That’s Jethro Dumont, better known as The Green Lama— and his current custodian, writer Adam Lance Garcia.
It was Adam, more than anyone else, who was responsible for getting me interested in the whole “new pulp” thing. I was really impressed with the new Green Lama stories he had been doing for Airship 27, and that led me to checking out his other stuff, which in turn led me to checking out other authors in those same anthologies, and well, it sort of spiraled.
Now I have a couple of shelves’ worth of these “new pulp” anthologies and there are even a couple coming out this year with stories of mine in them. (More on that later this week, I promise.)
But it all started with Adam and his terrific Green Lama stories, most of them illustrated by the remarkable Mike Fyles.
I adored his Green Lama novel Unbound and have been awaiting the follow-up to that, Crimson Circle, for a while now.
It took a while, but the Lama is back, this time from Moonstone Books– not with Crimson Circle, but a brand-new novel, Scions. I asked Adam if he’d mind doing a little e-interview about it and he very graciously agreed, and here it is.
Well, first of all, for those who came in late, tell us a little about The Green Lama– specifically, the version you are doing of the character and what separates that one from the other versions out there.
The Green Lama is the worlds’ first Buddhist pulp hero created by Kendell Foster Crossen in 1940 for the Double Detective magazine, and I think it’s fair to say he’s one of the most unique characters in the history of pulp and comics. Unlike so many his contemporaries who were defined by a childhood trauma or the simple desire to “do good,” Dumont is driven forward by a faith he constantly defies. It makes him an incredibly profound—and very human—figure.
He also has an amazing and diverse supporting cast, from Montana gunslinger Jean Farrell and actor Ken Clayton, to New York Police Lieutenant John Caraway, all of whom have proven to be both as heroic, and imperfect, as the Lama himself.
There were fourteen original pulp stories published between 1940 and 1943, all written by Crossen.
Which were followed by two distinct comic versions between 1940 and 1946, a radio drama in 1949, and nearly a TV version in 1950.
The stories we’re telling at Moonstone are a direct continuation—taking place before, between, or after—the original fourteen pulp stories, and are the only ones fully licensed and approved by the Crossen Estate, making these the only truly canon Green Lama tales out there.
Whereas other versions have made the Lama either a vaguely defined mystic or an environmentally powered superhero, ours delves deeper into the Lama’s supernatural abilities and explore the shadows of the pulp world. More than anything, we approach Dumont as a flawed, three-dimensional character set against the darkness.
If you’re a fan of the original stories you can read these books as the literal next step in this character’s journey, but if you’re new the character—or even more so, not a fan of pulp or superheroes—these books are written with you in mind.
How did you happen to get to be the official chronicler of the new Green Lama adventures, even working with the Crossen estate? For that matter, how did the author’s estate get possession of the character? That doesn’t happen very often with these old pulp heroes– they usually are owned by the publisher and not the original authors, if they’re owned by anyone.
Despite what you might have heard the character has always remained in control of the Crossen Estate. The misconception originates from the fact that the Prize and Spark Publication comics, and the radio dramas—those specific stories—are in the public domain.
The original fourteen pulp novels, and thereby the characters and derivatives, belong solely to the Crossen Estate.
How I became the official chronicler was either luck or fate; I’m really not sure which anymore. You have to understand I was raised with this character. My dad collected the Green Lama comics and one of my most vivid memories of childhood is my dad showing me a panel where Dumont whispers “Om! Ma-ni Pad-me Hum!” He pointed at “Pad-me” and said, “See! Just like Queen Padme from Star Wars!”
So, when I had the chance to write the character a few years back, I jumped at the opportunity and wrote GREEN LAMA: HORROR IN CLAY and GREEN LAMA: UNBOUND, both which were really well received, the latter winning Pulp Factory Award for Best Pulp Novel of 2009. After that I was asked by Altus Press to write an original story, CASE OF THE FINAL COLUMN, to conclude their three-volume reprint.
This story worked as a conclusion to Crossen’s novels and acted as bridge between the classic tales and mine. Moonstone took notice and signed me on as their exclusive Green Lama writer.
I have been dying to work with Moonstone since the moment I started writing professionally. Joe Gentile, Moonstone’s publisher, has been nothing short of enthusiastic with these stories and is a great collaborator in helping integrate the Lama with Moonstone’s catalog of characters. And thanks to Moonstone, I’ve had the honor of working with Kendra Crossen, executor of the Estate. Kendra’s been amazingly supportive of my vision and an unequaled source in adding authenticity to Dumont’s Buddhism as well as giving me insight into the man behind the Lama.
Tell us about SCIONS– what’s it about, how does it fit in with the original adventures.
SCIONS begins with a cruise ship crashing into Liberty Island with all aboard but one dead, at their own hands. As the Green Lama and his associates investigate the crash they find themselves pursued by an unnamed, but familiar, malevolent force.
For fans who have been following my Green Lama tales since HORROR IN CLAY, this story takes place a few months after HORROR IN CLAY and a couple of months before THE CASE OF THE FINAL COLUMN and UNBOUND.
For fans of the originals, SCIONS takes place between “The Case of the Fugitive Fingerprints” and “The Case of the Crooked Cane.”
Ultimately, SCIONS is meant to be the entry point for new readers, introducing the Lama and his supporting cast to a wider audience, while at the same time advancing or deepening several plot points that run throughout the series.
This book, especially, seems harder-edged than the original stories were in terms of both its narrative approach and its subject matter. Was that on purpose, or was it something that you just happened to land on while you were working on it?
The original stories were fairly basic in terms of plot, there was a mystery—a murder, a kidnapping, etc.—and the Green Lama and his assistants solved it. When the solution adverted them the mysterious “Magga” would swoop in on her deus ex machina horse and quite literally hand Jethro the solution in an envelope. (Take a look at one of my favorite Crossen stories “Case of the Death’s Head Face.” I’m still trying to understand how Jethro suddenly figured out who was behind the Murder Corporation.)
Part of this book’s edge comes from that it’s a horror story, but more than anything it has a lot to do with my own predilections. I’ve always been a firm believer that to make a character’s journey truly matter you have to drag them through the mud before bringing them back into the sun. I want them to earn their victories. Beyond that I want these stories to resonate for not only the characters but for the readers. I think we, as an audience, have gotten so accustomed to seeing the fantastic and terrifying happening on our screens and in our books we tend to forget that these events leave an indelible mark on the people that survive them, it changes their whole understanding of the world.
These aren’t simply the “New Adventures of the Green Lama,” recycling the same format, plot and characters over and over again, this is Dumont’s complete life story, entirely out of order.
So while I love the original stories—they are the backbone of these new tales—I wanted to write for a much more mature, sophisticated audience, folks that don’t necessarily read pulp. I wanted to take chances, not play it safe, but at the time never defy what Crossen established. It’s a delicate balance, but I hope I’ve succeeded.
I know you have are more Green Lama projects coming. What’s next?
While I can’t give you the full details, I can tell you that Moonstone will be releasing a new anthology OF MONSTERS AND MEN!, which features my short Green Lama adventure “Daemon’s Kiss” with wide vision illustrations done by the incomparable Mike Fyles.
Moonstone will also be publishing revised and expanded editions of HORROR IN CLAY and UNBOUND, which are currently slated for September and November of this year.
And in January of 2015 Moonstone will be releasing the long overdue CRIMSON CIRCLE.
There will be a lot more in addition, but I don’t want to spoil anything just yet.
Anything else you’re working on you want to tell us about?
In January Pro Se Productions recently released two fantastic anthologies that I was lucky enough to be asked to contribute. First, I have two stories in LESTER DENT’S THE NEW ADVENTURES OF FOSTER FADE, “Dead Men’s Guns” and “Black Rock Conspiracy.” Foster Fade is such an amazing character, it’s a pity Dent only wrote three original tales.
Second was BARRY REESE’S THE TALES OF THE ROOK VOLUME 2. Barry, for those who aren’t familiar—and you should be—created this amazing shared world around his original generational hero the Rook. My short story, “Night Out” follows the original Rook and his daughter, the third Rook, in the swinging 60s.
I’m also working on my original graphic novel SONS OF FIRE with artist Heidi Black, which, in a sentence is Smallville meets Breaking Bad.
We recently finished the first volume and we’re currently submitting to publishers, but we’re also exploring kickstarting and self-publishing.
There’ll be plenty more coming down the pike, because the only reason I’ll ever stop writing is because I’m dead or my computer’s in the shop. Hopefully the former is awhile after the latter, because I need a new computer.
And there you have it. Many thanks to Adam, again, and as for me, I’ll see you next week.