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 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 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

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.

Monday, August 12, 2013


The Unsustainable Future

The  following essay is not intended to be a review of Elysium (which I liked quite a bit) but rather an exploration of the themes and events in the film.

Do not read this if you are intending to see the film. There are spoilers ahead and specifically discussion of the ending of the film. See the movie, then discuss...

Elysium imagines life 150 years in the future. In the intervening years the population on Earth has exploded and the world is a crowded, dirty place. Downtown Los Angeles was wonderfully rendered with shacks on top of high rises and freeways, and in fact, everywhere. The  visual effects are very well done and the world of shanty towns seemed real.

The super-rich, the one percent of the one percent live in what is outwardly a utopia. Elysium has beautiful homes and wonderful yards with robotic servants and medical machines that can cure any ailment or repair any injury. Those medical miracle machines are not available on earth. All the citizens of Elysium are given a unique barcode which lets them onto the space station and access to all the goodies - including the medical pods. 

Enter our blue collar hero, Max, played by Matt Damon. He has been radiated in an industrial accident and will do anything to get up to Elysium. His former girlfriend is now a nurse and has a daughter. They reconnect when Max goes to the hospital.

Max takes a job from a shady fixer and attacks the industrialist (down on Earth troubleshooting)  that created the software that runs Elysium. Max has been equipped with a very low-tech cyberlink and he downloads the full Elysium software package from the industrialist's brain. 

Now everybody is after Max. He gets on a shuttle and makes it to Elysium where he and the fixer pull the software out of Max's head and permanently modify it to make all the people of Earth citizens of Elysium so that the sick little girl can use the medical pod. The Elysium government is disrupted and Elysium is now open to all. 

The End.

However... I find this ending troubling because what good would it really do to allow everyone onto Elysium? It would quickly become overcrowded and unsustainable. And what good would bringing the medical pod technology down to Earth really do? Imagine a world of massive overpopulation suddenly given a massive increase in life expectancy. There would be food wars and turf wars and end up with even worse problems. Soon enough someone would reduce the population via nuclear weapons and Elysium would likely be destroyed.

This is why I find the ending troubling and why I am not sure about the message of the film (if any) and where we go from here. Would the super rich truly be happy living quiet lives of parties and luxury?  Not being super rich I can't be sure, but a boredom level would have to take effect at some point.

I think that 25 years in Elysium's future will be a world in chaos and strife with turf wars and the world splintered into thousands of factions all fighting for a tiny piece of the pie.

I think that having Elysium there gives the people of Earth something to strive for, something to dream about, something to live for. It might even give them hope.

Hopefully we will make our future better.

Disclaimer:  The opinions expressed here are mine alone and do not reflect on those of any other person, my employer, etc. 'Nuff said.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Pulp of the Week - Doc Savage 37

The Metal Master - March 1936


Bring on the super-science! There are no charlatans here, this stuff is all real. This supersaga begins with a young woman escorting an old man to Doc Savage's 86th floor office. The woman, Nan Tester, thinks that Seevers is a bit nuts, but she'd like to meet Savage and see if his reputation is accurate. When they get to the office, they are attacked and Seevers is taken, but Doc gets the girl and hides her in a secret room in his laboratory. Doc pursues Seevers and when he finds him it is too late. He is partially protruding from a blob of metal that used to be a car.

A gang has gotten their mitts on a a piece of gear that causes metal to liquify while it is exposed to the beam. Not good if you are in a car, for instance. The leader of this gang is, of course, The Metal Master.

In one section, Nan Tester asks Doc about the fights between Monk and Ham. He explains, "Years ago, it became evident that the only thing that will stop Monk and Ham from quarreling is for one of the other to get killed."
Nan replies, "Oh! Then they've been like this on other occasions?"
"On practically all other occasions," Doc explained.

There is a lot of good in this Lester Dent book, and really only one fault. They bring back the monkey. Yep, Ham Brook's pet ape returns, just when its seems that we forgot about him. Oh, well, it was good while it lasted. The story explains that Chemistry was quarantined for many months in with customs…

After some globetrotting and gun play, the secrets of the Metal Master are revealed. Oh, and a decent twist plays out for a good bit before being revealed.

I'll give The Metal Master a 7.5 out of 10 due to a few sections where Dent was on autopilot and the monkey. Everything to do with the melting of metal is pretty great. The Pulp cover is by Walter Baumhofer and the Bantam Cover is by Fred Pfeifer.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Pulp of the Week - Joyland by Stephen King

Joyland is Stephen King's new novel from Hardcase Crime. This paperback original tells the tale of Devin Jones, a college student who gets a summer job at a small seaside amusement park (the titular Joyland) in South Carolina. This being Stephen King, there is a lot going on, something beyond the unexpected and heartbreaking exit of his girlfriend who is transferring to another school and ultimately to another man.

There is a single, lone dark ride at Joyland, a ramshackle car in the dark called, The Horror House. Years before, a young woman was savagely murdered there by her date. People say the ride is haunted by the girl that was butchered there. The killer was never found. In the back of his mind, Devin would love to solve this horrific crime, and his sympathetic college friends pitch in to help. They are the mostly off stage research assistants.

Despite being sullen and withdrawn, Devin can't help but notice the boy in the wheel chair that sits out in the yard of a magnificent home along the beach. A boy that is whisked away at the sight of strangers by an attractive young woman. There is a moment of opportunity and the boy engineers a meeting with Dev.

 As the weeks go by his relationship with the boy grows, Dev learns how to play by the young reluctant mother's rules. He also learns how to be a carny, and speak like a carny. And, despite it being forced on him, loves his new found role playing the park's mascot. Hiding behind the mask sets him free and the kids love him.

This being a King book, not everything is as it seems and there is something odd going on in Joyland and with the people Dev meets. Something that lurks in the dark places of the heart. This story has a lot of magic to it, and a bit of 'the fog of memory' in its telling. Joyland is a really good book and I highly recommend it. Joyland is a quick read and it's funny how fast you can read a book when it is really good (and not 1500 pages long.)

While Joyland is short for a King novel, its length falls in line with the majority of books on my shelf—books accumulated during the 70s, 80s, and 90s—books I think of as a regular size, around 250 to 300 pages. I realize that those days are over and now books are much longer, but his is the length I like. Maybe that is why I am drawn to pulp and YA novels like Leviathan and The Hunger Games. The stories are fast and to the point. King fits everything needed in this book. Love. Loss. Joy. Sorrow. Longing. Redemption.

The setting along the shore reminds me of the childhood vacations at Cape Cod mashed up with the carnivals and thrill rides of the old quaint Euclid Beach Park or the early Cedar Point, before it exploded into a mega coaster mecca.

Thanks, Stephen, for still writing great, personal stories and for supporting a brand like Hard Case Crime. I'm not sure when Hard Case went to trade paperbacks (or if they always were), but despite the larger size, I still love paperbacks. The package that they have put together is outstanding, from the juicy titles and cover copy to the lurid and fantastic Glen Orbik art.

I give Joyland an 9 out of 10.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Pulp of the Week - Doc Savage: Skull Island

Doc Savage: Skull Island
by Will Murray
Based on a concept by cover artist Joe DeVito

The new Doc Savage novel by Will Murray contains a record number of authorized firsts for the character. Murray digs deep into the Savage family history, Doc's relationships with his father and grandfather, and Doc's personal journey toward becoming the man we know.

This book starts in 1933 New York - most likely just a few months after the events of "The Man of Bronze" and "Land of Terror," but the story soon spins into an extended flashback to over a decade earlier as Doc tells his five friends of the tale when he and his father went on a quest to find Doc's grandfather, Stormalong Savage.

Stormalong is a sailing captain of the old school and his ship has vanished in the vast South Indian Ocean. Doc's father is a sailor as well and summons Doc to join him on the Orion, the very ship he was born on. Captain Clark Savage, Sr. is a stern man with a crew of Mayans that make the trip in search of Stormalong's ship, the Courser.

The journey to Skull Mountain Island involves much adventure as well as sailing for many uneventful days. Doc spends his time tinkering in the small machine shop, learning Mayan from the crew, and getting on his father's nerves. In the shop he is adapting a service automatic to fire full auto.

Deluxe Hardcover wrap around jacket
Soon enough Doc arrives at Skull Island and clashes with island natives, dinosaurs, and other denizens of the island, all leading up to Kong. While there is quite a bit of plot about a band of headhunters stalking Kong, we all know that they won't get him because Kong is in New York at the start of the book. Thus, the suspense with Kong's life is lessened.

There is also a smaller, white ape (like the one in Son of Kong) whose presence is not explained and in fact is a bit confusing considering its fate.

Stormalong is a wonderful character and I wouldn't mind reading a Murray novel or two featuring him. He's crotchety and set in his ways and fun. Clark, Sr. is a bit of a stick in the mud and Clark, Jr. (Doc) questions him about sending a child (Doc himself) off to live with professors and scientists instead of taking care of the young boy himself.

It is this material, the family stuff that is the heart and reason for this story. Dinosaurs, headhunters, the voyage, and Kong himself are secondary, but fun, parts of the book.

Will Murray has done a fine job with this book and I commend him for expanding the canon. The cover by Joe De Vito is terrific as is the presentation as a whole. I'll give Doc Savage: Skull Island an 8.5 out of 10. 

There has been a lot of fan interest in this match up for a long time. There is a lot of material at Rip Dagger's Dojo blog. Doc Savage cover mashup expert Kez Wilson did a great one on his blog, mashing up two James Bama paintings.

And more art...

Next up - Doc Savage meets Tarzan? Doc and The Shadow? Doc and the Avenger?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


Cthulhu Wars!

Cthulhu Wars is a game of epic struggle as the Great Old Ones clash to determine which one rules the Earth. No matter the outcome, it seems that humanity loses. The game is currently on Kickstarter with more than 2 weeks to go and it is way past the funded level and will be made. The figures are all sculpted in the standard miniatures game scale of 28mm. The monsters are quite large.

The game is designed by Sandy Peterson, a guy that knows a thing or two about Cthulhu, having written the classic pen and paper RPG Call of Cthulhu.

The Kickstarter has options to just buy the figures by Faction, special 1st player marker sexy figures, sculpted gates, custom dice, posters, t-shirts, and additional factions. You could just buy in on a faction and play with your friends using your own figures, or use the figures for horror RPGs. As minis go, these are a good value, look great and should paint up well.

There are lots of extra factions and choices including additional Great Old Ones. They are planning 13 additional Factions. These are $48 each. The first is Yog Sothoth. Others planned include: Tsathoggua, Ithaqua, Azathoth.

There are also 3 map expansions including the Dreamlands with a new maps and plastic pieces. These are $40 each.

Cthulhu Wars is played on a huge world map (ala Risk) and each player gets a unique army led by one of the Great Old Ones. The base game factions are: Cthulhu, Nyarlathotep, Shub-Niggurath, and Hastur. Other figures are listed in the complete list below.

I am quite impressed with the figures and the game design itself.

One of the interesting features of the rules is how first player and turn order are determined. The player with the most power goes first, but they get to choose if the round is played clockwise or counter-clockwise around the table. Neat. Power is determined by how many people and gates the player controls. This includes cultists captured in the turn before! Those guys are then killed and returned to their player's off board unit supply.

On your turn you may do one of the following:
Recruit a single Cultist (get more dudes on the map)
Move your dudes (spending 1 power for each) to an adjacent territory
Create a Gate (a portal to bring in Monsters) (only one per territory)
Capture Cultist - your monsters can help recruit your enemies forces to your side
Battle - fight enemy units in the same territory
Summon Monster to a territory where you have a controlled gate
Control Gate
Ritual of Annihilation
Awaken Great Old One

Players recruit Cultists and summon monsters and gain power and Spellbooks until they have enough power to win.

I will probably always think of this as Cthulhu Risk and to me that is a good thing. A 15 page text only rulebook is posted on the Kickstarter and I think it reads pretty well and the components are great. With Sandy Peterson involved, this is likely a pretty good game. But the price - $150 for the base game. Woah.

Here are the factions in the base set:

The game includes the following (quoted from the rulebook pdf):

Player Hints & Tips
Mapboard of Earth (in two pieces, printed on both sides)
4 Faction Cards
4 Power markers (faction-specific)
4 Doom track markers (faction-specific)
1 Ritual of Annihilation Marker
Starting player tile (circular)
24 Spellbooks (6 per Faction)
~12 Desecration markers (yellow sign)
16 Gates (cardboard, large)
30 Elder Sign chits (two-sided: one side has the Elder Sign, the other has a number – either 1/2, 1,
or 1 1/2)]
· Thus, a third of the Elder Sign chits say “1/2”
· A third read “1”
· A third read “1 1/2”
20 six-sided dice
24 cultists, six each in four colors; BLUE, GREEN, RED, YELLOW
5 Great Old Ones; Cthulhu (GREEN), Nyarlathotep (BLUE), Shub-Niggurath (RED),
Hastur (YELLOW), The King in Yellow (YELLOW)
4 Deep Ones, 2 Shoggoths, 2 Starspawn (all GREEN)
3 Nightgaunts, 3 Flying Polyp, 2 Hunting Horror (all BLUE)
2 Ghouls, 4 Fungi, 3 Dark Young (all RED)
6 Undead, 4 Byakhee (all YELLOW)
Total types of figures: 18
Small figures = 39 (cultists, deep ones, nightgaunts, ghouls, undead)
Medium figures = 14 (shoggoths, flying polyps, fungi, byakhee, King in Yellow)
Large figures = 7 (starspawn, hunting horror, dark young)
Huge figures = 4 (Cthulhu, Nyarlathotep, Shub-Niggurath, Hastur)
Total figures: 63 + 16 Gates


Friday, May 31, 2013

Wow it has been a long time...


It is amazing how time flows forward,  either taking all of us for a ride, or leaving us in its wake. I'm not sure what happened, but I have taken a lot of pictures for articles that never appeared (X-Wing wave one, new Adventurers, Netrunner rerelease) and life goes on.

Rather than chase the past, I will be chronicling the future (or at least the present) as it arrives. I am currently reading Doc Savage: Skull Island from Will Murray and Joe DeVito, and The Astounding, the Amazing, and the Unknown by Paul Malmont. Reviews will follow.

I have 2 more Clark Tyler novellas that are working their way toward publication. The copy editor has had at them and I'm working on the final pass.

Thank you all for continuing to visit the Savage Tales blog and I will try to get you some good stuff.


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

2013 Pulp Factory Awards - Winners!


For the fourth consecutive year, the Pulp Factory Awards were presented at this year’s Windy City Pulp & Paper Convention.

These awards are given to the best in new pulp fiction and art published during the previous year as voted on by the 111 members of the Pulp Factory; an internet group made up of pulp writers, artists, editors, publishers and dedicated fans.

Writer William Patrick Maynard and artist Rob Davis once again co-hosted the award presentations, handing out the sculptured trophies done in the shape of a quill pen set against factory-like gears.

The pen represents both writers and artists, the gears paying homage to the assembly-line production of the old pulps of the 1930s.

This year’s winners for the best in fiction and art for 2012 were:

For Best Pulp Novel –
THE LONE RANGER – VENDETTA by the late Howard Hopkins, published by Moonstone Books.

For Best Pulp Short Story –
"The Ghoul" by Ron Fortier from the anthology, “Monster Aces,” published by Pro Se Productions.

For Best Pulp Cover –
Joe Devito for THE INFERNAL BUDDHA published Altus Press.

For Best Interior Illustrations –
Rob Moran for THE RUBY FILES published by Airship 27 Productions.

This year’s preliminary nominations and final ballot represented a total of twelve New Pulp Fiction publishers.

The Pulp Factory membership congratulates all the winners for their exceptional work.

Congratulations to the winners!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Pulp of the Week - Doc Savage #36


This adventure starts with another great Doc Savage story opener. A fully clothed man comes ashore on Long Island Sound and refuses help. He manages to grab a train into the city and escapes his would be rescuers. Shortly thereafter, a boatload of pursuers arrives at the same beach.

After a number of chases and an unpleasant journey on an ocean liner, Doc and his men Monk, Ham, and Renny arrive at the destination just after two factions of sea borne skallywags. There is much fighting and underwater adventure in this novel. I found the premise far more compelling than the telling and the rich treasures more interesting and clever than usual. The femme fatale, Diamond Eve is also charming and interesting.

What is beginning to bother me about some of the stories (like this one) is that just when we finally get to some wondrous place, in this case a lost city called Taz, the story is almost over. There is little time to explore, no time to enjoy the incredible place the writers have (at least partially) imagined. There is often far too much getting there and not enough there. I will have to remember this in my own stories.

The ideas within this story are fantastic and I wish we could have spent far more time in these fantastic undersea ruins. Further research shows that 30 issues later, Doc returns to the underwater lost city of Taz...

Here are the paintings that Walter Baumhofer and James Bama did for their covers of the February 1936 issue of Doc Savage Magazine. It is rare that I can find the paintings for both publications of the novels.
For this review I read my copy of the Bantam paperback from August 1968 that I bought used for $2 in the late 1970s...

I'll give Mystery Under The Sea a 7.5 out of 10. The story had much promise and some good ideas, but just didn't get there... Research for this post was aided by Chris Kalb's great site and by a new to me post on SCRIBD that is great.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Doc and Kong are 80... together

HAPPY 80th

Through the persistence and talents of Will Murray and Joe De Vito we get to celebrate the creation of two enduring legends...

Altus Press says on their blog, "Eighty years ago in February, 1933, the Street & Smith company released the first issue of Doc Savage Magazine, introducing one of the most popular and influential pulp superheroes ever to hit the American scene. Doc Savage was the greatest adventure and scientist of his era, and while his magazine ended in 1949, he influenced the creators of Superman, Batman, Star Trek, The Man from UNCLE and the Marvel Universe—to name only a few.

"While that first issue of Doc Savage was fresh on Depression newsstands, RKO released one of the most important fantasy films of all time. Everyone knows the story of how King Kong was discovered on Skull Island and hauled back to New York in chains, only to perish tragically atop the world’s tallest skyscraper, the Empire State Building.

"As it happened, that was where Doc Savage had his world headquarters. For decades, fans have wondered: Where was Doc the day Kong fell?

"On the eightieth anniversary of these fictional giants, Altus Press is proud to release the first authorized clash between The Man of Bronze and the Eighth Wonder of the World—Doc Savage: Skull Island. Written by Will Murray in collaboration with Joe DeVito, creator of KONG: King of Skull Island, Doc Savage: Skull Island is a new pulp epic."

This is big news to me and I will be picking this book up.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Oscar 2012 - Les Miz and final recap

Les Misérables is the last of the 9 Best Picture Nominees that I screened. While it is not what I would choose for Best Picture out of the field, it has some very good qualities...

What stands out in Les Miz... The performances by Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway were spellbinding. Amanda Seyfried was a revelation. The production was spectacular—beautiful in its lived-in splendor and glorious in the detail of the design and photography. I don't know exactly what I was expecting, but I was surprised by the scale and sheer breathtaking audacity of it all. Well done.

The negatives are particular to me and my likes and dislikes. I don't care for Russell Crowe in general and didn't care for him here, either. His acting was good, but his singing voice is not of the caliber of the rest of the cast.

While I enjoy musicals, I am not a fan of the modern use of the word for shows like Phantom, Miss Saigon, and Les Misérables. To me, musicals have songs and dialog. Opera is all singing. The (what I would call) songs in Les Misérables are good. However... the dialog songs, the ones where a regular musical would just have the people talk, are not. The melodies are weak and not necessary. Just let the characters talk.

So, to recap, other than the dialog songs, and the sometimes dragging pace, I thought the film was outstanding, but not Best Picture.

Here is my personal (and really hard to do with this many really good movies) ranking of the choices for Best Picture:

Zero Dark Thirty
Django Unchained
Silver Linings Playbook
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Les Misérables
Life of Pi

None of these are bad movies, in fact, they are all really good and this is a tough choice this year. All of these movies are very good. It was fun pushing myself to watch all nine nominees this year and something I haven't done in many years...

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

More Love For Studio Spectre


The All Pulp Blog has taken over the New Pulp Print Bestseller list from the overworked Barry Reese and The Studio Spectre is ranked #7!

The list goes up every Monday and covers New Pulp titles published in the last three months.

Here's the list - Visit All Pulp for the full list.

1) Sherlock Holmes, Consulting Detective, Volume 4 by Various (Airship 27)
2) Finn’s Golem by Gregg Taylor (Autogyro)
3) Fight Card: Bluff City Brawler by Heath Lowrance as Jack Tunney (Fight Card)
4) Prohibition by Terrence McCauley, (Airship 27)
5) The Fangslinger and the Preacher by Bret Lee Hart (Western Trail Blazer)

6) The New Adventures of the Griffon by Various (Pro Se Productions)
7) The Studio Spectre by W. Peter Miller (Uchronic Press)
8 ) Sentinels: Metalgod by Van Plexico (White Rocket Books)

9) Three Against the Stars by Joe Bonadonna (Airship 27)
10) Pro Se Presents # 16 by Various (Pro Se Press)

There is a rumor that an eBook list may be next...

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Pulp Ark Awards!

The Pulp Ark Award nominations were announced today on the All Pulp blog and I am proud to say that Mike Fyles was nominated for his cover of The Claim!

Congratulations, Mike!

Monday, January 28, 2013

2012 Oscar Nominations PT 3

This adventure story features the journey of a young man who survives a shipwreck and ends up trapped in a lifeboat with a Bengal Tiger. I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of the movie that did not take place on the boat. There were many places visited in the story of a young boy nicknamed Pi, whose family owned a small zoo in India. When the family moves, they pack up the whole zoo, load it up on a ship, and head off to Canada.

It is no spoiler to say that that the boy and the tiger end up in a lifeboat and there spend many months adrift at sea and learn to survive together.

The film is quite beautiful and much visually richer than one might imagine given such a confining sounding premise. However, in the final analysis, I found the film good, but not great.

This official Austrian entry which is also a nominee for Best foreign language film also got nominated in a number of other categories including Best Picture. The story follows an elderly couple as the wife slides into the decline of old age and her husband struggles to care for her. The film is wonderfully acted and starkly honest in dealing with the issues of aging. However, I found it leaning toward dull.

Just one more Best Picture Nominee to go - Les Misérables...

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

2012 Oscar Nominations PT 2


Quentin Tarantino's tip of the hat to Sergio Leone is fast and nasty. Like most Tarantino films Django is full of strongly drawn characters, goofy cameos, wildly creative dialog, plot twists,  overlong, and thoroughly entertaining. This is why he is brilliant and maddening at the same time. There are several sequences that could have just gone away and many others that could have been shorter.

I have a feeling that Django Unchained uses the 'N' word about 5000 times too many to actually win the Best Picture Oscar. Christoph Waltz certainly should win for his astonishing portrayal of a bounty hunter that hates slavery and takes Django under his wing. However, it is absurd that he is nominated for Actor in a Supporting Role. The only conceivable reason this isn't a lead role is that he is not the title character. Jamie Fox is terrific as well, but Waltz soars. Tarantino is also nominated for the Original Screenplay and may earn that, but I find it equally likely that award will go to Zero Dark Thirty.


The damaged people at the center of this Philadelphia-based quirky romantic comedy give this film a depth and humanity usually missing from mainstream romcoms. Bradley Cooper stars (and also Executive Produces) as the just sprung from psych ward Pat who snapped upon finding his wife in the shower with another man. He is sent home to live in his parents (Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver) attic and to learn to adjust to his new life. Pat desperately loves his estranged wife and yearns to have her back.

The new girl, wonderfully played by Jennifer Lawrence, is a bundle of mess herself having lost her husband. Together they meet and push each other's buttons and settle into a messy friendship. The supporting cast is interesting and I was never sure if or how the story would ever get to a happy ending. The film is one of the best romantic comedies I have seen in a long time and worthy of the Best Picture nomination.

One thing that is very cliche in Hollywood films is the age difference between the two main characters. Cooper is 15 years older than Lawrence. She is just 22 now, so was 20 or 21 when the movie was made. That difference is how Hollywood operates, cycling through an endless series of 20-something leading women. Few last long before being replaced with younger stars.

That said, Lawrence plays the role with strength and charm. She fully earned the Golden Globe she won and should have as long a career as one can have in Hollywood.

De Niro and Jacki Weaver were great as Pat's harried parents annoyed at their son for his circumstances for returning to their home (yet lovingly concerned), and Chris Tucker is better than I have ever seen him (usually annoys me with the manic).

Odds makers will probably rate Silver Linings Playbook a longshot at winning the Best Picture award. I agree. Currently, I would put Lincoln and Argo at the front of the pack - but I still have not seen Life of Pi, Les Miserables, and Armour.