THE MAN IN THE BLACK CLOAK (1886) by P.T. Raymond (Francis W Doughty). Before Batman there was the Shadow. Before the Shadow there was Judex. And before Judex there was the Man in the Black Cloak, or simply the Black Cloak as I’ll call him for short. And ironically, four years before The Man in the Black Cloak was published there was simply The Man in Black, a story I will examine another time.
Our present tale first appeared in serialized form in Boys of New York in July and August of 1886. The title figure is a neglected forerunner of dark-attired vigilantes like Judex and the Shadow, plus his paranormal abilities mark him as a very early proto-superhero.
I need to start right at the top with a certain amount of spoilers to make it clear the kind of place the Black Cloak should occupy when tracing early influences on Pulps and superhero stories.
Our title character at first appears to be a somewhat sinister figure as he effortlessly makes his furtive way around 1880s New York City, often glimpsed by young salesman Bob Leeming. Bob is increasingly disturbed, both by the way this man follows him around and by the man’s bright, burning eyes and chalky-white complexion, glimpsed just above his pulled-up coat collar and bandit kerchief. Continue reading
Thank you to all the Balladeer’s Blog readers who let me know where to lay my hands on a French copy of The Cross of Blood (1941), one of the Nyctalope novels I had not yet been able to track down.
I have ordered it and will post a review after I get a chance to read it.
For my take on many of the other adventures of France’s cyborg Pulp Hero the Nyctalope CLICK HERE Continue reading
Balladeer’s Blog examines another Pulp Hero who doesn’t get as much love as he deserves. Science Fiction pioneer Jean de la Hire from France created the Nyctalope (“Nightwalker”) in 1908 but since many of de la Hire’s works were not translated into English for decades this fascinating cyborg Pulp Hero and proto-superhero languished in obscurity.
This French figure survived a violent incident with the help of scientists who “had the technology” to give him yellow bionic eyes which could see in the dark and for long distances. In addition his saviors replaced his damaged heart with a cybernetic one, endowing him with superhuman stamina since that artificial organ slowed the buildup of lactic acid in his system.
The Nyctalope’s serialized adventures were collected into novel form after each story ended.
THE MAN WHO COULD LIVE UNDERWATER (1908) In the story which introduced the Nyctalope he was a supporting character to one of Jean de la Hire’s other fictional figures, in this case Charles Severac. That man invented and captained the Torpedo, a super-scientific submarine that would make Captain Nemo AND Mighty Jack green with envy.
The Nyctalope helped Severac battle a mad scientist named Oxus and his associates Fulbert the monk and Balsan the surgeon. The villains had created a hybrid shark-man called the Ichtaner, meant to be the start of an amphibious army. Needless to say our heroes emerged triumphant and the Ichtaner was returned to normal.
In this debut appearance the Nyctalope’s secret identity was given as Jean de Sainte Clair, but de la Hire would absent-mindedly alternate between that and Leo Saint-Clair in future adventures before finally settling on the latter name.
(NOTE: Various fan-created histories of the Nyctalope resolve the difference by claiming that Jean de Sainte Clair was the father of Leo Saint-Clair. As fun as those fan works are they are not official. I am dealing with the Nyctalope as the original stories presented him.)
THE MYSTERY OF THE FIFTEEN (1911) aka THE NYCTALOPE ON MARS – Oxus the Mad returned as a villain in this first solo adventure of the Nyctalope. Oxus (renamed Arkhus in some later translations) was the leader of a group called The Fifteen – a secret organization of megalomaniacal madmen.
The Fifteen had formed an alliance with a race on Mars, and through that alliance they had access to interplanetary spacecraft and additional advanced technology. Oxus, Koynos and their co-conspirators were spiriting women away to the Red Planet to marry some of them and planning on cross-breeding Martians and humans to create perfect beings and an unstoppable warrior race in order to conquer both worlds. Continue reading
The Green Hornet (2006)
Attention, my fellow Green Hornet fans: All of us disappointed by the awkward 2011 Seth Rogan Green Hornet movie can savor this experimental 2006 French short.
This 10 minute story is much better than the 2011 flick despite its short running time. It makes you hope that some overseas filmmaker may yet pick up the GH brand and present his story the way it deserves to be presented.
I’m linking to the English-dubbed version of the short. It’s very energetic and features impressive stunt work, plus the music that plays with the closing credits is a variation of the jazzy Al Hirt theme from the 1960s Green Hornet television series.
NOTE FOR PURISTS: No gas gun for the Hornet in this version, he wields nun-chucks, throws knockout darts and uses kung fu like Kato. Here is the link: Continue reading
For a light-hearted Veterans Day post how about a Balladeer’s Blog shoutout to the fictional American World War One pilot code-named G8.
THE HERO: G-8 was the codename of an American flying ace of World War One. The character was created by Robert J Hogan in 1933 and over the next 11 years Hogan wrote 110 stories featuring the daring figure. G-8, whose real name was never revealed, was a master of disguise in addition to his piloting and hand-to-hand combat skills.
Hogan’s hero (see what I did there) was unswervingly patriotic and fiercely dedicated to the defeat of the Central Powers.
THE STORIES: With his two fellow operatives “The Battle Aces” G-8 conducted aerial commando raids, carried out special forces missions and even undertook espionage missions against the Germans, Austro-Hungarians and the Ottoman Muslim Turks. In true Pulp Story fashion the Central Powers threw a vast array of mad scientists, monstrous creatures and alien super-science against our heroes, who always prevailed in the end. Continue reading
THIS IS IT! G-8’s FINAL BATTLE WITH STEEL MASK!
Balladeer’s Blog concludes its look at the neglected Pulp Hero G-8. This has been a story-by- story look at the adventures of this World War One American fighter pilot who – along with his two wingmen the Battle Aces – took on various super-natural and super- scientific menaces thrown at the Allied Powers by the Central Powers of Germany, Austria- Hungary and the Ottoman Muslim Turks.
G-8 was created by Robert J Hogan in 1933 when World War One was still being called simply the World War or the Great War. Over the next eleven years Hogan wrote 110 stories featuring the adventures of G-8, the street-smart pug Nippy Weston and the brawny giant Bull Martin, his two Battle Aces. Here are my reviews of the 109th and 110th issues of this massively underappreciated Pulp magazine.
109. WINGS OF THE DEATH MONSTER (April 1944) – G-8’s FINAL BATTLE WITH STEEL MASK, the German supervillain who hid his disfigured face behind a metal mask decades before Dr Doom and Darth Vader came along.
Just like our hero’s final encounter with his arch-enemy Doktor Krueger a few issues back this already exciting story gets an extra boost from pure nostalgia, marking as it does the last meeting between G-8 and his second-most memorable foe.
Steel Mask still boasts a talent for weapons design that would shame even the 1960’s-era Tony Stark in Iron Man comic books. The German madman’s Death Monster is a new and improved version of the 100 feet high super-tank that he used a while back. For this new model wings and the element of flight threaten to make it the ultimate super-weapon for the Central Powers. Continue reading
G-8’s final battle with Goulon!
Balladeer’s Blog resumes its look at the neglected Pulp Hero G-8. This is a story-by- story look at the adventures of this World War One American fighter pilot who – along with his two wingmen the Battle Aces – took on various super-natural and super- scientific menaces thrown at the Allied Powers by the Central Powers of Germany, Austria- Hungary and the Ottoman Muslim Turks.
G-8 was created by Robert J Hogan in 1933 when World War One was still being called simply the World War or the Great War. Over the next eleven years Hogan wrote 110 stories featuring the adventures of G-8, the street-smart pug Nippy Weston and the brawny giant Bull Martin, his two Battle Aces.
106. BOMBS FROM THE MURDER WOLVES (October 1943) – As the G-8 series nears its end get ready to meet an all-new addition to our hero’s Rogue’s Gallery of foes: Dr Marlott! This mad doctor has his secret laboratory in a swamp where he has been performing macabre experiments on human guinea pigs.
At long last he has succeeded in perfecting his ultimate goal: living “Suicide Men” mutated and shorn of all self-preservation instincts. These Suicide Men will coldly and unfeelingly carry out destructive attacks on the Allied forces, completely unmindful of any potential harm to themselves.
Dr Marlott’s creations are sent forth in conjunction with the Murder Wolves. Those Murder Wolves are larger-than normal Central Powers aircraft which carry huge red bombs with cockpits. The Suicide Men will make these red bombs the ultimate in “smart bombs” by literally piloting them toward Allied planes, making evasive maneuvers nearly hopeless and blowing themselves up along with their targets.
In a way you could say that with this story Robert J Hogan eerily anticipated the Japanese Kamikaze pilots of a few years later. Continue reading