The Biggest Superhero Films That Didn't Happen, Part 2
Comic Books, Film
So for about three years now, people have been saying to me, “Why aren’t you writing some of this ‘new pulp’ stuff? Small-press indie pulp adventure, it seems like you’d be all over that.”
The truth is, I’ve been holding out on those folks. I have been writing it for quite a while now with some success, and these various projects are finally starting to hit print. First up: The Green Ghost.
There have been several Green Ghosts running around the pulps over the years, not to mention comics and other places in mystery fiction. It can get confusing.
But the one I’m talking about is the Green Ghost that was the star of Ghost Super-Detective and later Green Ghost Detective.
That was stage magician George Chance, who was raised in a circus, the son of a famous trapeze artist. Chance retired from touring to fight crime, giving up showbiz to become a spooky vigilante. He would make himself up to look like a grinning skull with the aid of a prosthetic jaw piece and a couple of inserts in his nostrils, as well as using a little judicious stage makeup to give his face a bone-white pallor and deeply-socketed eyes. Once he had finished transforming his visage to this creepy skullface, he donned a long bottle-green duster and slouch hat, and a specially-rigged tie clip that would throw an eerie green light on his face whenever he triggered a tiny pocket switch. This costume, coupled with his expertise in magic and illusion as well as the acrobatic finesse he’d picked up during his youth in the circus, was what George Chance used to create a supernatural persona that would strike fear into the hearts of evildoers. The Green Ghost.
Chance was aided in this nocturnal crusade by dwarf Tiny Tim Terry, an old friend from the circus days; glamorous showgirl Merry White, formerly Chance’s onstage assistant; wisecracking Joe Harper, former bookie and carnival barker; and Glenn Saunders, an aspiring magician who was a lookalike for Chance and often doubled him on stage.
It was a fun setup, and creator and writer G.T. Fleming-Roberts did some nice work, but somehow he could never really make the concept go. At first the Ghost tales were told in the first person, then the third person; and the magazine went through a couple of title changes. But despite trying various changes in approach, nothing really got much traction. George Chance and his crew stumbled through less than a dozen pulp adventures before being canceled. Fleming-Roberts tried to rewrite the first Green Ghost adventure into just a straight mystery novel, The Lisping Man, that appeared in 1942 under the pen name “Frank Rawlings.”
That didn’t go anywhere either, and so Fleming-Roberts shrugged it off and moved on to things like Captain Zero and Secret Agent X. The Green Ghost faded into obscurity, just one more in a long line of pulp vigilantes that were “Like the Shadow, but not,” and eventually was remembered only by a few hardcore pulp-hero enthusiasts.
But part of the phenomenon that created “New Pulp” is that with current scanning technology and print-on-demand, suddenly you can get relatively inexpensive reprints of those weird old obscure pulp-hero tales that have fallen into the public domain.
What’s more, the internet lets all us hardcore fans find each other; and some of those fans, like Ron Fortier at Airship 27, started publishing small-press paperbacks featuring new adventures of those forgotten old heroes. And the latest of these, George Chance: The Green Ghost, just went on sale. An anthology of four brand-new novelettes starring the Ghost and his crew.
It’s beautifully illustrated by Zach Brunner and features stories by B.C. Bell, Michael Panush, Erwin K. Roberts… and ME!
My co-authors all did great stuff. The original Green Ghost stories were an odd mashup of pulp superheroics, classic whodunit mystery, and horror fiction, and we all worked hard at trying to hit those marks. If I can be immodest for a moment, I’m really happy with how mine turned out. “The Case of the Ectoplasmic Escapist” is about Chance and his crew trying to solve the murder of Chance’s former mentor, the brilliant stage magician and escape artist Barry Bourdain. Zach did a wonderful job on the illustrations, it’s exactly how I saw it in my head… but way cooler.
I’ve been a working writer for over twenty years but getting to write AN ACTUAL PULP FICTION MYSTERY ADVENTURE is bucket-list territory for me and I’m just delighted over it. This is the first of several “new pulp” novelettes I’ve done for Airship 27 and one of the most fun to work on– for those old enough to remember, the setup is very similar to the wonderful old Bill Bixby TV show The Magician and that’s what I tried to bring to this. Please do feel free to pass the word– small-press stuff like this rarely makes bookstores, so it’s all Amazon and tabling at shows and, most of all, word-of-mouth. Nobody’s getting rich off these but it’s a lot of fun and we’re really proud of the books, this one in particular.
I hope you’ll check it out. I’m posting this early because I’m about to disappear into the whirlwind of crazy that is the (Completely sold-out! Holy moley!) Emerald City Comics Convention. If you are coming to Seattle for ECCC, I honestly don’t know if I’ll have author’s copies in time for the show– working on it– but if you come by our table and I do have them, I’ll give you a deal on the book and sign one and maybe even doodle in it for you. I’m not as good as Zach, but I’ve got some game.
You can find us in Artist’s Alley, table JJ-13. Failing that, if you still want to buy one then and there, you can go ahead and prepay and I’ll take down your address and mail your copy to you when I get it, shipping media mail on my dime, and I’ll make sure it arrives complete with author signature and doodle. If you can’t get to the show, well, here’s that Airship 27 link again.
Hope I’ll see you at the show! If not, I’ll be back here with pictures and a full report… next week.
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