Thursday, July 26, 2007

Extraordinary Gentlemen: Blurs, Black Coats, Muckmen, Shadows, Doctors, Phantoms, Fantomas and White (House) Lies

News on the home front blurs into a wider topic I've meant to post about all week. Thanks to today's conjunction of events, I can do both...

It's been a loooong time coming, but this week finally arrived at the delivery to Black Coat Press of my latest book project, Volume 1 of the four-volume archival book series S.R. Bissette's Blur. Each volume clocks in over 250 pages, reprinting my complete "Video Views" column from 1999-2001, the critical first step in my scheme to get all my professional writing archived and into print.
  • Here's the link to the section on the Blur book series on Black Coat Press's website, which will tell you all you need to know; cover art will be posted soon.

  • Black Coat Press co-founder and co-publisher (and longtime friend) Jean-Marc Lofficier turned the final document around in mere hours, and I'm presently seeing through the final proofreading of the book. I'm doing this as CCS graduate and amigo Jon-Mikel Gates works up the final cover design for all four volumes from two painting/collages I completed last year for the project; the first volume's cover will be turned in to Black Coat by the weekend's close. As noted, this is just step one in an expansive agenda to get all my writing, fiction and non-fiction, into definitive collected editions... followed by, with luck, my comics work. Wish me luck, but better yet, if you're a fan of my work, please, buy these books to ensure the viability of this project!

    Jean-Marc and Randy Lofficier have cultivated Black Coat Press into an impressive and unprecedented imprint. With the considerable creative alliances Jean-Marc and Randy have cultivated over the years, Black Coat Press has emerged as a one-stop venue for a lot of fine work. Prominent among the work thus far published are the first English-language translations of vintage French and Belgian pulp heroes and characters of the 19th and early 20th Century, precursors to many beloved pulp characters and concepts that emerged from America's pulp golden age.

    If you're a fan of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, The Shadow, Doc Savage, Edgar Rice Burroughs and their kith and kin, the Black Coat library is a wealth of previously unmined riches!
  • Black Coat Press's website and catalogue, brimming with some fantastic new books, await you at this link, and it's all well worth a look and some purchases.

  • Consider, for instance, just one of the imprint's brand-new releases,
  • The Nyctalope vs. Lucifer by Jean de La Hire, translated and adapted by Brian Stableford with an afterword by Jean-Marc Lofficier, which is now available sporting a snazzy Denis Rodier cover (showcased above, by today's post headline).
  • Author Jean de La Hire introduced Leo Saint-Clair, alias the Nyctalope, in 1911 amid a torrent of his ongoing adventure serials; like most pulp author, La Hire was incredibly prolific. Nyctalope wields uncanny heightened senses, including night vision and hypnotic powers; he's an early incarnation of the super-cyborg archetype (via his artificial heart, an attribute revealed later in the hero's adventures). Nyctalope was pitted against a formidable rogue's gallery of villains (Oxus, Lucifer, Leonid Zattan, Titania, Belzebuth and Gorillard) for over three decades. Thus, according to Jean-Marc and Stableford, Jean de La Hire "created a template that was later adopted by such pulp heroes as Doc Savage... before providing the core mythology of American comic books."

    Black Coat Press's new edition and translation of La Hire's 1921 adventure features the second appearance of Nyctalope's nemesis Baron Glô von Warteck aka Lucifer, Lord of Castle Shwarzrock in the Black Forest. The clash pitches hypnotic powers against hypnotic powers, with Lucifer's mesmerizing abilities dangerously amplified by the sf "teledynamo" device, with which Lucifer intends to -- hahahahahaha! -- enslave the world! This anticipates countless pulp and Golden Age superhero comics adventures; as Jean-Marc notes, "Just as Steve Rogers, Captain America, is the incarnation of the Stars and Stripes, Leo Saint-Clair, a.k.a. the Nyctalope, stood for the ideals of Colonial France between two world wars..." -- true enough.

    How can the uninitiated get a handle on all this? Clocking in at over 300 pages (and 150-300 illustrations) per volume, the essential Black Coat Press purchases to begin with are
  • Jean-Marc and Randy's definitive Shadowmen: Heroes and Villains of French Pulp Fiction
  • and Shadowmen 2: Heroes and Villains of French Comics.

  • Shadowmen's first volume covers many familiar names and faces -- Arsène Lupin, The Count of Monte-Cristo, Fantômas, The Phantom of the Opéra, Judex, Robur, Captain Nemo -- but it also serves as an ideal introduction to the likes of Antinéa the Queen of Atlantis, Belphégor, The Mysterious Dr. Cornelius, Doctor Omega, Fascinax, The Black Coats, Harry Dickson, Monsieur Lecoq, The Nyctalope, Rocambole, Rodolphe, Rouletabille, Sâr Dubnotal and Les Vampires. The second volume expands the pantheon, with concise overviews of Zig & Puce, The Blue Hawk, The Pioneers of Hope, Fantax and Black Boy, Durga Rani Queen of the Jungle, Fulguros, Prince Kaza the Martian, Tom X, Salvator, Satanax, Stany Beulé, Arabelle the Last Mermaid, The Conquerors of Space, Monsieur Choc, Bibi Fricotin, Jacques Flash, Super Boy, Alain Landier, Zembla, Tenebrax, The Castaways in Time, Titan, Jodelle, Luc Orient, Submerman, Olympio and Vincent Larcher, Wampus and The Other, Thorkael, The Time Brigade, Tiriel, Kabur, Felina, Photonik, Mikros and Epsilon, Phenix, none other than Frankenstein's Monster and the classic la bande dessinee icons Barbarella and Druillet's Lone Sloane. Whew!

  • If you need more convincing, consider this recommendation from the late, great Will Eisner, and enter this exciting new (to almost all Americans) pop culture realm ASAP.

  • Thankfully, Jean-Marc has also created a stellar website celebrating this amazing heritage; click this link now to tap the "Cool French Comics" site, and bookmark it for repeated visits and use.
  • For instance, check out the overview of The Nyctalope/Léo Saint-Clair, and see if this doesn't whet your appetite for the real McCoy via Black Coat Press's new release.

  • And that, as they say, is just the tip of the iceberg...

  • Making the Black Coat Press volumes even more timely this summer of 2007 is the recent launch of The Shadow and Doc Savage reprint volumes, thanks to former vet comics colorist Anthony Tollin's
  • double-novel new editions, jam-packed with articles, essays and illustrations to sweeten these already-sweet pulp revivals.
  • Anthony was a key member of the original '1963' comics creative team, having colored the entire series, and it's great to see him enjoying a new career arc and great success via these lovely reprint volumes.

    As you can see via the links just provided, the catalogue has grown to an impressive lineup of multiple Shadow and Doc Savage reprint volumes in short order, boasting the original pulp covers (many shot from the original paintings!) and, in the case of Doc Savage, handsome reprints of James Bama's iconic Bantam Books Doc Savage cover paintings, reportedly with the blessing of Bama himself.

    Anthony knows his stuff, too, and he has surrounded himself with like-minded and equally scholarly writers, researchers and aficianados. Like Jean-Marc, Anthony has crammed every volume and the website with tons of information, retrospectives, analysis, images and trivia -- and some essential reading.
  • Check out Kirk Kimball (aka Robby Reed)'s excellent "How Doc Savage Inspired the Fantastic Four" essay, which persuasively makes its case for the Lester Dent pulp classic feeding the revered Stan Lee/Jack Kirby Marvel superhero team.

  • We're in a fertile moment in pop cultural archiving and research, and between Jean-Marc's imprint and creative partners and Anthony's new line of reprints and impressive stable of contributors, it's pulp heaven in 2007. Enjoy!

    This is long overdue: If you're a fan of my Saga of the Swamp Thing years, and the entire Swamp Thing legacy and all that the work Alan Moore, John Totleben, Rick Veitch and I spawned via the Vertigo line and John Constantine: Hellblazer in particular, you need to bookmark Rich Handley's amazing website and resource,
  • Roots of the Swamp Thing: The universe of Swamp Thing, The Un-Men and John Constantine: Hellblazer.

  • Rich has created a remarkable one-stop showcase here packed with insights, imagery and the rich history of Swamp Thing and his universe. I've only started spelunking the caverns of Rich's site, but Rich just got in touch with me yesterday via email, so look for future collaborative undertakings.

    I'll be posting the link on the permanent menu at left, and linking to/from my own website's "Green Man" section in August. But don't wait until then to explore all that Rich has archived, posted and researched -- it's a stunning site!

  • Well, it's taken mere hours for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales's Tuesday lunacy to unravel, and the spectacle of the Bush Administration's blatant contempt for any shred of Constitutional checks and balances on their power becomes more Pere Ubu Roi.
  • The fact that it's our Attorney General who will have to serve contempt of Congress charges against White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and President George Bush's former legal counselor, Harriet Miers -- should the House vote to follow through on yesterday's decision of the US House of Representatives Judiciary Committee -- only further launches this into the realm of madness.

  • Whatever Tony Snow says (the arrogance and loathing every facet of this White House harbors for the will of the people absolutely seethes from their pores), it's President Bush and Vice President Cheney who have rigorously fanned these flames into a mounting Constitutional crisis.
  • President Bush has openly stated he won't permit any prosecutions to proceed based on possible contempt charges --
  • -- in and of itself, a show of utter contempt, coming as it does on the heels of his commute of Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's prison sentence.

    How much lower can he, they sink? We're finding out.

  • That the recent U.S. District Judge John D. Bates ruling on former CIA operative Valerie Plame's lawsuit eliminated one of the last courtroom remnants of the leak scandal,
  • prompting Bush's shameless dismissal of it all as having "run its course... Now we're going to move on" further demonstrates his and his Administration's egomaniacal sense of invincibility and absolute disdain for any semblance of due process.

  • Treason averted -- they've successfully betrayed our nation on so many levels, with such blatant transparency, it's completely impossible to keep track of any longer. Benedict Arnold, you were a piker!

    I'll be posting erratically at best next week, so fair warning. We've got a lot going on, and logging on to the computer daily just won't be an option until I get out the other side of July and into the first weekend in August.

    Have a great Thursday, one and all...

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