The Black Terror (Reese Unlimited Version)

BLACK TERROR_col_smallerThe 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.

Continue reading → The Black Terror (Reese Unlimited Version)

The Secret Origin of the Claws of the Peregrine

claws_front_smallAfter I’d finished several stories in The Peregrine series, it occurred to me that I’d introduced quite a few supporting characters that were worthy of stories in their own right: Leonid Kaslov, Catalyst, Revenant, Rachel Winters, Frankenstein’s Monster, etc. I decided it would make perfect sense to throw some of those characters together and create a spinoff project from The Peregrine Chronicles. I decided to leave out Kaslov and focus on the other four heroes I just mentioned, allowing The Peregrine to serve as their funding agent. I wanted to do the pulp equivalent of the old Batman and the Outsiders series: Batman brought together heroes to serve as his private strike force, handling things he didn’t have the time to do.

This strike force would be known as The Claws of The Peregrine, or simply “The Claws.”

The Claws of the Peregrine were originally meant to be introduced in their own volume. The Peregrine would appear in a major fashion in the first story, then fade into the background, to be used as needed. The first story (“The Diabolical Mr. Dee”) was written and I think it turned out fairly well, though I was obviously still finding my footing with the series.

Then came “A Plague of Wicked Men.”

I forget who came up with the idea of teaming the various Wild Cat Books heroes into one story but I know that Don Lee, Wayne Skiver, the Carney brothers, Ron Hanna and I were all involved in the plotting of the story, which would pit the heroes against a grouping of evil villains. Ron and Wayne wanted to kick the story off by killing an established pulp hero and they chose to make Captain Hazzard the sacrifice. I was worried about how this would look, since Hazzard was very closely identified with the editor-in-chief of one of Wild Cat’s major rivals but I wasn’t really the mover and shaker in the plotting. A scene (by Wayne) was written in which Hazzard was killed and I know Don Lee wrote a scene where the villains first came together.

Then, as is common in these sorts of things, the writers began flaking out. One person had legal issues, another had concerns about the plot, etc. The project seemed dead.

Then I asked if I could take the plot and twist it into a Claws of The Peregrine plot, rewriting the scenes already completed and tweaking it all into something that I felt I could handle on my own. Everyone seemed fine with that and Wayne was gracious enough to allow me to keep his character Prof. Stone in the story. I threw in the Black Bat, Ascott Keane and Ki-Gor to make it even bigger. The story turned out fairly well, though it struggled a bit under its own weight. There were elements of the original plot that I was asked to keep that I would have preferred to jettison but I worked with what I had.

There were now two Claws tales…

And then the decision was made to scuttle the Claws spinoff. Sales on the most recent volume of The Peregrine had been weaker than expected and it was decided to not dilute the brand at this point.

So what to do? I didn’t want to just shelve those stories but at the same time I was feeling burned out on The Peregrine and didn’t really feel like doing a solo Peregrine collection, either.

It was decided to take the two Claws stories and put them into The Peregrine Volume Five. A couple more Claws/Peregrine stories were added to flesh out the volume and voila, we had a book.

But it wasn’t a very good book, in my opinion. It suffered from the fact that you had a book entitled The Peregrine that spent a lot of time with The Peregrine not in it — I was fleshing out characters for their own series, remember, so I had deliberately tried to push The Peregrine into the background of those stories.

It was published, people seemed to regard it as weaker than its predecessors but still good.

Here’s where all the individual members of the team first appeared:

  • Catalyst (Nathaniel Caine) first appeared in “Catalyst.” The story is set in 1942. A predecessor named Andre Theirry also used the Catalyst identity in a series of adventures alongside Lazarus Gray in the 1937-1938 period of time.
  • Esper (Rachel Winters, later Rachel Caine) also first appeared in “Catalyst”. As stated before, the story is set in ’42.
  • Revenant (Sally Pence) first appeared in “Death From the Jungle”. The story is set in 1943.
  • Vincent (aka Frankenstein’s Monster) first appeared in “Satan’s Trial”. This story occurs in late 1943, after “Death From the Jungle.”

The group comes together as The Claws of the Peregrine in 1944, operating out of a two-story house on Peachtree Street nicknamed The Aerie. The group’s meeting room was in the finished basement and there was an extensive library and armory on the second floor. The team first appeared together in “The Diabolical Mr. Dee” before teaming up with several other pulp heroes in “A Plague of Wicked Men.” Both of those adventures were set in ’44. In 1946, they took part in the missions dubbed “The Devil’s Spear” and “The Ivory Machine.” During the latter story, their ranks swelled with the additions of The Black Terror and his partner Tim, Miss Masque, and The Flame. All of those stories are now available in The Peregrine Omnibus Volume Two.

Nothing is known about the majority of the members past ’46, though in one possible future (“The Four Peregrines”), we see that Catalyst is still alive into the 21st Century, having outlived his wife. Given that everything shown in the series post 2006 is just a potential future, it’s not carved in stone that this is anyone’s ultimate fate, however.

We also know that The Black Terror is still alive in 1964 as he plays a role in ASSISTANCE UNLIMITED: THE SILVER AGE.

I sometimes miss these characters but I’m uncertain if anybody would really want to see them revived. If I do, I’m not certain that the public domain heroes like The Black Terror and Miss Masque will remain with the group — I’d suspect that they’ll become secondary members, who might pop up if needed. I’d probably keep the focus on the main four (plus The Peregrine).

What do you guys say? Anybody want to see these heroes return?

Timeline of my Pulp Adventure Universe (updated 8/20/2019)

small_lazarus_batistaMajor 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. [“Dogs of War” and “In the Name of Hel,” Tales of the Norse Gods].

1748 – Johann Adam Weishaupt is born.

1750 – Guan-Yin embarks on a quest to find her lost father, which takes her to Skull Island [Guan-Yin and the Horrors of Skull Island].

1776 – Johann Adam Weishaupt forms The Illuminati. He adopts the guise of the original Lazarus Gray in group meetings, reflecting his “rebirth” and the “moral ambiguity” of the group. In Sovereign City, a Hessian soldier dies in battle, his spirit resurrected as a headless warrior.

Continue reading → Timeline of my Pulp Adventure Universe (updated 8/20/2019)

The Black Terror

BLACK TERROR_col_smallerThe 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. Not long after, The Black Terror joined The Fighting Yank, The Golden Amazon and Olga Mesmer in forming a Manhattan-based team known as The Heroes (late 1941). The Heroes are considered a spinoff organization of Assistance Unlimited and Bob began splitting his time between Manhattan and Sovereign. The Heroes are known to have battled Doctor Satan and Lady Satan before uniting with the rest of Assistance Unlimited to battle Phasma in early 1942. All of these tales are depicted in The Adventures of Lazarus Gray Volumes 8, 9 and 10. The Black Terror is also a stalwart member of Assistance Unlimited during their battles against Woland, The Puzzler, and a revived Doctor Satan (Volumes 11 and 12).

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.

In 1943 Bob is asked by Project: Cicada to go on a mission behind enemy lines – he confronts a Nazi scientist that is trying to recreate the Formic Ethers (“Terrors,” The Peregrine Omnibus Volume Two). While this is happening, 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 and retold in slightly different fashion in The Adventures of Lazarus Gray Volume 12).  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 breaks off his association with Assistance Unlimited during this period, as he is obsessed with finding his partner. 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.

Bob next appears in 1964 where he’s serving as chief chemist for the now global version of Assistance Unlimited – though we don’t know the exact circumstances, they’ve obviously reconciled in the years since he left the group. 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.

Timeline of my pulp adventure universe (updated 3/31/19)

gravediggerMajor 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. [“Dogs of War” and “In the Name of Hel,” Tales of the Norse Gods].

1748 – Johann Adam Weishaupt is born.

1750 – Guan-Yin embarks on a quest to find her lost father, which takes her to Skull Island [Guan-Yin and the Horrors of Skull Island].

1776 – Johann Adam Weishaupt forms The Illuminati. He adopts the guise of the original Lazarus Gray in group meetings, reflecting his “rebirth” and the “moral ambiguity” of the group. In Sovereign City, a Hessian soldier dies in battle, his spirit resurrected as a headless warrior.

Continue reading → Timeline of my pulp adventure universe (updated 3/31/19)

Timeline of my Pulp Adventure Universe (Updated 11/26/2018)

OfficeDepot1 copy 2Major 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. [“Dogs of War” and “In the Name of Hel,” Tales of the Norse Gods].

1748 – Johann Adam Weishaupt is born.

1750 – Guan-Yin embarks on a quest to find her lost father, which takes her to Skull Island [Guan-Yin and the Horrors of Skull Island].

1776 – Johann Adam Weishaupt forms The Illuminati. He adopts the guise of the original Lazarus Gray in group meetings, reflecting his “rebirth” and the “moral ambiguity” of the group. In Sovereign City, a Hessian soldier dies in battle, his spirit resurrected as an headless warrior.

Continue reading → Timeline of my Pulp Adventure Universe (Updated 11/26/2018)

The Secret Origin of The Claws of the Peregrine

claws_front_smallAfter I’d finished several stories in The Peregrine series, it occurred to me that I’d introduced quite a few supporting characters that were worthy of stories in their own right: Leonid Kaslov, Catalyst, Revenant, Rachel Winters, Frankenstein’s Monster, etc. I decided it would make perfect sense to throw some of those characters together and create a spinoff project from The Peregrine Chronicles. I decided to leave out Kaslov and focus on the other four heroes I just mentioned, allowing The Peregrine to serve as their funding agent. I wanted to do the pulp equivalent of the old Batman and the Outsiders series: Batman brought together heroes to serve as his private strike force, handling things he didn’t have the time to do.

This strike force would be known as The Claws of The Peregrine, or simply “The Claws.”

The Claws of the Peregrine were originally meant to be introduced in their own volume. The Peregrine would appear in a major fashion in the first story, then fade into the background, to be used as needed. The first story (“The Diabolical Mr. Dee”) was written and I think it turned out fairly well, though I was obviously still finding my footing with the series.

Then came “A Plague of Wicked Men.”

I forget who came up with the idea of teaming the various Wild Cat Books heroes into one story but I know that Don Lee, Wayne Skiver, the Carney brothers, Ron Hanna and I were all involved in the plotting of the story, which would pit the heroes against a grouping of evil villains. Ron and Wayne wanted to kick the story off by killing an established pulp hero and they chose to make Captain Hazzard the sacrifice. I was worried about how this would look, since Hazzard was very closely identified with the editor-in-chief of one of Wild Cat’s major rivals but I wasn’t really the mover and shaker in the plotting. A scene (by Wayne) was written in which Hazzard was killed and I know Don Lee wrote a scene where the villains first came together.

Then, as is common in these sorts of things, the writers began flaking out. One person had legal issues, another had concerns about the plot, etc. The project seemed dead.

Then I asked if I could take the plot and twist it into a Claws of The Peregrine plot, rewriting the scenes already completed and tweaking it all into something that I felt I could handle on my own. Everyone seemed fine with that and Wayne was gracious enough to allow me to keep his character Prof. Stone in the story. I threw in the Black Bat, Ascott Keane and Ki-Gor to make it even bigger. The story turned out fairly well, though it struggled a bit under its own weight. There were elements of the original plot that I was asked to keep that I would have preferred to jettison but I worked with what I had.

There were now two Claws tales…

And then the decision was made to scuttle the Claws spinoff. Sales on the most recent volume of The Peregrine had been weaker than expected and it was decided to not dilute the brand at this point.

So what to do? I didn’t want to just shelve those stories but at the same time I was feeling burned out on The Peregrine and didn’t really feel like doing a solo Peregrine collection, either.

It was decided to take the two Claws stories and put them into The Peregrine Volume Five. A couple more Claws/Peregrine stories were added to flesh out the volume and voila, we had a book.

But it wasn’t a very good book, in my opinion. It suffered from the fact that you had a book entitled The Peregrine that spent a lot of time with The Peregrine not in it — I was fleshing out characters for their own series, remember, so I had deliberately tried to push The Peregrine into the background of those stories.

It was published, people seemed to regard it as weaker than its predecessors but still good.

Here’s where all the individual members of the team first appeared:

  • Catalyst (Nathaniel Caine) first appeared in “Catalyst.” The story is set in 1942. A predecessor named Andre Theirry also used the Catalyst identity in a series of adventures alongside Lazarus Gray in the 1937-1938 period of time.
  • Esper (Rachel Winters, later Rachel Caine) also first appeared in “Catalyst”. As stated before, the story is set in ’42.
  • Revenant (Sally Pence) first appeared in “Death From the Jungle”. The story is set in 1943.
  • Vincent (aka Frankenstein’s Monster) first appeared in “Satan’s Trial”. This story occurs in late 1943, after “Death From the Jungle.”

The group comes together as The Claws of the Peregrine in 1944, operating out of a two-story house on Peachtree Street nicknamed The Aerie. The group’s meeting room was in the finished basement and there was an extensive library and armory on the second floor. The team first appeared together in “The Diabolical Mr. Dee” before teaming up with several other pulp heroes in “A Plague of Wicked Men.” Both of those adventures were set in ’44. In 1946, they took part in the missions dubbed “The Devil’s Spear” and “The Ivory Machine.” During the latter story, their ranks swelled with the additions of The Black Terror and his partner Tim, Miss Masque, and The Flame. All of those stories are now available in The Peregrine Omnibus Volume Two.

Nothing is known about the majority of the members past ’46, though in one possible future (“The Four Peregrines”), we see that Catalyst is still alive into the 21st Century, having outlived his wife. Given that everything shown in the series post 2006 is just a potential future, it’s not carved in stone that this is anyone’s ultimate fate, however.

We also know that The Black Terror is still alive in 1964 as he plays a role in ASSISTANCE UNLIMITED: THE SILVER AGE.

I sometimes miss these characters but I’m uncertain if anybody would really want to see them revived. If I do, I’m not certain that the public domain heroes like The Black Terror and Miss Masque will remain with the group — I’d suspect that they’ll become secondary members, who might pop up if needed. I’d probably keep the focus on the main four (plus The Peregrine).

What do you guys say? Anybody want to see these heroes return?