Pittsburgh’s Convention Scene Shuts Down

Jun 5, 2020 by

Like dominoes, Pittsburgh’s pop culture conventions have shut down for the summer.

First, it was the Three Rivers Comicon, scheduled to take place May 30 – 31 at the spectacular David L. Lawrence Convention Center overlooking the Allegheny River in downtown Pittsburgh.

Founded by a couple of Pittsburgh nerds who were hoping to make comic con all about comics again, Three Rivers was postponed until May 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Next came Confluence, the region’s longest-running literary conference. Slated for the Sheraton Pittsburgh Airport Hotel in Coraopolis, Pennsylvania, the conference was postponed until July 23 – 25, 2021.

Organized by Parsec — a non-profit organization that has been promoting science fiction, fantasy, and horror in literature, media, and music for over 25 years — Confluence features award-winning authors, editors, artists and songwriters. With panel discussions, concerts, and talks that broaden and deepen appreciation of the genres, Confluence gives attendees a unique opportunity to meet and chat with the writers and artists who create the science fiction, fantasy, and horror of today, helping to shape those genres for the future.

The PulpFest organizing committee canceled this summer’s conference on Memorial Day. Postponed until July or August 2021, you can read about the cancelation of PulpFest 2020 in our post, “There Is Nothing Wrong with Your Television Set . . .

The last domino to fall was Monster BashLike PulpFest, the “International Classic Monster Movie Conference and Film Festival” was to be held at the beautiful DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry in Mars, Pennsylvania. Realizing that their attendees wouldn’t be able to enjoy the usual Bash experience, Ron and Ursula Adams decided to cancel their June show shortly after PulpFest 2020 had met a similar fate.

Monster Bash celebrates the classic horror and science fiction films of the silent era through the 1970s. It’s a film festival; a place to meet the people in the movies, behind the movies, and fellow fans of the movies; and a monster memorabilia shopping spree.

Produced by Ron Adams of Creepy Classics Collectibles and SCARY MONSTERS MAGAZINE, Monster Bash is a state of mind — a place, like Skull Island, where our imaginations ignite and burn through our everyday lives. The Bash is an appreciation of the fun movies we all love. Whether it’s THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN or THE KILLER SHREWS, if you have fun watching it . . . that’s what Monster Bash is all about.

The “Monster Boomers” and their Monster Kids flock to Monster Bash from all over the world. Now, instead of one or two friends in the neighborhood who love monster movies, there are thousands! At Monster Bash you’ll meet others who, like you, loved Forry Ackerman’s FAMOUS MONSTER OF FILMLAND, the local TV horror host, the Aurora monster models, and much more.

Sadly, you’ll now have to wait until October 16 – 18 when the fall Monster Bash is scheduled for the Pittsburgh Marriot North in Mars. A Bela Lugosi Film Fest is also planned for August 14 – 15 at the Palace Theater in Canton, Ohio. We’ll have more details about these and other pop culture conventions, right here at pulpfest.com.

Which is one of the many reasons why PulpFest is a Pittsburgh Smash!

Confluence convention logo

(The 2020 Monster Bash was to be a MUNSTER Bash! Green was Herman Munster’s skin tone (although his co-workers at Gateman, Goodbury and Graves never seemed to notice). Both Pat Priest — who played the “abnormal” Marilyn Munster — and Butch Patrick — Eddie — on THE MUNSTERS — were scheduled to be the convention’s special guests. Joining them were many other notables. Special events such as Mexican Monster Night — featuring free tacos and burritos — and a drive-in style showing on Saturday night were also planned.)

 

Ray Bradbury in the 25th Century

May 20, 2020 by

Bradbury and the Comics

Like movies, that “magician of words,” Ray Bradbury, was a graphic story enthusiast long before such people became commonplace. When he was nine years old, the future author spotted a brand new comic strip — BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25TH CENTURY — in his hometown newspaper, the WAUKEGAN NEWS. It was October 1929. The young Bradbury began to save every episode.

Two years later, the future writer discovered Hal Foster’s Sunday TARZAN strip. In early 1934, came Alex Raymond’s FLASH GORDON. Foster’s PRINCE VALIANT followed in 1937. He collected them all.

“Without all this splendid mediocrity, this sublime and wondrous trash in my background, I don’t think I would be any sort of writer today.”

According to Orty Ortwein, author of “Ray Bradbury: Comic Book Hero,” the comics helped to create the writer that Bradbury became. In return, the writer helped move the graphic storytelling medium forward.

In 1951, E.C. Comics began adapting Ray Bradbury’s fiction to the graphic format without payment or credit to the young author. In 2002, E.C. artist and editor Al Feldstein explained during a panel with Bradbury, Mark Evanier, and Julius Schwartz at Comic-Con International in San Diego, California:

“You have to understand how we worked, Bill Gaines and I. Bill Gaines was taking Dexedrine pills to lose weight, only he used to take them at night before dinner, so he was up all night wired. And he used to read, and he’d read things, and we used to have story ideas four times a week, and he brought in some story ideas, and I said those two combined would be great, and that’s the two stories into one that I wrote as an original story.”

Feldstein was referring to “Home to Stay,” a story featuring artwork by Wally Wood that was published in E.C. Comics’s WEIRD FANTASY #13, dated May-June 1952. The adaptation was drawn from “Kaleidoscope” and “Rocket Man,” two stories collected by Bradbury and published in THE ILLUSTRATED MAN (1951). Unbeknownst to the author at the time, E.C. had also adapted two stories from his book, DARK CARNIVAL (1947).

Rather than threatening the company with a lawsuit, Ray Bradbury wrote to E.C. publisher Bill Gaines:

“Just a note to remind you of an oversight. You have not as yet sent on the check for $50 to cover the use of secondary rights on my two stories ‘The Rocket Man’ and ‘Kaleidoscope.’ . . .  I feel this was probably overlooked in the general confusion of the office work, and look forward to your payment in the near future.”

Now in his thirties and very much a fan of the graphic storytelling format, Bradbury was actually pleased to see what E.C. had done with his stories. He ended his letter with a suggestion . . .

“Have you ever considered doing an entire issue of your magazine based on my stories in DARK CARNIVAL, or my other two books, THE ILLUSTRATED MAN and THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES?”

Although Gaines did not take the author up on his idea for an all-Bradbury comic book, nor acknowledge his company’s trespass, he did pay Ray Bradbury the $50. He also arranged to adapt more stories, eventually publishing about thirty graphic adaptations based on Bradbury’s fiction.

Al Feldstein called the time when he was adapting Ray Bradbury’s stories to the comic book format, the most inspiring period of his life:

“To have the privilege to take this guy’s work, which was spectacular, and adapt it into the comic format, and try to be faithful to it, all of it, because every word is precious. It was a great pleasure and also a great tutorial for me as a writer. And I was really just a part-time writer. I wasn’t really a professional writer. I was an artist, and you’re an inspiration to me as an artist, because the way you wrote. You wrote like a painting. You took words that were colors and phrases that were brushstrokes, and you painted a visual picture that everyone in their own minds saw.”

In addition to some of the best illustrators in comic books — Jack Davis, Will Elder, Graham Ingels, Jack Kamen, Joe Orlando, Al Williamson, Wally Wood, and others — adapting his work, Bradbury was the only writer whose name was regularly displayed on E.C. covers. Although he received just $25 for each adaptation, the E.C. adaptations were introducing the author’s fiction to legions of young readers. Many surely went on to read the writer’s stories in the Bantam paperback editions of THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES, THE ILLUSTRATED MAN, and later books.

As his name grew in stature, Ray Bradbury asked E.C. Comics to remove his name from their comic book covers. However, he allowed them to adapt his work for as long as they desired. Unfortunately, as E.C. became the bane of those who claimed such books led to “juvenile delinquency and homosexuality,” the publisher ended its comic book line in early 1956.

In 1993, writer, editor, and publisher Byron Preiss reprised the E.C. Comics/Ray Bradbury success story when he gathered together some of the best comic book illustrators of his day — Richard Corben, Dave Gibbons, Mike Mignola, P. Craig Russell, Daniel Torres, Tim Truman, Matt Wagner, and others — to adapt some of the author’s best-known works to the graphic story format. The result was a seven-book anthology series with the overarching title, THE RAY BRADBURY CHRONICLES. Over a dozen of these stories also appeared in a five-issue comic book series that was published by Topps Comics. Bradbury himself wrote introductions for all five issues of RAY BRADBURY COMICS.

More recently, Hill & Wang published FAHRENHEIT 451, THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES, and SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES in the graphic novel format. Adapted by contemporary illustrators and released from 2009 to 2011, none received much acclaim.

Ninety years ago, Ray Bradbury’s classmates mocked him for collecting BUCK ROGERS. They taunted, “There aren’t going to be any rocket ships. We aren’t ever going to land on Mars or the moon.”

Initially, his peers convinced him. He tore apart his scrapbooks and tossed his collection into the trash. “It was all kids’ stuff, the ray guns and the rocket ships. But it was also Ray Bradbury’s head, heart, and soul.

Today, the graphic story medium is a leading popular culture format across the globe. As Ray Bradbury wrote in his introduction to THE AUTUMN PEOPLE, a collection of E.C. comic book adaptations of his work that was published by Ballantine Books in 1965:

“. . . it appears we are vindicated. The Pop Art people come along, late in the day, to tell us about comic strips and characters. . . . Our answer is: we knew it all the time! Don’t tell us about what we have already loved and loved well!

Please join PulpFest 2020 on Friday, August 7, as we welcome Don Simpson to discuss graphic visions of Ray Bradbury’s work at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry in Mars, Pennsylvania. It’s part of our celebration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of author Ray Douglas Bradbury.

(Ray Bradbury received the 2010 Icon Award from Comic-Con International, recognizing his efforts to create “greater awareness of and appreciation for comic books and related popular art forms.”

Pittsburgh’s Donald E. Simpson is the cartoonist/creator of the comic books MEGATON MAN, BORDER WORLDS, and BIZARRE HEROES. He’s also the creator of several international underground comix sensations, published under the pseudonym Anton Drek, and the author of the young adult maxi-series, MS. MEGATON MAN. Don has taught workshops in cartooning and figure drawing for a number of years, and earned a Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh in History of Art and Architecture in 2013. He regularly reviews fiction and nonfiction books for the PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE.

Orty Ortwein is a librarian in Zionsville, Indiana and a volunteer for the Ray Bradbury Experience Museum in Waukegan, Illinois. His article “Ray Bradbury: Comic Book Hero” ran in the August 22, 2019 THE SATURDAY EVENING POST and proved to be an invaluable reference for this article. We recommend Orty’s article to anyone interested in Ray Bradbury and/or the graphic medium of storytelling.

Of course, pictured above you’ll find Joe Orlando’s cover for WEIRD FANTASY #19 — dated May/June 1953 — and the fourth volume of THE RAY BRADBURY CHRONICLES, with front cover art by William Stout.

For a look at our entire programming schedule, please click the Programming button below the PulpFest banner on our home page.)

 

3 Rivers Comicon: Putting Comics Back in Comicon

Apr 22, 2020 by

 

During the final weekend of May, a couple of Pittsburgh nerds were hoping to make comic con all about comics again. 3 Rivers Comicon was to take place May 30 – 31 at the spectacular David L. Lawrence Convention Center overlooking the Allegheny River in downtown Pittsburgh. Due to the COVID 19 pandemic, the convention has been postponed until May 22 – 23, 2021.

New Dimension Comics owner Todd McDevitt and general manager Jon Engel launched 3 Rivers Comicon in 2016 after hearing complaints from customers about the increasing cost of conventions and how the shift to an array of pop culture had left comics in the shadows.

“In my 34 years in the comic business,” McDevitt said, “I’ve been fortunate enough to work with almost all of the regional talent at one time or another. I can’t wait to bring them all together for one spectacular occasion.” Check out the convention’s guests page for a look at the many creators who would have been attending this year’s 3 Rivers Comicon. Weekend events also include cosplay contests, gaming, role play experiences, and panels.

McDevitt and Engel both have years of experience under their utility belts, attending and also working at comic conventions. From that involvement, as well as feedback from customers, they have the knowledge for what will work at their own event. The show is dedicated to cultivating the comic culture and community by bringing in some of the bigger names in the industry. With over 100 artists, writers, and other creators and almost as many vendors, this show is one that you should not miss.

The 3 Rivers Comicon is very reasonably priced. Admission is $10 per day or $15 for a weekend pass. Tickets are available through the convention’s website, at any of the six New Dimension Comics locations in the Pittsburgh area, and at the door.

The convention also hosts a very popular beer release party. Every year, 3 Rivers Comicon commissions a custom beer that is created by a local Pittsburgh brewery. Tickets to the beer party are $40 and include admission to both days of the convention, entry to the beer release party, two cans of this year’s custom beer, catered food, and more!

Let’s hope that 3 Rivers will have a few bottles of their craft brew to help us celebrate PulpFest 2020 from August 6 through 9 at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry, just north of Pennsylvania’s “Steel City.”

Although PulpFest will not have its own beer, the convention will have some great programming. Add onto that a dealers’ room featuring thousands of pulp magazines, vintage paperbacks, digests, men’s adventure and true crime magazines, original art, first edition hardcovers, genre fiction, series books, reference books, dime novels and story papers, Big Little Books, B-Movies, serials and related paper collectibles, old-time radio shows, and Golden and Silver Age comic books, as well as newspaper adventure strips. We’ll also have a hospitality suite featuring wine, beer, snacks, and more.

So what are you waiting for? Start making your plans to celebrate “Mystery, Adventure, Science Fiction, and More” at PulpFest 2020.

(3 Rivers Comicon will not be the only convention in Pittsburgh that will be celebrating the graphic story in 2020. On Friday evening, August 7, PulpFest 2020 will feature a presentation by cartoonist and freelance illustrator Don Simpson. He’ll be discussing “Bradbury in the Comics” as part of our “Visions of Mars” series during PulpFest’s salute to author Ray Bradbury.

In addition to his illustration work, Don regularly reviews books for the PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE and teaches college writing and other courses in western Pennsylvania. He earned his PhD from the University of Pittsburgh in 2013.)

100 Years of “The Curse of Capistrano”

Aug 9, 2019 by

In the early 1800s, California was still under Spanish rule. The peaceful indigenous people were victimized by the corrupt military commanders. One man rose to stand against injustice and the abuse of power. One man stirred the hearts of Californians and gave them the spirit to resist tyranny. That man was the masked avenger known as Zorro!

Zorro was introduced in Johnston McCulley’s novel, “The Curse of Capistrano,” when it was serialized in the pages of ALL-STORY WEEKLY in 1919. The first segment of the five-part serial part serial was dated August 9, one-hundred years ago to this very day.

The success of the serial’s 1920 film adaptation as THE MARK OF ZORRO — starring Douglas Fairbanks — convinced the character’s creator to author further adventures. Over the next forty years, McCulley penned a total of five Zorro novels and nearly 60 short stories featuring the masked avenger. The stories appeared in ARGOSYWEST, and other magazines. In book form, “The Curse of Capistrano” was retitled THE MARK OF ZORRO and sold more than 50 million copies. McCulley’s numerous follow-ups never achieved the same level of success. Most were never collected in book form until the definitive editions published by Bold Venture Press.

In addition to the Johnston McCulley’s stories, Zorro has appeared in over forty film and television adaptations, including Walt Disney’s 1950s TV series starring Guy Williams. The character has also appeared in numerous literary pastiches as well as radio, comic books, newspaper strips, and stage plays.

Being one of the earliest examples of a fictional masked avenger with a double identity, Zorro inspired the creation of several similar characters in pulp magazines and other media. McCulley’s hero is a precursor of the superheroes of American comic books, with Batman drawing particularly close parallels to the character. As such, today’s superheroes are very much “Children of the Pulps.” Join publisher/author and 2019 Munsey Award nominee Rich Harvey of Bold Venture Press on the opening night of PulpFest for a celebration of “A Century of Zorro.”

PulpFest 2019 will begin on Thursday, August 15, and run through Sunday, August 18.  Join PulpFest at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry, just north of Pennsylvania’s “Steel City” of Pittsburgh in Mars, PA. We’ll be celebrating “Children of the Pulps and Other Stories” — focusing on the pulp influences in popular culture — at this year’s gathering.

Click our Programming button below our homepage banner to get a preview of all the great presentations at this year’s event.

To join PulpFest 2019, click the Register button below our homepage banner. And don’t forget to book a room at the DoubleTree. You can reserve a room by calling 1-800-222-8733. Please be sure to mention PulpFest when placing your reservation in order to receive any convention special deals that may still be available. There is ample free parking surrounding the hotel.

(Created by the prolific pulp writer Johnston McCulley, Zorro debuted in “The Curse of Capistrano,” a five-part serial that ran in the pages of the Munsey magazine, ALL-STORY WEEKLY during the month of August 1919. It will be the centennial of the first Zorro story during this year’s PulpFest.

The cover art featured on the August 9, 1919 issue was painted by P. J. Monahan. A native of Des Moines, Iowa, Monahan moved to Brooklyn in 1907. He became one of New York’s most prolific artists for the first three decades of the twentieth century, creating advertisements, movie posters, commissioned art, and, most of all, pulp magazine illustrations and covers.)

Children of the Pulps — Part One

Jul 17, 2019 by

Pulp magazines have had a profound effect on popular culture across the globe. Their stories and art have reverberated through a wide variety of media — comic books, movies, paperbacks, genre fiction, television, men’s adventure magazines, radio drama, video, anime, manga, and role-playing games.

Continuing characters have always been with us. Homer told of Odysseus, prevented by the gods from returning to his home for ten years. Then there’s Alexandre Dumas’ d’Artagnan, introduced in THE THREE MUSKETEERS and its sequels. One of the most famous continuing characters is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. The private detective is the protagonist of sixty-two stories, originally published between 1887 and 1927. And don’t forget about such dime novel heroes as Buffalo Bill, Frank Merriwell, and Nick Carter. The latter debuted in 1886 and continued in varying formats for about a century. Many of his stories were published by Street & Smith, the company that would introduce the first single character pulp.

On March 6, 1931, THE SHADOW: A DETECTIVE MAGAZINE debuted on American newsstands. The first single character or hero pulp, it revived a fiction format that had disappeared with the demise of the dime novels and story papers. Author Walter B. Gibson refashioned The Shadow — the sinister narrator of CBS Radio’s THE DETECTIVE STORY HOUR — into the first pulp hero. Gibson’s character was a dark and mysterious crime-busting super-sleuth who embodied the iconic power of classic villains like Dracula. The Shadow served as the template for other hero pulps and, later, scores of comic book superheroes. Gibson and his occasional fill-in, Theodore Tinsley, also introduced the concept of super-crooks and super-crime.

Lasting 325 issues and spanning eighteen years, THE SHADOW pulp was cancelled in 1949. However, Gibson’s and Tinsley’s character had left his mark on popular culture. The Shadow would travel full circle to his beginnings and become a long-running radio program. The series premiered in late September 1937 over the Mutual Broadcasting System, featuring Orson Welles as the mystery man. Other actors would follow the famed actor and director in the role.

One month after The Shadow debuted on radio, the first of two movie serials appeared. THE SHADOW STRIKES starred Rod La Rocque and was based on a pulp novel by Walter Gibson. In 1946, Monogram Pictures released three Shadow movies starring Kane Richmond. 1958 would see Republic Pictures release INVISIBLE AVENGER, a theatrical film culled from two episodes of a pilot for a Shadow television series. Universal Pictures would release another Shadow film in 1994 starring Alec Baldwin as the title character.

Concurrent to the original pulp series, The Shadow also began appearing in books. Street & Smith got the ball rolling with three hardcovers in their “Ideal Library.” First came THE LIVING SHADOW in 1932, reprinting the initial entry of the pulp series. Whitman Publishing followed with three “Better Little Books” featuring the character.

In 1941, LA Bantam published THE SHADOW AND THE VOICE OF MURDER, the first Shadow paperback. It was a reprint of a Walter B. Gibson pulp novel. Belmont Books began publishing brand new Shadow novels in 1963. Their first book — THE RETURN OF THE SHADOW — was written by Gibson. Over the next twenty years, other book publishers — Grosset & Dunlap, Bantam Books, Dover Books, the Doubleday Crime Club, and The Mysterious Press — would reprint the Shadow’s pulp adventures in various formats. The most successful was Pyramid Books (later Jove Books). From 1974 to 1978, the company reprinted twenty-three Shadow pulp novels, largely featuring cover art by James Steranko. The artist — a pulp collector himself — returned to the original pulps for his inspiration.

During the summer of 2006, Sanctum Books — originally in association with Nostalgia Ventures — began to reprint The Shadow’s pulp adventures as trade paperbacks. Their first volume featured Lester Dent’s “The Golden Vulture,” the author’s sole contribution to The Shadow series. To date, Sanctum Books has published nearly 300 of The Shadow’s original novels. Sanctum will be exhibiting at PulpFest 2019.

In addition to books, radio, and film, the Shadow has also made an indelible mark in the graphic format. While the Columbia Pictures movie serial of 1940 was still playing in theaters, Street & Smith premiered SHADOW COMICS. Doc Savage — another Street & Smith pulp hero — was also featured in the comic book’s early issues. SHADOW COMICS lasted until August 1949, running for a total of 101 issues. From 1940 – 1942, the character also appeared in a newspaper strip written by Walter Gibson and illustrated by Vernon Greene.

In 1964, Archie Comics premiered a new comic book series featuring the Street & Smith pulp hero. Although The Shadow wears his familiar cloak and slouch hat on the cover to the first issue, later numbers feature him in superhero garb. Interestingly, Jerry Siegel, one of the creators of Superman, wrote the final five numbers of the eight-issue series.

In the fall of 1973, DC Comics introduced perhaps the most highly regarded of all comic books featuring The Shadow. Created by Dennis O’Neil, the comic introduced artist Mike Kaluta’s version of The Dark Knight. Unfortunately, the DC comic book lasted a mere twelve issues. The company would try again in 1986 with Howard Chaykin updating the character to modern times. DC would give the character another go-round with THE SHADOW STRIKES, created by writer Gerard Jones and artist Eduardo Barreto. The series returned the character to the 1930s and ran for thirty-one issues.

In 2012, Dynamite Entertainment began publishing a new Shadow comic book. Written by Garth Ennis, Chris Roberson, and others, the series was set in the 1930s. Alex Ross contributed many covers to the series, including this classic depiction of the character on the magazine’s first issue. The series ran until 2014, with a special issue published in 2015.

Dynamite also published a ten-issue miniseries in 2013-14. Written by Matt Wagner, it’s one of the best comic book versions of Walter Gibson’s creation. Wagner also wrote two other series featuring The Dark Knight, including THE DEATH OF MARGO LANE, published in 2016.

Although The Shadow has a lengthy history in the four-color medium, the character’s importance to the world of comic books is better reflected by its influence on the medium’s writers and artists. Many early creators of superhero comics were devoted readers of THE SHADOW MAGAZINE. These included Jerry Siegel, Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, Bill Finger, and Bob Kane.

In the first volume of THE STERANKO HISTORY OF COMICS, Batman co-creator Bill Finger admitted, “My first (Batman) script was a take-off on a Shadow story . . . . I patterned my style of writing Batman after the Shadow . . . . It was completely pulp style.” Pulp historians Will Murray and Anthony Tollin have surmised that Finger was talking about the Theodore Tinsley Shadow novel, “Partners in Peril.” It originally ran in the November 1, 1936 issue of THE SHADOW MAGAZINE.

While artist Bob Kane cited Chester Gould’s Dick Tracy as one of his inspirations — particularly for his villains — Bill Finger, Batman’s writer, suggested, “The villains were patterned after those in the pulps, kind of bizarre and wild.” Doctor Death, the first of Batman’s master criminals, was introduced in DETECTIVE COMICS 29, dated July 1939. An earlier Doctor Death — a mad scientist who desired to remake the world after his own desires — was featured in a short-lived pulp magazine published by Dell. There is likewise evidence that Batman villains The Joker and Two-Face, as well as Police Commissioner James Gordon, may very well have had their origins in the pages of Street & Smith’s hero pulps.

Although The Shadow certainly played the most influential role in the creation of the Batman saga, other pulp characters also inspired Bill Finger and Bob Kane.

Johnston McCulley’s Zorro  — who debuted in a five-part serial beginning in the August 9, 1919 issue of ALL-STORY WEEKLY — wore a mask and black cape, had a hidden lair that he entered through a grandfather clock, and marked his adversaries. Dawson Clade, another McCulley character, was accused of a murder he did not commit. He dons a hood to get revenge against those who had framed him. In his origin story, a bat flies through a window and Clade comes up with his alter ego. He will become “The Bat.” Sound familiar?

Created by D. L. Champion and published by Ned Pines’ Standard Magazines, THE PHANTOM DETECTIVE ran until 1953, totaling 170 issues. Like Bruce Wayne, Richard Curtis Van Loan was a wealthy playboy who trained himself to be “the world’s greatest detective.” When The Phantom was needed, a red beacon on top of the local newspaper building was lit. DC editors Jack Schiff and Mort Weisinger later turned this into the Bat-Signal.

Another Standard character, The Black Bat, debuted in 1939, around the same time as The Batman. Notice the batlike wings on the cover to the Spring 1945 issue of BLACK BOOK DETECTIVE. It bears a marked resemblance to the cape of the early Batman. Although not depicted here, the Black Bat also sported spiked fins on the gloves he wore. Batman co-creator Bill Finger liked the look and suggested that Bob Kane add them to The Batman’s costume.

Considered the world’s first superhero, Doc Savage debuted a month after The Phantom Detective. Published by Street & Smith, the first issue of DOC SAVAGE MAGAZINE was dated March 1933. An adventurer possessing untold wealth, Clark Savage, Jr. was, like Batman, a master detective. Doc was never without his utility vest, a specially designed garment filled with all kinds of gadgets that he had invented. It served as the model for The Batman’s “utility belt.”

As you’ve seen, The Shadow has been inspiring all sorts of creators for nearly ninety years. However, Walter B. Gibson’s character is just one of many pulp characters that have inspired pop culture creators over the decades. PulpFest 2019 will focus on the many ways pulp fiction and pulp art have inspired and continue to inspire creators. We’re calling this year’s theme “Children of the Pulps and Other Stories,” an examination of the pervasive influence of pulp magazines on contemporary pop culture. We hope you’ll join us from August 15 – 18 at the beautiful DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry in Mars, Pennsylvania.

(The first of our Shadow images is just shy of one-hundred years old. Painted by Modest Stein, the cover art for the April 1931 issue of THE SHADOW originally appeared on the October 1, 1919 issue of THE THRILL BOOK.

Unfortunately, the artist who painted THE INVISIBLE AVENGER movie poster is not known to us. However, George Rozen created the painting used as the cover for THE SHADOW #141, published by Sanctum Books in April 2019. The artwork was originally used on THE SHADOW DETECTIVE MONTHLY for June 1932, published by Street & Smith.

As mentioned above, Alex Ross painted the cover art for THE SHADOW #1, published by Dynamite Entertainment and dated April 2012.

Bob Kane’s Batman — as depicted on DETECTIVE COMICS #31, dated September 1939 — is remindful of the looming headshots found on Standard Magazine’s THE PHANTOM DETECTIVE. The Batarang and the Batgyro made their first appearances in this issue, featuring a villain known as The Monk.

The Black Bat was painted by Rafael de Soto for the Spring 1945 issue of BLACK BOOK DETECTIVE.

To learn more about the influence of The Shadow and other pulp heroes, please visit the PulpFest Instagram page.)

A Century of Zorro

Jun 5, 2019 by

In the early 1800s, California was still under Spanish rule. The peaceful indigenous people were victimized by the corrupt military commanders. One man rose to stand against injustice and the abuse of power. One man stirred the hearts of Californians and gave them the spirit to resist tyranny. That man was the masked avenger known as Zorro!

Thursday night, August 15, at PulpFest, publisher/author and 2019 Munsey Award nominee Rich Harvey of Bold Venture Press presents “A Century of Zorro,” marking not only the centennial of the legendary pulp character, but also the publication of the first matched set of every original Zorro novel and short story in six attractive volumes from Bold Venture Press.

Zorro was created by pulp writer Johnston McCulley. In the original stories, Zorro has a price on his head, but is too skilled and cunning for the authorities to capture him. Zorro is the secret identity of Don Diego de la Vega, the only son of Don Alejandro de la Vega, a wealthy landowner. He adopted his secret identity after learning California had fallen under the thrall of a ruthless dictator. Diego conceals his identity by posing as a cowardly fop.

Zorro was introduced in McCulley’s novel, “The Curse of Capistrano,” when it was serialized in the pages of ALL-STORY WEEKLY in 1919. The success of its 1920 film adaptation as THE MARK OF ZORRO, starring Douglas Fairbanks, convinced his creator to author further adventures. Over the next forty years, McCulley penned a total of five Zorro novels and nearly 60 short stories featuring the masked avenger. The stories appeared in ARGOSY, WEST, and other magazines. In book form, “The Curse of Capistrano” was retitled THE MARK OF ZORRO and sold more than 50 million copies. McCulley’s numerous follow-ups never achieved the same level of success. Most were never collected in book form until Bold Venture Press’ definitive editions.

Zorro appeared in over 40 film and television adaptations, including Walt Disney’s 1950s TV series starring Guy Williams. The character has appeared in numerous literary pastiches as well as radio, comic books, newspaper strips, and stage plays.

Being one of the earliest examples of a fictional masked avenger with a double identity, Zorro inspired the creation of several similar characters in pulp magazines and other media. McCulley’s hero is a precursor of the superheroes of American comic books, with Batman drawing particularly close parallels to the character. As such, today’s superheroes are very much “Children of the Pulps.” Join Bold Venture Press founder Rich Harvey on the opening night of PulpFest for a celebration of “A Century of Zorro.”

PulpFest 2019 will begin on Thursday, August 15, and run through Sunday, August 18.  Join PulpFest at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry, just north of Pennsylvania’s “Steel City” of Pittsburgh in Mars, PA. We’ll be celebrating “Children of the Pulps and Other Stories” — focusing on the pulp influences in popular culture — at this year’s gathering.

Click our Programming button below our homepage banner to get a preview of all the great presentations at this year’s event.

To join PulpFest 2019, click the Register button below our homepage banner. To book a room at the DoubleTree by Hilton — our host hotel — click the Book a Room button, also found on our homepage.

(Created by the prolific pulp writer Johnston McCulley, Zorro debuted in “The Curse of Capistrano,” a five-part serial that ran in the pages of the Munsey magazine, ALL-STORY WEEKLY during the month of August 1919. It will be the centennial of the first Zorro story during this year’s PulpFest.

The cover art featured on the August 9, 1919 issue was painted by P. J. Monahan. A native of Des Moines, Iowa, Monahan moved to Brooklyn in 1907. He became one of New York’s most prolific artists for the first three decades of the twentieth century, creating advertisements, movie posters, commissioned art, and, most of all, pulp magazine illustrations and covers.

Along with Bob Fujitani, Bob Correa and Alberto Giolitti, the late pulp artist Everett Raymond Kinstler created the interior pencils and inks for the Zorro stories featured in Dell’s FOUR COLOR COMICS series. Kinstler drew issue numbers 497 — featuring “The Sword of Zorro,” with the cover painted by an unknown artist — 538, and 574. Born in 1942, Kinstler was a freelance artist for the pulp, slick, comic book, and paperback industry before turning to portraiture during the 1950s.)

3 Rivers Comicon: Putting Comics Back in Comicon

Apr 17, 2019 by

During the second weekend of May, a couple of Pittsburgh nerds are hoping to make comic con all about comics again. 3 Rivers Comicon will take place May 11 – 12 in the old Macy’s under the bridge in Homestead, Pennsylvania.

New Dimension Comics owner Todd McDevitt and general manager Jon Engel launched 3 Rivers Comicon in 2016 after hearing complaints from customers about the increasing cost of conventions and how the shift to an array of pop culture had left comics in the shadows. “I felt like we were almost being challenged. No one said it, but we made it our mission to do it,” McDevitt said. “This is going to be a comic convention. If you want something else, go somewhere else.”

McDevitt and Engel both have years of experience under their utility belts, attending and also working at comic conventions. From that involvement, as well as feedback from customers, they have the knowledge for what will work at their own event. The show is dedicated to cultivating the comic culture and community by bringing in some of the bigger names in the industry. With over 100 artists, writers, and other creators and almost as many vendors, this show is one not to miss.

Admission is $10 per day or $15 for a weekend pass. Tickets are available through the convention’s website or at any of the six New Dimension Comics locations. They will also be available at the door. Weekend events include panels, gaming, photo opportunities and costume contests for kids and adults. There is also the very popular beer party on Saturday evening. Check out the convention’s Guests page for a look at the many creators attending this year’s show.

3 Rivers Comicon has also commissioned a custom beer by ShuBrew of Harmony, Pennsylvania featuring original bottle label art by Josh Blaylock, creator of Mercy Sparx. Mercy Sparx Sinful Stout will be brewed exclusively for 3 Rivers Comicon and New Dimension Comics. Tickets to the convention’s beer party are $40 and include admission to both days of the convention, entry to the beer release party, two cans of this year’s custom beer, catered food, and a free graphic novel. A VIP pass costing $75 gets you even more!

Let’s hope that 3 Rivers will save a few bottles of their craft brew to help us celebrate PulpFest 2019 from August 15 through 18 at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry, just north of Pennsylvania’s “Steel City.” Although PulpFest will not have its own beer, the convention will have some great programming. Add onto that a dealers’ room featuring tens of thousands of pulp magazines, vintage paperbacks, digests, men’s adventure and true crime magazines, original art, first edition hardcovers, genre fiction, series books, reference books, dime novels and story papers, Big Little Books, B-Movies, serials and related paper collectibles, old-time radio shows, and Golden and Silver Age comic books, as well as newspaper adventure strips. We’ll also have a hospitality suite featuring great beer and snacks. So what are you waiting for? Start making your plans to celebrate “Mystery, Adventure, Science Fiction, and More” at PulpFest 2019.

(Josh Blaylock created the label for Mercy Sparx Sinful Stout, the beer being brewed exclusively for 3 Rivers Comicon and New Dimension Comics.)

125 Years of Chris Schaare

Jul 5, 2018 by

Born on July 5, 1893, Christian Schaare was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. After moving with his family to West Hoboken, New Jersey, Schaare trained as an engraver’s assistant and a graphic designer. According to pulp scholar and art historian David Saunders, Schaare began selling freelance cover art to a variety of pulp magazines in 1925. His work was used by ACE-HIGH, AIR STORIES, AIRPLANE STORIES, ALL-AMERICAN SPORTS, COMPLETE SKY NOVEL, GUN MOLLS, LARIAT STORY, MASKED RIDER, NAVY STORIES, SKY RIDERS, WAR BIRDS, WAR STORIES, and others. He continued to work for the pulps until 1940.

Beginning in 1932, Schaare began a long series of covers for THE RING, a boxing magazine. He continued to work for the title into the 1950s. During this period, the artist also started working as a penciler and inker for comic books. His work appeared in Fawcett’s WOW COMICS, Holyoke’s BLUE BEETLE, Continental’s CAT-MAN COMICS, and other titles. From 1945 until 1960, Schaare worked as packaging design artist for The American Can Company. He produced several iconic advertising images, including the logos for Maxwell House Coffee and Sunoco.

(PulpFest 2018 will honor the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended the First World War. The convention will focus on the so-called “war pulps” of the early twentieth century and the depiction of war in popular culture. As part of our WWI programming, David Saunders will discuss the artists of the war pulps, including Chris Schaare.

From early 1928 through late 1930, C. R. Schaare painted at least fifteen covers for Dell Publishing’s WAR STORIES and its companions, WAR BIRDS and NAVY STORIES. He also contributed at least seven covers for Dell’s aviation title, SKY RIDERS. Although his covers sometimes had a humorous bent — such as the “Sausages” cover for the July 5, 1928 WAR STORIES — they often depicted soldiers in hand-to-hand combat. Chris Schaare died in 1980, at the age of eighty-six.)

Happy 125th George Delacorte!

Jun 20, 2018 by

PulpFest 2018 will honor the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended the First World War. The convention will focus on the so-called “war pulps” of the early twentieth century and the depiction of war in popular culture. The first of these pulps — WAR STORIES — was published by today’s birthday boy, George Thomas Delacorte. Born on June 20, 1893 in Brooklyn, New York, Delacorte was the founder of the Dell Publishing Company.

Following his dismissal from William Clayton’s SNAPPY STORIES MAGAZINE in 1920, Delacorte began his publishing company. His first periodical was I, CONFESS, a confession pulp modeled after Bernarr Macfadden’s TRUE STORY MAGAZINE. Debuting in early 1922, it has been called “the most prominent of the confession pulps.” It lasted for over 200 issues.

Seeking to duplicate the success of I CONFESS, Dell continued to issue love-themed confessional titles over the next three years: CUPID’S DIARY in 1923, MARRIAGE STORIES in 1924and SWEETHEART STORIES in 1925. WESTERN ROMANCES came a few years later, debuting in late 1929. Over half of Dell’s total pulp output was in the love and confessional field.

In 1926, Dell swung to the other side of the spectrum with WAR STORIES, the first of the “war pulps.” Featuring authors such as Larry Barretto, Robert Sidney Bowen, Harold F. Cruickshank, George Fielding Eliot, Steuart Emery, Arthur Guy Empey, Robert H. Leitfred, Ralph Oppenheim, Alexis Rossoff, and Raoul Whitfield, WAR STORIES demonstrated that tales about soldiers in battle could sell magazines.

Fawcett Publications was next to the trough when it launched BATTLE STORIES in the fall of 1927. Although Fiction House’s WINGS came next, it was a general aviation fiction magazine along the lines of AIR STORIES, the pulp that had introduced the air genre. In the spring of 1931, WINGS would gain a new subtitle: “Fighting Aces of War Skies.” Only then would it follow ACES — another Fiction House title, introduced in late 1928 — into the skies over the Western Front.

Dell copied itself in early 1928 with two new titles: WAR NOVELS and WAR BIRDS, the first magazine in the “air war pulps” field. It was soon joined by A. A. Wyn’s FLYING ACES — published by Ace — and the previously mentioned ACES. Street & Smith would join the fray with OVER THE TOP, while Harold Hersey came on board with UNDER FIRE MAGAZINE. The field became a bit more specialized in the early months of 1929 when Dell introduced NAVY STORIES, while Ramer issued ZEPPELIN STORIES. Later that same year, Dell began offering SUBMARINE STORIES. In the spring 0f 1930, Delacorte would debut the last of his war pulps, WAR ACES.

The new kids on the block — Popular Publications and Standard Magazines — would enter the battlefield in the early thirties. Popular’s BATTLE ACES — the forerunner of the hero pulp, G-8 AND HIS BATTLE ACES — was launched during the fall of 1930. It was followed by DARE-DEVIL ACES in early 1932 and BATTLE BIRDS at the end of the same year. The Thrilling Group took off in mid-1932 with SKY FIGHTERS. About a year later, it beat Popular to the first air war hero pulp when it debuted THE LONE EAGLE with its September 1933 issue.

Most of Dell’s war titles shut down during the early years of the Great Depression. Only WAR BIRDS lasted beyond 1932. Although one can blame the rise of fascism in Europe and the early glimpses of the coming war, their demise was largely due to the increasing success of Delacorte’s non-pulp titles — BALLYHOO, INSIDE DETECTIVE, MODERN ROMANCES, MODERN SCREEN, and SCREEN STORIES — and his puzzle and activity books such as DELL CROSSWORD PUZZLES. Delacorte was also experimenting with the new comics medium, publishing a tabloid called THE FUNNIES in 1929. In 1938, Dell formed a very successful partnership with Western Publishing to finance and distribute their comic books. “Best known for its licensed material, most notably the animated characters from Walt Disney Productions, Warner Bros., Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and Walter Lantz Studio,” the Dell/Western partnership controlled about one-third of the total comic book market at its peak during the 1950s.

In early 1942, Dell and Western also launched a paperback line. Once again, Dell provided the financing and distribution and Western offered the paper and printing. Largely consisting of genre fiction — particularly mysteries — about 25 million Dell paperbacks were sold annually by the end of the forties. Its reprinting of PEYTON PLACE in September 1957, “put Dell on the map.” In 1963, Delacorte Press was created to assure a steady stream of material for Dell paperbacks. Robert B. Parker, Irwin Shaw, Danielle Steel, and Kurt Vonnegut were some of the authors who signed with the company.

In 1971, George Delacorte sold Dell Publishing to Doubleday and retired from publishing. He died in 1991 at the age of ninety-seven.

(George Delacorte, founder of the Dell Publishing Company, was the first to demonstrate that tales of soldiers and battle could sell magazines. His WAR STORIES — introduced in 1926 — was the first of the war pulps. The magazine used some of the pulp field’s leading writers for its fiction and some of its best artists — including Julius “Jules” Erbit, who painted the cover for the March 1, 1928 issue — for its cover art. PulpFest will explore the war pulps and the depiction of war in popular culture at this year’s convention.

Although never a major player in the pulp industry, Dell would become a leading force in publishing. Its humor, crime, and movie magazines, puzzle and activity books, and comic books and paperbacks — such as Philip Ketchum’s DEATH IN THE LIBRARY (Dell Book #1) with cover art by William Strohmer — would turn Dell into a powerhouse in publishing. In later years, it became the publisher of bestselling authors Robert B. Parker, Irwin Shaw, Danielle Steel, and Kurt Vonnegut, among others.)

 

3 Rivers Comicon: Putting Comics Back in Conventions

Apr 18, 2018 by

During the third weekend of May, a couple of Pittsburgh nerds are hoping to make comic con all about comics again. 3 Rivers Comicon — which runs May 19 – 20 in West Mifflin, Pennsylvania — is the latest addition to the many conventions in the Pittsburgh area.

New Dimension Comics owner Todd McDevitt and general manager Jon Engel launched 3 Rivers Comicon in 2016 after hearing complaints from customers about the increasing cost of conventions and how the shift to an array of pop culture had left comics in the shadows. “I felt like we were almost being challenged. No one said it, but we made it our mission to do it,” McDevitt said. “This is going to be a comic convention. If you want something else, go somewhere else.”

McDevitt and Engel both have years of experience under their utility belts, attending and also working at comic conventions. From that involvement, as well as feedback from customers, they have the knowledge for what will work at their own event.

One major goal is to make 3 Rivers Comicon affordable. Admission is $10 per day or $16 for a weekend pass. Tickets are available through the convention’s website or at any of the six New Dimension Comics locations. They will also be available at the door. Guests include SPIDER-MAN and THOR artist Ron Frenz; fantasy, pin-up, and comic artist Joe Jusko; NIGHTWING and DAREDEVIL artist Scott McDaniel; SPIDER-GIRL and SENSATIONAL SHE-HULK artist Patrick Ollife; writer and artist Tim Truman, known for his work on GRIMJACK, CONAN, HAWKWORLD, JONAH HEX, and other titles; and many others. Weekend events include panels, gaming, photo opportunities and costume contests for kids and adults. Sunday is Family Day at 3 Rivers Comicon, with kid-focused programming all day. There is also the very popular beer party on Saturday evening.

Tickets to the convention’s beer party are $70 and include early admission to both days of the convention, a free graphic novel, entry to the beer release party, catered food and three free bottles of beer, one from each year! “The beer party was the aspect we sold the most of last year,” McDevitt said. “We had people who didn’t care for comics and came for the beer, and people who didn’t care about beer, but came for the comics.”

3 Rivers Comicon has commissioned a custom beer by Helltown Brewing featuring original bottle label art by Joe Jusko. Witchblade Barrel Aged Russian Imperial Stout will be brewed with coffee added this year. This beer will only be made exclusively for 3 Rivers Comicon and New Dimension Comics.

Let’s hope that Todd and Jon save a few bottles of this year’s special brewed craft beer to help us celebrate PulpFest 2018 from July 26 through July 29 at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry, just north of Pennsylvania’s “Steel City.” Although PulpFest will not have its own beer, the convention will still have a lot of great programming. Add to that a dealers’ room featuring tens of thousands of pulp magazines, vintage paperbacks, digests, men’s adventure and true crime magazines, original art, first edition hardcovers, genre fiction, series books, reference books, dime novels and story papers, Big Little Books, B-Movies, serials and related paper collectibles, old-time radio shows, and Golden and Silver Age comic books, as well as newspaper adventure strips. We’ll also have a con suite featuring some great beer and snacks. So what are you waiting for? Start making your plans to join us at the “pop culture center of the universe” for PulpFest 2018.

(Our illustration is the banner for the 3 Rivers Comicon home page. The convention is organized by Todd McDevitt and Jon Engel of New Dimension Comics, with six stores in the Pittsburgh region.)