Pulp Factory Awards Nomination Season

These books are (I believe) worthy of consideration for the Pulp Factory Awards. All of them were published in 2022 and were written by yours truly:

• The Adventures of Lazarus Gray, Volume 11: Thirty Pieces of Silver

• The Adventures of Lazarus Gray, Volume 12: The Life and Death and Life of Lazarus Gray

• The Adventures of Lazarus Gray, Volume 13

• Worlds Collide

• The Chronicles of Lilith

Timeline of the Reese Unlimited Universe – Updated 12/23/2022

Major Events specific to certain stories and novels are included in brackets. Some of this information contains SPOILERS for The Peregrine, Lazarus Gray, Gravedigger and other stories. 

~ 800 – Viking warrior Grimarr dies of disease but is resurrected as the Sword of Hel. He adventures for some time as Hel’s agent on Earth. [The Sword of Hel]. 

~ 1620 – Gwydion fab Dôn is captured by the witch Rhianna in France. She punishes him by binding his spirit to a bundle of rags. [“Gwydion,” The Adventures of the Straw-Man Volume One]

1748 – Johann Adam Weishaupt is born. 

Continue reading Timeline of the Reese Unlimited Universe – Updated 12/23/2022

Timeline of the Reese Unlimited Universe – Updated 11/12/2022

Major Events specific to certain stories and novels are included in brackets. Some of this information contains SPOILERS for The Peregrine, Lazarus Gray, Gravedigger and other stories. 

~ 800 – Viking warrior Grimarr dies of disease but is resurrected as the Sword of Hel. He adventures for some time as Hel’s agent on Earth. [The Sword of Hel]. 

~ 1620 – Gwydion fab Dôn is captured by the witch Rhianna in France. She punishes him by binding his spirit to a bundle of rags. [“Gwydion,” The Adventures of the Straw-Man Volume One]

1748 – Johann Adam Weishaupt is born. 

Continue reading Timeline of the Reese Unlimited Universe – Updated 11/12/2022

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 Nature of Things

I hope you’re sitting someplace comfortable because this might take awhile. It all started when I was working on the 13th volume of the Lazarus Gray series. I’ve always loved public domain characters and I was aware that Fawcett’s Marvel Family was partially in the public domain – you could do stories with them as long as you didn’t veer into trademark territory by naming them on the covers and so forth. I had the fun idea of having an amnesiac Billy Batson show up in Sovereign City, eventually remember his magic word, and become Captain Marvel… though I considered having him adopt a new name since most of his memories wouldn’t be restored. My longtime friend, Sorella Smith, had another idea — why not substitute the potentially troublesome Captain Marvel with another character that was far safer to use. She suggested that I look into Nature Boy, an old Charlton character that starred in Nature Boy issues 3-5 (1956). The series had some really early John Buscema artwork and featured a Nature Girl in a one-page appearance in issue 5, as well as a Nature Man in issue who may or may not have been an adult Nature Boy. The potential for a “Nature Family” was right there. I loved the idea, commissioned Gilbert Monsanto to do updated costumes for both Nature Boy and Nature Girl, and set to work bringing Nature Boy into volume 13. Nature Boy later returned in a novel I wrote called Omnium Gatherum and this time he brought Nature Girl with him. A lot of people thought they were twins so they were often referred to as such but in actually Nature Boy was the older of the two. This is how Nature Boy explained his origins in Omnium Gatherum, keeping in mind that all references to Sovereign City and Dorcas Rose were mine:

“My full name is David Crandall. I was the son of a wealthy family who, when lost at sea, was saved from drowning by the gods who rule each of the elements. They each gifted me with their powers – from Neptune, water; from Gusto, winds; from Fura, fire; from Eartha, earth; from Allura, love; from Azura, the skies; from Electra, electricity; and from Friga, ice. I was eventually returned to my family in Sovereign City and I became Nature Boy, using my powers to fight crime. In the early days, I had to ask the gods to let me use their abilities but later on, they drifted away and trusted me to do what was right. It wasn’t all good times, though – my father was badly injured by an evil woman named Dorcas Rose and my mother was never really the same after. Over time I found that I don’t age like other people do… so even though I’ve thought about changing my name to Nature Man a few times, it just never sticks!”

Now in the original comics Nature Girl’s true name was never given so I decided to call her Darla. This was her origin, as she explained in the same book. Note that this origin was all mine as she didn’t have an origin in the old comics:

“After his dad was hospitalized, his mom was looking for something to keep her and Davey going so they adopted me. At first, I didn’t know that David was sneaking out at night to play superhero but when I saw him crawling out his window one evening, I followed him and learned his secret. The gods decided to give me the same powers so I could help him! Because we look so similar, people often referred to us as the Nature Twins… but he’s really older than me, which I never let him forget!”

Simple enough, eh? Well, I’ve never been one to leave well enough alone so it was revealed that both Nature Boy and Nature Girl were actually products of the same experiments that developed the Black Terror and the British hero known as Intrepid. A scientist named James Anderson was to become an integral part of the Nature Twins’ story.

In 1932 he was brought onto a military project as a consultant. His speciality had been herbology and at first he couldn’t fathom why the United States government wanted or needed him for Top Secret work.

Then he discovered that Uncle Sam was in the midst of trying to grow their own super-powered beings. In recent years, a number of masked vigilantes and well-known adventurers had captured the public’s attention and there were rumors that other nations were trying to create their own special agents of the same sort. Since all of the American-based heroes operated outside of government control, there were concerns about their trustworthiness and effectiveness – after all, men like Leonid Kaslov and The Peregrine had saved the nation’s bacon on many occasions… but Kaslov was a Russian and The Peregrine was deemed a loose cannon.

The process of making superhumans was mostly a theory when Anderson came aboard but it quickly became a reality. The idea was to take human cell tissue and bond it with plantlife, allowing them to grow pods that would contain an outwardly human being within. The pace of growth could be stimulated or slowed based upon the amount of hormones and sunlight that were given to the pods… and, more importantly of all, false memories could be implanted into the plant/human hybrids so that, for instance, they might remember having human parents, lovers, and more.

The experiment had yielded a major success in 1934 with the ‘birth’ of a hybrid that believed itself to be a human being named Bob Benton. In Benton’s mind, he was a chemist that had discovered a compound he dubbed ‘formic ethers’ and became a costumed vigilante known as The Black Terror. He was even given memories of a fictitious girlfriend and kid sidekick, along with a strong patriotic nature.

At first it had all gone perfectly: the Black Terror had been dispatched on one mission after another, smashing communist cells, bootleggers, and more, all in the name of the good ‘ol U.S.A. When he returned back to the plain, barely-furnished room that he lived in, he’d have a new set of updated, manufactured memories implanted — new dates he’d gone on with the fictitious Jean Starr, bonding experiences with his young ward, Tim Roland. It was all designed to give him the impression that he was a living, breathing man… and not simply a weapon to be rolled out when the time was right.

Eventually, however, The Black Terror uncovered the truth… and he fled from his government handlers. Encountering Lazarus Gray and his Assistance Unlimited team, the hybrid joined them and remained with them for several years, even aiding them in 1937 when they encountered another rogue creation of the American superhuman program: a madman dubbed Titan. In the aftermath, Bob Benton used the technology that had been used to create him to make ‘real’ versions of Jean Starr and Tim Roland, implanting them with memories to ensure their similarity to the ‘people’ he had known.

In 1938 the English equivalent was unveiled – a modern knight in shining armor known as Intrepid. Unlike the American versions, this one proved loyal and true. Wielding his sword (which the public believed to be the legendary Excalibur), the original Intrepid defended England well into the early 1960s.

It was 1943 before the United States had its first loyal test subject… and it came about after Anderson and the entire project had come under the auspices of Project: Cicada, a shadowy government agency that was American’s answer to the Nazi’s Occult Forces Project, which had produced dozens of superpowered agents. Cicada had divisions dedicated to occultism, mentalism, and every known branch of parapsychology… which led to some effective cross-pollination. One division had found the remains of an alien being several years before and it had been Anderson’s idea to mix that DNA into the cocktail used to create the Black Terror and Titan.

What emerged from this was a young man with an almost godlike-aura of goodness that surrounded him. With implanted memories of having been granted powers over nature by a plethora of gods (some of whom bore rather silly names in Anderson’s opinion), Nature Boy was released on his first mission towards the end of the year. Unfortunately, the timing couldn’t have been worse as a strange alignment of the stars wreaked havoc with Nature Boy’s implanted memories and for a brief time he wandered Sovereign City as an amnesiac. After teaming with Assistance Unlimited to save the city from a reborn Egyptian pharaoh named Rama-Memnon, Nature Boy was returned to the Project’s control.

He was pure of heart and eager to please but this led to some problems – he was not suited for certain missions because of his morals. When some people wanted to try and change his personality, Anderson had stepped in and protected the boy. In fact, he urged Project: Cicada to create other agents for those darker jobs… they should embrace Nature Boy for what he was: a loyal and heroic young man with tremendous power. There was something innately divine in Nature Boy and Anderson couldn’t help but wonder if this was because of the myth they’d spun in the boy’s false memories or if it stemmed from the alien DNA that was part of the proverbial soup from which David had sprung.

Anderson won the fight and was given control over the Nature Boy project. The first thing he did was create a sister for him, a Nature Girl, that would only solidify his feelings of loyalty to the program. The so-called Nature Twins were trustworthy agents of the American Government well into the 1970s… when changing politics resulted in Project:Cicada being shut down. Both Nature Boy and Nature Girl were designated for disposal but Anderson hid them away in suspended animation at an abandoned Cicada lab… and that’s where they remained until 2021 when they were awakened by a couple of teenagers, Jazlyn and Jimmy Tompkins. The Nature Twins were reunited with Prof. Anderson and aided a group known as E-Force in repelling an alien invasion.

Shortly thereafter, the siblings accepted a position overseeing the Tartarus Super-Prison on behalf of Assistance Unlimited. They were working at this job when Lady Grimdark was released.

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!

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!