Pulp Superhero Index

© Will Murray, All Rights Reserved.

Introduction

In the years since Robert Weinberg and Lohr McKinstry’s Hero Pulp Index was published, pulp scholarship has exploded. An incredible amount of background information on the heroes of the pulps and their creators has come to light. The true identities behind the previously-impenetrable house names have been determined in many cases, overturning and supplanting past knowledge. Interest in the pulp heroes has remained strong, as witnesses by a succession of vital magazines devoted to the subject, including Xenophile, Duende, Age of the Unicorn, Nemesis, Pulp Vault, Echoes and many others. Clearly it was long past time to compile a new version of what was once the standard reference text for pulp collectors, dealers and historians.

The Ultimate Pulp Superhero Index more than doubles the number of characters of any previous reference work. The purpose of this compendium is to be as definitive as possible within the scope of what might be called the Heroic Era of the pulp magazine. Some may disagree with our parameters, citing correctly the great heroes of the pulps of the twenties, but the Heroic Era is the period from roughly 1931, when Street & Smith published the first pulp magazine devoted to and named after the hero of its lead novel, The Shadow, and l953, when the pulp magazine industry virtually collapsed after a decline that some say began in the Depression (which is paradoxically the most exciting period for hero pulps) but which really came about after the drastic paper shortages of World War II, followed by severe competition from comic books, paperback books, and television. The characters who have been chosen for inclusion in this index are those who came about, or were directly inspired by the success of The Shadow in l93l. Even if they appeared only once.

Several criteria have been established for inclusion. These follow:

  • Characters who had their own magazines are included, even if they fall outside of the heroic genre per se, as is the case with some western character. The only exceptions to this rule are Dan Turner, because for the most part the stories in Hollywood Detective were reprinted from Spicy Detective Stories, and Anthony Hamilton, whose appearances in Famous Spy Stories were also reprints.
  • Masked and dual-identity characters are automatically included, except for short-lived characters by authors who didn’t write in the heroic tradition, or who appeared in magazines like Detective Fiction Weekly, which were not aimed at the same audience. The many characters created by Johnston McCulley, who might called the Father of the Heroic Era, such as Zorro, The Thunderbolt, the Crimson Clown and others, are not included because they belonged to the Twenties tradition of hero-villains. Only McCulley’s Green Ghost is included because he does fall within the temporal parameters of this index.
  • Characters who somehow foreshadowed or predicted famous pulp heroes, or were written by significant Heroic Tradition authors are included. Certain exceptions exist. The Nick Carter stories published in Detective Story Magazine in the twenties are not included because they reflect the dime novel tradition, while the Nick Carter magazine of the Depression is obviously included.
  • Certain famous, indeed major, characters who might logically be included are not because they are spread chronologically outside the Heroic Era. Tarzan and Zorro, for example, although many of their adventures appear during the Thirties and Forties, their origins and magazines of appearance, exclude them. They have also been indexed exhaustively elsewhere, which is another factor. Certain Weird Tales characters, like Robert E. Howard’s Conan, King Kull and Soloman Kane, are likewise left out for those same reason. In fact, only Paul Ernst’s Dr. Satan has been indexed from Weird Tales.
  • The Western genre is by nature heroic, yet for the most part, fans of the heroic tradition are not Western fans. Thus, we’ve been more stringent in excluding Western characters. The population of Wild West Weekly, for example, would have tripled the size of this index had they been included. Only major Western characters who had their own magazines have been included.
  • Aviation heroes presented a similar difficulty. A host of Flying Aces characters such as Crash Carringer had to be excluded because they fell into a gray area. The rule of thumb here was that if an aviation heroes consistently fought anti-heroic villains, weird menaces or fantasy villains, he was included. The Three Mosquitoes was excluded even though their Daredevil Aces appearances qualified them, they had a long, mundane string of appearances going back to the late Twenties.
  • Characters in certain genres are not included unless they appear in magazines outside of those genres, For example, the Hawk Carse SF stories from Astounding are ignored while the Zenith Rand stories from Mystery Adventures are included. Again, here it is a case of indexing an obscure interesting character and ignoring one which has been indexed to death in other places. When in doubt about including a character, we asked three questions: Did he wear a mask? Where did he appear? Who wrote the stories? A character in doubt might be included because he appeared under a significant house name, such as “G. Wayman Jones’ ” Mr. Death and “Kenneth Robeson’s” Ed Stone. Attributions of authorship have been made wherever possible. Even in a work of this length it would be impossible to acknowledge sources for every author identification, so known information is given where it is certain and uncertain authorship is indicated by a question mark following the author’s name. Pen and House name are always given in quotes when known. In some cases, it is not possible to determine if a byline was real legitimate. Crossover stories (stories in which the hero of one series appears in another) are noted with the phrase “X-over.”

The index is designed to be as accurate as possible, yet stand as a clean readable reference for the collector who uses it to purchases pulps by mail or at conventions, or for the reader. Thus, title and byline changes are incorporated into the index itself. When the publisher has erred in giving the volume or issue number (as the Standard Group did often) those errors are faithfully reproduced. Reprints published within the run of a magazine are faithfully recorded, while those published outside of the origination magazine or in other forms, are listed in the reprint section.

In many cases, unpublished novels are known to exist. Whether announced for issues that never appeared, or known to have existed in one form or another, these are given at the ends of the indexes under the heading “unpublished.” “Unpublished in this form” means that a story was published outside the parent magazine, often with massive editorial revisions, such as changing the characters. These are often footnoted, or information can be found in the reprints section. A separate oddities section has been designed to collect interesting trivia that may be of interest to the collector of Heroic pulp fiction.

The Heroic Age

Although the pulps enjoyed their greatest successes in terms of high circulations and public acceptance during the 20s, it is the Depression era that is most highly regarded by collectors, chiefly because of the so-called Hero Pulps.

1931: The Shadow begins, triggering the sub-genre. Magazine Publishers launch Wade Hammond in Detective Dragnet and Phil Strange in Flying Aces.

1932: Detective-Dragnet begins featuring stories by newcomers to the field who will create characters that later dominate the Heroic Era. Writers included Lester Dent, Frederick C. Davis, Norvell W. Page, Norman A. Daniels, G. T. Fleming-Roberts and others. In November, the first issue of The Phantom Detective appears, probably prompted by the twice-a-month jump The Shadow took, as well as by Standard’s popular Mr. Death stories in Thrilling Detective. Both series shared the byline G. Wayman Jones.

1933: Street & Smith launch Doc Savage and revive their older dime novel hero, Nick Carter. In addition, they create the first Western single-character pulp, Pete Rice. Popular jumps into the field with The Spider and G-8 and His Battles Aces in the Fall. The Red Falcon begins in Dare-Devil Aces. Standard launches The Lone Eagle . Detective-Dragnet is retitled Ten Detective Aces and the Moon Man begins. Berryman Press brings out the short-lived Black Bat Detective Mysteries.

1934: Popular creates Operator 5, and Dusty Ayres and his Battle Birds. Street & Smith brings out Bill Barnes. Ranger Publications premieres The Masked Rider, later taken over by Standard. Popular attempts two group books, Mavericks, a Western, and The Secret 6. Both fail. Periodical House, an affiliate of Magazine Publishers, brings out Secret Agent “X”, their only successful heroic title. Magazine Publishers plans and aborts a western hero pulp featuring Kid Calvert. The inventory stories run in Western Aces.

1935: Dell enters the field, replacing All Detective with the first anti-hero pulp Dr. Death. War Birds becomes Terence X. O’Leary’s War Birds. Both titles fail after three issues. At the end of the year, Dell puts out the short-lived Public Enemy, a G-man pulp. It came out only two months after Standard’s G-Men, which was the first and longest-running G-Man pulp. In their way, they were a less fanciful alternative to the hero characters. Popular attempts an anti-hero pulp, The Mysterious Wu Fang. The Griffon begins in Flying Aces. Sheridan Doome debuts in The Shadow. Flash Steele begins a three-year run in Tek’s Wild West Stories and Complete Novel Magazine.

1936: Popular replaces Wu Fang with Dr. Yen Sin, but with no better success. C.H.J. adapts comic characters to pulps, producing hybrids like Dan Dunn, Tailspin Tommy, and Flash Gordon. None last more than two issues, and a planned Joe Palooka pulp never even reaches the stands. Street & Smith attempts to repeat the success of The Shadow and Doc Savage with two variant characters, The Whisperer and The Skipper. Simultaneously, they cancel Nick Carter and Pete Rice. The latter reappears in Wild West Weekly. Manvis enters the field with Ka-Zar. Ten Detective Aces phases out its long-running heroes, including the popular Moon Man and Wade Hammond. Ace G-Man is Popular’s entry in the G-Man field. Standard begins the adventures of Jim Hatfield in Texas Rangers.

1937: Street & Smith purges their line, replacing The Whisperer and The Skipper with Crime Busters, a multi-hero title like Ten Detective Aces. The two cancelled characters reappear in the back pages of The Shadow and Doc Savage, respectively. Trojan adapts the radio character The Lone Ranger, and its affiliate, Merwil, brings out a pulp version of the comic strip hero, Don Winslow of the Navy. Neither last a year.

1938: Popular publishes five issues of a failed Spider imitation, Captain Satan and an updating of their Mavericks Western title with The Western Raider. Periodical House issues a one-shot, Captain Hazzard. Standard begins another Western series, Range Riders.

1939: The Western Raider is retitled The Octopus in February which is in turn continued as The Scorpion two months later. These are the last anti-hero pulps. Series characters, including the Ghost, the Voice, GX, and the popular Suicide Squad, begin running in Ace G-Man. Later in the year, Street & Smith launches its well-received Avenger, a title combining elements of Doc Savage and The Shadow. Crime Busters becomes Mystery and drops most of its continuing characters. Bill Barnes is dropped from Air Trails, but reappears by year’s end in Doc Savage. Pete Rice is dropped from Wild West Weekly. Standard begins their long-running Rio Kid. The equally long-running Black Bat begins in Black Book Detective. He is the last heroic character to achieve lasting success. Operator 5 and Secret Agent “X” are cancelled. Fiction House launches Jungle Stories, featuring Ki-Gor. Philip Strange leaves Flying Aces.

1940: The pulp field undergoes an explosion of titles. The Heroic Field is no exception. Standard launches The Ghost, The Masked Detective, Thrilling Spy Stories featuring The Eagle, and the first and only original SF hero title, Captain Future. The Crimson Mask begins appearing in Standard’s Detective Novels. Munsey enters the field for the first time, bringing out The Green Lama in Double Detective, The Blue Ghost in Detective Fiction Weekly and launching Red Star Mystery, Red Star Adventures, Silver Buck Western and Detective Dime Novels, each containing a new hero. None of the Munsey ventures will continue beyond 1941. Street & Smith revives The Whisperer and begins a short-lived non-violent title, The Wizard. A planned reactivation of Bill Barnes in a new magazine is aborted and transformed into a comic book, as is Mark Time, an immortal superhero planned for release in 1941, edited by John W. Campbell. Jim Anthony starts in Trojan’s revived Super-Detective. The advent of World War II inspires several modern air war heroes. Popular launches Captain Combat, while Captain Danger begins appearing in Standard’s Air War. The long-running Lone Eagle is updated from World War I to World War II.

1941: Albing makes its only entry, Red Mask Detective Stories, a character who would appear in three titles, but only four stories. Manvis releases its Angel character in his own magazine for one issue. Columbia launches The Black Hood, an adaptation of its comic book character, but it lasts only three issues. Thunder Jim Wade premieres in Thrilling Aventures the Purple Scar begins in Exciting Detective , and Dr. Zeng in Popular Detective. All three characters are short-lived. Munsey makes a last attempt to publish a hero pulp with Big Chief Western featuring an Indian hero. Three issues are published.

1942: With the war and paper shortages, titles are killed left and right, including The Whisperer and The Avenger, whose adventures continue in Clues. The Griffon leaves Flying Aces. Another World War II air-war hero, Captain V, begins appearing in Popular’s Battle Birds.

1943: Worsening wartime paper shortages force the cancellation of some of the most successful and long-running titles, like Popular’s Spider and Ace G-Man, effectively removing Popular from the roster of publishers doing such material. Other publishers cope in other ways. Street & Smith titles go to digest size, dropping characters like Bill Barnes, The Skipper and Sheridan Doome from their back pages. Both Clues and Mystery are killed, terminating The Avenger and Carrie Cashin short stories. A Doc Savage Annual slated for November is not released. Standard reduces the page count and frequencies of its hero titles. The Masked Detective is cancelled, as is The Lone Eagle, now titled American Eagles. Jim Anthony is dropped from Super-Detective. Silver Trent is dropped from Star Western.

1944: Popular grounds the last surviving World War I aviation title, G-8 and his Battle Aces. Captain Future is cancelled “for the duration,” but is never revived. His adventures continue in Startling Stories. The Green Ghost, now running in Thrilling Mystery , ceases. Detective Novels is cancelled, killing both The Candid Camera Kid and Crimson Mask series. Air War is cancelled, ending the Captain Danger series. Nick Carter enjoys a brief revival in The Shadow. A final Avenger story runs in The Shadow. For the first time in decades, no new pulps of any kind are launched.

1945-47: The field experiences no growth, and even the best-selling titles lose circulation and frequency. Captain Future departs Startling Stories. Flash Steele is briefly revived in Complete Western Book.

1948: Popular announces Captain Zero for the December, but fails to publish it. Their Pecos Kid Western is also announced, but withdrawn. It would have appeared early in 1949.

1949: Street & Smith suddenly decides to leave the pulp field. Their Doc Savage and The Shadow, now pulp size again, are cancelled in Spring. Plans to continue both characters in annual form fail to materialize, and then are sold to Popular Publications which declines to continue publishing them. Popular returns to the hero field with the delayed Captain Zero in the Fall, but it doesn’t last a year. A planned Captain Future Annual is announced, but fails to appear.

1950: Popular finally releases the short-lived title, The Pecos Kid Western. Standard does the same with Hopalong Cassiday, inspired by movie and TV version of the character. Avon’s Wild Bill Hickok Western is killed before it can go to press. Captain Future returns in Startling Stories for a brief revival.

1951: Fiction House produces a one-shot, Stories of Sheena, apparently to use up the inventory of stories for a never-released regular Sheena magazine. The final Captain Future novelette runs in Startling Stories.

1952: Standard suspends G-Men Detective, Black Book Detective and The Phantom Detective magazines with the Winter, 1952 issues. Competition from TV and paperbacks, as well as distibution troubles stemming from a magazine market glut are blamed. A brief recession also impacts the field.

1953: Standard revives G-Men Detective, Black Book and Phantom Detective magazines with the Winter, 1953 issues, but cancels them immediately. The Masked Rider is folded with the April issue, and The Rio Kid and Range Riders Western follow a month or two later. For all intents and purposes, the Heroic Era is over.

1954: Fiction House cancels Jungle Stories, which contains a final Sheena inventory story. The Shadow radio show, running nearly continuously since 1930, goes off the air.

1957: Leo Margulies explores licensing Johnston McCulley’s Zorro for a new hero pulp calculated to cash on the Walt Disney TV hit show, through his Renown Publications. The deal falls through.

1958: Standard suspends the last of its Western titles, Texas Rangers, after a 22-year run. Again, distribution troubles and a new recession are blamed.

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  1. I sure would like to see reprints of the french Foreign Legion. The covers alone would make a person buy the magazine.

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