Monday, April 7, 2014

Pulp of the Week - The Return of Foster Fade



The New Adventures of Foster Fade - Pro Se Press - Digital and Print

I picked up this volume of pulp tales featuring one of Lester Dent's lesser known characters for a few reasons. One, I like Dent, and two, it features a couple of stories by Adam Lance Garcia. Garcia is one of the best of the New Pulp writers out there and his main story in this anthology doesn't disappoint.

For those not familiar with Foster Fade, he was featured in a number of stories by Lester Dent prior to Dent's work on Doc Savage. Foster Fade is a sort of Sherlock Holmes with gadgets. The love of gadgets is the source of any similarity to Doc Savage. Otherwise, Fade is quite different. He's tall, lanky and a bit of a prankster. He has little time for figures of authority. And he knows just how good he is.

Part of me wonders if Adam Garcia has modeled his Fade a bit after the Benedict Cumberbatch Sherlock, but regardless, the character is fun and smart.

Foster Fade occupies a large space in Planet Tower, the skyscraper in Manhattan that houses The Planet, a very popular Manhattan daily newspaper. (Perhaps yet another debt that the Superman creators owe Dent.) Fade has an office, living quarters, and the laboratory where he creates his outlandish crime solving gadgets.

The Planet gives away this prime real estate to Fade in exchange for having exclusive access to the Spectacularist (great word, isn't it?) and his exploits. Also included in the deal is that writer Dinamenta Stevens has full access to Fade and is the official writer of his tales. The relationship and banter between Din Stevens and Foster Fade is the most fun part of these tales, and the stories are indeed fun. Pro Se Press should be proud of this volume.

The collection opens with Adam Garcia's mystery as Fade and Din track a cop killer that is sending Fade the murder weapons. Pro Se has put its best foot forward and Garcia's tale is the best in this collection. The other tales are good, but don't match the level of Garcia's prose. The second tale, by Derrick Ferguson is the other standout.

After reading this book of original tales, I will be seeking out the collection of original Lester Dent stories (available from Altus Press) as well.

I'll give The New Adventures of Foster Fade a 7 out of 10, but Garcia's first tale scores a 9, and finally, the cover by the Spectacular Mike Fyles scores a 10. Great work with dynamic characters. One of his best.


Monday, October 7, 2013

Pulp of the Week - Death Note








Death Note is a great Manga series written by Tsugumi Ohba and illustrated by Takeshi Obata that has spawned anime, video games and live action movies in Japan. Shane Black and his writing partners are working on an American adaptation. The story follows Light Yagami, college aged son of a Tokyo police detective, after he has been given a strange notebook.

After touching the notebook, a strange demonic creature, a japanese shinigami named Ruyk, appears and stays by Light throughout much of the story. The holder of the Death Note is the only one that can see the Shinigami. This gives Light someone to talk to about the Death Note.




Light decides to test it out on convicted killers that are in prison. It works. He expands his tests to more and more people and finally sends a message, naming himself Kira, out to the world. Kira makes it clear that he will rid the world of evil, that good people need not fear him, and that he will rule this utopia.

Then it becomes clear to Light that there is another Kira, and the twists and puzzles mount. A task force is formed, with the mysterious L serving as lead detective. L has mysteries of his own and there is a battle of wits as L and Light serve on the task force. As this is a 12 book manga series, this is just the beginning.

I highly recommend Death Note. It is exciting, adventurous stuff that is exceedingly well written given the twists and turns of two geniuses in intellectual battle.

Death Note deserves a rating of 10. It is great. Warner Bros has optioned it for Shane Black to direct as an english language movie (Japanese versions already have been made) and I certainly thought it would make a great movie as I was reading the books. Check out Death Note.


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Pulp of the Week - Doc Savage 39






The  Seven Agate Devils - May 1936

This Doc adventure has a couple of firsts - Doc in Los Angeles for an extended period and a bald femme fatale. The story involves a series of killings where a carved agate statue is found next to the victim. This is especially peculiar because the statue's face matches the victims.


After racing around Los Angeles and a faux Malibu, Doc, Monk, and Ham go to a movie location far in the desert out by Palm Springs where the trail of the agate statues has led.

This odd and almost great adventure especially suffers from common ailment of a Doc Savage story running out of pages too fast. The authors (Lester Dent and Harold A. Davis) didn't leave enough room for an adequate conclusion.


The story has thrills and chases, Pacific cliffs and western canyon hideouts. It all rushes by too fast and misses many good opportunities. Hopefully Doc and company will return to Hollywood for a proper classic movie studio adventure. This is not that.




For this review I read the Bantam paperback published March 1973, likely purchased new a few years after that. The evocative paperback cover is by Fred Pfeiffer. I find myself liking the Pfeiffer covers more and more. The pulp cover is by Walter Baumhofer. I got the pulp image from mycomicshop.com. I'll give The Seven Agate Devils a 7 out of 10 - low due to the missed chances and the utterly unsatisfying conclusion. The scenes are exciting, but the story never gelled.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Man Litter

I saw this on the way to work today.



It seems there is a new product on the market called Man Litter... For the man on the go.


As it turns out, this is an ad for adult swim... I saw it and thought, wtf? Well, they got me to look it up... Success!

I know this is off topic, but hey...


Sunday, September 8, 2013

Doc Savage Comic Series Coming From Dynamite!!!

























Doc Savage Comic Books are on the way. Again. Doc has appeared in may comic book series, most recently in well meant, but not well received run from DC. Doc first appeared in comics in the 1940s from Street and Smith. Following that were runs in Gold Key, Marvel, DC, Millennium, Dark Horse, and DC again.
Now, at Baltimore Comic-Con this weekend, Dynamite Comics, in an announcement that shouldn't have shocked anyone who likes pulp comics, announced at least one Doc Savage comic book series starting in Dec 2013. (I say at least one because in the past Dynamite has run multiple series featuring the same character at the same time. These Dynamite comics will feature new stories with the Man of Bronze. The ambitious series will bw written by Chris Roberson (his last name coincidentally only an 'r' away from the original series house author name Robeson) will start with a story that takes Doc from 1933 to the present. Roberson was previously the writer of the Shadow and the multi-pulp-hero series Masks for Dynamite.

The series will be illustrated by Bilquis Evely, a Brazilian, and the samples on her page on deviant art.com look very good. I wonder if she is the first woman to illustrate Doc. The covers will be by Dynamite pulp regular, Alex Ross, and the ones for the first couple of issues (seen above) look great. Below you can see some spectacular samples of Bilquis Evely's art from her deviantart page:






 













Here are some snippets from an interview with writer Chris Roberson posted on CBRnews:

What does it mean to you to be a part of this character's history?
Roberson: ... Growing up in the '70s, it was impossible to miss the ubiquitous Bantam reprints with those amazing James Bama covers. I started reading the novels when I was still in middle school, if I recall correctly, and Doc quickly became (and remains!) my absolute favorite of the bunch.
 
Tell us a bit about the story you have planned for Doc Savage. Who are the major players and what kicks things off to start your series?
This is a big story that we're telling in these first eight issues, starting in 1933 at the point where readers were first introduced to Doc Savage, and continuing on through the years to the present day. Just because the Doc Savage Magazine ended publication in the late '40s didn't mean that Doc's adventures ended there.

Doc Savage has had many incarnations over the years. How did you walk that balance of combining the classic character that fans love with your own, unique spin on him?
I've been extraordinarily lucky in my brief comics career, in that I've now gotten the chance to work on virtually every character and concept that meant the most to me growing up. And I'm approaching Doc Savage the same way I approached all the others. Not by worrying about new readers or old readers, per se, but by taking the core elements of the character that appealed most to me when I first encountered him, and then using those as the foundation for telling the kind of story that I would most like to read.

A new ongoing series for Doc Savage opens up a lot of potential for unexplored aspects of the character and his mythology. What are some pieces of that unexplored territory that you hope to bring to light during your run?
Understandably, many readers over the years have found the whole idea of the "Crime College" a little troubling. And that's something that we're going to be exploring.

Why do you think Doc Savage as a character has managed to endure throughout the years? What do you feel is his biggest strength when it comes to character?
… You can see elements of him in Superman, Batman, and the Fantastic Four, but he also arguably was a big influence on characters like Indiana Jones and James Bond. I think one of the most appealing aspects of Doc Savage is that, in him, we get to see those kinds of adventure hero elements in their original form, stripped down and lean, without encumbering mythologies and continuities. And speaking only as a reader, those original adventures are just so much fun that it's impossible not to revisit them over and over again. Our hope with this new comic is to try to communicate some of that fun and appeal to contemporary readers.


I am cautiously optimistic. Thanks to the ever-on-it Coming Attractions for bringing this news to my attention. They provide a weekly update of upcoming pulp goodness.



Thursday, September 5, 2013

Pulp of the Week - The Astounding, The Amazing, and The Unknown




The Astounding, The Amazing, and The Unknown
by Paul Malmont

 

Following up on the terrific Chinatown Deathcloud Peril (CDP), Paul Malmont has written an equally good, if not better novel with The Astounding, The Amazing, and The Unknown. In CDP, Malmont wrote a story about 1930s pulp magazine writers having a pulp magazine style adventure. The results were wonderful as real writers Lester Dent, Walter Gibson and L Ron Hubbard faced grave danger.

In The Astounding, The Amazing, and The Unknown (AAU), Malmont continues in the same alternate history universe, but this time focuses on the science fiction writers having a science fiction adventure. The main characters are Bob Heinlein, L. Sprague de Camp, Isaac Asimov, along with the returning Ron Hubbard, Walter Gibson, Lester Dent and their wives and girlfriends. The setting is New York, Philadelphia, and the surrounding area late in WWII.
 
As in real life, in the AAU, Heinlein is running a think tank at the Philadelphia Navy Shipyard. This group is composed of a mess of scientist SF writers that are assigned to dream up the future of warfare. They have some crazy ideas and some of them even work. I hate to go into too much detail, because with a book like this, discovery is half the fun. Everyone gets the chance to be a hero and everyone plays a vital part, which is quite a feat with this many characters. Kudos to Mr. Malmont for achieving that delicate balance.
 
Needless to say, I think that AAU is a wonderful book that anyone interested in the golden age of Science Fiction or adventure stories should read. If you grew up reading SF in the post War era, you will love it. I started reading SF with Lester del Rey and Ray Bradbury and Asimov in the 1970s and I loved this book. The balance of truth and fiction is great (just enough truth to get you wondering about the rest.) We need more Malmont stories. If only he would give up the advertising game and write full time...
 
The Astounding, The Amazing, and The Unknown gets a 9 out of 10. This is a great book. Except for the tragically boring cover.




Monday, September 2, 2013

Pulp of the Week - Doc Savage 38







THE MEN WHO SMILED NO MORE
APRIL 1936


The Men Who Smiled No More is a very different Doc Savage tale for a number of reasons. It takes place entirely in New York state. It does not involve foreigners. And 95% of it has no super-science. Yet the plot is entirely about two completely different aspects of super-science. Writer Laurence Donovan contributed this tale.

The story begins with a humble shoe shiner. "Smiling Tony" Talliano was the first to quit laughing" is the first sentence of the story. What follows is a wild story where even Doc himself is afflicted with a strange condition where people become emotionless, flat versions of themselves. It's like they were replaced with a robot replica. The violence is also at a high level with killings perform is a callous and brutal manner. What intrigued me about this is that many people perceive Doc himself to be emotionless like this all the time anyway. That is not true. Doc has emotions, but he rarely displays them openly. Donovan also enhanced Docs' humanity to emphasize the difference when Doc is afflicted by the strange emotionlessness.

Donovan also brings the whole cast of regulars into this adventure, so we get to see Monk, Ham, Renny, Long Tom, Johnny, and Pat Savage struggle and change into lethargic shells, with no humor, or passion in their lives. Chemistry is the only one left out.

The bulk of the tale is set in the Shinnecock Hills on Long Island in New York. Monk, it turns out, has a cabin retreat in the woods and strange things are going on in a neighboring cabin. The man there has a duck pond and gets particularly furious at anyone who comes near his ducks. Then everyone starts getting the affliction. One by one the cast loses their drive, their will to live or to be active about anything. Finally, Doc himself falls under its spell.

The Men Who Smiled No More itself is told far more like a mystery story than any of the other Doc Savage tales I have read so far,and it includes Doc giving a long, detailed wrap up at the end.
I'll give The Men Who Smiled No More an 8.5 out of 10. This is a fun story with a welcome stylistic change of pace - harder, more savage.

For this review, I read my Bantam paperback dated February 1970. The Pulp cover is by Walter Baumhofer and the Bantam cover is by James Bama. Interestingly, that cover seemed to have nothing to do with the story for a very long time. It is an illustration of action from the story, however. Page 124 to be precise. I'm not sure that I have ever read a story with the cover happening so close to the end. Cherie Priest's The Inexplicables is the closest in recent memory, but even that cover was not nearly as close to the end as was the one for this Doc Savage story.