Monday, March 20, 2017


A Comicbook Series
Script by Christa Faust & Gary Phillips
Art by Andrea Camerini
Colors by Marco Lesko
Letters by Comicrafts’ Jimmy Bentancourt
Editor Todd Williams
Consulting Editor Charles Ardai
Hard Case Crime/Titan Comics

Back when Charles Ardai began the Hard Case Crime imprint it pretty much shook up the American publishing world. Focusing on both new and classic crime novel reprints, the brand quickly became synonymous with quality pulp storytelling. Then, after a few years, HCC moved to over to a British house, Titan books without skipping a beat and their wonderful titles continued to entertain legions of crime fans around the world.

We know, because we’ve been super HCC fans since day one and have reviewed too many of them to count here. Still, can you imagine our surprise when we recently discovered Titan and joined forces with HCC to do crime comics? Damn, nothing like this had ever been attempted since the post-World War II days of hard edged, adult comics prevalent in the U.S. throughout the early 50s before the whole Frederic Werthram “Seduction of the Innocent” debacle that put the final nail in the coffin for such violent, bloody graphic tales. Which in itself was the real crime.

Which is why, upon discovering HCC comics, we knocked off a quick letter to the big guy himself, Charles Ardai, all but begging him to assist us in finding these comics. A good friend, he wasted no time in putting us in touch with Titan’s U.S. representative, Katharine Carroll and two weeks later a large package arrivals in the mail crammed packed with several different HCC comics, among them, “Peepland.”

Taking place in sleazy sex world of the late eighties Time Square area known to locals as the Deuce, this quirky, fast paced thriller unfolds swiftly, it’s plot unraveling like a ball of yarn dropped from the couch and rolling across the living room floor. A two-bit pornographer known as Dirty Dick accidentally video tapes a murder in Central Park. Unknown to him, the killer is the son of one of New York’s wealthiest men and he will do anything to retrieve the damn film. Dick is soon caught and thrown under the wheels of a subway train but not before he leaves the sought after video with Roxy Bell, a peep-show worker. When she learns of Dick’s fate, she realizes she most likely is now on the same hit list and enlists the aid of her ex-boyfriend, Nick Nunzio. Pretty soon they are not only dodging hired killers but discover the rich Daddy has put a bounty on their heads for anyone to claim.

At present we have read the first four issues and our review is based on them. Considering you have two of the best crime novelist at the helm with Phillips and Faust, the reader is fairly guaranteed a terrific story infused with enough action and wacky black comedy to keep one entertain from page to page. Whereas on the visual side of things, artist Andrea Camerini is extremely talented and we love his depictions of the main characters. He is aided and abetted by colorist Marco Lesko and letterer John Bentancourt.  As we said, technically this is a truly beautiful produced comic title. If we had any criticism at all, it was the lack of useful captions in the first issue. There is a trend in comics today to forego the use of captions which we find ridiculous. Captions have a place in graphics if only to clearly delineate between scene jumps, clearly telling the reader where the locale is at any particular point in the story. That was lacking in issue one and some of the scene jumps were confusing. Happily someone, most likely  the editor, realized this and subsequent issues have begun to employ more such caption markers.

All told, “Peepland” is a gritty, brilliantly conceived thriller told in a grand, colorful cinematic way. It is what good comics are all about and a fantastic bridge between them and New Pulp. We’re looking forward to future issues with enthusiastic anticipation.

Sunday, March 19, 2017


Die Glocke
By Barry Reese
Pro Se Press
169 pgs.

This is the second collection of stories featuring the reborn hero, Lazarus Gray. A one time member of the all powerful secret cabal known as the Illuminati, Gray arrived in Sovereign City washing up on the morning tide with no memory of his past. Volume One told of his struggles to uncover that mystery at the same time introduced us to the amazing trio that would become his partners in Assistance Unlimited; lethal lovely Samantha Grace, former con-artist Morgan Watts and Korean martial artist Eun Jiwon.

In this rip-roaring second outing, Gray and company find themselves traveling the globe to stop would be villains from obtaining all manners of occult power.  From the barren wastelands of Mongolia to the green fields of England and the hidden jungles of South America. No place is too remote for this daring quartet. Along the way they encounter old foes from Walther Lunt, the twisted German scientist, to the ancient Princess Femi. Then they are pitted against new creatures of evil such as the monstrous Jack-in-Irons, a towering behemoth with a boars head and unleashed on earth via a powerful arcane construct known as the Bell; i.e. Die Glocke from the title. There’s also the murderous Titan, a man of superhuman strength.

Our love of this series comes from Reese’s own unabashed fun in whipping up the most far fetched, outlandish plots, creating charismatic heroes and villains and then delivering rock solid action sequences that have us jumping up and down with joy. Reese gets pulp, he breathes it into every single page he writes.  Consider his seductive femme fatales such the previously mentioned Egyptian Mummy Princes Femi and then there’s the so seductive Japanese Miya Shimada, who’s only weakness is her love for Gray. Which in turns leads to one of the most unique plot endings ever envisioned in a pulp tale.

As if that wasn’t enough, this adventure packed book introduces us to two new members of the team; German officer Jakob Spottenbreg and beautiful witch Abigail Cross. Then, in the very last tale, Gray and his allies meet the Golden Age comic hero the Black Terror in one of the strangest crossovers ever imagined.

Honestly, there aren’t enough adjectives in the dictionary to properly applaud this book. Note, it was first published in 2012 and we’re playing catch up here. There are several more volumes awaiting us and for that this reviewer is do damn happy.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

AMAZING! ASTONISHING! WEIRD! The Complete Pulp Magazine Covers Vol. 2

The Complete Pulp Covers Vol. 2
By Todd Frye
Also available at Amazon.

Having come to pulp fandom via the comic book route, we’ve always had a strong appreciation for the art of the pulps. From their being filled with beautifully rendered pen and ink illustrations to their dazzling, colorful covers. One of the real tragedies we learned long ago was how undervalued these covers were at the time they were created. It was not unusual for paintings to be trashed seconds after an issue had been published. Thus over the years the actual number of original pulp cover paintings that survived is such a small percentage of the thousands created, it is one of the saddest realities of our cultural history.

So it is whenever some enterprising pulp enthusiast puts together a book that focuses on that lost art, we stand up and cheer. Over the years, there have been several such titles reprinting what little remaining pulp covers that still exist. We have most of them in our own personal library. Whereas this new collection, independently published book from Todd Frye of Tennessee is something really special.

What Frye has done is to pick a specific pulp title and then reprint, in full color, all its covers in chronological order in which they were printed. In this second volume of the series, he does this with two of the most renowned pulps ever published, Amazing Stories (284 issues and 1 annual dated from April 1926 to March 1953) and Weird Tales (279 issues) dated from March 1923 to Sept 1954. And if that wasn’t enough, the book has all the covers from Astonishing Stories, Marvel titles and South Sea Stories.

The second we opened the book and began looking at those old covers, it was as if we were being transported back in time to a truly remarkable era and witnessing a new literary renaissance intended not for academia, but for the average man and woman who simply enjoyed a good tale. With Amazing Stories, we get the birth of science fiction and its history through the years. The names plastered on those garish covers start off with such venerables as H.G. Wells and Jules Verne and gradually begin featuring the new kids on the block ala Asimov, Campbell, Heinlein, etc.etc; way too many to list here. Likewise with Weird Tales, we witness the emergence of glorious fantasy fiction in all its interpretations from horror ala H.P. Lovecraft to sword and sorcery from Robert E. Howard and so much more along the way. Names like Robert Bloch and Ray Bradbury pop up constantly and it easy to imagine the excitement each new issue generated among the pulp readers of the day.

That this book is a treasure is evident from the first page to the last. The time and effort put into assembling these covers must have been herculean and the result is a tome the true pulp addict will pick up time and time again. Those outlandish, imaginative covers have so much yet to tell us. Frye knows his pulp history and the book’s preface and individual chapter headings are wonderfully written for those new readers unfamiliar with the pulps. It is clear he’s being careful to introduce them properly which leads to our only real critique of the entire book. In one early section, he offers up suggestions on where new pulp fans might find pulps to buy. There he lists the various on-line services ala E-Bay etc. and even mentions comic book conventions but totally fails to mention the two most successful and on-going Pulp conventions still active; the Windy City Pulp & Paper Con happening in Chicago every Spring and Pulp Fest which arrives in late Aug. in Pittsburgh.  Both have been around for many years and feature the largest collection of pulps ever assembled under any roof. Each show is a veritable gold mine for collectors and fans of pulps. In fact, this book would sell extremely well at both. Hopefully in future editions, Frye will amend this oversight.

That being said, this is truly an independent project and at $29.95 a copy a steal. Frye even picks up mailing cost for orders in the U.S. It’s been a while since we’ve seen a bargain like this. Please, if you are true pulp fan, you need to visit Todd Frye’s website listed at the start of this column and pick up a copy of this book. It will blow you away!!

Friday, March 10, 2017


By Mickey Spillane & Max Allan Collins
Titan Books
249 pages

All Mike Hammer mysteries contain a fair amount of action, gun battles and bloodshed but at the moment we’re having a really hard time thinking of another one that comes this saturated with violence. From the first page, wherein Hammer is confronted in his own offices by a hired killer, this story roars out of the chute like a crazed bull at a western rodeo; stomping down anyone unlucky enough to be caught in its path of destruction.

Someone has put out a contract on Hammer and with each new chapter bodies drop; some belonging to ruthless assassins, others innocent bystanders trapped in the deadly crossfire. The puzzle has the savvy private eye doing his best to decipher who put the target on his back at the same as he’s dodging bullets. By the time three different hitmen have tried to collect and failed, Hammer has to face the truth that he is being stalked by a cunning, merciless psychopath unlike any killer he has ever encountered before. How does he fight a madman whose very reasons for wanting him dead make absolutely no sense at all?

“Murder Never Knocks,” is taut, unrelenting thriller and never lets up on its own inherent suspense. It’s a pure Spillane and Collins cocktail, one that goes down smooth and then leaves your guts on fire.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017


By Nick Macari
Panel to Panel Publishing
90 pgs

Every once in a while loyal readers to this blog know that we’ll step outside the pulp fiction lines to put our spotlight on other kinds of books we think deserve your attention. Such is the case with this new tome on writing for comics and graphic novels by Nick Marcari.

Over the years, in our forty-five year career as a comic scribe, we’ve encountered lots of books on “how-to” that range from the sophisticated and complex, to the cheap and poorly presented titles. We’ve even done a couple of similar projects ourselves. Thus we were really curious about Macari’s take on the subject.

First of all this is a really beautiful book, extremely well designed and laid out. Much thought was given in adding the appropriate graphics to each chapter and thus better illustrate the technical points Macari makes. Whereas his own writing is very clear and precise and he adeptly covers all the important aspects of writing a decent comic script, regardless of its length.  If we had any critique at all it would be that the book itself is geared for adults, i.e. college age readers and above. Put in the hands of younger creators, we believe the breath and scope of the material in these pages might actually scare off inexperienced readers.  But then again we note, part of the title is, “The Working Writer’s Guide..” strongly suggesting the target audience is for folks who have already dabbled in comics and now want to amp up their participation.

In the past we’ve taught many workshops on writing comics.  Had this terrific book been available to us then, we’d have put it to good use. This is clearly the kind of helpful title any new writer should have in his or her comics reference library.  Well done, Nick Macari, well done indeed.

Sunday, March 05, 2017


By Wayne Carey
A Leo Book
341 pgs

So this fellow named Carey sends us a copy of his first book, “The Nanon Factor,” to read and review. Upon starting the novel, we realize it features animals that have had their intelligence heightened by injections nano-molecules. A dog named Sam and a cat named Sophia are communicating telepathically and this reviewer is about to put the novel down and run for the hills. We’ve never been “animal” people. Not that we have anything against the furry four legged creatures, but hey, not all of us had pets growing up. It’s a personal thing, thus we generally do not enjoy stories with animal characters.

So the instinctive reaction after reading those first few pages was to simply put the book away and tell Mr. Carey we simply couldn’t finish it. Right. Then the dog and cat discover that their owner, the scientist responsible for their alteration, has been murdered and the body is discovered by Katie Tyler, a sixteen year old who lives across the street with her older brother Josh, and detective father, Sgt. Michael Tyler.  Hmm, suddenly we’re got a little Nancy Drew going on here and Katie and her family prove to be really likeable characters, extremely well written. Naturally Mike Tyler wants to lead the investigation of the murder, but is put off by his captain because of his personal connection as a neighbor to the dead man.  Meanwhile, Katie has already brought Sam and Sophie to their home along with a third animal, a rat. And yes, he too has been nano-injected and can mentally talk with the dog and cat. Together, the trio plans to help their new human allies and solve the mystery of who killed their master.

And this reviewer realizes he’s now devoured almost half the book non-stop.  What the hell just happened? What happened was a truly gifted story teller, i.e. Wayne Carey, has spun a tale that is fast moving, suspenseful and filled with such intriguing characters, both human and non-human. He weaves a story so flawlessly told that we found ourselves constantly compelled to turn the next page; to finish as yet just more chapter until all too soon we’ve reached the end. In the process, we’ve become fans of Wayne Carey and his exciting gift of word weaving.

“The Nanon Factor” is a truly wonderful first novel that hints at the tremendous potential within this new writer and we can only wait to see what new thrills he’s going to send our way in the future.  Do keep writing, Wayne Carey, you’ve made a believer out of us.

Thursday, March 02, 2017


For any reviewer, nothing is more gratifying than seeing one's review quoted on the next title in a series. Case in point, on the back cover of "Murder Never Knocks," by Mickey Spillane & Max Allan Collins (which I hope to review soon) is a quote from my Pulp Fiction Reviews of "Kill Me, Darling," the previous release in the series. Thanks so much to Max and Titan Books.