The Strange Tale of… Catalyst!

Catalyst, at least in the form of Nathaniel Caine, is one of my oldest characters. I created him way back in 1985 and he went through several permutations, popping up in various stories, comic book scripts, fanfiction and roleplaying campaigns over the years. When I finally became a professional writer, it was only a matter of time before Nathaniel would enter my Reese Unlimited universe. Why does he still linger, when so many of my other characters from my youth have fallen by the wayside? I’m not sure. He was the first creation of mine that I felt was worthy of saving… plus I always loved his green color scheme. Credit has to go to Cari Reese for taking my original (and very derivative) costume designs and merging them with the Kirby-esque Asgardian and New Gods looks that I desired. Other artists have depicted him since then but all of them have used her costume design.

So who or what is… The Catalyst?

The Gifted is the name given to humans that possess the natural ability to tap into the most primal forces in existence – the stuff that normal humans called Magic. The Catalyst is the High Mage of his era and generally there is only one per century, though their tenure sometimes varied in length and occasionally overlapped. They could be recognized not only by their power but by a peculiar uniform that went along with the responsibility of wielding that much magical ability… an emerald set of clothing that changed appearance with the times but always bore a similar look.

Historically, the first Catalyst that we’ve seen in my universe is actually Andre Thierry, the Catalyst of the 19th century. A creole sorcerer, Thierry’s first recorded activity involved brokering a peace between local farmers and a subterranean race of monsters known as The Shamblers. This treaty took place in 1853 and was mentioned in the story “It Wants To Kill You” that appeared in the eighth volume of The Adventures of Lazarus Gray. In 1903, Thierry died in mystical combat but he used a spell powered by his will to retain his corporeal nature. In this form, he remained on earth, combating evil into the 1930s. In 1937, he journeyed to Sovereign City and aided Lazarus Gray in defeating The Three Sisters (aka Selene, Fiona and Phoebe). These events are shown in “Immortals,” a story that appeared in The Adventures of Lazarus Gray Volume 5. In that same volume, he helped make sure that Lazarus and Kelly’s wedding went off without interruption by any of their enemies (“Wedding Bells”). Less than a year later, in 1938, Thierry’s time as Catalyst came to an end, as his spirit was destroyed during the events depicted in the novel Götterdämmerung.

With Thierry dead, the time was right for a new Catalyst to emerge.

Nathaniel Caine was a police officer in England during this time and he’d fallen into a deep depression following the murder of his girlfriend by a killer known as Tweedledum in 1936. Caine distrusted vigilantes due to the fact that Dan Daring had failed to stop the murder. By 1942, he was a frustrated man, ready to call it quits on his career. That was when he met The Peregrine and a young psychic named Rachel Winters, embarking on a bizarre adventure involving a Nazi experiment called The Un-Earth. Nathaniel and Rachel became lovers, he took on the role of Catalyst and Rachel became his partner, known to the public as Esper. All of this was depicted in “Catalyst,” which appears in The Peregrine Omnibus Volume One.

Nathaniel made his first visit to the United States in 1943 when he was contacted by members of Assistance Unlimited. Lazarus Gray was experiencing a spiritual crisis and the team needed Catalyst’s help in returning Gray to the dimension known as Dread Carcosa. After aiding Lazarus in this affair, Catalyst returned to England. These events are depicted in The Adventures of Lazarus Gray Volume Twelve.

In 1944, Catalyst and Esper were recruited by The Peregrine into a strikeforce known The Claws of The Peregrine. Based out of Atlanta, Georgia, the group initially consisted of Catalyst, Esper, Revenant and Frankenstein’s Monster. As a team, they successfully took part in two adventures during this year – “The Diabolical Mr. Dee” and “A Plague of Wicked Men”, both of which are in The Peregrine Omnibus Volume Two.

The Claws of The Peregrine next appear in 1946’s “The Ivory Machine” which is also in The Peregrine Omnibus Volume Two. The group added several new members following this adventure but Catalyst and Esper remained key players in their activities.

It’s unknown how long the group remained active — we do know that by 2006, Rachel was dead but Nathaniel was still operating as Catalyst.

He aided the Ian Morris version of the Peregrine in dealing with the rise and fall of The Black Mass Barrier. He also aided Babylon in dealing with a mystical assault in London in 2011. Shortly after 2012, he finally passed on, leaving the door open for Logan Jenkins to assume the role.

Much of Logan’s past is still unknown but her mother – a Japanese witch named Kyoko – operated as a magical terrorist under the name of Lady Grimdark. While her mother was madly in love with a master villain named Lord Grimdark, she had gotten pregnant with Logan during a one-night stand — not only did this cause problems between the Gimdarks but it led to a lifelong resentment that Kyoko felt towards her daughter.

As Catalyst, Logan moved to Grove’s Folly where she opened a curiosity shop called Jenks (pronounced Jinx). She has become extremely close to the Straw-Man and, alongside him and several others, founded the team known as The Dark Society.

The Sword of Hel Gets A New Review

Over at Amazon, a reader by the name of Charles Gramlich posted a review of The Sword of Hel. He gave the book 4 stars and said the following:

“This is a short collection of five sword and sorcery stories by Barry Reese, who is described as one of the “New Pulp” writers. He’s also written for Marvel Comics and Moonstone Books. This is the first item I’ve read from him. These are definitely sword and sorcery tales rather than high fantasy. They involve an individual hero with generally small term goals for each tale. The character is Grimarr, a Viking, which gives him a semi-historical background, but the world he moves in is largely an invented, semi-European setting. Grimarr dies a non-heroic death and goes to the afterworld where he is recruited by the Goddess Hel to do her bidding on Earth. These adventures typical feature a battle with some kind of sorcerer, and there is generally a nubile young woman involved somewhere along the line. These are classic characteristics of sword and sorcery.

I picked up a lot of hidden references or nods to the Robert E. Howard Conan stories, but the overall character of the tales reminds me more of the Brak tales by John Jakes or the Kothar stories of Gardner Fox. The writing is crisp and good and the stories hold your interest. I might nitpick that some of the endings seem to come a little too quickly. This is a pretty short book and some of the tales might have been fleshed out more to great effect. There’s also a kind of compendium that represents a timeline for Reese’s shared universe stories. Not having any familiarity with any of the other tales or Reese’s other work, this didn’t mean much to me. Fans of Reese might certainly appreciate it.

The package from Pro Se Publications is attractive, with a cool cover by Larry Nadolsky. I’m going to give the work four stars, which means I’ll be interested in seeing more in this vein from Reese.”

Thanks for the kind words, Charles. I have read the Kothar stories but I’ve never read Brak tales – I need to rectify that. I’m glad that you enjoyed the book and I hope you’ll be intrigued enough to look into some of the other parts of the shared universe!

Murder Unlimited!

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, that they’re practically two sides of the same coin. Lazarus Gray has clashed several times with a man known as Nemesis, whose very existence is due to a spell to turn him into Gray’s equal.

But what about Assistance Unlimited, the group that Lazarus leads? Do they have an opposite number?

Actually, the answer is yes – and they’re known as Murder Unlimited!

Be warned if you read further, however… because spoilers lie ahead.

The first version of Murder Unlimited made their debut in 1936 when a scarred woman named Constance Majestros brought together a team based out of 666 Holder Way – a brownstone located in one of Sovereign City’s worst neighborhoods (“Murder Unlimited,” Lazarus Gray Volume 3). Despite its surroundings, the interior was quite lush and well-suited to its evil membership. The initial members were:

  • Dr. Melvin Pemberley – A doctor that had been discredited for his awful experiments and a frequent foe of Assistance Unlimited in its early days.
  • Prince Femi – The resurrected Egyptian sorceress that has fought Assistance Unlimited more than any other villain has.
  • Abraham Klee – The son of the notorious Adolphus Klee, this madman has a bald head and a terrible scar around it — surgeries have allowed him to utilize 90% of his brain capability.
  • Stanley Davis – A heavyset man gifted with clairvoyance.
  • Constance Majestros – Scarred after a battle with Lazarus Gray, she was fixated on gaining revenge.

The team was defeated and for several years, the Murder Unlimited name was unused. It was revived in 1940 when a new version was formed (“As Above, So Below” – Lazarus Gray Volume 8). This team consisted of:

  • Nemesis – Agent of both The Illuminati and the Occult Forces Project, Nemesis was magically enhanced to be Lazarus Gray’s equal.
  • Bushido – A Japanese warrior, she is a female samurai and is fiercely loyal to Nemesis. The two are lovers and partners.
  • Vixen – Caroline Berber wears a black catsuit and is skilled at seducing men — in fact, she managed to trick Morgan Watts into marrying her.
  • Brick — Larry Carter was Caroline’s boyfriend and a thug of the highest order.
  • Alloy – Mario Gallo had suffered a terrible injury but was repaired by Italian doctors that used an experimental substance called Material-X to strengthen his shattered bones.

A third incarnation was formed in 1941 (Lazarus Gray Volume 9). This time, the group was once again led by Nemesis and Bushido but its final two members were quite surprising and featured betrayals of trust for Assistance Unlimited… that’s right: for the first time, a former member of Assistance Unlimited was now a member of Murder Unlimited! The roster this time consisted of:

  • Nemesis
  • Bushido
  • Eidolon
  • The Golden Amazon

This foursome nearly flooded the world and probably came the closest to victory for any Murder Unlimited grouping to this point. In the end, Eidolon betrayed the villains and returned to the side of Assistance Unlimited while the Golden Amazon also decided that she was no longer interested in working alongside Nemesis and Bushido. Nemesis died on this adventure, seemingly putting an end to this incarnation of the team.

Three years later (1944), another version came together. This one was led by one of the most infamous criminal masterminds of all time: Fantômas! This sadistic criminal was obsessed with destroying the very idea of Assistance Unlimited and was willing to go to incredible lengths to do so. The full roster of this group was:

  • Fantômas – A French super-criminal, this madman became obsessed with Lazarus Gray after a chance meeting in Gray’s youth. With his own death approaching, Fantômas decides that he wishes to seal his legacy by destroying Assistance Unlimited.
  • Black Diamond – A cunning woman with dozens of identities, she is a longtime associate of Fantômas.
  • Count Orlok – An ancient vampire recruited from a decrepit castle in Romania, Orlok is enticed by the promise of receiving the potent blood of such unusual beings as the witch Abby Cross and the metahuman Blue Fire.
  • Randolph Winthrop – Lazarus Gray’s uncle, recruited for his knowledge of his nephew. A career grifter, Randolph quickly finds himself in over his head.

This group manages to kill a member of Assistance Unlimited, badly wound multiple members, and assassinate a support member of the team — as well as seize control of 6196 Robeson Avenue!

It seems likely that the horrible legacy of Murder Unlimited will continue…

When is too far… too far?

I keep most of my New Pulp writing in the PG-13 range but I’ve been known to cross “the line” on occasion… some of you may remember when Sun Koh mutilated a rapist in an old Peregrine story, for instance. And my novel Rabbit Heart is basically a study in excess! Whenever I thought that I might be pushing the envelope too far in that book, I went ahead and tore it open.

But when is it *really* too far? In The Adventures of Lilith Volume One, I decided to depict some extreme violence and sexual situations – it felt right for that particular story but not everyone agreed. One reviewer, in fact, said that I should pull it off the market and tone it down before re-releasing it!

I’ve kept hardcore sex and violence out of Lazarus Gray but there’s an element of subjectivity there, as with all artistic endeavors. When I wrote The Damned Thing, there was a scene early on that involved oral sex. To be honest, I’d forgotten about it by the time it saw print — it was just a brief character moment and believe it or not, not every scene sticks in the mind of the person who wrote it (I write a lot of scenes…). So when it came out, I had a reader who went on and on about that scene and how much it disturbed them. I didn’t even remember what they were talking about! See, for them, that was shocking and extremely memorable. For me, it was no big deal. So you never know how folks will respond.

But there are times when even I know that I might be going into territory that would be best left undisturbed. I’ve mentioned before that I started writing a sequel to Rabbit Heart — it was going to be titled Starstruck. In fact, I wrote about 12,000 words on it, meaning it’s about 20% complete. But even as I was writing the opening scenes of Starstruck, I knew that this probably couldn’t see print. Despite how far I’d gone with Rabbit Heart, I went a lot further into the disturbing territory with just the first 12,000 words on Starstruck. There is at least one scene in there that I think would be hard for people to get out of their heads when they thought of me… and I’m not quite sure I want to go there.

Nobody’s read Starstruck – not even people who’ve really begged & pleaded! I’ve thought about finishing it but it’s so dark and if I didn’t publish it, what would be the point? I’ve considered completing it and then sticking it in a box with a note to say that it could be published after I was dead & gone but then I’d miss the perverse pleasure of seeing people freak out!

On the other hand, I don’t want to tone the story down, either. If I’m going to write disgusting smut then by God, I’m going to write disgusting smut!

Anyway, I think that I’ll continue staying on the PG-13 path for most of my New Pulp work – I often try to craft stories that will appeal to adolescent boys the way that classic pulp did me when I was that age. A little titillation is fine but I try not to veer too far into adult territory. Of course, sometimes the characters demand their course of action (like Sun Koh did in that Peregrine story) and often what I consider PG-13 isn’t what someone else would. In fact, I had one lady tell me she’d never let her 15 year old son read my books because they contained too many “demonic” elements.

However, with the more modern parts of my shared universe, it seems right to up the ante when it comes to violence, language, and sexual content. When writing in the ‘golden age’ of pulp, I want to mostly stay within the classic confines but that’s not true of the modern or future-set stories.

In the end, the work puts whatever restrictions on itself that feel appropriate. When I’m writing The Peregrine, there’s a certain feeling to the world that lets me know the basic parameters, even if I sometimes bump against the guard rails.

Lazarus Gray 14

Edits on the 14th volume of Lazarus Gray have been completed! Personally, I think this is one of the strongest volumes in the series — and I guess that I can go ahead and announce that this time Lazarus will be facing one of the greatest criminal minds in all of adventure fiction: Fantômas! If you’re not familiar with this master criminal, he was created by French writers Marcel Allain (1885–1969) and Pierre Souvestre (1874–1914). One of the most popular characters in the history of French crime fiction, Fantômas debuted in 1911 and appeared in a total of 32 volumes written by the two collaborators, then a subsequent 11 volumes written by Allain alone after Souvestre’s death. The character was also the basis of various film, television, and comic book adaptations.

How and why Fantômas comes to Sovereign City will be detailed in the novel, which will feature two major character deaths and the addition of a new member to the Assistance Unlimited team, as well as a new recurring supporting character.

Can’t wait for you guys to read it!


Being a writer means you have to develop a thick skin. I was updating my Publications page earlier tonight and needed to get the date that a particular anthology was released. While doing so I wandered across a review of said book… and while they enjoyed it, they singled out my contribution as being one that they felt was lacking. In fact, they made it clear that they felt it didn’t deserve to be included at all.


I thought my story was pretty good but obviously everyone has their own opinions. As long as you’re putting your hard-earned money down to buy the book, you certainly have the right to share your views on the contents!

Over the years, I’ve gotten more positive reviews than negative but it’s human nature to focus on the bad side, I suppose.

Work continues on the new Straw-Man story. Hopefully it’ll receive a positive reaction when it’s finally released.

Reese Unlimited Goings-On

The 14th volume of Lazarus Gray has gone into the editing phase and I’ve started work on the fourth book in the Straw-Man series. As has become the norm with these books, it will be a collection of six short stories featuring the tatterdemalion and his allies. I’ve written about 30,000 words of Lazarus Gray 15 but I might set it aside and start over… it’s just not feeling right. Some of you may remember that I wrote an entire novel that would have been 14 before putting it to pasture and beginning again. The second version of 14 is without a doubt one of the best in the series… and, I’ll admit, I’ve even thought about ending the series there.

We’ll see!

Writing Update

I’m approaching the end of the Calavera novel and overall I’m quite pleased with it. In the end, it’s a spiritual sequel to Götterdämmerung, my “crossover” novel that brought in almost all of my 1930s/1940s characters in one big adventure — this one does much the same for my modern-day characters. Some only get a mention but there are pretty big roles for Catalyst, the Straw-Man, Jupiter, and a few others. It also serves as the debut story for Calavera, who will be a major part of the Reese Unlimited universe going forward. This book is set after the first three Straw-Man books so you’ll have to wait to see all of those before you can get the crossover volume… but I know that volume one of the Straw-Man series has gone through the editing process so hopefully, that one will be out fairly soon.

Our image today shows Jupiter in an angry mood and is drawn by Gilbert Monsanto.