The Best of the Encyclopedia of Pulp Heroes: Leon Clifton

cliftonClifton, Leon. Leon Clifton was created by Jaroslav Pulda and appeared in the Czech pulp Z Pam?tí Amerického Detektiva Léona Cliftona #1-275 (1906-1910); the series was reprinted in 1926 and 1936. Leon Clifton is a Great Detective modeled on Nick Carter (I). Clifton is famous, capable, and welcome wherever he goes, America and Europe, for he solves crimes and defeats the most evil wrongdoers everywhere. A Czech-American, Clifton was orphaned at a young age and found abandoned in Nebraska, where he grew up. Some of Clifton’s cases verge on the fantastic, as when he discovers the cursed belt buckle of Cagliostro lying in the street, or in the appropriately-titled “Gorilla ex Machina.” Clifton appears in stories with titles like “Torn Apart By Wolves,” “The Shadow Without a Head,” and “The Lady of the Death’s Head.”

I’m including Leon Clifton in part because, well, I’m a completist, that’s how I roll, but also because he’s a good representative of a number of similar characters who flared briefly, had a few years of intense popularity, and then vanished. You don’t get to 275 issues without a significant number of fans at one point, and you don’t get reprinted twice without those fans still being around. Clifton, like so many other characters of the pulp era, is forgotten today, but had an intense (if short-lived) heyday, and deserves to be remembered somewhere, if only for “Gorilla ex Machina.”

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