The Best of the Encyclopedia of Pulp Heroes: Don Dixon

dixonDixon, Don. Don Dixon was created by Carl Pfeufer and Bob Moore (Gordon Fife) and appeared in the comic strip “Don Dixon and the Hidden Empire” (1935-1941). Don Dixon lives and adventures in a vast world beneath the surface of the Earth. The “Hidden Empire” of the strip’s title is Pharia, which is discovered by German surface scientist Dr. Lugoff and his two child assistants, Matt Haynes and Don Dixon. After reaching Pharia they help the rightful king overthrow the evil vizier who had displaced him. The king is grateful enough to give Haynes the hand of one of his daughters, Princess Marcia. This horrible fate led to their disappearance from the strip. Lugoff, Dixon, and the blonde Princess Wanda, Don’s girlfriend, join forces to fight against the enemies of Pharia. They then began looking for a way back to the surface world, and have a variety of adventures as they make their way across the swamps, forests, deserts and mountains of the underground world, fighting tigers, giant mice, and evil wizards and sorceresses. Once they reach the surface world they are forced to confront and defeat the Destroyer, the leader of a secret organization called the Seven Assassins who are intent on world conquest and operate from Himalayan headquarters; Dr. Strunski, who kidnaps Wanda and who plans to CONQUER THE WORLD! with his giant robot armies controlled from his Rhode Island headquarters; and Wulf, a mad submarine captain modeled on Jules Verne’s Captain Nemo. Eventually Dixon et al. become involved with Morgan le Fay and a series of Wagnerian adventures.

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The Best of the Encyclopedia of Pulp Heroes: The Digambara Monk

digambaraDigambara Monk. The Digambara Monk was created by Vatuvur Ke Turaicami Aiyankar (The Stranger) and appeared in Kampak0nam Vakkil Allatu Tikampara Camiyar (circa 1940). The Digambara Monk is a sanyasi (holy hermit) who has sworn a great and mighty oath to fight crime. To do so he uses many different disguises and tracks the criminals across India’s geography and society without regard to caste or social class. He is not skilled in the ways of detection, but is brave, intelligent, and has the assurance which devout faith brings.

If you speak Tamil, or are just interested in getting a glimpse of what a 1950 filmed version of the Digambara Monk’s story would be like, you can see the whole film on Youtube.

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The Best of the Encyclopedia of Pulp Heroes: Harry Dickson

harrydickson1Dickson, Harry. Harry Dickson was created by “Jean Ray,” the pseudonym of Raymond de Kremer (Edmond Bell, Jack Linton) and appeared in the French pulp Harry Dickson, le Sherlock Holmes Americain #1-178 (1929-1938). Harry Dickson is a Great Detective. Harry Dickson, le Sherlock Holmes Americain began as a French-language translation of a Dutch translation of the German pulp Detectiv Sherlock Holmes und Seine Weltberühmten Abenteuer (1907-1911), which was an unauthorized pastiche of Sherlock Holmes stories, with Harry Taxon replacing Doctor Watson. Jean Ray grew tired of translating substandard stories and began writing his own, using Harry Dickson in place of Holmes. Dickson is similar to Holmes: Dickson is a gentleman detective, living in London on Baker Street. But Dickson is assisted by Tom Wills, a blond teenager, rather than by an older Watson figure, and Dickson’s cases and adventures are far more fantastic than Holmes’ or even Sexton Blake’s. Dickson confronts and defeats villains as varied as Euryale Ellis, who can turn men to stone like her (possible) ancestor, the Medusa; Gurrhu, an Aztec god living in a temple underneath London; a silver-faced killer android; the bloodthirsty Hindu god Hanuman; and the lethal cult, the Moon Knights. Dickson is a young middle age, an expert on rare poisons, strange cults, and ancient civilizations, and is respected by both Scotland Yard and foreign governments.

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The Best of the Encyclopedia of Pulp Heroes: Professor Dexter

apemanDexter, Professor. Professor Dexter was created by Robert Charles (Richard Marlowe) and appeared in Return of the Ape Man (1944). Professor Dexter is a Mad Scientist. Professor Dexter and his colleague Professor Gilmore are on an Arctic expedition when they discover the body of a Neanderthal  frozen inside a block of ice. Dexter and Gilmore are both eager to learn from the Neanderthal, and have the technology to revive him, but they know that they won’t be able to communicate with him as he is. So Dexter decides to put part of a Homo Sapiens’ brain into the Neanderthal’s, so he’ll have the ability and intelligence to describe what he knows. Of course, getting a modern human’s brain will require killing a modern human, something Gilmore cavils at, but as Dexter says, some people’s brains won’t be missed.

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The Best of the Encyclopedia of Pulp Heroes: Savita Devi

miss frontier mail

Devi, Savita. Savita Devi was created by J.B.H. Wadia (Hansa, Hind Kesari, Lion Man (II), Thunderbolt (II), Vantolio) and appeared in the film Miss Frontier Mail (1936). Savita Devi is an Indian big game hunter. In Lalwadi, on the western coast of India, the wicked masked criminal Signal X and his gang are robbing trains, committing murders, and even blowing up trains. Signal X is actually Savita’s uncle Shyamlal, who is being paid by an airplane company to wreck railway travel as a way to promote the company. Shyamlal has at his disposal a technologically-advanced radio machine and a poisonous gas gun. When Savita discovers what her uncle is doing, she uses her guns and her athletic skills to put an end to his crimes.

Oh, boy. Miss Frontier Mail, starring the splendid Fearless Nadia. Who did her own stunts, even if it meant jumping a horse from a bridge on to a moving train. Who didn’t create the idea of the action-oriented, aggressive Indian film heroine, but was the iconic version of it, the 1930s Indian version of Angelina Jolie. Who is unknown in the West, but still remembered fondly (as is Miss Frontier Mail itself–see here for more) by Indian cineastes.

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The Victorian Hugos: 1892

In case you aren’t following me on Twitter and Facebook…I’m resuming my columns on io9.com, describing which novels and short stories would have won the Hugo Award during the Victorian era. This week: 1892!

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The Best of the Encyclopedia of Pulp Heroes: Detective Nobody

detektivnobodyDetective Nobody. Detective Nobody was created by Robert Kraft (Atalanta, Frank Carter, Gentleman of the Air, Count Leo V. Hagen, Loke Klingsor, Mister Nobody (I), Richard) and appeared in Detektiv Nobody’s Erlebnisse und Reiseabenteuer #1-12 (1904-1906). Detective Nobody is a Costumed Avenger. The domino-masked “Detective Nobody” is a reporter who travels around the world, from St. Petersburg to Monte Carlo to the South Seas, on behalf of Worlds Magazine, fighting the Yellow Peril Baron Nogi and his Yellow Dragon organization. In this Nobody is assisted by a brave crew of friends, including the daring Captain Flederwisch, who pilots Nobody’s yacht, Keigo, a Japanese man Nobody saved from the gallows, and Guy Boothby’s arch-villain Doctor Nikola, who Nobody meets in Tibet. The Yellow Dragon has agents everywhere, including Missisippi river pirates, a group with a subterranean headquarters underneath the Pyramids, and various Femmes Fatale, one a Mexican sadist and one Nobody’s blonde former lover. Some of Nobody’s stories verge on the fantastic, as in the story in which he discovers a hollow mountain inhabited by prehistoric flora and fauna. Nobody appears in stories with titles like “The Rejuvenation Treatment,” “Of the Cossacks,” “Princess Turandot,” and “In Noah’s Ark.”

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The Best of the Encyclopedia of Pulp Heroes: Professor Demonico

demonicoDemonico, Professor. Professor Demonico was created by Justin Shaw and appeared in a number of stories in The Ranger in 1933 and 1934, beginning with “The Kunakos are Coming” (The Ranger, Sept. 23, 1933). Professor Demonico is a small man with black hair and a kindly face, who looks like a parson. But he is the master of the Kunakos, a band of semi-intelligent, twelve-feet high gorillas with incredible strength, and Demonico unleashes them on London. His intention is to begin with London, go on to Europe, and ultimately CONQUER THE WORLD! He is opposed by and eventually stopped by Martin Crane of the Yard.

As I say in the Encyclopedia, there are two kinds of people in this world: those who believe (in the words of Chris Roberson) that the judicious application of primates improves everything (i.e., everything’s better with monkeys), and those who probably won’t enjoy my Encyclopedia. In this case, a Mad Scientist combined with Giant Apes equals Big Fun!

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The Best of the Encyclopedia of Pulp Heroes: Deerslayer

wildtoterDeerslayer. Deerslayer appeared in the German pulp Wildtöter #1-300 (1915-1917, 1920-1924). Deerslayer is a German immigrant modeled on James Fenimore Cooper’s Hawkeye. Aided by his native companion, Eagle Eye, Deerslayer has a variety of adventures on the American frontier during the 19th century, from the northeast to the southwest, fighting evil natives and Anglos. His arch-enemy is the wicked native Oputu, a traitor and murderer of his own chief. He meets Winoga (I), he finds Montezuma’s treasure, he discovers the Petrified Wizard. In an unexplained process, he fights at and survives the Alamo. He fights an Indian zombie, balloon-piloting air pirates, evil Mormons, and Lost Race Aztecs with the living descendant of Montezuma. He also meets the Robinsons and the New Robinson. Deerslayer appears in stories with titles like “Death Rode Through The Wilderness,” “The Navajos’ Ambush,” and “In The Crater of the Extinct Volcano.”

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The Best of the Encyclopedia of Pulp Heroes: The Deccan Queen.

deccan queen

Deccan Queen. The Deccan Queen was created by Mehboob Khan and appeared in the film Deccan Queen (1936). The Deccan Queen is a Costumed Avenger. After Lala Niranjamal dies his trustees swindle his heirs out of his fortune and estate. Niranjamal’s daughter is sent to prison and his son is forced to beg in the street. When the daughter is released from prison she becomes the costumed vigilante the Deccan Queen and avenges her family’s honor, aided by the noble Inspector Suresh.

I mentioned, the other day, about the Deadly Peasant, about how far ahead China was of the West when it came to gender roles in action films during the pulp era. Well, stand proud, India, because you too put the West to shame. The Deccan Queen is but one of a number of heroines in lead roles in Indian action/adventure films in the pulp era.

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