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Musing about awards…

grave3So the Pulp Factory Awards nominee list was revealed today and, once again, it’s heavily weighted towards Airship 27. 18 of the 23 nominations went to Airship and the ones that didn’t still feature writers that also work for Airship. This is not surprising given that the only people that can make nominations are members of the Pulp Factory Mailing List, which is overseen by Ron Fortier, who just so happens to run Airship 27. Airship 27 membership is open to anyone as long as Ron approves them but I’d guess that at least 95% of its membership also does work for Airship. A few years back, I had a conversation with a fellow New Pulp writer about how the Pulp Factory Awards were basically the Airship 27 Awards and he had a lot to say on the subject… then he decided that the best way to get nominated was to offer to work on putting the awards together. Suddenly he was a regular part of the nominee list! It’s amazing how that happened… and now he is a staunch defender of the Awards themselves.

Look, I’m not saying that anyone is out to deliberately mislead the public… but it makes sense that a mailing list composed of people that primarily (or, at least, partially) work with one single publisher are going to skew the nominees towards that publisher. That makes sense — but it also means that these awards are not as “open” to everyone as you might think.

I confess that there are some sour grapes here. I’ve been writing New Pulp for nearly 14 years… I’ve won tons of awards… but it wasn’t until 2018 that I even received a nomination for an Airship 27 award.

And guess what?

It was for a Captain Action novel… that I wrote for (wait for it)… Airship 27.

IMG_2098This year, the final book in my Gravedigger series was one that I would have thought might have gotten a nomination – at least for the amazing cover by George Sellas. But all the covers nominated are for Airship 27. Likewise, Christ Batista did some amazing interior art… but, once again, all the interior artists nominated were for Airship 27 books.

Oh, well. I went and voted for the people I believe deserve to win off the nominees list. I just hate for anyone to look at that list and believe that they’re seeing a representative sample of what New Pulp has to offer. There are great things on there but there’s a lot more to be found, as well.

Starring Kirk Douglas as Lazarus Gray

yngkirkdouglasIn a magical world, who would play the part of Assistance Unlimited’s leader?

Read on:

Lazarus Gray would be played by a young Kirk Douglas. Compare the pic at left to the Lazarus images from the covers we’ve had, especially the ones by George Sellas. You can see it, can’t you?

That’s who I’ve always pictured as my ideal Lazarus — if we were going to cast a modern actor, I’m not really sure who could pull it off. Any suggestions?

Another One Down…

lg09_eun_jiwon_smallFinished 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.

 

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.

Digging in the Dirt: The Secret Origin of Gravedigger

Charity Grace – aka Gravedigger –  has appeared in three novels and she played a big role in the  “crossover” novel that paired her with Lazarus Gray and The Peregrine. She’s become one of my most popular creations, thanks in no small part to the stunning costume design that George Sellas came up with. But where did she come from? What inspirations led her to spring forth from my crowded little mind?

What follows is an essay that ran in the first volume of The Adventures of Gravedigger. If you’ve read it before, hopefully you’ll enjoy seeing it again — if it’s your first time, expect a few insights into my creative process. I’ve tweaked it from the original in a few places, removing a link to the blog and altering the name of Max Davies’ costumed identity.

Our art today is from my buddy George Sellas and is an homage to one of my all-time favorite comic book covers: All-Star Squadron # 1. The original was drawn by Rich Buckler but I think George captured the feel perfectly, replacing the original DC heroes with my own. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

And now on to the main event:

Continue reading → Digging in the Dirt: The Secret Origin of Gravedigger

The End is Nigh!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

THE EPIC END OF A GRISLY BEGINNING-BARRY REESE’S ‘THE ADVENTURES OF GRAVEDIGGER VOLUME THREE’ DEBUTS

From Award Winning New Pulp Author Barry Reese comes the third chapter in the literally death defying trilogy of The Adventures of Gravedigger. Creator of The Peregrine, Lazarus Gray, and more, Reese has crafted a heroine like no other in Charity Grace. THE ADVENTURES OF GRAVEDIGGER VOLUME THREE From Reese Unlimited and Pro Se Productions is now available in paperback, hardcover, and digital formats.

Charity Grace is running out of time.

Three years ago, she was resurrected by the mysterious Voice. She became its agent of retribution on Earth, a masked vigilante known as Gravedigger. Now the time has come for her soul to be judged once more… but before that can happen, she and her allies must deal not only with the origins of The Voice but a mystery that may put the entire world at risk!

With a stunning cover and logo design by George Sellas, dramatic interiors by Chris Batista, and print formatting by Sean Ali, THE ADVENTURES OF GRAVEDIGGER VOLUME THREE is available now at Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/dp/1722144335/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1530627338&sr=8-5&keywords=GRAVEDIGGER+REESE and through Pro Se’s own store at http://www.prose-press.com for 15.00.

This volume is also available in hardcover for $24.99 designed and formatted by Lo Iacono and Marina at http://www.lulu.com/content/hardcover-book/the-adventures-of-gravedigger-vol-3/23029179

The third Gravedigger entry is also available as an Ebook, designed and formatted by Lo Iacono and Marina for only $2.99 for the Kindle at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07FJ72WHK/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1530627338&sr=8-2&keywords=GRAVEDIGGER+REESE. This book is also available on Kindle Unlimited, which means Kindle Unlimited Members can read for free.

For more information on this title, interviews with the author, or digital copies to review this book, contact Pro Se Productions’ Director of Corporate Operations, Kristi King-Morgan at directorofcorporateoperations@prose-press.com.

To learn more about Pro Se Productions, go to http://www.prose-press.com. Like Pro Se on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/ProSeProductions.

The Black Terror

The Black Terror is a character that dates all the way back to Exciting Comics # 9, published in January 1941 by Nedor Comics. His secret identity was pharmacist Bob Benton, who formulated a chemical he called “formic ethers”, which gave him various superpowers. He used these powers to fight crime with his sidekick, Tim Roland, together known as the “Terror Twins”. The character proved popular enough to survive until 1949 and his distinctive costume made for some truly memorable covers. After the Golden Age, the character eventually fell into the public domain – which led to a whole host of publishers reviving him for various projects. Over the years, he’s appeared in books published by AC, Eclipse, Wild Cat, Image, Moonstone and, of course, the Reese Unlimited imprint of Pro Se Press. I first wrote the character for Wild Cat back in 2008 as part of a book called Legends of the Golden Age and later used him in a couple of stories for The Peregrine. More recently, I’ve gone further back into his continuity to incorporate him into my Lazarus Gray stuff. Because his “later” appearances were written first there are a few discrepancies in how he’s portrayed.

In my universe, we first see The Black Terror in 1934 and learn that he’s the creation of a United States military operation overseen by General Arbogast and a scientist named Kenneth Butler. The Black Terror was, in fact, a plant-human hybrid — he had literally been grown in a tube. His memories (all the “facts” from the Golden Age comics) were implants designed to create a backstory that would make him a better soldier for the United States government — Jean Starr was there to give him a woman to fight to get back to and Tim gave him a sense of family. Neither actually existed, except in his own mind. When Bob found out the truth, he broke free and went rogue — but his programming was strong enough that he decided to continue fighting as The Black Terror. In 1936, this led him to Sovereign City in search of a man named Maxwell Schmidt. The German was running Omega Solutions. In conjunction with another product of the same government program that created The Black Terror — a man named McIness that was codenamed Titan – Schmidt hoped to transform himself into an entity dubbed Prometheus. In the end, Schmidt died for his hubris and The Black Terror was forced to kill Titan, the only other entity like him in the world. When all was said and done, The Black Terror used the technology that had created him to grow versions of Jean and Tim — he implanted similar memories into their minds and gave them life. All of this was recounted in “Making of a Hero” from Lazarus Gray Volume Two.

The next time we see Bob is in 1938, nearly two years after the previous story. The Black Terror was now well-known as a scourge of the underworld and this brought him into conflict with two superhuman criminals: The White Worm and Cassandra, the witch. During the events dubbed Gotterdammerung, The Black Terror confronted these two and learned that something greater — and more dangerous — was at play. Bob didn’t have much of a role in the affair beyond that. This was shown in the Gotterdammerung novel.

black_terror_01_smallThree months after this (still in 1938), Bob is approached by Assistance Unlimited and offered a spot with the team. With Tim’s encouragement, he accepts and begins splitting his time between an apartment he shares with his young ward and a bedroom at 6196 Robeson Avenue. Jean gets a job as secretary to the new Sovereign mayor, Mortimer Quinn. Bob becomes the team’s scientific expert and also serves as the muscle in most battles. He forms close friendships with the team though he struggles with Eun’s homosexuality. Over the course of 1938 and 1939, The Black Terror aids Assistance Unlimited in battles against Princess Femi, The Librarian, Nemesis, Mr. Death, The Torch, Heidi Von Sinn and El Demonio. These stories are told in Lazarus Gray Volumes 6 & 7.

The Black Terror’s growing penchant for violence leads to him spending more and more time with his teammate, Eidolon. The duo begin sneaking away throughout 1939 and 1940, conducting their own crime–busting exploits. This eventually leads to Lazarus Gray drawing a line in the sand and demanding that they follow his rules about violence — The Black Terror agrees but Eidolon quits the team at this point. Later in 1940, The Black Terror encounters a woman known as The Golden Amazon and the two are highly attracted to one another but when push comes to shove, Bob remains faithful to Jean.

During all of this, Tim often accompanies his mentor on adventures and the two (dubbed “The Terror Twins” by the press) develop a reputation beyond Assistance Unlimited.

The events of the next few years are still to be told. We do know that in 1943, Tim is approached by The Flame and Madame Masque – they say they need his help with some sort of emergency and he departs with them (“The Ivory Machine,” The Peregrine Omnibus Volume Two). While this is happening, The Black Terror is working for the United States government overseas – he confronts a Nazi scientist that is trying to recreate the Formic Ethers (“Terrors,” The Peregrine Omnibus Volume Two). Once Bob finds out that Tim has gone missing, he becomes more violent in his dealings with criminals and is briefly wanted by the authorities for his actions. He is finally reunited with Tim in 1946 and aids The Claws of the Peregrine team (along with The Flame and Madame Masque) in defeating the threat of Rainman and Dr. Gottlieb Hochmuller (“The Ivory Machine, The Peregrine Omnibus Volume Two). In the aftermath, Bob and Tim are offered a place with the Peregrine’s Claws team and they agree to aid them when possible. During these 1943-onward appearances, Bob doesn’t mention Assistance Unlimited so we’re not sure if he’s still associated with them during these years.

Bob next appears in 1964 where he’s serving as chief chemist for the now global version of Assistance Unlimited – so if he had left their ranks during that 1943-1946 period, they’ve reconciled in the years since. We learn that The Black Terror adventured throughout the late Forties and most of the Fifties. It’s revealed that Tim has recently become the new Black Terror though it’s also stated that Bob occasionally still dons the costume to get in some action. No mention of Jean is given at this time.

I really like my version of Bob — he’s a solid, steadfast hero that occasionally gives in to his baser instincts. He’s sometimes troubled by his non-human origins but he’s too well-adjusted to dwell upon them.

Outstanding mysteries – Did he ever have any follow-up encounters with the agency that created him? What becomes of Jean after 1946? It should be noted that the Tim of 1946 doesn’t look much different than the Tim of 1936, implying that these plant-human hybrids may not age the same as normal humans – indeed, the Bob Benton of 1964 is described as still being quite youthful looking but it is suggested that Tim has finally moved into what appears to be adulthood. Also, The Black Terror of 1946 doesn’t seem very familiar with The Peregrine, despite the fact that Assistance Unlimited and The Peregrine were allies. Is it possible that The Black Terror we saw in the 1946 story (and possibly the 1943 one) is actually a second version, grown at a later point? Or is it simply a case of an author writing stories out of sequence and screwing up?

Only time will tell!

Our artwork today is by Anthony Castrillo and George Sellas.

The Mystery of The Peregrine’s Mask

When I wrote the very first Peregrine story (“Lucifer’s Cage”), I never knew that the mask I gave our hero would prove so challenging. Here’s how I described it for the very first time:

“On his face was a small domino mask affixed with a bird-like beak over the nose.”

Easy enough, right? But the mask has been interpreted in various ways over the years, with some folks adding wings on the sides and some dispensing with the beak entirely. I’ve enjoyed seeing the various takes on the mask and believe that artistic interpretation is fun. Besides, there’s nothing to say that The Peregrine doesn’t have several variant masks stashed in his closet.

In recent years, George Sellas has become the primary artist for my pulp universe line of heroes and he’s done wonders to define the core design of The Peregrine.

Here’s a few different looks that Max Davies has sported :

Storn Cook’s Version

 

 

 

Ver Curtiss’s Version

 

 

 

brunner_head

Frank Brunner’s version

 

 

 

Anthony Castrillo’s Version

 

 

 

Ed Mironiuk’s Version

 

 

 

sellas_head

George Sellas’s Version

 

 

 

So what’s been your favorite?

What’s Happening, Barry?

gravedigger_small_colorWell, thanks for asking! I’ll let you know…

Looked over the galley for The Adventures of Gravedigger Volume 3 yesterday. This one will feature another stunning cover from George Sellas and interior art by Chris Batista. I think you guys will really like it.

Working on the final story for the eighth volume of Lazarus and I hope to finish it in the next week or so… then I have to put the pedal to the metal and finish off the first book in a new shared-universe series for Pro Se.

After *that*, I might be able to finally start coming up with ideas for the next Captain Action book from Airship 27. No matter what, it’s going to be another busy year for Reese Unlimited. I hope you’ll be along for the ride with me!

Digging in the dirt: the secret origin of Gravedigger

allstarsquadron_homage_clean_smallCharity Grace – aka Gravedigger –  has appeared in two solo volumes so far (with a third on the way!) and she played a big role in the  “crossover” novel that paired her with Lazarus Gray and The Peregrine. She’s become one of my most popular creations, thanks in no small part to the stunning costume design that George Sellas came up with. But where did she come from? What inspirations led her to spring forth from my crowded little mind?

What follows is an essay that ran in the first volume of The Adventures of Gravedigger. If you’ve read it before, hopefully you’ll enjoy seeing it again — if it’s your first time, expect a few insights into my creative process. I’ve tweaked it from the original in a few places, removing a link to the blog and altering the name of Max Davies’ costumed identity.

Our art today is from my buddy George Sellas and is an homage to one of my all-time favorite comic book covers: All-Star Squadron # 1. The original was drawn by Rich Buckler but I think George captured the feel perfectly, replacing the original DC heroes with my own. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

And now on to the main event:

Continue reading → Digging in the dirt: the secret origin of Gravedigger