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    Between 1929 and 1934, Howard sold twenty adventures of Steve Costigan, the fighting sailor to various pulps. After an uneven start he hit his stride in 1931, and with "Circus Fists," from the May 1931 issue of Fight Stories, presented a full-blown and worthy predecessor to my favorite western hero, Breckenridge Elkins. Read it and see!

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    Breckenridge Elkins is one of my favorite fictional characters of all time. He does not appear in this book. What makes Waterfront Fists special is that we see Howard feeling his way along and learning to meld action and comedy into truly ripping yarns. 

    Sailor Steve Costigan, the hero/narrator of most these tales, is a sort of proto-Breckenridge. He begins his fictional life as a pretty much standard Howard hero (not that there's anything wrong with that), and gradually develops the voice, personality and sense of humor that will become Elkins trademarks. The stories, too, reflect this learning process. The early tales focus almost solely on boxing matches, with page after page of flying fists. But as the series progresses, the slugfests shrink to a page or two, as window dressing to more complex stories. 

    The Wildside Press collection Waterfront Fists and Others contains, in order of publication, fifteen of the twenty Costigan stories published between 1929 and 1934 in Fight Stories and Jack Dempsey's Fight Magazine. The other five, along with a good number of Elkins tales, appeared in Wildside's The Complete Action Stories. Another six stories and one fragment finally saw print in Howard fanzines and lmited edition hardcovers. 

    And it gets more complicated. Howard converted several unsold Costigan stories into Dennis Dorgan stories, simply by changing the name of the character, his ship and his bulldog. The first of those Dorgan stories sold to Magic Carpet Magazine and appears in this book. All of them were finally published in the 1974 FAX collection The Incredible Adventures of Dennis Dorgan

    Waterfront Fists, meanwhile, contains a weird boxing storing, Howard's longest boxing tale - "The Iron Man," and a couple of brief nonfiction tidbits. But the main attraction is definitely Steve Costigan. My favorite of the Costigan stories is "Circus Fists," which is about as perfectly executed as a Costigan yarn can be. I was so impressed that I posted the whole story yesterday, and invite you to read it HERE. Also of special note is "Texas Fists," in which Costigan finds himself on Howard's home ground and encounters the sort of larger-than-life characters that laster populate the Elkins stories. 

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    Yeah, I know this one doesn't qualify as mystery, adventure or the wild west, but it features some great art by EC master Al Feldstein, and that's enough for me. It's from Aggie Mack #1, from Jan. 1948, as found on comicbookplus

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    You've probably heard of Mike Danger, the comic book private eye Spillane tried to market in 1946, just before introducing Mike Hammer in I, the Jury. But Hammer's first incarnation saw print way back in 1942, in the tenth issue of Green Hornet comics. Spillane wrote the script, and the art is by Harry Sahle. My thanks to "freddyfly" for scanning this issue and posting it on comicbookplus.

    Watch this space. Spillane's two Mike Danger stories, which finally saw print in 1954, will be coming PDQ.

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    This book is funny as hell, and is one of my favorites. I first read it back in the '70s, either before or during the time Bouton came to Portland to pitch for Bing Russell's free-wheeling independent team, the Portland Mavericks in 1975. Going to those games was the most fun I ever had as a sports spectator, including sitting in front of the TV and watching the Portland Trailblazers win the championship in 1977 and the Portland Timbers in 2015.

    This time, I got the audiobook through InterLibrary Loan, narrated by Bouton himself. It's extra-cool hearing him laugh at the funny parts, but hard hearing him choke up when discussing the death of his daughter. 

    Reviewers say you don't have to like baseball to appreciate Ball Four. I'd agree, though it certainly helps. The book is formatted as a diary of Bouton's 1969 season with the now-defunct Seattle Pilots, and later with the Houston Astros, but includes many digressions about Bouton's career with the Yankees (1962-67) and reminiscences of his fellow players. The focus is on baseball, of course, and Bouton's knuckleball in particular, but the book is about much more. It's a long book, and there's plenty of talk about sex, drugs, booze, politics, religion and life in general. And there's never a dull moment.

    For baseball fans of the era, it's a feast. It's like spending a little time with Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, Clete Boyer, Elston Howard, Carl Yastremski, Ted Williams, Willie Mays, Lou Pinella, Reggie Jackson, Ted Williams and many others. Some of the real-life characters in the book came across well, while others were portrayed as ignorant and small-minded. Some of those folks, as revealed in the 1971 funny-as-hell sequel I'm Glad You Didn't Take it Personally, were embarassed, some livid and some are still holding a grudge. 

    As the first tell-all book about professional sports, Ball Four exposed many dirty little secrets (like the pep pills called "greenies," the boozing and the players' favorite sport of "beaver-shooting") shone light on the absolute power owners weilded over the players. In the wake of the immediate outrage, the book has been credited with paving the way for sweeping change, including free agency, collective bargaining and higher (if not ridiculously higher) salaries for players.

    This latest edition, titled Ball Four, the Final Pitch, includes the addendums Ball Five (Ten Years Later), Ball Six (Twenty Years Later) and Ball Seven (Thirty Years Later), and includes an account of his return to the big leagues with the Atlanta Braves in 1978. The orignal book was edited by sportswriter Leonard Schecter, who no doubt helped craft the humor. Sadly, this volume it does not include I'm Glad You Didn't Take it Personally, also edited by Schecter. Looks like I'll have to reread that one the old fashioned way.

    Here's a bit from Ball Five, describing the marketing techniques of the Portland Mavericks:

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    As early as Winter 1941, Mickey Spillane began providing short text stories to comic book publishers, and most (if not all) were reprinted in the 2004 Gryphon Books collection Primal Spillane. Many of those appeared in Marvel mags like Sub-Mariner, The Human Torch, All-Winners and Marvel Mystery, and are still under copyright. But some stories from other publishers are now in the public domain, and can be found on comicbookplus. 

    "Jinx Heap" is from the March 1942 issue of Blue Bolt.

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  • 09/10/18--05:00: Pulp Gallery: JUNGLE STORIES
  • 1943




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    From Sept. 1948, and Jumbo Comics #115, comes one of many of Eisner's adventures of The Hawk, as by "Will Rensie." Thanks again to comicbookplus.

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    Thanks again to brittlebrain.

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  • 09/13/18--05:00: Mort Künstler Sweat Mag Art

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    Who remembers The Buccanners? It was a British TV series produced in 1956 and '57 by ITC, the same outfit that did The Adventures of Robin Hood and The Adventures of Sir Lancelot. It was shown in syndication in the US.

    The first episode featured a character named Captain Woodes Rogers, but he was soon replaced by Captain Dan Tempest, played by Robert Shaw (who starred, much later, in my favorite pirate movie Swashbuckler). Here's a clip showing the opening credits and the nifty closing theme song:

    This Big Little Book features Dan Tempest, as drawn by Russ Manning. Manning is best known (to me, anyway) for his work on Tarzan comics and comic strips between 1965 and 1979, and his depiction of Dan Tempest in 1958 is a twin of his later Tarzan.

    The story, by Alice Sankey, is merely adequate, which is the case in most Big Little Books. It's job is to provide context for the drawings, which appear on every other page. This book has 276 pages, and 270 of them are Russ Manning illos, which more than make up for the so-so prose.

    This adventure sends Dan and his crew of ex-pirates (now serving England as buccaneers) after the notorious Blackbeard, and Dan's ship Sultana does battle with Blackbeard's famous Queen Anne's Revenge. On the plus side, it inolves a treasure map and a treasure. On the minus side, it involves a ship boy and his cat (also named Blackbeard), but in a thankfully minor role.

    In all, it's a nice little book, and I've chose a few illos, some depicting a Dan Tempest that looks everything like Tarzan and nothing like Robert Shaw.

    I looked at two other BLBs in this "TV Series" series, here: Jim Bowie and Wyatt Earp, and will likely get around the others, Gunsmoke, Sir Lancelot, and Andy Burnett as time limps on. 

    I have a cheap DVD set of The Buccaneers series, which is pretty dang good. There are also quite a few complete episodes on YouTube. Here, for your viewing pleasure, is one of them:

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    If you missed the first adventure of the mysterious Spacehawk, that's HERE. This second appearance is from Target Comics no. 6, from July 1940, and uploaded to comicbookplus by someone called "Yoc." A Mercurian, perhaps?

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    This tale, found on comicbookplus, is from Bruce Gentry #3, from Jan. 1949. Who drew it? Beats me. 

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    If you've been following our LanceCon pictorials (HERE), you may have noticed a gap of two years between 1982 and 1985. In 1983, photographer Art Scott must have stayed home in California. But in '84, Lance planned to move the convention to San Francisco, to coincide with Bruce Taylor's annual Nero Wolfe Dinner. 

    But is that what really happened? Or was it all a hoax, as this antique fanzine claimed? What's the real skinny? You be the judge. 

    NOTE: The cover above is pretty muddy, but if you squint hard, you'll find Lance Casebeer, the King of Paperbacks himself, wending his way through the revelry.

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  • 09/20/18--05:00: Weird Faces of VIRGIL FINLAY

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    This is the kind of book pulp fans dream about: A team-up starring three front-rank heroes – The Spider, Operator 5 and G-8.

    Will Murray, as I’m sure you know, has already brought us two meetings between Doc Savage and The Shadow (reviewed HERE and HERE) as well as King Kong mash-ups with both Doc (HERE) and Tarzan (HERE), all from the modern-day pulp factory known as Altus Press.  And now comes The Doom Legion, bringing together the top three do-gooders of the Popular Publications universe.

    The Spider gets top billing here, and rightly so, being the most revered and reprinted of the three. Why is that? Well, he (aka Richard Wentworth) has the coolest outfit and the most eccentric personality. He also has a capable faithful Indian companion—a Sikh name Ram Singh, a fearless significant other who would (and often nearly does) lay down her life for him, and a solid ally in Police Commissioner Weston—who unofficially knows supports his crusade as a crimefighter.

    Operator 5 of the Secret Service (aka James "Jimmy" Christopher) is a bright-eyed young straight arrow, pure of heart and mind, with a reporter girlfriend who is undoubtedly a virgin (just as Richard Wentworth's paramour is undoubtedly not). He operates as a lone wolf, with occasional contact with his equally straight arrow superior, Z-7.

    G-8, the Flying Spy of WWI, is now known as Captain George Gate (G-ate, get it?), is a man in search of camaraderie. Pals Bull Martin and Nippy Weston from his old squadron are not mentioned here, and though he tries a little banter with Operator 5, the Secret Service ace seems immune to humor.

    Will Murray brings these three together and swats them with three fistfuls of trouble. 1) A meteor slams into Central Park, turning people and animals into killing machines. Heat beams shoot from the eyes of those infected, melting and killing everything in their path. 2) The Spider’s old nemesis The Dictator shows up seeking revenge, and armed with a new dastardly plan. And 3) G-8’s wartime enemy The Steel Mask returns (seemingly) from the dead determined to finish G-8 and raise any kind of hell he can.

    It takes a lot of juggling to keep all those balls in the air at once, but Will proves up to the task. The deviltry and heroics are non-stop, and all the characters ring true to their roots. Especially interesting is the dynamic between Operator 5 and The Spider. The straight arrow of the Secret Service is too anal to have truck with a notorious vigilante, and tries to shut him out of the action. But you know The Spider. He’s an irresistible force, and even an object as immovable as Operator 5 is unable to slow him down.

    The result is a riotous romp through New York City, leaving a trail of dead citizens. Most of these meet grisly ends, but this being a hero pulp epic, it’s all in good fun. You’ll want to read this, of course. And you’ll want to alert for hat tips to pulpsters, such a drive by of Steeger School (named, natch, for Harry Steeger, editor of Popular Publications, home of Dime Detectiveand the three heroes of this adventure).

    Please keep this stuff coming, Mr. Murray (as if you had to be asked)!

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    Art Scott sent this bit of news, wishing Bill Crider was still around to see it. Me too. 

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