Monday, October 01, 2012

Mysteries of Myra UPDATE!

Deep contrast and wide spectrum of mid-tones.
A framegrab from the surviving footage

Below this nerd-out rant is the original Pulp Reader post about the silent serial The Mysteries of Myra. It has been considered long lost but The Serial Squadron's Eric Stedman edited together the novelized story and press materials into a book. And a mighty fine book it is too.

Well there is now an update to the status of Myra. On the tail of the announcement that Trail of the Octopus will be out on DVD any time now (exciting news indeed!), it was also announced that some found footage of Myra will be shown at the Serial Squadron's streaming website "Chapters" just in time for Halloween, starting on October 27th.
The "Thought Monster" escapes!
Another frame from the footage.

I was honored to be able to preview the footage and it is pretty outstanding to see. It once again reaffirms (in my opinion at least) that the era of the silent serials was truly the height of the art form. At the time, made more for adults than children, the subject matter was more daring and psychologically intense, with more artful cinematography and story-lines you would find in the best of the thriller pulps. Those stark Noirish tonal ranges and shadows you may associate with the likes of Fritz Lang are common in many of the early silent serials. And speaking of visuals, a lot of this footage seen here is in really great shape, with very sharp image, great contrast and very stable. 

I won't spoil anything that goes on in the footage you will see, but will say that it is more than worth seeing. The only regret is that it leaves me wanting to see the rest of the serial. But it is an amazing and rare opportunity to see what still exist and who knows, as Eric states below, even more footage will hopefully, eventually show up. Many serials have been previously considered lost and have since not only turned up but have been made available to the public.
Entrance to the Lair.
Click on the pic to see more of the crisp detail

ere's what Eric has to say about the footage and what is being done with it:

...there's about a half hour's worth of footage left which I've already put together and restored, including the last reel which is knock-out amazing, and the quality of the transfer is eye-popping, without question the highest quality transfer of any serial I've ever seen, done in new digital HD/Blu-ray quality, with an image size about 8 times larger than regular DVD resolution. One reel is in another archive which we're expecting to get ahold of later on. We may not have it by Halloween but it's not impossible. Anyway what exists has already been put together and is ready to go in case the new reel comes in and has to be added more quickly. We're not going to put it all on DVD at the moment pending decisions as to how to handle possible re-creation of the rest of the serial, which we want to do a good job of if we embark upon such a major project.

It was a thrill to see the footage and I'm inspired to re-read the book in time to catch the official stream release at Halloween time.  The cool thing is that you can too!  And no, I don't work for Eric or the Squadron, but I love to share cool stuff (that's what the blog is all about after all) and this is really cool!
Aleister Crowley  would be proud!
Another frame grab and another amazing scene.

Original Post about the publication of the book:

I love pulps. I also love cliffhanger serials. And maybe more than anything, I love behind the scenes info and history about movie and television production. As my poor suffering wife can attest, my bookshelves are jammed with reference books and guides about pulp characters, old movies, radio dramas and T.V. shows.

Enter Eric Stedman, an entrepreneur who dedicates long hours to the restoration and preservation of many cliffhanger movie serials. At The Serial Squadron you can get a taste of the massive amount of work he has put into the genre through his line of restored movie DVDs along with relevant books and audio.

One of Eric's latest projects (one of many ongoing productions) is the novelization of a lost serial from 1916. THE MYSTERIES OF MYRA is a strange brew of action, intrigue, magic, spiritualism, monsters and zombies. As Eric put it "an X-Files of 1916". Unfortunately quite possibly all prints of MYRA were lost in a warehouse fire. At least at this date it is still considered a lost serial. This is truly unfortunate as from the evidence at hand and eloquently shown in this book, MYRA may be one of the most astoundingly put together serials of the silent and talkie era. From the looks of the stills and behind the scenes photos and info, this was a lavish production with impressive sets and intriguing special effects.

The process of this production was a painstaking one, as Eric explains:
Tracy Burton ... took on the job of interpreting fuzzy microfilm versions of the newspaper serializations of the story -- virtually all of which were incomplete, damaged, or otherwise messed up, which means after her pass through it and interpretations she was able to make, it took two other guys (me and Dr. Daka) hours and hours to fill in the missing words and correct errors. Daka discovered ... that there were about 5 different versions of the text, also, which all appeared in different newspapers, with different illustrations.

Along with reconstructing the various newspaper serializations of the story into a coherent novel, Eric delved deeply into researching the production history of MYRA, which is contained in a lengthy introduction and includes many production photos and biographies of cast and crew.

So here we have it; a novel that any pulp writer would dream to write, which is based on a legendary serial that no longer exists, along with a lot of tasty background info and photos. A perfect storm of entertainment for anyone who is into pulps, serials and movie history bound into one handsome tome.

This is the sales blurb for the book, which concisely explains what it's all about:

BEWARE THE BLACK ORDER! So comes the warning from the spirit of Myra Maynard's father, who reaches out to her from beyond the grave to warn her of danger from the masters of the occult arts that lurk in the shadows and mark her for murder on her eighteenth birthday. Only the world's first psychic detective, Dr. Payson Alden, and his friend Haji the Brahman mystic, can save clairvoyant Myra from the terrors of The Grand Master of the Order, who tries to claim not only her fortune but her life by means of suicide-inducing spells, invasion of her chamber by spirit assassins, and even reanimation of the dead by a fire elemental. Originally a fifteen-episode serial shot in Ithaca, New York (before Hollywood became the center of American movie-making) in 1916, painstakingly reconstructed from the original screenplay, novelization, and existing stills. Includes background information, behind-the-scenes photos and cast biographies.

At $25 it is well worth the price of admission and I urge you to head over to the Serial Squadron and pick up a copy.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Jonny Quest: The Stop Motion Episode

In my humble opinion, the absolute pinnacle of pulp adventure translated to a visual medium was the 1964 cartoon Jonny Quest. There's been nothing like it before and nothing that has measured up to it since.

Also, as a kid who grew up fascinated by the wonders of Willis O'Brien's King Kong, the works of Ray Harryhausen and the stop motion animated dinosaurs of Land of the Lost, I've had a life long passion for animation and especially stop motion.

Now the two have come together.  Roger Evans, who did the scene by scene recreation of the Jonny Quest intro which went viral last year, has put some thought behind "converting" an entire episode. I think that would be fantastic! The thing is, is that he'll need some help as it will be a full time job to pull it off. This is something that I think is truly worthy of any pulp adventure fan's efforts.
 Take a look at this behind the scenes diary of everything that went into making the opening credits happen. I tell ya it is a LOT of work!  If you click on a picture, it will open to a page showing a whole in depth look at the process of how that scene was constructed.

Please check out his kickstarter campaign and help out if at all possible! Unfortunately I had not heard about this earlier as this campaign seems to have gone much less viral than the original opening credits film did. There are only 8 days left as of today September 18, 2012.

Saturday, September 08, 2012


While perusing Steven Reid Harbin's Facebook group "Pulp Magazine Authors and Literature Fans", one Patricia Boeckman posted about her husband's (Charles Boeckman AKA Charles Beckman Jr) now available collection of past pulp stories; SUSPENSE, SUSPICION & SHOCKERS.  I asked if she wouldn't mind posting more info about Charles' work and Mr. Boeckman himself generously gave us some biographical history:

Boeckman shared ink with other pulp
legends such as Mickey Spillane and
William Irish (AKA Cornell Woolrich)
I sold my first pulp suspense story in 1945 to Mike Tilden the editor of Detective Tales. Once I broke into the pulps, I had a steady stream of short stories and novelettes published by Popular Publications both suspense stories and Westerns and other publishers such as "Pursuit, Malcolms, Manhunt, Alfred Hitchcock, Publishers paid one cent a word for stories in those days. One could make a good living if he or she could turn out a lot of stories. I wrote all of my stories first draft (as did other pulp writers I knew). I could write a 5,000 word story in a day. (One day I wrote a 9,000 word novelette in a working day.(no time for much revising.) We used mechanical typewriters. The Royal portable was the choice of many of the writers I knew.

I grew up in Texas so knew a lot about rattle snakes so I used that for a basis of my first story, STRICTLY POISON. Once I was making a living from full time writing I visited many of the big cities, San Francisco, New Orleans and New York. My favorite was Manhattan where I had leased a small apartment a block from Central Park west. New York was the center of the publishing business so I became friends with many of the best known editors of the pulps. I also got to know the top writers in the field, such as Day Keene (he was on the cover of almost every pulp story magazine) Talmage Powell, Gil Brewer, Harry Whittington, and others.

If you haven't read Boeckman
before and are eager to start
one of his stories is on amazon
as book and audiobook
In the 1920's,30s, and 40s a large segment of the population got their entertainment from radio and magazine stories. Every month the magazine stands were filled with fiction stories-- suspense, murder, action, love and science fiction stories and others. The pulp stories (so called because of the cheap pulp paper on which they were published) sold for ten or fifteen cents and had ten or fifteen stories. I started reading the pulps when I was ten years old. I grew up in the Great Depression. We had enough to eat but not any left over for music lessons. I taught myself to play clarinet and saxophone listening to phonograph records. When I left home I had $30 in my pocket, a used portable typewriter and some musical instruments from a pawn shop. I'd always liked the seashore so I took a bus to Corpus Christi, Texas. The next day I had a part time day job and a week-end job playing music. Those were the days of the big band era: Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Artie Shaw, Duke Ellington, Pete Fountain, Fatha Hines, Satchmo Armstrong. I later wrote a book on the history of jazz, Cool. Hot and Blue. I have a copy that was autographed by all of the above.
One of the first pulps Beckman appeared in.
My writing and music gave me an exciting life and the freedom to travel. I married a beautiful and talented young lady, Patti Kennelly who also had talent as a writer. We collaborated on 26 love stories for Silhouette and Harlequin that sold world wide over two million copies. I'm now 91 looking back over a creative and exciting life. Patti has encouraged me to make a collection of my short stories going back to my first pulp sale in 1945. The collection will be published soon.

Charles at his website had this to say about one of the stories in the upcoming collection:

This excerpt is from a story entitled, “Eddie Builds His Mouse Trap,” from my anthology of short stories that I wrote beginning in 1945.  The style of some of the stories in the collection is crisp, biting, and and punchy. Short sentences. Quick observations. Brief descriptions. Some are more in the Alfred Hitchcock style, with longer sentences and psychological twists and turns.

It was ironic. All the beautiful dolls Eddie Price had on his string, and a plain little mouse like Ginny Potucek finally hashes him up.

The morning he was going to kill her, she came out of the kitchen, her face flushed and damp from the heat of the stove. She was untying her apron. “Eddie, we’re out of bread. I’ll have to run down to the grocery store.”

“Oh?” Eddie said. Not that he was really surprised, having just tossed their last loaf out in the alley.

collection of 24 short stories by Charles
Boeckman and is now available at

He stood in front of the dresser mirror, whistling, buttoning up a clean white shirt. It was easy to see why the dames fell all over Eddie Price. He was six feet of man, adequately spread out around the shoulders and chest. He had lazy, grey eyes that would drift over a girl, caressing her, sending shivers up her spine, and a shy, little-boy grin that twisted her heart. After that, she’d be a fit subject for Freud if she didn’t run her fingers through his thick black hair and whisper in his ear.

But he wasn’t thinking about dames at the moment. His fingers were all thumbs, knotting his tie, and there was a sick pit of nausea in his stomach. In a few min­utes he was going to kill his bride of two months, Ginny, in a very messy way. He wasn’t too enthusiastic about it.

You can read more about Patricia, Charles and more excepts from the new book at

Monday, September 03, 2012

Trail of the Octopus hits DVD!

The Trial of the Octopus is now up for pre-order, with a scheduled release of Oct 1st 2012. This is on three DVDs with 14 out of 15 episodes, missing episode 9.

Go to the order page here.
Below are segments from my original informational post from 2010:
Although we may never see the complete serial of THE MYSTERIES OF MYRA there are other serials that may be just as amazing from the silent movie era.  Serials where it is obvious that a lot of money, time and creativity went into the productions.  One that will hopefully be available in Spring 2011 is THE TRAIL OF THE OCTOPUS.  This is another revelation from the age of the silents; where an amazing globe-trotting adventure comes to life as we meet great detectives, evil cults and mysterious strangers, spanning from a lost city in Egypt to the streets of San Francisco.

THE TRAIL OF THE OCTOPUS (not to be confused with the book by Goddard & Coleman) is a serial from 1919 consisting of 14 episodes totaling 7 hours. From the Serial Squadron's page the story goes:

Dr. Reid Stanhope, a noted scientist, and Raoul Bornay, a Frenchman of questionable standing, set out upon an expedition to explore the mysteries of ancient Egypt. With their caravan of natives and camels, they pierce the very heart of the great Sahara Desert in their search for the Temple of Death and the sacred Talisman of Set, both considered mythological by everyone except Dr. Stanhope.

After weeks of searching they discover a sarcophagus upon which hieroglyphics read: “He that toucheth or taketh away the Sacred Talisman of Set will bathe his hands in human blood.” Reaching inside the sarcophagus, Stanhope takes out the Sacred Talisman which is also known as the Devil's Trademark – the cloven hoof of Satan.

From the moment the Talisman is released, murder and destruction run rampant. Stanhope is forced to kill Bornay when attacked by him and Bornay's final words are “Don't think you killed a friend – they sent me to get you and the Talisman.” Who “they” are provides the foundation for the story of the rest of the serial, which takes place after Stanhope returned to civilization.

When we pick up the story from there, we see Stanhope telling his niece Ruth he has never had a moment's peace since he hid the Devil's Trademark in a rock vault – he's been haunted by the sudden mysterious appearance of a pair of uncanny looking eyes. While Dr. Stanhope tells the story, a thunderstorm arises and the “eyes” appear outside. He tells Ruth she must get rid of the Talisman as it endangers her life. He takes a dagger from a drawer and says, “Eight other daggers like this are in the hands of eight fellow scientists for safe-keeping. You must have all of them to get the combination of the rock vault, in which is hidden the sacred Talisman.”

When Stanhope receives a telephone call from the mysterious masked Monsieur X, who tells him that his friend, Professor Hubbard, one of the scientists, is dead, Ruth runs across the street to call on Carter Holmes, the criminologist, taking the dagger with her.Stanhope's scream in the distance begins a chain of events that leads to the kidnapping of Ruth by a clan of Devil Worshippers headed by a sorceress named Madame Zora, and a three-way battle between Holmes, the Devil-cult, and an Asian mastermind known as the Octopus to possess the Talisman by collecting the remaining daggers and placing them together in a cliffside vault that will reveal its secret.

An extremely atmospheric serial, heavily influenced by aspects of THE MYSTERIES OF MYRA (the Devil-cult with its crystal ball, and characters who disappear into astral form), and anticipating DRUMS OF FU MANCHU in its noir-ish look, THE TRAIL OF THE OCTOPUS changes location and emphasis many times but remains generally in early pulp/detective/horror mode throughout, with more than the occasional element of the paranormal thrown in to kick the mystery up a notch.
This serial is being restored by the Serial Squadron and even some missing scenes are being re-filmed with contemporary actors in order to have the story be as complete as possible.

TRAIL OF THE OCTOPUS is $40 for 2 double-sided DVDs.  This is a very fair and reasonable price for a micro-production which is putting out a small run, but professionally restored and extremely rare serial.  You won't find this serial anywhere else because it does not exists anywhere else. This DVD set is being digitally remastered from a 35mm print from the Library of Congress.

Along with the visual restoration the Squadron's Eric Stedman has mixed a new sound track including music that is scene relevant along with sound effects for important points of nuance.  This in my opinion really adds a layer of watchability and entertainment value to the whole project. You can see and hear the results in a sample posted at the bottom of this entry.

Check out the first 15 minutes of the first episode of TRAIL here:

Monday, July 02, 2012

The SPIDER and the Black Dog

I have this thing, this quirk you might say.  When I get interested in a book, a movie, a literary character, a created world and so on, I am interested in the workings of how and why it was created. I probably have more non-fiction books on the history and makings of fictional worlds, characters and movies than I have fiction books now. 

But there's one that has always eluded me.  And that was Robert Sampson's seminal work on the pulp hero The Spider.  Published in 1987, over the next decade it disappeared off of booksellers' shelves. I searched literally for years to find that book (at a sane price).  Even at insane prices it was not easy to find.

Thanks to a heads up by Lucas Garrett about some Spider books on ebay, and some news via Ralph Grasso at at the Spider-Master of Men FB page, two things have come to light: One is that it seems many soft and hard backs of the original 1987 printing have recently turned up at online bookshops.  I don't know why this has happened. I've emailed Popular Press about it so if they know why then I'll amend this post with the answer.

As fate would have it (and fate always has it this way doesn't it?), literally as soon as I had happily, even gleefully, purchased SPIDER for $13 plus shipping, Ralph G mentioned a new edition would be coming out in the near future from Black Dog Books. This edition will not have new written content but will have editorial fixes and added pics of magazine covers and illustrations.  No price or release date is set yet.

Black Dog Books has some other rarities and surprises dear to the heart of The Pulp Reader coming up soon.  There is another Robert Sampson pulp treatise reprint coming up based on The Shadow called THE NIGHT MASTER which will also be expanded with pics and cover scans.

Also they are collecting selected later tales of hard-boiled Pulp Reader favorite Carroll John DalyThis tome will include four previously uncollected Race Williams tales, one Satan Hall and a few others.

Obviously, I've been away from the blog for a while. I have been what you might call... busy.  But I've not abandoned you, dear Reader. 

Monday, March 12, 2012


If you're reading this you are probably a pulp fan. If you are a pulp fan you might have read at least a couple of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom books. If you have and you liked them, go see the movie. It's a well-done, thoughtful orchestration of elements of the first three books that help shape a serialized story into one solid movie.  If you have been on the fence because of some poor reviews, then all I can tell you is that I don't know what those people saw.

I've waited 35+ years to see this movie.  It has a LOT to live up to for me because 35 years is a long time to let expectations ferment. I think they did a good job and it didn't let me down.  I don't know what Disney's problem with their marketing department is, but they completely and absolutely failed to present this movie the way it should have been.  John Carter is not a one-off of Prince of Persia. It is not a rip off of Star Wars.  It is not one long brainless battle as the trailers would lead you to believe. Any of the heart that you find in the books, even more, really... is in the movie.

Get off of your computer and go see it right now for cryin' out loud!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Spacehawk and the Creeping Death from Neptune

Below is a quote from the Fantagraphics webpage for CREEPING DEATH FROM NEPTUNE, a collection of Basil Wolverton's weird scifi tales.  This and the SPACEHAWK book have been in the making for ages.  It seems 2012 will finally be the year these come out.  Though Wolverton is known to the 60s and 70s generation as the artist who drew ugly and weird caricatures in Mad Magazine, Plop! and Topps Cards, many years before, he did more straightforward scifi/adventure/horror comics. 
Basil Wolverton’s work refuses to die. Following a well-received exhibit of original art in New York City’s Gladstone Gallery (which The New York Times called “exuberantly grotesque”) came 2009’s publication of The Wolverton Bible (Fantagraphics Books). Though his comic book work has been reprinted endlessly, it has either been “modernized” with digital colors or presented in austere black and white. The time has come for a robust volume of Wolverton’s comics taken from their original printed source — the comic books themselves.
A pioneer from the first generation of comic book artists, Wolverton arrived just as publishers began embracing original material, turning away from the newspaper-strip reprints that had been sustaining the industry since its inception four years earlier. One of the first to realize the value of “in-house” features was Centaur Publications, whose art director Lloyd Jacquet gave Wolverton his big break in comics in 1938, accepting “Meteor Martin” for Amazing Man Comics and “Space Patrol” for Amazing Mystery Funnies. Jacquet soon established an independent comics packager, Funnies, Inc., for which he asked Wolverton to invent a new science-fiction character. The artist came up with the iconic “Spacehawk,” who made thirty appearances in Target Comics. Prime examples of Wolverton’s iconic space hero will be featured in Creeping Death from Neptune.
Fed up with the publisher’s constant meddling with “Spacehawk,” Wolverton dropped his creation in 1942 and concentrated on humorous features for the rest of the decade. His short-lived return to serious subjects in 1951 resulted in some of the most intense horror and science-fiction stories of the pre-code era, including the classics “Brain Bats of Venus,” “Escape to Death,” and “Robot Woman,” all of which appear in this volume.
Created with the full cooperation of the Wolverton estate, Creeping Death from Neptune will also examine, for the first time, the artist’s personal ledgers and diaries, shedding new light on his working methods and his day-to-day life as a freelance comic book artist. The digital restoration of the printed art will be performed with subtlety and restraint, mainly to correct registration and printing errors, with every effort made to retain the flavor of the original comic books.
Both volumes will be full color and both are on preorder through 
SPACEHAWK (coming in August)

You can check out (preview) three SPACEHAWK stories at Golden Age Comics.


While on the subject of pulp comics, I would also like to point out that Francesco Francavilla, who in my eyes is easily one of the best of the modern pulp comic artists, will be seeing his original creation BLACK BEETLE printed in a new story via Dark Horse Presents.  He was interviewed about this upcoming publication at
Artist Francesco Francavilla has quietly become one of the most dynamic and speedy artists in comics as seen from his work in DC Comics’ Detective Comics, plus Marvel’s Black Panther: Man Without Fear and the current Captain America & Bucky arc, and even regular covers for Dynamite Entertainment. And now he’s spreading his wings with a story of his own as he writes and draws a three part pulp-noir story in the pages of the prestigious anthology Dark Horse Presents.
Scheduled to launch in April’s Dark Horse Presents #11, the three-part story Night Shift follows the Italian artist back into the world of his enigmatic hero Black Beetle and the crime-ridden burgh of Colt City. Francavilla first explored this hero and his world in an ashcan preview for a still-unreleased graphic novel as well as a webcomic short, but this venture in Dark Horse Presents poses his biggest platform yet, and possibly the beginning of a new future for Black Beetle. Newsarama spoke with the artist about Black Beetle and this anthology story, as well as his ambitions for writing and drawing comics both here and at Marvel and DC.
Newsarama: Francesco, you’ve written comics before, but never on this big of stage – what’s it like to be able to do it here at Dark Horse Presents and now with your own creation, the Black Beetle?
Francesco Francavilla: I have written short stories here and there for a few anthologies, but this is definitely a new experience for me in terms of structure (longer story, divided in three acts) and audience, and I am very thrilled and thankful for the opportunity. As someone who has still lots of stories to tell, I consider this debut in Dark Horse Presents to be very important and possibly something that could set a new path for my future career as a full-on storyteller.  
Nrama: For people that may be following you to this from your Marvel and DC work, who is Black Beetle?
Francavilla: Black Beetle is the protector and hero of our story. His mission is to fight crime in Colt City. We don’t know who he is, not yet anyway. When we meet him in my three-part Dark Horse Presents story Night Shift, we learn that he’s patrolling the city streets and protecting the citizens the best he can. How he came to be in this position and why he feels compelled to protect others is something we’ll discover as we go along. This is definitely an action-packed thriller with lots of twists and turns, so I hope fans will come along and enjoy the ride! Continued...