnaps Max’s son, forcing The Peregrine to unite with the Manchu’s daughter in an attempt to stop the madman. Shinigami is killed and The Manchu’s immortality formula fails, reducing him to dust.
Death lasts only about two years, however, as The Warlike Manchu is revived in 1942’s “The Resurrection Gambit”. In this story, The Manchu embarks on a quest to find the Philosopher’s Stone, a search that leads both he and The Peregrine on a global chase. In the end, The Manchu escapes once more, swearing revenge on his most hated of enemies.
In 1943, The Warlike Manchu and The Peregrine are forced into an uneasy alliance, as both men seek to foil the plans of the Nazi vampire Baron Randolph Gustav. It’s clear that The Manchu respects Max greatly and would still seek an alliance between the two — but he also has come to believe that The Peregrine’s opposition to his plans has renewed the spark of life in his wretched heart. This is chronicled in “Dead of Night.”
1944 finds The Warlike Manchu teaming with Doctor Satan and Moriarty in “A Plague of Wicked Men,” one of the first adventures of The Claws of the Peregrine. The Manchu is apparently killed when the island he’s on sinks beneath the waves.
Once again, death seemed incapable of stopping The Warlike Manchu. At some point, he returned to bedevil Max Davies and his family — but his final defeat seems to have stuck. In 1967, William Davies (Max’s son) battled and defeated The Warlike Manchu, killing him while battling for possession of a magical Mayan tablet (“The Four Peregrines”).
No details about The Manchu’s activities between 1944 and 1967 are known — and given how many times he cheated death before, it’s conceivable that he has at least one more resurrection in store, even post ’67.
In addition to The Warlike Manchu’s appearances in The Peregrine’s series, The Ten Fingers have been name-dropped in both Gravedigger and Lazarus Gray, as The Manchu’s forces have infiltrated Sovereign City in the Thirties. In 1938, Lazarus met the Warlike Manchu face-to-face and managed to convince the villain that it would be in his best interests to avoid Sovereign in the future (“Tapestry,” Lazarus Gray Volume 6). It is unknown at this point if they had any later encounters.
Our image today is courtesy of George Sellas.