Zorro’s Centennial with Johnston McCulley Biographer D. Kepler

Aug 10, 2019 by

D. Kepler is a historian, journalist, writer and Zorro expert. After doing research in Europe for a book, he bought an 18th century hacienda in Portugal and lives a reclusive life in the sun. This year he published the first biography of Johnston McCulley, the creator of Zorro. An excerpt of the book is in THE PULPSTER this year. For PulpFest fans, Mr. Kepler offered a short interview in which he talks about Johnston McCulley and “100 Years of Zorro.”

Why did you wrote this biography in the first place?

I think it’s important to keep the legacy of pulp writers alive. Nowadays everybody knows Batman, Zorro and Doc Savage or the names of actors who played their part in the movies. Hardly anybody knows who actually created these characters and the stories back in the days. In general, producers and the people who own the rights to the characters are only interested in making money. The Gertz family, who own the rights to Zorro, are making millions with McCulley’s brainchild, but they hardly mention his name on their website, social media and so on. They should be ashamed. Interestingly enough, when I did the research for the biography in dusty newspaper archives and talked to relatives, I discovered that the life of McCulley was almost like a thrilling pulp adventure. It was fun to do!

In your biography and especially in the second part of the book 100 YEARS OF ZORRO, you have serious doubts if the Gertz family are the right people for owning the legacy of Zorro. Why?

Well, I’m not the only one, even judges nowadays are not convinced they are the rightful owners of Zorro. For example, a while ago a judge said the first Zorro story is in public domain and people could use the story without paying the Gertz family. John Gertz and his sister (Zorro Productions Inc.) were smart and went to the trademark office in the 1970s with the name Zorro. Zorro Productions Inc. has a trademark for uncountable products, but don’t produce these products. They just want to receive money when somebody else produces a “Zorro” product. They’re not very picky with the licenses. There is even a Zorro slot machine. I think it’s rather disgraceful to exploit a great character like that. If they actually were related to McCulley, it would be a different story. Instead, they are just strangers who shamelessly take advantage of the great ideas of a dead writer. In one of the chapters of my book, I write about how Zorro ended up in porn movies. Show some respect, please!

But didn’t Johnston McCulley sell the rights to Zorro to their father, Mitchell Gertz, in the 1940s?

That’s what they want us to believe. After doing extensive research, I have come to the conclusion that McCulley somehow might have been forced by Mitchell Gertz to sell him the rights. Who knows what happened? It doesn’t make any sense why McCulley sold the rights. Gertz was a former wrestler and Hollywood agent with a bad reputation. There isn’t even proof Gertz was actually McCulley’s agent and McCulley didn’t need the money. He was a wealthy man. After a few years, Gertz sold the rights to Disney. Years later, Disney sold the rights back to the children of Gertz. In fact, the stepdaughter of McCulley sued Gertz and Disney for conspiring to defraud. After years, the case was settled. Gertz was already dead by then, but Disney did settle for a reason with McCulley’s stepdaughter.

So in 2019, we celebrate the 100th anniversary of Zorro. Reading your book we’ve noticed you are more a fan of the old Zorro adaptions and not really a huge fan of the modern Zorro.

I’m a fan of the Zorro created by Johnston McCulley. For decades, Hollywood producers and comic book writers made up a completely different version of the original character. For example Don Diego was originally a dandy who knew he was a caballero by blood (upper class), a great character. In the fifties, Disney changed Don Diego into a more popular, manly, masculine type of guy for TV. Interesting character, but not the same. Furthermore, McCulley wrote for adults with romance and adult humor. Disney turned Zorro into a show for children. Slapstick humor and all that. That was where the money was. And still is. The Zorro movies with Banderas were still pretty childish for the same reason. They were still entertaining, but I would rather watch a rerun of the wonderful 1940 MARK OF ZORRO.

While doing your research, did you find anything that you would have preferred not to find?

I’m a writer, but also a historian and journalist. Therefore, I want to sell books, but also establish the truth. The problem with Zorro (or any other character with a fanbase) is, the fans don’t want to read bad things about their idol. So if you want to sell a lot of books, you might want to make a book for the fans and stick with the cheering. I didn’t. I write about the good Zorro stuff and the bad stuff. The latter is sometimes more entertaining by the way. I was afraid the biography could turn out boring but it didn’t. Not at all! The biography has some juicy stories and, it has to be said, some disturbing details. McCulley wasn’t exactly a saint. For example he ended up in court for molesting a 15 year old girl. Quite shocking stuff to write about, but like I said, it’s a biography and not a fan book.

At the end of the book you have added a bonus story by Johnston McCulley. Why that particular story?

It is actually the first story he wrote that got published in a magazine in 1906. It’s an interesting little story that has never before been republished. It’s unbelievable. It was written 13 years before his first Zorro story and when you read it, you immediately notice the man had talent!

Last question: PulpFest is coming up. Are you a fan of conventions?

First of all, I want to thank you guys for publishing an excerpt of the book in your program book. It’s great to be part of PulpFest 2019, especially with the 100th anniversary of Zorro. I think conventions like PulpFest are a great way to honor the godfathers of story writing. Next to that, it’s fun to meet writers, dealers, pulp collectors, and fans in person. Nowadays, everybody is chatting with each other and buying stuff on the internet. Nothing wrong with that, but conventions are more old school. You gotta love that! See you all at PulpFest!

The book JOHNSTON MCCULLEY, CREATOR OF ZORRO: THE BIOGRAPHY is available for Kindle via Amazon.

(Published in November 2018, D. Kepler’s biography of Johnston McCulley is subtitled: “100 Years Of Zorro The Exploitation Of A Cultural Icon.”

Our featured image of Johnston McCulley comes from the article, “Chillicothe’s Master Storyteller,” published in May 2013 by PEORIA MAGAZINE.)

A Great Deal on THE PULPSTER

Sep 25, 2015 by

The-Pulpster-24-coverInterested in buying a copy of THE PULPSTER #24, our Lovecraft issue? Highlighted by a round-robin article on H. P. Lovecraft and WEIRD TALES with contributions from filmmaker Sean Branney; Marvin Kaye, the current editor of WEIRD TALES; W. Paul Ganley, founder of WEIRDBOOK; Derrick Hussey, the publisher at Hippocampus Press; authors Jason Brock, Ramsey Campbell, Cody Goodfellow, Nick Mamatas, Tim Powers, Wilum Pugmire, Jessica Amanda Salmonson, Darrell Schweitzer, and Chet Williamson; poet Fred Phillips; and pulp scholars and collectors John Haefele, Don Herron, Morgan Holmes, S. T. Joshi, Tom Krabacher, Rick Lai, Will Murray, and J. Barry Traylor, it’s truly a slam-bang issue from the esteemed editor of our highly popular program book, William Lampkin. With less than forty copies remaining, it’s quickly disappearing.

For a limited time, you can get free shipping on THE PULPSTER #24 if you pair it with an order for a copy of THE PULPSTER #23, released at PulpFest 2014That number focuses on the 75th anniversary of the blossoming of science fiction’s Golden Age, when fantastic fiction “grew up.” Additionally, the magazine also examines the so-called “shudder pulps,” magazines such as Terror Tales and Spicy Mystery Stories.

The Pulpster 23 Final CoverLeading off the issue is “Science Fiction and the Pulps,” the unabridged version of Mike Chomko‘s “History of Magazine Science Fiction,” serialized on the PulpFest home page in 2014. Munsey Award winner Garyn G. Roberts is on board with an article on Futuria Fantasia, the fanzine that Ray Bradbury debuted at the first World Science Fiction ConventionDon Herron, the creator of San Francisco’s Dashiell Hammett Tour, the longest-running literary tour in the USA, takes a look at Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, Fritz Leiber’s classic characters that made their first appearance in the August 1939 UnknownDwayne Olson contributes several letters written by Donald Wandrei concerning the death of his friend, Hannes Bok, born one-hundred years ago on July 2, 1914. Additionally, Argentine pulp writer Alfredo Julio Grassi is profiled by Christian Lawson.

Weird-menace fiction came into its own in 1934 and The Pulpster looks back to those days with “Pulp Horrors of the Dirty Thirties,” written by Don Hutchison, author of The Great Pulp Heroes and many other works. Archaeologist  Jeffrey Shanks is also on hand with a look at “Zombies from the Pulps,” an overview of the undead writings of H. P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Manly Wade Wellman, Henry Kuttner, and other great pulpsters.

Filling out the issue is editor Bill Lampkin’s editorial, Tony Davis’ “Final Chapters,” and a tribute to the late Frank M. Robinson, written by John Gunnison of Adventure House.

As long as copies of both issues remain, you can get THE PULPSTER #23 24 for $20 from Mike Chomko, BooksThis offer is good only in the United States. Mike will accept payments made via check or money order or through Paypal. Please write to him at mike@pulpfest.com or 2217 W. Fairview Street, Allentown, PA 18104-6542 for further instructions. Quantities of both issues are very limited.

(Ed Cartier painted the cover used on THE PULPSTER #23. It originally appeared on the December 1939 issue of Street & Smith’s UNKNOWN and illustrated L. Sprague de Camp’s classic fantasy novel, “Lest Darkness Fall.” Four of the sixteen illustrated covers for UNKNOWN were painted by Cartier. He also created the cover for the 1948 reprint issue, FROM UNKNOWN WORLDS.)

THE PULPSTER: Open for submissions

Sep 21, 2015 by

PulpFest 2016 is still 10 months away, but it’s not too soon to start thinking about writing an article for THE PULPSTER.

The Pulpster logoEditor Bill Lampkin is looking for a variety of features on the pulps, and the writers, editors, and illustrators who worked on them. If you have an idea, he’d like to hear about it. You can contact him at bill@pulpfest.com.

Next summer’s issue — #25, if you’re keeping count — will debut in July at PulpFest 2016, but the magazine must be edited and assembled before then. Deadline for submissions is May 1, 2016, but early submissions are encouraged.

If you’re interested in advertising in THE PULPSTER, please write to PulpFest marketing and programming director Mike Chomko at mike@pulpfest.com. Mike can provide pricing and print specifications.

Looking for a copy of the 2015 issue? Mike Chomko, Books has THE PULPSTER #24 available for $13, postage paid. The issue features articles on Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson, adventure writer and the founder of DC Comics; the Thrilling Group of pulps and comic books; Erle Stanley Gardner; DETECTIVE FICTION WEEKLY; and other topics. The highlight of the issue is a round-robin article on H. P. Lovecraft and WEIRD TALES featuring contributions from filmmaker Sean Branney; Marvin Kaye, the current editor of WEIRD TALES; W. Paul Ganley, founder of WEIRDBOOK; Derrick Hussey, the publisher at Hippocampus Press; authors Jason Brock, Ramsey Campbell, Cody Goodfellow, Nick Mamatas, Tim Powers, Wilum Pugmire, Jessica Amanda Salmonson, Darrell Schweitzer, and Chet Williamson; poet Fred Phillips; and pulp scholars and collectors John Haefele, Don Herron, Morgan Holmes, S. T. Joshi, Tom Krabacher, Will Murray, and J. Barry Traylor. It’s truly a slam-bang issue from the esteemed editor of our highly popular program book. With less than forty copies remaining, it’s quickly disappearing.

The-Pulpster-24-coverYou can also order back issues of THE PULPSTER through Mike Chomko, Books. Copies of THE PULPSTER #4, 5, 6, 9, 15, 17, 20, 22, and 23 are also available for $13 each, postage paid. All other issues of THE PULPSTER are out of print. Reduced postage is available on orders for multiple books. A copy of THE PULPSTER Mini-Edition, published in 2005 and featuring a history of the Lamont Award, will be included free of charge with every order of three or more books. These prices are good only in the United States. Buyers from other countries must inquire about shipping charges before ordering. Mike will accept payments made via check or money order or through Paypal. Please write to him at mike@pulpfest.com or 2217 W. Fairview Street, Allentown, PA 18104-6542 for further instructions. Quantities of most issues are very limited.

(THE PULPSTER #24 features a round-robin article on H. P. Lovecraft and WEIRD TALES written by a wide range of contributors. Copies are quickly disappearing. Write to Mike Chomko, Books at mike@pulpfest.com to learn how you can order the issue.)

Buy THE PULPSTER

Aug 27, 2014 by

The Pulpster 23 Final CoverCopies of the latest issue of The Pulpster are now available for purchase from Mike Chomko, Books. A longstanding tradition cherished by attendees of summer pulp cons, The Pulpster #23 was released at PulpFest 2014. The new number focuses on the 75th anniversary of the blossoming of science fiction’s Golden Age, when fantastic fiction “grew up.” Additionally, the magazine also examines the so-called “shudder pulps,” magazines such as Terror Tales and Spicy Mystery Stories.

Leading off the issue is “Science Fiction and the Pulps,” the unabridged version of Mike Chomko‘s “History of Magazine Science Fiction,” serialized on the PulpFest home page. Last year’s Munsey Award winner, Garyn G. Roberts, is on board with an article on Futuria Fantasia, the fanzine that Ray Bradbury debuted at the first World Science Fiction ConventionDon Herron, the creator of San Francisco’s Dashiell Hammett Tour, the longest-running literary tour in the USA, takes a look at Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, Fritz Leiber’s classic characters that made their first appearance in the August 1939 UnknownDwayne Olson contributes several letters written by Donald Wandrei concerning the death of his friend, Hannes Bok, born one-hundred years ago on July 2, 1914. Additionally, Argentine pulp writer Alfredo Julio Grassi is profiled by Christian Lawson.

Weird-menace fiction came into its own in 1934 and The Pulpster looks back to those days with “Pulp Horrors of the Dirty Thirties,” written by Don Hutchison, author of The Great Pulp Heroes and many other works. Archaeologist  Jeffrey Shanks is also on hand with a look at “Zombies from the Pulps,” an overview of the undead writings of H. P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Manly Wade Wellman, Henry Kuttner, and other great pulpsters.

Filling out the issue is editor Bill Lampkin’s editorial, Tony Davis’ “Final Chapters,” and a tribute to the late Frank M. Robinson, written by John Gunnison of Adventure House.

The Pulpster #23 can be purchased for $13, postage paid in the United States. Buyers outside the United States will pay more.  Please write to Mike Chomko at mike@pulpfest.com or 2217 W. Fairview Street, Allentown, PA 18104-6542 for further instructions. You can also write to Mike about Pulpster back issues or visit our “program book” page for a list of what issues are available.

Start Making Plans for PulpFest 2015

Aug 10, 2014 by

InnsmouthPulpFest 2014 is drawing to a close, but there is still time to get in on the action. The dealers’ room will be open from 9 AM until 2 PM today. With most of our dealers getting ready to head for home, our admission for the day is only $5 which includes a copy of our highly collectible program book, The Pulpster. There are no programming events scheduled for Sunday.

Although our dealers’ room will be open, buying opportunities may be limited as most of our dealers will be packing up their displays, preparing for their trip home.

If you have not been able to attend PulpFest in 2014, start making your plans right now to join the 44th convening of “Summer’s Great Pulp Con” in 2015. Your PulpFest organizing committee is already starting to plan for next year’s convention. It will take place August 13 – 16 at the Hyatt Regency Columbus.

To keep informed about PulpFest 2015, bookmark http://www.pulpfest.com/ and visit often. News about the convention can also be found on the PulpFest Facebook site at http://www.facebook.com/PulpFest. And for those who prefer their news short and sweet, follow our Twitter feed at https://twitter.com/pulpfest. Finally, there’s our email list. Subscribe to our list and be the first on your block to get news about PulpFest. You’ll find the subscription boxes by clicking on any post. It will be the two boxes directly to the right of the post. Fill them in and hit the submit button and you’re on your way.

Many thanks to all of you who attended this year’s convention. We hope that you enjoyed yourself and will return for PulpFest 2015. Bring your friends!

To learn more about the image used in this post, click on the illustration.

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Advertise in The Pulpster

Mar 30, 2014 by

The_Pulpster_2014Our editor and designer Bill Lampkin is already hard at work on the next issue of The Pulpster. He’ll be featuring articles on science fiction’s golden year of 1939, the shudder pulps, and other interesting topics. So expect a slam-bang issue from the esteemed editor of our highly popular program book. Every member of PulpFest will receive a complimentary copy of The Pulpster.

If you’d like to place an advertisement in this year’s Pulpster, you have until June 1st to do so. All advertising is sold on a first-come, first-served basis, with payment expected immediately upon reserving a space. Please realize that the cover spaces sell very quickly. Our rates are reasonable: color back cover–$170; inside color covers–$130; inside color full page–$100; inside black-and-white full page–$70; half-page–$40; quarter page–$30. To inquire about space availability, please write to PulpFest marketing and programming director Mike Chomko at mike@pulpfest.com. You can also ask Mike about print specifications and back issues of our program book. The Pulpster has a circulation of approximately 450 copies.

Another way to advertise at PulpFest is to donate material for our giveaway tables. Over the years The Magazine of Fantasy and Science FictionBook Source MagazineGirasol CollectablesRadio ArchivesStark House Press, and other organizations have donated a variety of publications that were given away free to PulpFest attendees. Your donation will be acknowledged on our website and at the convention. If you’d like to offer something for our giveaway table, please contact Mike Chomko at mike@pulpfest.com.

Graves Gladney contributed the cover art to the July 1939 Astounding Science Fiction, considered by many longtime science-fiction fans to be the true beginning of the genre’s Golden Age. With its October 1960 issue, Astounding became Analog Science Fact & Fiction. It retained that title until the April 1965 number when it became Analog Science Fiction & Fact, its name today. It is published by Dell Magazines. Gladney’s art illustrated A. E. Van Vogt’s “Black Destroyer,” as well as this year’s cover for The Pulpster.

Get Your Copy of THE PULPSTER #22

Aug 25, 2013 by

Pulpster 22Copies of the latest issue of The Pulpster, are now available from Mike Chomko, Books. The 22nd issue of the award-winning program book, its biggest number yet, is the work of William Lampkin, administrator of the popular ThePulp.Net. Although Bill has designed The Pulpster since 2008, this is his first year as editor of the fanzine.

Like PulpFest 2013, The Pulpster #22 celebrates the 80th anniversary of the pulp hero boom of 1933, the 90th anniversary of Weird Tales, and the 100th anniversary of Fu Manchu. Leading off the magazine is a short article explaining how the August 1931 issue of “The Unique Magazine” sent a killer to the electric chair; next, PulpFest organizer Mike Chomko and Doc Savage author Will Murray look at the pulp heroes of 1933; William Preston, discusses his “Old Man” stories, inspired by Lester Dent’s Man of Bronze, while Murray returns with “On Writing Skull Island;” Echoes publisher and “New Pulp” author Tom Johnson explores Johnston McCulley’s “Rollicking Rogue” series, a precursor to the great pulp heroes; the writer authorized to continue the Fu Manchu series, William Patrick Maynard, details his longterm relationship with Rohmer’s devil doctor and Nathan Vernon Madison examines early yellow peril fiction found in dime novels and story papers; the longtime Street & Smith editor, Daisy Bacon, is profiled by Laurie Powers and the early science-fiction pioneer, Homer Eon Flint, is discussed by his granddaughter, Vella Munn; Monte Herridge explores Richard Sales’ Daffy Dill stories, a long-running series that appeared in Detective Fiction Weekly while Battered Silicon publisher and Sherlock Holmes expert, George Vanderburgh, offers a glimpse at the personal papers of H. P. Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith; and closing out the issue is Pulpster editor emeritus Tony Davis’ “Final Chapters.”

With 52 pages, including ten in color, The Pulpster is a real steal at $13, which includes first class postage for buyers in the United States. Buyers outside the United States will pay more. Write to Mike Chomko at mike@pulpfest.com and order your copy today. You can also write to Mike for information on back issues or visit our Program Book page for more details.

The cover art for The Pulpster #22 is the work of Walter M. Baumhofer. It originally graced the front cover to the July 1935 issue of Doc Savage Magazine which featured “Quest of Qui” as its lead novel.

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