Classic Pulp Villains

The pulp heroes often faced villains who were memorably over the top. Though most of the villains only appeared once (mainly because they were either killed by the heroes or accidentally brought about their own demise), there were still a few that stuck in my memory. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Fu Manchu – How can you top this Oriental mastermind? His brilliance was unmatched and I enjoyed the fact that he didn’t consider himself a villain at all.
  • John Sunlight – The man who exposed the secrets of Doc Savage’s Fortress of Solitude, Sunlight was just as formidable as the Man of Bronze. The only thing that would have made him better in my opinion was if he’d had an interesting supporting cast, mainly as a counterpoint to Doc’s Fabulous Five.
  • Doctor Satan – I first encountered this guy in Ron Fortier’s Hounds of Hell novel and have enjoyed him ever since. Dressed as the freakin’ devil, this guy has a memorable group of servants and is so over-the-top evil that he’s fun to root against. I enjoyed him so much that I’ve used Doctor Satan as a foil for both The Peregrine and Lazarus Gray.
  • Fantomas – The brilliantly evil Fantomas was as cool as they came, but sadistic and ruthless. For years, I’ve thought using some version of this character in one of my stories. Eventually, I’ll get around to it.
  • The Prince of Evil – Benedict Stark was a twisted killer who battled The Shadow over the course of four novels. The first two are definitely the best – the depraved depths that Stark is willing to go to really makes him stand out amongst The Shadow’s rogues gallery.

What about you guys? What pulp villains could you never get enough of?

BTW, the Doctor Satan image at left is by Anthony Castrillo and features the crimson-clad bad guy as he was depicted in my Peregrine series.

The Warlike Manchu

rook_v1_manchu_smallIn 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.

My Favorite Pulp Villains

the-hand-of-fu-manchu-book-coverRecently, I listed out for you my favorite “classic” pulp heroes. I had fun making my little list so I thought this time, I’d flip it over and look at the other side of the coin…

The bad guys.

Yep, as we all know, heroes are often defined by their villains. If you think of the greatest heroes, they almost all have at least one villain that is closely related to them in terms of public perception. Batman has the Joker, Holmes has Moriarty and The Road Runner has Wile E. Coyote.

Or something like that.

Anyway, without further ado, here’s my list of my favorite pulp villains. Again, I kept it to ‘classic’ pulp villains — so nothing from New Pulp is on this list.

Here we go:

10. Fantomas
9. Wu Fang
8. Doctor Death (Dr. Rance Mandarin)
7. The Voodoo Master
6. Shiwan Khan
5. Thoth-Amon
4. John Sunlight
3. Doctor Satan
2. The Prince of Evil
1. Fu Manchu

What villains top your personal list?

My Favorite Pulp Villains

the-hand-of-fu-manchu-book-coverLast Saturday, I listed out for you my favorite “classic” pulp heroes. I had fun making my little list so I thought this time, I’d flip it over and look at the other side of the coin…

The bad guys.

Yep, as we all know, heroes are often defined by their villains. If you think of the greatest heroes, they almost all have at least one villain that is closely related to them in terms of public perception. Batman has the Joker, Holmes has Moriarty and The Road Runner has Wile E. Coyote.

Or something like that.

Anyway, without further ado, here’s my list of my favorite pulp villains. Again, I kept it to ‘classic’ pulp villains — so nothing from New Pulp is on this list.

Here we go:

10. Fantomas
9. Wu Fang
8. Doctor Death (Dr. Rance Mandarin)
7. The Voodoo Master
6. Shiwan Khan
5. Thoth-Amon
4. John Sunlight
3. Doctor Satan
2. The Prince of Evil
1. Fu Manchu

What villains top your personal list?

From the Vault: Great Pulp Villains

The pulp heroes often faced villains who were memorably over the top. Though most of the villains only appeared once (mainly because they were either killed by the heroes or accidentally brought about their own demise), there were still a few that stuck in my memory. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Fu Manchu – How can you top this Oriental mastermind? His brilliance was unmatched and I enjoyed the fact that he didn’t consider himself a villain at all.
  • John Sunlight – The man who exposed the secrets of Doc Savage’s Fortress of Solitude, Sunlight was just as formidable as the Man of Bronze. The only thing that would have made him better in my opinion was if he’d had an interesting supporting cast, mainly as a counterpoint to Doc’s Fabulous Five.
  • Doctor Satan – I first encountered this guy in Ron Fortier’s Hounds of Hell novel and have enjoyed him ever since. Dressed as the freakin’ devil, this guy has a memorable group of servants and is so over-the-top evil that he’s fun to root against.
  • Fantomas – The brilliantly evil Fantomas was as cool as they came, but sadistic and ruthless. For years, I’ve thought using some version of this character in one of my stories. Eventually, I’ll get around to it.
  • The Prince of Evil – Benedict Stark was a twisted killer who battled The Shadow over the course of four novels. The first two are definitely the best – the depraved depths that Stark is willing to go to really makes him stand out amongst The Shadow’s rogues gallery.

What about you guys? What pulp villains could you never get enough of?

BTW, the Doctor Satan image at left is by Anthony Castrillo and features the crimson-clad bad guy as he was depicted in my Rook series.