Tag: The Shadow

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.

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…

My Favorite Shadow Novels (Updated 2/26/18)

death_towerAs most of you know, I’m a big fan of The Shadow – in fact, I used to host a podcast entitled The Shadow Fan. Today I thought I’d share with you a few of my favorite Shadow novels, so that if you’re looking to jump into the series, you’ll have some recommendations about where to start. These are by no means all the great Shadow stories — it’s just a handful that I really love. In addition, there are still Shadow novels that I haven’t read yet — so I might go back and add to this list as time passes.

To be honest, I think it’s a great idea to simply start with the first story and go forward — but that’s not always possible, I know. So here are my favorites, in order of publication:

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My Favorite Shadow Novels (Updated 6/22/16)

death_towerAs most of you know, I’m a big fan of The Shadow – in fact, I host a podcast entitled The Shadow Fan. Today I thought I’d share with you a few of my favorite Shadow novels, so that if you are looking to jump into the series, you’ll have some recommendations about where to start. These are by no means all the great Shadow stories — it’s just a handful that I really love. In addition, there are still Shadow novels that I haven’t read yet — so I might go back and add to this list as time passes.

To be honest, I think it’s a great idea to simply start with the first story and go forward — but that’s not always possible, I know. So here are my favorites, in order of publication:

The Living Shadow – April 1, 1931

The Eyes of The Shadow – July-September 1931

The Shadow Laughs – October 1, 1931

Gangdom’s Doom – December 1, 1931

The Death Tower – January 1, 1932

The Ghost of the Manor – June 15, 1933

Murder Every Hour – June 1, 1935

The London Crimes – September 15, 1935

The Sledge-Hammer Crimes – August 1, 1936

Crime, Insured – July 1, 1937

The Shadow Unmasks – August 1, 1937

The Green Hoods – August 15, 1938

Death From Nowhere – July 15, 1939

The Golden Master – September 15, 1939

Shiwan Khan Returns – December 1, 1939

The Invincible Shiwan Khan – March 1, 1940

The Prince of Evil – April 15, 1940

Masters of Death – May 15, 1940

Murder Genius – July 1, 1940

The Man Who Died Twice – September 15, 1940

The Devil’s Paymaster – November 15, 1940

The Thunder King – June 15, 1941

The Devil Master – September 15, 1941

Temple of Crime – November 15, 1941

The Book of Death – January 15, 1942

Death’s Bright Finger – May 15, 1942

The Vampire Murders – September 1, 1942

The Black Dragon – March 1, 1943

The Sinister Shadow – 2015

My Favorite Pulp Comics – Of All Time!

shadowdocsavageToday I’m listing out my Top 10 Favorite Pulp Comics of all time.

The rules are simple: it has to be a comic book based upon an actual pulp character. So The Rocketeer doesn’t count and neither does Will Eisner’s Spirit. Both may be pulp in “spirit” (Hah!) but they’re not based on actual classic pulp heroes.

So let’s get started, shall we?

10. John Carter, Warlord of Mars (1977, Marvel)
9. Tarzan (1972, DC)
8. Doc Savage Magazine (1975, Marvel)
7. Conan the Barbarian (1970, Marvel)
6. Savage Sword of Conan (1974, Marvel)
5. The Shadow (1973, DC)
4. The Shadow: Blood and Judgment (DC, 1986)
3. The Shadow Strikes! (1989, DC)
2. The Shadow/Green Hornet: Dark Nights (2013, Dynamite)
1. The Shadow: Year One (2013, Dynamite)

As you can see, my love of The Shadow may have tainted the list somewhat 😉

What are some of your favorites, folks?

Digging In the Dirt: The Origins of Gravedigger

allstarsquadron_homage_clean_smallCharity Grace – aka Gravedigger –  has appeared in two solo volumes so far 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:

Hello, Faithful Readers! I hope you enjoyed the introduction to Gravedigger, the newest member of my New Pulp universe that began with the arrival of The Peregrine. Since The Peregrine’s first flight back in 2008, I’ve added to the universe with Lazarus Gray, The Dark Gentleman, Guan-Yin, The Claws of The Peregrine and many more.

But none of them are quite like Gravedigger.

To understand how and why I created the character, we first have to go back to the misty past. It was a time of optimism and a surging economy. We were well on the way to electing the first Democratic President since Jimmy Carter. Grunge was filtering its way into the public consciousness.

It was 1992. I was 20 years old and in college, where I was working towards an undergraduate degree in Psychology. Then, as now, I was a huge comic book fan. Then, as now, I was a huge fan of the Valiant Universe. I loved the tight continuity it possessed and the way that little background events and characters would float from book to book, building a cohesive universe.

One of my favorite characters in that universe was Shadowman, who debuted in May 1992. A supernatural hero, Jack Boniface was poisoned by an alien, allowing him to “die” before being resurrected as an avenger of the night. We would later find out that he was only the latest in a long line of Shadowmen. I loved the concept and the series but it eventually faded away with the rest of the Valiant Universe.

But like all good things, it would not stay dead. Shadowman and the rest of the Valiant heroes were recently revived by a new Valiant. The promo art by Patrick Zircher floated around for months before the first issue actually debuted and I adored the revised look of the hero. It got me to thinking… Perhaps I needed to add a new title to my pulp hero collection, one that would serve as a “connector” series. It would have ties to all that had come before and would be the place where fans of The Peregrine or Lazarus Gray could come to get a taste of the greater universe.

I decided I wanted to make the new character a female, to balance out the male-heavy universe that I already had, and that I wanted her to be heavily supernatural as a nod to Shadowman. Like Jack, she would be the latest in a long line of heroes and, as with Shadowman and Lazarus Gray, rebirth would factor large in her origin.

From there, artist George Sellas and I tossed a few ideas back and forth. I had the name Gravedigger but I was afraid it was too masculine for Charity. He convinced me that it could be a neat twist on the name and concept. I told him my idea of tying Charity’s past to Samantha Grace’s origin, which he liked. It not only provided a link to the Lazarus series but also furthered the Grace family’s role in the overall universe.

Once I’d come up with the full origin and George had done his initial character sketch, I thought it would be fun to have a “hand-off” in the story. When I wrote my first Lazarus Gray collection, The Peregrine appeared, as if giving his stamp of approval on the new arrival. With this one, I wanted to have both The Peregrine and Lazarus appear in ways that would bolster Gravedigger but not detract from her starring role. I was inspired by the way Star Trek used to do this – Dr. McCoy from the original series was on the first episode of Next Generation, then Captain Picard from The Next Generation appeared on the first episode of Deep Space Nine, while that space station was a jumping-off point for Star Trek: Voyager when that series began. I thought was a nice wink and nod to the fans.

The decision to use The Headless Horseman in the book came about because I recycle everything. A few years ago, I wrote nearly 20,000 words on a novel I was going to call “Headless.” It was going to be a sequel to Washington Irving’s classic and would introduce a new hero of mine, Mortimer Quinn. I eventually abandoned the project but I always wanted to use parts of that story… so it ended up here. Tying Mortimer to the Gravedigger legacy was easy enough and allowed me to bring the Horseman into the story.

As for Charity’s allies… one thing that I learned from the Lazarus Gray series is that I like having a steady cast of characters to supplement my protagonist. But I didn’t want to create another Assistance Unlimited, who was inspired by Justice, Inc. Instead, I looked to another favorite pulp hero of mine – The Shadow. While Lazarus has a group of partners, The Shadow had a group of agents. There was never any doubt that Harry Vincent and Burbank were lower-ranking than The Shadow. That’s what I set out to do here – Mitchell, Cedric and Li all get their ‘origins’ here and we see what skills they bring to the table. All of them, however, are agents – not partners. Our heroine is the one that stands on center stage during the final conflict.

So where do we go from here? Obviously, the arrival of Mortimer on the last page suggests that there are more stories to be told here. The first Gravedigger book appeared in 2013, with a second in 2014. I hope to continue to update her adventures regularly, just as I have with Lazarus and The The Peregrine.

Speaking of artwork, I have to say thank you to George Sellas, for designing Gravedigger’s look and for the incredibly awesome cover he whipped up. Also, Will Meugniot’s interior illustrations perfectly captured the mood of the story, pairing Charity’s obvious beauty with her deadly nature. Thanks, guys.

Lock your doors, everyone. Gravedigger is hitting the streets.