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!

Lazarus Gray (Icons Writeup)

Lazarus Gray
aka Richard Winthrop
Created by Barry Reese

Prowess 5
Coordination 5
Strength 5
Intellect 6
Awareness 6
Willpower 6

Stamina 11

*.357 Smith & Wesson Magnum 4 (Extra: The gun uses silver bullets that have been soaked in holy water. Does 5 damage to supernatural foes)
*Knife 2
*Detect 4 (Limit: Can only be used to track members of Assistance Unlimited – each member has been injected with a radioactive isotope that can be traced by Lazarus)
*Gadgets 3

Athletics (Expert +2 bonus), Business (+1 bonus), Drive (+ 1 bonus), Investigation (Expert + 2 bonus), Leadership (Master +3 bonus), Linguistics (Expert + 2 bonus), Martial Arts (Expert +2 bonus), Medicine (+1 bonus), Mental Resistance (Expert + 2 bonus), Occult (Expert +2 bonus), Pilot (+1 bonus), Stealth (+1 bonus), Technology (+1 bonus), Weapons (Expert +2 bonus)

Assistance Unlimited is his family
Associated with Project: Cicada (1941 forward)
Continually reinvents himself

Art by George Sellas, Script by Barry Reese
Art by George Sellas, Script by Barry Reese

Timeline of the Reese Unlimited Universe (Updated 9/13/2022)

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 9/13/2022)

Dr. York (ICONS Writeup)

Doctor Elias York

Prowess 3
Coordination 2
Strength 7
Intellect 6
Awareness 3
Willpower 4

Stamina 11

*Damage Resistance 4 (+4 for headshots)
*Immortality 1
*Magic 5
*Gadgets 5

Occult (Expert +2), Science (Expert +2), Technology (Expert +2)

*The Diabolical Dr. York
*Pawn of the Elder Gods
*Massive Ego

Background: Elias York is a former scientist that eventually realized science had its limits… so he had turned to dark sorcery, selling his soul to the service of Elder Gods. His body became the receptacle for dark energies that had the unfortunate side effect of altering his appearance. York’s brain eventually was held in a clear protective dome, floating above the rest of his body.

The villain battled the masked vigilante known as The Peregrine several times in the 1930s before clashing with both Assistance Unlimited and Babylon, the latter taking place during John Galahad’s time as host of the cosmic spirit of retribution. Originally, York’s body was very slight and he focused on using a mix of science and the occult to battle his foes — eventually, however, he was able to upgrade his physical form, allowing him to physically engage his enemies.

Geist (ICONS Writeup)

Mordecai Gray
created by Barry Reese

Prowess 6
Coordination 5
Strength 5
Intellect 4
Awareness 5
Willpower 5

Stamina 10

All powers are derived from his suit and equipment:
*Damage Resistance 5
*Binding 4
*Strike 6 (Taser Gloves)
*Gadgets 4

Athletics, Drive, Investigation, Leadership, Martial Arts, Military, Pilot, Stealth, Weapons – Handguns (Expert +2)

“I’m a better hero than I am a father.”
Unusual family
A man of action

Background: Mordecai Gray is the grandson of Lazarus Gray, the founder of Assistance Unlimited. Mordecai was trained from a young age to be a dangerous fighter and when he reached adulthood, he quickly became one of Assistance Unlimited’s most capable agents. To honor a close family friend – Jakob Sporrenberg, a former member of his grandfather’s team – he chose to use an identity and costume similar to that of a 1930s hero known as Eidolon. As Geist, Mordecai has spent most of his adult life battling villains all over the globe, though he has rarely been mentioned in the media. He tried in vain to keep his daughter Valerie from entering the family business and this caused a severe rift in their relationship. After her transformation into the hero known as Calavera, they have both made attempts to mend the wounds in their family. He’s middle-aged now and may have lost a step over the years but he’s still quite dangerous.

The Super-Fan Reviews Lazarus 13

The Pulp Super-Fan, Michael Brown, is back with a look at volume thirteen of the Lazarus Gray series. Let’s see what he says:

Lazarus Gray is a New Pulp character from Reese (The Peregrine, Gravedigger, and other characters and works). Gray is sort of inspired by the classic pulp hero The Avenger, and has a group of associates organized as Assistance Unlimited.

Gray is located in a fictional town called Sovereign City (created by Pro Se Press publisher Tommy Hancock), and thus is part of the larger Sovereign City Project. He is also set in the same universe as Barry’s other characters, so has crossed over with them.

In addition to the current members of Assistance Unlimited — Morgan Stanley, Eun Jiwon, Samantha Grace, Abigail Cross, and The Black Terror — we will see some new additions to the group in these, as well as various guest stars. This time, each volume consists of a single novel.

Finally, in Volume 13, we have “An Adventure of Lazarus Gray With Assistance Unlimited” (did someone mess up on the title???). Here the team faces a new threat: a mummy, Rama-Memnon, and his associate, Teddy Pumpkins. They team up with Rose Dorcas, who runs an insane asylum on the outskirts of Sovereign City and had her own mad plans. They devastate Soverign City, but are stopped by AU and some new and old friends. Rama-Memnon has a connection with Princess Femi, who Lazarus and AU battled and defeated in earlier volumes. Hopefully the city can fully recover.

We meet a new superhero: Nature Boy. He’s actually a short-lived superhero from Charlton Comics, all of three issues in 1956-57. You can read them online or in a reprint by Gwandanaland Comics. In the comic, the gods of the elements saved him when he was a baby and granted him powers. But here he’s another “creation” of Project: Cicada, like The Black Terror, though with nature-based powers. So he works for them, though will probably show up in future stories. Another new character is Wynona Jones. She is well skilled with firearms, and has dealt with threats like vampires and more. She will be joining AU.

Returning is Jakob Sporrenberg, who as Eidolon had been a former member (twice) of AU, but left due to his violent nature. He rejoins AU as the less violent The Observer after his experiences here.

I’m not sure when we’ll get Volume 14. I hope it’s not a long wait. In addition, if you check his timeline, you see references to a few other works that aren’t out yet. And some that are, like the new Chronicles of Lilith.

Thanks for the detailed coverage, Michael! I don’t think you’ll have a very long wait for volume 14. It’s complete and in the queue at the always-busy Pro Se Productions publishing house.


So I’ve been working hard on the debut novel featuring Calavera, which has turned into a crossover novel for many of the characters that exist in my modern-day. Several years back, I had all my World War II-era characters meet up and this is similar but with the likes of Calavera, Babylon, Catalyst (the 21st century version), the Straw-Man, Jupiter and more all uniting to take on the forces of Heaven and Hell. You’ll also get to meet Lazarus Gray’s grandson, the Reese Unlimited version of Miss Fury and a whole lot more.

I’m over 40,000 words into the novel at the moment and to celebrate how well it’s going I’m going to debut the world’s first look at our heroine — Calavera! Art is by Luis Filipe and he did a wonderful job transforming my ideas into reality! Hope you find her as beautiful and intriguing as I do.