Phileas Fogg Finds Immortality

Sunday, September 25th, 2016 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

51dx9hyli-lchapbook-cover-jpegWhen Jules Verne created gentleman adventurer Phileas Fogg in his 1873 novel, Around the World in Eighty Days, he had no way of imagining the bizarre turn his character’s chronicles would take a century later. When Philip Jose Farmer added The Other Log of Phileas Fogg to his Wold Newton Family series in 1973, he had no way of imagining that four decades later there would exist a Wold Newton specialty publisher to continue the esoteric literary exploits of some of the last two centuries’ most fantastic characters.

Farmer’s concept, in a nutshell, is that Verne’s globetrotting adventure is part of a far larger extraterrestrial conflict between two powerful alien races, the Eridani and the Capellas. Phileas Fogg was raised by the Eridani it turns out and, in the course of Farmer’s work, we learn that Verne’s Captain Nemo (the anti-hero of his 1870 classic, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and its 1874 sequel, The Mysterious Island) is not only a Capellan agent, but is also the same man known as Professor Moriarty in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes mysteries.

Josh Reynolds was the first author to follow in Farmer’s footsteps in a substantial fashion when he authored two direct sequels to The Other Log of Phileas Fogg for Meteor House: 2014’s Phileas Fogg and the War of Shadows and 2016’s Phileas Fogg and the Heart of Osra. Both books are set in 1889 and see Phileas Fogg coming out of retirement as the extraterrestrial conflict between the Eridani and the Capellas reaches Earth once more. The second of these titles involves Ruritania, the fictitious country from Anthony Hope’s Ruritanian Romances trilogy that began with the famous 1894 novel, The Prisoner of Zenda.

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Blogging Marvel’s Master of Kung-Fu, Part Three

Sunday, September 4th, 2016 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

Master_of_Kung_Fu_Vol_1_22Giant-Size_Master_of_Kung_Fu_Vol_1_2Master of Kung Fu #22 sees the welcome return of artist Paul Gulacy who came and went a bit in these early issues. The first half of the story sees Shang-Chi set upon by Si-Fan assassins at a Chinese restaurant in New York before infiltrating his father’s skyscraper base of operations. Fu Manchu has captured both Sir Denis Nayland Smith and Black Jack Tarr. Shang-Chi stows away aboard Fu Manchu’s private jet unaware of their destination. Once on the ground, he follows as his father’s minions lead their captives to a cave in the side of a mountain which has been filled with dynamite. Shang-Chi rescues the two Englishmen and prevents the detonation which would have seen Fu Manchu kill his archenemy in the same instant he destroyed Mount Rushmore. Doug Moench, like Steve Englehart before him, has an embarrassment of riches that are largely squandered with insufficient page count to fully develop his narrative. This would soon change, however, and make the series one of the finest published in the 1970s.

Most of Marvel’s Giant-Size quarterly titles were throwaways, much like too many of their special Annual editions, but Giant-Size Master of Kung Fu #2 was a 40-page epic designed to showcase both the character of Shang-Chi and the talents of the series’ writer and artist, respectively. Doug Moench had been harboring a desire to address racism and bigotry directly and a series with an Asian protagonist gave him the perfect forum to do so. Paul Gulacy now had the freedom to display martial arts fighting as well as moving displays of romance and longing relying solely on the power of his images in a string of panels that conveyed storytelling free of words. Even more significant is the fact that Gulacy’s depictions of lust and attraction never pandered to titillation as the artist evinced a mature understanding of the art form’s possibility. The fact that he was strongly influenced by cinema and Steranko’s pop art work of the 1960s take nothing away from the fact that Gulacy was coming into his own as an artist with this title.

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Vincent Starrett on the Great Detective

Monday, August 29th, 2016 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Starrett_PenzlerbooksOtto Penzler is a larger than life name in the mystery field. He is the man behind New York City’s ‘Mysterious Bookstore’ as well as the Mysterious Press (Nero Wolfe’s current imprint!). He’s a true mystery maven. You can read about his recent The Big Book of Sherlock Holmes Stories here.  From 1993 through 1995, under the Otto Penzler Books imprint, he reissued nine hard-to-find works of Sherlockiana.

The Otto Penzler Sherlock Holmes Library consists of the following books, originally published between 1906 and 1967:

221B: Studies in Sherlock Holmes — Vincent Starrett
Baker Street By-Ways — James Edward Holroyd
Baker Street Studies — Ed. By H.W. Bell
Holmes & Watson — S.C. Roberts
My Dear Holmes — Gavin Brend
The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes — Vincent Starrett
Holmes & Company — John Kendrick Bangs
Seventeen Steps to 221B — Ed. By James Edward Holroyd
Sherlock Holmes: Fact or Fiction? — T.S. Blakeney

Bear in mind, every bit of anything you ever wanted to know wasn’t available on the internet back when Penzler republished these books. Heck, the Baker Street Journal wasn’t even available as a collection on CD yet. This collection of Sherlockiana was uncommon for the time. Some entries are better than others, but they are all an affectionate part of my Sherlockian bookshelf (except, maybe for Bangs’ book).

Read on for reviews of the two Vincent Starrett entries in the series. You may remember reading his outstanding introduction to the first Solar Pons collection.

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An Epic Finale for Ancient Opar

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

BOAO-cover-small2Hadon-front-final1Over forty years ago, Philip Jose Farmer published a pair of officially sanctioned books recounting the history of ancient Opar, the lost civilization familiar to readers of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan novels. Opar was the first of the author’s lost cities that survived undiscovered in the African jungle until the noble apeman came along. Burroughs’ lost civilizations, like his alien worlds, were fantastic places of adventure that allowed the author to sharpen his satiric blade and skewer organized religion and politics alike.

Farmer, in notable contrast, was interested in using Burroughs’ concepts as a springboard for more realistic and decidedly more adult adventures. Farmer’s histories are peopled with conquerors and king-makers who are not just noble savages, but also savage rapists and murderers. His Opar novels opened Tarzan fans’ eyes to the antediluvian kingdom of Khokarsa. While the sword & sorcery boom of the 1960s and 1970s flooded bookshelves with immoral and amoral barbarians, Farmer set his work apart by treating the material as realistically as possible. His characters die tragically and sometimes prematurely. Sexual intercourse leads to unplanned pregnancies that alter people’s lives as it changes the course of a kingdom’s destiny.

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New Treasures: Warlock Holmes: A Study in Brimstone by G.S Denning

Friday, July 15th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

Warlock Holmes-smallBob Byrne, our Monday blogger who posts under The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes byline, is our go-to Holmes guy. But even can’t report on all the Sherlockian developments these days, which is why I’m here to tell you about G.S Denning’s new book Warlock Holmes: A Study in Brimstone, released in trade paperback by Titan Books in May. Robert Brockway (The Unnoticeables) give us the details:

What if Sherlock Holmes wasn’t a brilliant detective, but an awkward magician with prophetic fits? What if Scotland Yard was staffed by vampires and ogres? And above all, what if it was funny? Warlock Holmes should have you from the title alone, but if it doesn’t, know that it’s full of charm, humor and demons. Lots of demons.

Humor is hard — and especially humor at length. I can count the number of truly funny novels I’ve read on one hand. But I enjoy a good parody, and this collection of humorous Sherlock pastiches with a dark fantasy twist looks like it would fit the bill nicely.

Sherlock Holmes is an unparalleled genius who uses the gift of deduction and reason to solve the most vexing of crimes. Warlock Holmes, however, is an idiot. A good man, perhaps; a font of arcane power, certainly. But he’s brilliantly dim. Frankly, he couldn’t deduce his way out of a paper bag. The only thing he has really got going for him are the might of a thousand demons and his stalwart flatmate. Thankfully, Dr. Watson is always there to aid him through the treacherous shoals of Victorian propriety… and save him from a gruesome death every now and again.

An imaginative, irreverent and addictive reimagining of the world’s favorite detective, Warlock Holmes retains the charm, tone and feel of the original stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle while finally giving the flat at 221b Baker Street what it’s been missing for all these years: an alchemy table.

Reimagining six stories, this riotous mash-up is a glorious new take on the ever-popular Sherlock Holmes myth, featuring the vampire Inspector Vladislav Lestrade, the ogre Inspector Torg Grogsson, and Dr. Watson, the true detective at 221b. And Sherlock. A warlock.

Warlock Holmes: A Study in Brimstone was published by Titan Books on May 17, 2016. It is 336 page, priced at $14.95 in trade paperback and $7.99 for the digital version.


Kurt Busiek’s Astro City. Also Joyce, Hemingway, Faulkner, and a Tangent on Modernism

Monday, July 11th, 2016 | Posted by Nick Ozment

Astro_City_A_Visitors_Guide_Vol_1_1This is mostly an homage to Kurt Busiek and Astro City, and to one story in particular, but buckle in because we’re going to cover a lot of rambling ground getting there in a sort of stream-of-consciousness way, taking in stuff by random association — sort of like the streets of Astro City itself…

Kurt Busiek’s Astro City is one of my favorite superhero comics. It consistently delivers brilliant, funny, poignant, human stories in a colorful, wonderfully idiosyncratic comic-book world. It is Busiek’s magnum opus — like Bendis’s Powers, it towers above his other work for the big publishers using their branded characters. He brings the sensibilities he honed in the groundbreaking Marvel miniseries Marvels to his own universe and, beneath all the ZAP! BANG! POW!, weaves tales you will never forget.

What Marvels did that was so fresh in 1994 is it “lowered the camera” from the god-like supers knocking each other through buildings and focused in on the ordinary humans down here at street level, wide-eyed and slack-jawed, watching it happen. What impact did the existence of such powers have on their day-to-day lives?

In Astro City the camera is completely unfettered, ranging to the heights to reveal very human dramas among people who have the power to level cities and then zooming down to the alleys to follow a day in the life of a two-bit petty thief who is really a pretty ordinary, decent human being (with the exception that his skin is covered with a steel alloy). Through the course of following Carl Donewicz, aka Steeljack — in the classic story “The Tarnished Angel” — we come to sympathize with and like him, and even find ourselves rooting for him: just once, could one of his heists go off without a hitch and not be foiled by The Jack-in-the-Box? And in Astro City, where narratives don’t always follow the comic-book formula, he does have his day. A fun, feel-good story, that one.

And then there are Astro City stories that rip your heart out. “The Nearness of You,” I contend, is among the great American short stories of the late twentieth century, and I think it could be anthologized as such. (Wizard Magazine does rank it number 6 on their list of “100 Greatest Single Issue Comic Books Since You Were Born.”) Publishers these days would have no problem formatting a four-color comic story into their prose collections. But should they? It is, after all, a comic book.

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Blogging Marvel’s Master of Kung Fu, Part One

Sunday, June 12th, 2016 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

MOKF15Special Mavel Edition is a little remembered comics reprint title of the early 1970s. Its fifteenth and penultimate issue dated December 1973 featured the debut of a new series, Master of Kung Fu. Marvel’s timing was perfect as Bruce Lee was now a major star at the U.S. box office and David Carradine’s Kung Fu series was a critical and ratings success on the small screen.

Marvel had optioned the rights to Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu characters several years before when Pyramid paperback reprints of the 13 Rohmer novels were selling strong thanks to the popularity of the Christopher Lee film series. Marvel already had their own Fu Manchu clones in the form of the Yellow Claw and the Mandarin, but Master of Kung Fu gave them the opportunity to build a contemporary martial arts title out of a sequel to Rohmer’s highly influential thriller series.

Conceived by Steve Englehart and Jim Starlin, the decision to incorporate Sax Rohmer’s characters was at the insistence of Marvel editor Roy Thomas. Englehart enlisted the aid of Robert E. Briney, publisher and editor of The Rohmer Review fanzine to ensure the continuity was consistent with Rohmer’s long-running literary series.

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: The MX Anthologies – All the Holmes You Need

Monday, June 6th, 2016 | Posted by Bob Byrne

MXSeries_4

Hot off the presses!

David Marcum and I email each other. A lot! It is sort of a modern version of the HP Lovecraft – Robert E. Howard letter swapping. Without the gravitas. And the weirdness. And the literary importance. And the…oh, never mind. One Thursday afternoon in January of 2015, he sent me an email about a dream that he had had the previous night.

The dream (and the email) was about putting together a multi-author anthology of traditional Sherlock Holmes stories. As David typed, “There would be no weird Alternate Universe or present-day stuff, no Holmes-is-the-Ripper, nothing where Watson is at Holmes’s funeral or vice-versa. Etc. Essentially nothing that shockingly contradicts what is in the Canon.”

Earlier that morning, he had emailed Steve Emecz, his publisher at MX Books, about the idea. From that dream was born the MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories. Except more authors signed on and it grew to two books: then to three. Then came another volume in 2016. And a fifth, containing only Christmas stories, and a sixth, are on their way! In fact, I should be finishing my Christmas tale right now, not writing this post.

The four volumes have contained ten introductions/forewords/essays, five poems and over eighty new stories. That’s EIGHTY Holmes short stories (including a couple of plays) making their first book appearances in this series. I read Holmes stories at a pretty heavy pace and I’m still working my way through these volumes.

The first three books came out as a trilogy, split into time periods (1881-1889, 1890-1895 and 1896-1929). Volume IV followed as the ‘2016 Annual’ and it is expected that there will be at least one new collection yearly into the foreseeable future.

And every single author participating has donated their royalties to the restoration of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s former home, Undershaw, which, when completed, will be a part of Stepping Stones, a school for children with learning disabilities. As my sister Carolyn is severely mentally retarded, I can appreciate the generosity of every one of my fellow authors. Actions like this matter.

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The Abuses of Public Domain Fiction

Monday, May 2nd, 2016 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

cover225x225publicdomainPublic domain is a tricky issue. We all know the horror stories of a certain  bloodsucking literary estate who clings to the last remaining copyrights of their Victorian property and frequently demand exorbitant fees for usage in new works. There are also tales of a well-known property where a dubious claimant to the literary rights regularly files nuisance lawsuits and is often paid off by the big conglomerates just to avoid the hassle of dealing with the allegedly loopy individual in question. Both have generated their share of sympathy for the public domain cause.

Greedy bastards only interested in money and wealthy loons fighting to prove they own something they don’t are certainly unlikable characters. I know a good number of publishers and writers who thrive upon reviving properties that have slipped into public domain. So long as too many cooks aren’t in the kitchen churning out new soups with the same basic ingredients, it should be a harmonious situation that serves to keep the originals in print and grows fan interest in otherwise forgotten characters.

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Life During Wartime for Revived Pulp Characters

Tuesday, April 26th, 2016 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

51jEwDLgmgL._SX348_BO1,204,203,200_Awesome02_250Bold Venture Press and Black Cat Media recently unveiled a new pulp anthology title, Awesome Tales. Largely the brainchild of editor/lead writer R. Allen Leider, three issues have been published thus far. Leider’s featured stories in each have successfully revived vintage pulp characters and placed them in World War II settings.

The first issue featured The Domino Lady, a racy adventuress from the “spicies” who has found popularity with “new pulp” specialty publishers such as Moonstone Books and Airship 27.  Leider, who operates Black Cat Media, collaborated with Rich Harvey, who operates Bold Venture Press with Audrey Parente, in penning this new adventure that advances the character from her 1930s origins to the Second World War. Interestingly, the entire Domino Lady revival began when Bold Venture Press collected the character’s original 1930s adventures in 2004 and set the stage for new adventures to follow.

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