A Third Clue to Our Guest of Honor

Jan 9, 2016 by

The Whisperer 1936-10On Thursday evening, we drew your attention to the fact that we are planning to announce our convention’s 2016 guest of honor on Monday, January 11th. The news will be released here and on our social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. We also mentioned that we’re planning to offer a wide array of programming at PulpFest 2016, including a salute to the 80th anniversaries of THE WHISPERER and THE SKIPPER.

In 1931, Street & Smith was promoting their DETECTIVE STORY pulp by dramatizing stories from the magazine over the radio. The program’s narrator called himself “The Shadow.” When this memorable name began to eclipse the title of the magazine being promoted, the publisher decided to launch a new form of pulp magazine, the single-character or “hero” pulp. Within two years, the phenomenal success of  THE SHADOW MAGAZINE had started a rash of hero pulps including THE PHANTOM DETECTIVE, DOC SAVAGE, THE SPIDER, and G-8 AND HIS BATTLE ACES.

Although most of the hero-pulp titles that were introduced during 1933 experienced long runs, two of the magazines — Street & Smith’s own NICK CARTER DETECTIVE MAGAZINE and PETE RICE WESTERN ADVENTURES — were cancelled during the summer of 1936. Their spots in the publisher’s line-up were not long left vacant. THE WHISPERER was introduced to readers with its October 1936 issue, while THE SKIPPER debuted two months later.

THE WHISPERER related the adventures of Police Commissioner Wildcat Gordon, “a new character,” as the magazine’s first number proclaimed, who was “vigorous” and “fascinating.” The new pulp hero was meant to be a more adult version of Walter Gibson’s Shadow character, battling organized crime, racketeers, political corruption, and the like. Disguised in gray and wearing special dental plates that caused him to speak in a spooky whisper, Wildcat carried a pair of silenced automatics and was prone to kill those who ignored the law. The novels of the magazine’s first run were all written by Laurence Donovan, using the house name of Clifford Goodrich.

Hoping to duplicate the success of their globe-trotting super-hero, Doc Savage, Street & Smith released THE SKIPPER. Likewise intended to be a grown-up version of the popular Lester Dent adventure hero, the publisher again turned to Laurence Donovan to create the character and his adventures. The Skipper was Captain John Fury, master of the freighter Whirlwind. Following the death of his brother — killed by ocean-faring evildoers — Cap Fury promises to rid the seas of pirates and criminals. Commanding a tramp steamer that has been outfitted for war, The Skipper battles a number of fantastic foes who control death rays, a meteorite that removes oxygen from the air, voodoo practitioners, plague-bearing rats, and other nefarious evil-doers.

The Skipper 1936-12Here’s another clue to the identity of our PulpFest 2016 guest of honor: as mentioned in our post of  January 8th, the 1930s was the era of the hero pulp, inspired by the phenomenal success of Street & Smith’s THE SHADOW MAGAZINE. During our 2016 guest of honor’s career, he or she has also been associated with super heroes. Drop by our site tomorrow for our final hint. You can leave your guess to our special guest’s identity on our Facebook page. If you haven’t done so already, be sure to “like” us. We’ll provide a free membership to PulpFest 2016 to the first person who guesses the identity of this year’s honored guest. And remember to visit www.pulpfest.com on Monday, January 11th, when we will reveal the identity of the PulpFest 2016 Guest of Honor.

(THE WHISPERER was introduced to readers with its October 1936 number, featuring front cover art by the talented John Newton Howitt, a devoted landscape painter whose work was sold at fine art galleries in New York City. With the advent of the Great Depression, the artist turned to the pulps for income. An excellent painter, Howitt found a ready market in the rough-paper periodicals, selling freelance pulp covers to ADVENTURE, DIME DETECTIVE, HORROR STORIES, THE SPIDER, TERROR TALES, THE WHISPERER, WESTERN STORY MAGAZINE, and other pulp magazine titles.

THE SKIPPER debuted two months after the introduction of THE WHISPERER, its first issue dated December 1936. Lawrence Donner Toney, a graduate of the Art Institute of Chicago, was the cover artist. During the 1930s and 1940s, Toney painted covers for pulp magazines, such as CLUES, COMPLETE STORIES,WESTERN STORY MAGAZINE, and WILD WEST WEEKLY, all published by Street & Smith. Most of his work for pulp magazines was signed only with his initials.

To learn more about these talented artists, be sure to visit David Saunders’ Field Guide to Wild American Pulp Artists where you will find more than 300 biographical profiles of American pulp artists.)