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  • By Michael Brown
    Jan 5, 2011
    Most pulp fans know this. Street and Smith put out the 2 of the most popular pulp heroes: The Shadow and Doc Savage. Each were different, the Shadow being a dark detective, going after various criminals, while Doc Savage was a science-adventurer with gadgets, going on wild adventures against various menaces, most with a sf theme. S&S tried to follow them up with other successful heroes, and none really succeeded. They put out The Whisperer and The Skipper as Shadow and Doc follow-ons. After about a dozen or so issues, they were cancelled and continued as backups in the Shadow and Doc magazines, respectively. They tried a sort-of western Doc (Pete Rice), and an tryout anthology title (Crimebusters) to see if they could come up with another success. This title included series by Gibson (Norgil) and Dent (Click Rush), the authors of The Shadow and Doc. But nothing seemed to work. Then they tried to create a character that merged both The Shadow and Doc: The Avenger, and got both... More > Gibson and Dent to pitch ideas and give hints to the writer for it: Paul Ernst. The main concept that people go with was that all the ideas came from Gibson & Dent, but what about Ernst?? Heck, even one current pulpster thought that Gibson wrote some of The Avenger stories (not so). Now we have this great collection from Altus Press to sets things straight, by showing several characters that Paul Ernst created before hand that have characteristics of The Avenger, and show us that he probably came up with many of the ideas of the character. First off, we have Seekay. A private detective with a disfigured face hidden behind a plastic mask. He ran for 5 stories, first 2 in "Strange Detective Stories", then in "Detective Tales" in 1937 and 38. We never know what happened to him. He appears to be independently wealthy, as he takes cases if he's interested by them (like The Avenger). In the first story, he helps a girl who becomes his assistant (and helps the reader in finding out what Seekay is doing). In a couple of stories he allows the traps of the bad guys to kill them (again, like the Avenger). I certainly think this character could have continued past those 5 stories. The rest are one-off stories (but again, some could have been turned into serial characters). There is The Wraith, a triple-identified crimefighter who utilizes a knife and a gun VERY similiar to The Avenger's Mike & Ike, and has a partially paralized face. He is able to alter his appearance. This story is kind of showing the end of The Wraith's career, as he was going after certain criminals for a certain crime, but the setup of the character seems wasted on this. With some tweaks he could have gone after more criminals, and been a long-running serial character. He appeared in "Detective Tales" in 1936. There is Dick Bullitt and his gray features. He is really an attorney then a detective, but he is able to solve a serious crime. Other then his personality, he has little common with the Avenger. Of all the stories, this is the one I puzzled at its inclusion. He also appeared in "Detective Tales" in 1936. There is Old Stone Face, the G-man with the emotionless visage, whose personality is *very* similiar to the Avenger. He is after a racket which murdered his wife, and is described in the story as an emotionless machine, almost on a suicide mission to get the killers. He appeared in "Ace G-Man Stories" in 1937. There is The Gray Marauder, who used a dual identity to fight crime. What is interesting is he's never called the 'Gray Marauder'. That's only in the title. Here, an attorney uses a second identity to find evidence and help the innocent. In that second identity, he dresses all in gray, hence the name used in the title. Again, this character could have been an ongoing serial character easily. He appeared in "Detective Tales" in 1937. And finally, Karlu, the mystic. He appeared in "Detective Tales" in 1938. He's really a mentalist who is also a criminologist (a strange combination). In this story he goes up against a group of side-show freaks who are blackmailing a town (a common theme amoung many of these stories). Again, he could have been a serial character, but another one I puzzled about his contribution to The Avenger. This is a great collection of early pulp heroes, and a great addition to anyone's library of pulp fiction. The podcast "The Book Cave" recently features this as their "book of the month", interviewing both Matt Moring (the publisher of Altus) and Will Murray, who wrote the intro and is a well known pulp historian, editor and author.< Less
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Product Details

First Edition
Altus Press
March 14, 2010
Hardcover (dust-jacket)
Interior Ink
Black & white
1.33 lbs.
Dimensions (inches)
6 wide x 9 tall
Product ID
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