Yeah, I’d like to write that…

challengers-kirbyI was able to write one of my all-time favorite pulp heroes — The Avenger — for Moonstone. Twice!

I’ve also written The Green Hornet, G-8 and His Battle Aces, The Black Bat, The Black Terror and lots more. I’ve written sourcebooks that were all about Spider-Man, Marvel’s Avengers and a lot more…

But there are still some dream projects out there that I’d like to tackle:

Batman. I’ve read some good Batman prose novels but I’d love to handle Bruce Wayne and company just once. I think it would be a blast.

The Shadow. Taking on Walter Gibson’s signature character would be intimidating as hell but I’d jump at the opportunity.

Conan. I’m not sure I’d ever be able to live up to the passion of Robert E. Howard’s writing but I’d give it my best shot.

Airboy. I’m not too big on aerial pulp, despite having written both Richard Knight and G-8… but Airboy’s appearances in the Chuck Dixon comic book series made me a fan.

Challengers of the Unknown. I didn’t much care for the Ron Goulart novel that came out way back when… I like to think I could do better. The themes and characters are right up my alley.

Seekay. One of the greatest obscure pulp characters ever!

Norgil the Magician. Walter Gibson’s *other* great hero. I have a ton of ideas for this crime-solving magician.

The Phantom. Lee Falk’s classic hero would be a blast to write!

There are other projects that I’d love to tackle, too, but those are the ones that keep popping up in my heart and mind. Someday, maybe…

Norgil the Magician

Walter Gibson is rightly associated with The Shadow, having written 282 novels featuring the character. But he also wrote 23 stories featuring the lesser-known “Norgil the Magician,” drawing upon his real-life knowledge of magic. Norgil debuted in the November 1937 issue of Crime Busters and continued to be published until 1940. These 23 stories are, for the most part, very hard to come by. In 1977, Mysterious Press issued two volumes collecting 16 of the tales — I can only assume there were plans for a third book that ended up never happening. The books themselves are beautiful things to behold — both feature Jim Steranko covers.

I’m lucky enough to own these two volumes and I thought I’d take some time to talk about the first of them with you. It contains 8 stories, selected as a “best of” from the ’37-’40 period. The very first story is a little rough compared to the others — it’s easy to see that Gibson (writing under the Maxwell Grant byline) gets more comfortable as time goes on. Unlike The Shadow, Norgil doesn’t have a large supporting cast — in fact, the only character who appears in each tale alongside Norgil is his trusty stage assistant, Fritz. There is also a showgirl named Miriam who is in many stories but it’s really only in one of them that she has much to do or say — the rest of the time she’s basically background material.

The basic premise of each story (all of which are around 22 pages in this book) is this: the story opens with Norgil in some new city, performing a magic trick, which Gibson explains to us. Then he becomes involved in solving a murder/jewel theft/protection racket scheme. He usually manages to solve the mystery with the help of another magic trick, which Gibson again gives a full description of. Sometimes Fritz helps, sometimes not. My favorite plots involved Norgil attending a magicians’ convention (“Battle of Magic”) and one about a ring that people are being killed over (“Ring of Death”).

All the villains in this book are of the small-time variety: hoodlums, rich guys who are secretly bankrolling the mob, etc. There’s no true threat for Norgil, who handles all the cases with relative ease. In that sense, it reminds me of a perfect setup for a television series, a la Murder, She Wrote – our hero could travel each week, with one or two supporting cast members, solving crimes wherever he goes.

Norgil himself is suave and intelligent. There’s no signs of romance in his life but he’s a friendly sort who seemingly knows people in every town. He’s a master of disguise, good with his fists and a master illusionist.

Gibson’s trademark writing style is recognizable but the character certainly feels different from The Shadow. If you enjoy Gibson’s more famous creation, I think you’ll find enjoyment in this one, as well. My biggest complaint is that I kept hungering for Norgil to face a true master criminal, one that would push him to the limit. Despite all the gunfire and death traps in this book, I never really felt that Norgil was threatened.

The book is great fun and an interesting look at a forgotten character.

I give the book 4 out of 5 stars — if Norgil’s opposition had been greater, I would have given it a perfect score. Norgil is one of those characters on my bucket list to write… I tried unsuccessfully to get the rights to him at one point and would dearly love to have a shot at handling this wonderful but forgotten hero.

Norgil the Magician

Walter Gibson is rightly associated with The Shadow, having written 282 novels featuring the character. But he also wrote 23 stories featuring the lesser-known “Norgil the Magician,” drawing upon his real-life knowledge of magic. Norgil debuted in the November 1937 issue of Crime Busters and continued to be published until 1940. These 23 stories are, for the most part, very hard to come by. In 1977, Mysterious Press issued two volumes collecting 16 of the tales — I can only assume there were plans for a third book that ended up never happening. The books themselves are beautiful things to behold — both feature Jim Steranko covers.

I’m lucky enough to own these two volumes and I thought I’d take some time to talk about the first of them with you. It contains 8 stories, selected as a “best of” from the ’37-’40 period. The very first story is a little rough compared to the others — it’s easy to see that Gibson (writing under the Maxwell Grant byline) gets more comfortable as time goes on. Unlike The Shadow, Norgil doesn’t have a large supporting cast — in fact, the only character who appears in each tale alongside Norgil is his trusty stage assistant, Fritz. There is also a showgirl named Miriam who is in many stories but it’s really only in one of them that she has much to do or say — the rest of the time she’s basically background material.

The basic premise of each story (all of which are around 22 pages in this book) is this: the story opens with Norgil in some new city, performing a magic trick, which Gibson explains to us. Then he becomes involved in solving a murder/jewel theft/protection racket scheme. He usually manages to solve the mystery with the help of another magic trick, which Gibson again gives a full description of. Sometimes Fritz helps, sometimes not. My favorite plots involved Norgil attending a magicians’ convention (“Battle of Magic”) and one about a ring that people are being killed over (“Ring of Death”).

All the villains in this book are of the small-time variety: hoodlums, rich guys who are secretly bankrolling the mob, etc. There’s no true threat for Norgil, who handles all the cases with relative ease. In that sense, it reminds me of a perfect setup for a television series, a la Murder, She Wrote – our hero could travel each week, with one or two supporting cast members, solving crimes wherever he goes.

Norgil himself is suave and intelligent. There’s no signs of romance in his life but he’s a friendly sort who seemingly knows people in every town. He’s a master of disguise, good with his fists and a master illusionist.

Gibson’s trademark writing style is recognizable but the character certainly feels different from The Shadow. If you enjoy Gibson’s more famous creation, I think you’ll find enjoyment in this one, as well. My biggest complaint is that I kept hungering for Norgil to face a true master criminal, one that would push him to the limit. Despite all the gunfire and death traps in this book, I never really felt that Norgil was threatened.

The book is great fun and an interesting look at a forgotten character.

I give the book 4 out of 5 stars — if Norgil’s opposition had been greater, I would have given it a perfect score. Norgil is one of those characters on my bucket list to write… I tried unsuccessfully to get the rights to him at one point and would dearly love to have a shot at handling this wonderful but forgotten hero.

Yeah, I’d Like to Write That…

challengers-kirbyI was able to write one of my all-time favorite pulp heroes — The Avenger — for Moonstone. Twice!

I’ve also written The Green Hornet, G-8 and His Battle Aces, The Black Bat, The Black Terror and lots more. I’ve written sourcebooks that were all about Spider-Man, Marvel’s Avengers and a lot more…

But there are still some dream projects out there that I’d like to tackle:

Batman. I’ve read some good Batman prose novels but I’d love to handle Bruce Wayne and company just once. I think it would be a blast.

The Shadow. Taking on Walter Gibson’s signature character would be intimidating as hell but I’d jump at the opportunity.

Conan. I’m not sure I’d ever be able to live up to the passion of Robert E. Howard’s writing but I’d give it my best shot.

Airboy. I’m not too big on aerial pulp, despite having written both Richard Knight and G-8… but Airboy’s appearances in the Chuck Dixon comic book series made me a fan.

Challengers of the Unknown. I didn’t much care for the Ron Goulart novel that came out way back when… I like to think I could do better. The themes and characters are right up my alley.

Seekay. One of the greatest obscure pulp characters ever!

Norgil the Magician. Walter Gibson’s *other* great hero. I have a ton of ideas for this crime-solving magician.

The Phantom. Lee Falk’s classic hero would be a blast to write!

There are other projects that I’d love to tackle, too, but those are the ones that keep popping up in my heart and mind. Someday, maybe…

Yeah, I’d Like to Write That…

challengers-kirbyI got to write one of my all-time favorite pulp heroes — The Avenger — for Moonstone. Twice! I’ve also written The Green Hornet, G-8 and His Battle Aces, The Black Bat, The Black Terror and lots more. I’ve written sourcebooks that were all about Spider-Man, Marvel’s Avengers and a lot more…

But I’d still like to write these guys in prose…

Batman. I’ve read some good Batman prose novels but I’d love to handle Bruce Wayne and company just once. I think it would be a blast.

The Shadow. Taking on Walter Gibson’s signature character would be intimidating as hell but I’d jump at the opportunity.

Conan. I’m not sure I’d ever be able to live up to the passion of Robert E. Howard’s writing but I’d give it my best shot.

Airboy. I’m not too big on aerial pulp, despite having written both Richard Knight and G-8… but Airboy’s appearances in the Chuck Dixon comic book series made me a fan.

Challengers of the Unknown. I didn’t much care for the Ron Goulart novel that came out way back when… I like to think I could do better. The themes and characters are right up my alley.

Seekay. One of the greatest obscure pulp characters ever!

Norgil the Magician. Walter Gibson’s *other* great hero. I have a ton of ideas for this crime-solving magician.

The Phantom. Lee Falk’s classic hero would be a blast to write!

 

Classic Pulp Heroes That Need to Return

neal_adams__portfolio_piece__002We’ve seen lots and lots of great classic pulp heroes return in new stories since the New Pulp boom began but there are still a few out there that I’d love to see return with regularly published adventures. Several of these have seen print in comics or even the occasional prose adventure but I want something akin to what Altus Press and Will Murray are doing with Doc Savage or what Moonstone has been doing with The Spider. I want novels and anthologies featuring new adventures. I’m not talking about wild updates, either… I’m speaking of telling good stories that adhere to the core of the characters (again, see the Altus and Moonstone examples I cited above).

So who am I talking about?

Tarzan – The Edgar Rice Burroughs hero has had a new prose adventures over the past couple of decades but I’d like to see a full expansion of the character in a series of new novels, coupled with anthologies that would allow multiple authors the chance to write him. I know the copyright issues are somewhat confusing but let’s just go ahead and get the ERB estate to officially authorize this continuation, shall we?

Norgil the Magician – Created by Walter Gibson, Norgil is far more obscure than he should be. The premise of a famous magician who travels the country solving mysteries is ripe for exploitation. Tell me that it doesn’t sound like a great television series? And the original stories are really fun examples of Gibson’s skills as a writer.

Seekay – Created by Paul Ernst, Seekay is one of those disfigured detectives that were all the rage for a while in pulp. His adventures are reprinted in the excellent The Casebook of Seekay and Other Prototypes of The Avenger. If you know Ernst from Doctor Satan or The Avenger, you know how good a writer he was… and Seekay is an undervalued gem. He could (and should) be a major pulp figure.

The Shadow – I know Will Murray has been teasing the possibility of doing a Doc Savage/Shadow novel but I want to see a full return for pulp’s greatest crime-fighter. Dynamite seems to be doing well with the comics, so let’s a return to prose. My preference would be to see stories either picking up right where the original novels ended (1949, prior to the Belmont revival of the Sixties) or else set in the character’s classic period of the 1930s. I’d even be okay with continuing the pulp/radio amalgamation that we’ve gotten in the comics, though I’d really want to see a pulp-only version. Hell, I’ll take anything at this point.

Conan – When I was growing up, Conan novels were everywhere. Yes, many of them were not very good… but some were excellent additions to the saga. A few years ago, there was a series of books set in his world but not actually featuring our favorite barbarian… I’m not talking about things like that. I want new high-quality Conan novels!

What classic pulp heroes would you like to see revived in officially-sanctioned stories?

Monday Morning Musings

billHello, folks! It’s the start of a whole new week and I’m feeling a bit low-key this morning. Got to get those creative juices flowing! Wish me luck.

Shadowman: The Red Sash made its Kindle Worlds debut last week and hit # 3 on the Action/Adventure cart before settling in at # 5, which is where it’s been the past few days. Several people have asked me if I plan to do more and my response is — not any time really soon. I have a couple of projects-with-deadlines that I have to work on and I’d like to finish off Lazarus Gray Volume Five… and then there’s this crossover novel that I’ve been teasing you guys with (the one that will sport a Chris Batista cover). So I have plenty on my plate! But I enjoyed the experience and if more Worlds are added, I might reconsider. Hell, I’d love to write a Batman story, for instance… and this seems like the perfect way for some of the rights holders to the old pulp characters to gauge public interest in a revival. Put someone like Norgil or Seekay up there and see how fast I’d jump on that!

Pro Se publisher Tommy Hancock attended a convention this past weekend and reported strong sales for The Adventures of Gravedigger Volume One, which is always nice to hear. I was really pleased with how that book turned out and all the positive feedback it’s garnered has been flattering. Hopefully people will enjoy the second book just as much.

I have a lot of work to do this week at my “real” job and the pressures there sometimes conspire to not allow me much time for writing. In a perfect world, I’d be making enough off my pulp adventure stuff to just do that full-time but that’s unlikely to ever happen. In the meantime, it’s a fun sideline and occasionally brings in a nice check to supplement everything else.

For those of you excited about the guest blogger that I’ve been teasing — hang in there! He’s making sure that all his t’s have been crossed and his i’s have been dotted, so to speak.

I’ve been greatly enjoying the album True by Avicii. It’s a lot of dance kind of stuff but it’s got more depth than usual for that genre. The instrumentals (especially Heart On My Sleeve) are very strong and there’s even some folksy stuff infused with the dance beats. It’s a really strong album and highly recommended, even if you don’t normally go for that sort of thing. Sample a few tracks and you’ll see what I mean.

I’ve been thinking about giving tumblr another try. I had an account there for awhile but finally deleted it because pinning pictures just seemed… kinda pointless? I don’t know. I have a blog so I don’t need to use it for that and I have a Facebook plus a Twitter… but I was thinking of using tumblr this time for my music interests and maybe some comic book stuff. I don’t know… Anybody out there use tumblr and love it? Am I missing something?

Take care, folks — see you guys tomorrow!