One of the first fanzines I ever read was Fred Cook’s BRONZE SHADOWS (Bronze for Doc Savage and Shadows for our hero, The Shadow), which ran for 15 issues, beginning with an undated Issue #1. Issue #2 was dated December 1965. Issue #15 was dated November 1968. Except for Issue #1, which was only a couple of pages of introduction, most of the succeeding issues were around 20 pages each. Printed for the most part on a mimeograph machine and pages stapled together, then folded and mailed without an envelope, it cost something like 35 cents an issue, and worth ten times that price!
Except for Doc Savage and The Shadow, there wasn’t much known about the other pulp heroes at the time. BRONZE SHADOWS set out to correct that lack of knowledge, even though the fanzine was a Doc Savage and Shadow hobby magazine. Nick Carr quickly started writing about G-8 and Operator #5, Bud Overn started writing about Bill Barnes, and soon there were other articles on some of the other great pulp heroes. Herman S. McGregor began his “A Critical Analysis of The Doc Savage Magazine”, which, to my knowledge, was never completed. Robert “Bob” Kenneth Jones started his research into ADVENTURE. He completed it later in ECHOES, and then it was published in book form. Nick Carr’s own research went on to be published in several books: “America’s Secret Service Ace” (a study of Operator #5), “The Flying Spy” (G-8), “The Other Detective Pulp Heroes”, as well as “The Pulp Hero”, and others.
However, about this time, one of the first questions that intrigued all of us was in issue #8, dated January 1967. A letter from Robert Joseph asks: “Did you ever hear of a pulp series character by the name of Moon Man? I know it sounds unsophisticated even by the standards of the 30s and 40s. From what I can remember, he appeared in one of the detective pulps. He was supposed to wear a special helmet that made his head invisible. Any information that you can dig up would be appreciated.”
Fred Cook answers him: “Good Gravy! A man with no head? Sorry, Bob, I can’t place him, but I’m sure Gerry de la Rae, Dick Myers, Bernie Wermers, Lynn Hickman or some of the other collectors can pin him down for you. How about it – you pulp detectives?”
In Issue #10, dated June 1967, Jack Irwin responded with: “In response to Robert Joseph’s query about the Moon Man: The Moon Man stories appeared in TEN DETECTIVE ACES and were written by Frederick C. Davis. I don’t know the extent of the life of the series, but I have several issues between January 1935 and September 1936 that contain Moon Man stories. TEN DETECTIVE ACES was published monthly at this time but the Moon Man did not appear on a regular monthly basis. For instance, he didn’t make an appearance in the February 1936 or October 1936 issues. Incidentally, the Moon Man’s special glass helmet did not make his head invisible in the sense that it became transparent. Instead the helmet was one-way, in that the Moon Man could see out of the helmet, but none could see into it. So then, this was the reason that his head was not visible when he wore the helmet. The shape of the helmet together with its color gave rise to the name “Moon Man”, since his helmet resembled a full moon. The rest of the Moon Man’s costume consisted of a long black robe.
“The Moon Man, like many of the costumed characters of the pulps, worked outside the law and therefore was considered a criminal and hunted by the police. In reality, he was Detective Sergeant Stephen Thatcher, and was the son of the Chief of Police. In addition his fiancée was the daughter of a Detective Lieutenant. How’s that for connections for a criminal?”
Fred Cook answers with: “Thank you for passing this information on to Bob in particular and the rest of us in general. It certainly is fascinating to trace down some of the answers to the questions that pop up. Let’s keep it up and get all the answers that we can.”
Well, by the time BRONZE SHADOWS folded, all of the questions may not have been answered, but a good many of them had been. We eventually learned that Frederick C. Davis not only wrote the Moon Man short stories in TEN DETECTIVE ACES, he also wrote the Mark Hazzard and Ravenwood short stories over at SECRET AGENT X. The Hazzard series lasted for six issues, from 1935 to 1936, and Ravenwood for five issues in 1936. Plus, he wrote the first twenty novels in the Operator #5 series as Curtis Steele. Frederick C. Davis was a professional writer, even though most of his stories were shorts. It was rumored that he dictated his stories to a secretary, some times more than one story at a time. His Operator #5 novels were undoubtedly top notch, and the best in the series. He shared the byline with Emile C. Tepperman and Wayne Rogers. But it’s probably his short story series of the Moon Man that fans remember today, thanks in large part to BRONZE SHADOWS and the question written in by Robert Joseph back in 1967.
TEN DETECTIVE ACES: When Ace bought out DETECTIVE DRAGNET around 1932-33, they changed the title to TEN DETECTIVE ACES, and the new title ran for 161 issues, ending in October 1949. The title boasted ten stories per issue, or a cent a story, and most of the stories were series, or continuing characters by the same authors month after month. A typical early issue might consist of authors like Paul Chadwick, Emile C. Tepperman, Lester Dent, Norvel Page, and Frederick C. Davis. Many of these same authors went on to write the full-length hero novels in other series. Paul Chadwick went on to write Secret Agent X and Captain Hazzard, Emile C. Tepperman went on to write The Spider, Operator #5, and Secret Agent X. Norvel Page went on to write The Spider. Lester Dent went on to write Doc Savage, and Frederick C. Davis went on to write Operator #5.
There were 38 Moon Man stories, from May-June 1933 (“The Sinister Sphere”) to January 1937 (“Blackjack Jury”). All of these stories have been collected into two hardbacks. “The Night Nemesis”, The Complete Adventures of The Moon Man – Volume One, edited by Garyn G. Roberts and Gary Hoppenstand was published by The Purple Prose Press, Bowling Green, Ohio (no date of publication listed in my copy), and “The Silver Spectre”, The Complete Adventures of The Moon Man – Volume Two. Compiled and edited by Robert Weinberg, The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, 2004. Also with commentary by Garyn G. Roberts and Gary Hoppenstand, and an Introduction by Will Murray. The character basically robbed from the bad guys and gave to the poor, like Robin Hood of legend. Later, Captain Satan would carry the plot to a series of five novels, although his band of men often kept a percentage of the take. Not so the Moon Man. Through his aide, Ned “Angel” Dargan, the money would be distributed to those who were in most need. The act of charity gave the character of the Moon Man his reason to exist. The reading public had just gone through a long Depression. Not only were they looking for a hero, they were looking for their very own Robin Hood of Sherwood Forest, and Frederick C. Davis’s Moon Man character filled this bill perfectly.
As it was, it had been the Great Depression that brought on the pulp hero. For over ten years the pulps were dominated by gangster stories. Mobs, gun molls, and the Machine-gun Kelly’s were the reader’s fare. And readers were tired of the gangsters, real or imagined, and wanted to read about good winning out over evil. In 1931, The Shadow began over at Street & Smith, written by Walter B. Gibson under the Maxwell Grant house name. Shortly after that, The Phantom Detective appeared over at Standard. Soon, we had pulp heroes popping up at all of the pulp houses: Doc Savage in 1933 at Street & Smith. The Spider and G-8 at Popular, etcetera. So it wasn’t surprising to see pulp heroes over at Ace in 1933, even if they were short story series. In 1934, Ace would have Secret Agent X, and by 1935 The Moon Man and a dozen other short story characters were going strong at TEN DETECTIVE ACES.