Johnston McCulley

Johnston McCulley almost single-handedly created the costumed hero all by himself! Although many of his characters wore strange costumes: The Man In Purple, The Crimson Clown, The Green Ghost (early series), Thunderbolt, etc., The Mongoose, his most famous creation was that of Zorro, the masked avenger who rode the west righting wrongs and punishing evildoers. Wearing all black, he was an expert with both whip and sword.
“The Curse of Capistrano” was a 5 part serial, running in ALL-STORY WEEKLY from August 9th, 1919 through September 6th, 1919. Other titles soon followed: “The Further Adventures of Zorro,” a six part serial, “Zorro Rides Again,” a 4 part serial, “The Sign of Zorro,” a five part serial, and a two part serial, “Mysterious Don Miguel.” But most of the adventures were various length short stories, which appeared in WEST from 1944 through 1951.
At least half a dozen Saturday Matinee serials were produced for the theaters, from Clayton Moore’s “Ghost of Zorro,” to Linda Stirling’s portrayal of a female Zorro in “Zorro’s Black Whip,” my all time favorite. In all of the matinees, Zorro was dressed in the familiar black regalia, complete with whip and guns, some times a flashing sword for excitement. In addition, several top-notch, movies were released. Television produced two excellent Zorro series, which remained true to the character, and were highly popular during their time.
As the movies proved, Zorro was a visual success, more so than the printed text of the short stories and serials from ARGOSY. Comic book publishers loved the character, as Zorro was the ideal hero for the comic reader. Let’s face it, without Zorro there would not have been a Lash LaRue or Durango Kid. To take this a step further, The Lone Ranger, the Green Hornet, and all of the masked rider cowboys of the silver screen owe their influence to Johnston McCulley’s famous hero.
But if Zorro was an influence to one media, he was an influence to all. The pulps, called such because of the cheap wood pulp the magazines were printed on, was preparing for the Roaring Twenties when Zorro appeared in 1919. In the 1920s, the pulps were publishing a lot of crime fiction and adventure stories, so the costumed hero had to wait until the 1930s for their heyday. In fact, there was only one new Zorro in the 1920s, and that was the six-part serial in 1922.
After the Wall Street crash of ’29, the readers were looking for new heroes. They were tired of the criminal element in their life and the media. Johnston McCulley, under his own name, and a number of house names, gave the reader the heroes they needed. Characters started appearing with names like the Green Ghost, The Mongoose, The Crimson Clown, The Man in Purple, and others, all by Zorro creator, Johnston McCulley. Another early series, The Bat, as written by (house name) C.K.M. Scanlon, was a costumed hero that researchers say was probably McCulley, as well. And I agree. With the beginning of the costumed hero, other greats began to appear: The Shadow, The Spider, The Phantom Detective, The Ghost! Green Ghost (later series), Masked Detective, the Crimson Mask, The Scar, and many others. All owe their success to Zorro creator, McCulley.
It’s the same with my character of The Black Ghost, though The Shadow was my inspiration. However, I brought my costumed crime fighter into the present, dealing with more modern criminals, although criminals are basically the same, no matter what period they exist. Following is a 4-Cup Review from Coffee Time Romance, so please keep in mind this was the highest rating possible for a non-romance title to receive.
Tom

Reviews for Guns of The Black Ghost

Rating: 4 Cups
Jimmy Malone is an old fashioned super hero. He secretly works alongside the police as The Black Ghost. As long as people do not learn who he really is, especially the police who he aims to help. Using his anonymity, he can bend and break the rules that bind the local law enforcement.
Peggy Malone married Jimmy knowing his alternate identity. Being the only person who does results in her often helping Jimmy in his crime fighting adventures. She has also been known to not only provide an alibi for Jimmy but to dress up as The Black Ghost to help keep Jimmy’s secret safe.
This is a collection of stories depicting a number of The Black Ghost’s adventures. Jimmy has been trained in a number of Martial arts and fighting methods. He is also more than competent with his favored guns. Jimmy’s step-father is in charge of the detective department of the local police. This is where The Black Ghost finds most of the crimes he fights. Although his father suspects Jimmy’s involvement with the masked man, he has never been able to prove it.
Reading this book has been an education for me. Mr. Johnson describes his work as a ‘Pulp Thriller’. This is a genre I had never heard of let alone read, but from the introduction forward, I was hooked. These stories are strong and exciting, as are the characters. Jimmy has a strong sense of justice and a compelling need to protect those he deems innocent. Peggy is Jimmy’s wife and the stable part of his life. It takes a great strength of character to be able to support a man with such an unusual hobby. Mr. Johnson has written an enlightening book and I will definitely be interested in reading more about his unique hero.
Hollie
Reviewer for Coffee Time Romance

3 Comments

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  1. I’ve read a Black Ghost story here or there. I will probably get this collection.

    Your comments on Johnston I had read in your recent collection, Pulp Detectives. I wasn’t aware of Johnston’s work beyond Zorro. I know of his Bat character only thanks to the Altus Press collection. The others are unknown to me. I think he did a few other characters, including a villian known as Black Star. Are these characters interesting enought to reprint? I recall hearing the guy who does “Book Cave” keep bringing up the Crimson Clown, which I thought annoying as I think most modern hero pulp fans aren’t aware of him.

  2. Honest points addressed here. I am glad to you for that, still you deserve more thanks than that. I have color blindness. I mainly use Firefox browser and regard a number of sites are baffling to perceive thanks to a incautious range of colours applied. However, here, as the range of colours is great, the design is extremely tidy and pleasurable to comprehend. I don’t know whether it was a planned and intended attempting, or just the ‘luck of the draw’, but I nevertheless thank you.

  3. Where can you buy the original 1919 novel by Johnston McCulley “The Curse of Capistrano”,along with other zorro stories.

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