Which is to say, Jethro Dumont, better known as mystic crimefighter The Green Lama; and his current biographers, "new pulp" novelist Adam Lance Garcia and illustrator Mike Fyles. As for the Great Old Ones, well, you'll see.
I've known Adam for a while now. Our paths first crossed a few years ago when I first fell in love with John Gunnison's pulp-reprint series High Adventure. This prompted a column about old-time pulp heroes crossing over into comics, and one of those was the mystic warrior known as The Green Lama.
As it happened the Green Lama was doing rather well at the time; there had been various attempts to get new comics series started as well as a new prose anthology from Airship 27. Adam was represented in that anthology with a novella, "Horror in Clay," and sent me review copies of both that book and his follow-up novel Green Lama Unbound. I adored both of them just on the premise-- the Green Lama versus Nazis trying to awaken Cthulhu in order to harness the Elder God's power to use against the Allies in the early days of World War II. Let me emphasize that-- a superpowered sorcerer fighting gun-toting Nazi acolytes of an immortal demonic squid-god, because they want to weaponize the Apocalypse. There's just no part of that setup that's not awesome.
But the best part was that the potential of the idea was more than paid off, they were terrific stories. Easily among the best I'd run across in my discovery of this whole 'new pulp' revival thing. Adam's take on the Lama was not a whole lot different than Marvel's Dr. Strange, if Strange had been around in 1939 and fought Lovecraftian Nazi wizards. I was a fan from the get-go.
I knew then that Adam had plans to wrap up his whole Green Lama-Cthulhu-Nazi cycle of stories with a third and final installment, titled Crimson Circle, but one thing and another seemed to keep stalling the project. Licensing issues, changes in publishers, etc., etc. I knew the project was still alive as far as Adam was concerned because we'd struck up a small correspondence and he made sure CBR stayed on the review list for his projects, and every so often I'd see some preliminary concept art or something.
Eventually Adam, his usual illustrator Mike Fyles, and the Green Lama landed at Moonstone Books, where the original Green Lama stories Adam did for Airship 27 were reissued in nice new expanded editions (with new covers by Mike, of course.) I was happy to see the return of the first two installments of the trilogy, naturally...
...along with other new Green Lama stuff from Adam-- a new novel, Scions, and also the Green Lama-related chapter of Moonstone's round-robin mosaic novel Day of the Destroyers.
But the one I was waiting for anxiously was Crimson Circle. Adam would occasionally share this or that promo piece from Mike and it really got me jazzed to see the final project. It looked epic.
I understood the reasoning behind Moonstone wanting to get the first two books of the trilogy back in print before publishing the third, but I'd READ those, dammit. I'd even gone out and bought the new editions to make sure I was doing my part to let Moonstone know there was a market. But it was Crimson Circle I was impatient for.
All this is preamble to letting you all know that the long wait is over. Crimson Circle is done and will be rolling out in a week or three. And it's everything I'd hoped for.
Full disclosure-- It's been quite a while since those first column reviews and in the years since, Adam's become a friend. He was the initial connection between me and Ron Fortier at Airship 27, who's been publishing pulp stories from me now for the last couple of years, as well. I even did a little proofreading on an advance copy of Crimson Circle-- gratis, just as a favor, and also it let me get an early look at it, so my motives were not entirely altruistic.
Nevertheless I was a fan of Adam's work first, before we ever exchanged a single email, and I still am. I think anyone who likes pulp adventure with a fantasy twist will dig what Adam is doing and I wanted to spread the word. So I figured instead of just doing a gushy review that would look like logrolling, I'd do a little e-intervew with Adam instead.
You'll also see a bunch of Mike Fyles illustrations for Crimson Circle that I don't think are gonig to end up in the finished book, sadly, but Adam sent them to me along with his answers to my questions and they're too good not to share. People should see them, so you'll find them scattered throughout the interview. Enjoy.
For those who came in late, tell us about who the Green Lama is, a little bit of the history of the character and how you came to be the go-to guy on him. (By my count you've done original stories about the Lama for three different publishers now!) Clearly there's something about this guy that you connect to... can you talk about that?
The Green Lama was created in 1940 by Kendell Foster Crossen, writing under the pseudonym Richard Foster, for the pulp magazine Double Detective.
The world’s first Buddhist superhero, Jethro Dumont was an American millionaire who spent 10 years in Tibet. Upon returning to New York he witnessed a drive-by shooting that killed a young mother and her children, and when the killers escaped justice he became the vigilante known as the Green Lama. Like other pulp heroes before him, the Green Lama was supported by a group of assistants, including such characters as Gary Brown, Evangl Stewart, Jean Farrell, Ken Clayton, Lieutenant John Caraway, and even “Richard Foster” himself.
Beyond the original pulps, the Green Lama also appeared in Prize Comics...
...before receiving his own title at Spark Publications.
He even had a radio show and CBS briefly considered turning it into a television series, but the pilot was never made.
As to how I came to be the Green Lama writer… It’s all about right place, right time, a bit of luck, and a lot of passion.
I’ve been fairly public in saying that I started writing the character as a gift for my father. He collected the comics, so it was a way for me to approach the character from a place that was authentic. Plus, what better way to thank the man who gave me my passion for comics and writing than by telling stories with a character he loves?
I had every intention of only writing one story, but I quickly fell in love with the characters and started planning a massive series that would continue the narrative of the original pulps. What I think really connected with me was that the Green Lama and his assistants aren’t just heroes who are “doing good just to do good,” they’re complex, often-flawed individuals who believe in an ideal that is greater than themselves.
Something that you take on head-on in this new book is the idea that Buddhist crime-fighting vigilantism is a hugely contradictory philosophy. How do you think Jethro resolves that, and do you agree with it, or is he, on some level, kidding himself?
That inherent contradiction is what makes the character so unique and is the number one reason I’ve become so passionate about him. So many heroes are either just implicitly good or have some tragic origin story, but Jethro Dumont is driven by his faith, always knowing that on some level he’s betraying it every time he puts on the robes.
But, he resolves that contradiction with the Buddhist concept of the Bodhisattva, which is basically anyone who wishes to attain enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings. Jethro sees himself as a “shepherd-like bodhisattva,” someone who delays his own enlightenment so that others can achieve their own. Essentially, he believes in sacrificing himself so he can lead by example, and if CRIMSON CIRCLE proves anything, it’s that it works.
Do I necessarily agree with it? Overall, yes. I think it’s a flawed concept but it’s why Jethro is such a great hero.
Working with licensed characters the directive is always, "Don't break the toys." But with CRIMSON CIRCLE that's pretty much out the window—there are tremendous changes here for all the characters. Did you run into resistance on any of this or were you allowed a free hand?
Both Moonstone and the Crossen Estate have been incredibly supportive of my vision and gave me an incredible amount of freedom in telling this story. As a reader I've found that the stories that stay with me are the ones that take characters on a transformative journey and that sentiment has transferred to my career as a writer.
Crossen’s original stories were filled with characters that grew and changed, where not everything was reset at the end. If I’m going to be given the privilege of writing Jethro Dumont’s adventures, my books shouldn’t just be “another story” featuring the Green Lama, they need to be seismic, they need to show why the Green Lama is important.
With CRIMSON CIRCLE I want to tell a story that challenges readers’ expectations of what a Green Lama and, more importantly, what a pulp story could be. The heroes can be striving for an ideal but they can still be flawed, three dimensional, and complicated individuals of all races, faiths, and sexualities. Likewise the villains can have redeeming qualities and they might even have the right motivations.
I also wanted to make the world feel unsafe and show that evil can come out of the greatest of intentions. We’ve become so accustomed to entering these kinds of stories implicitly knowing the good guys will win, but there needs to be a price for these kind of adventures, not every ending should be a happy one. The readers should always be on the edge of their seats, truly wondering if our heroes will make it out alive.
That doesn’t mean effecting change for change’s sake, nor does it mean defying what made the characters special in the first place. It’s about moving the characters forward in a way that feels true to the spirit of the originals. At the end of the day these are licensed characters and it's important that no matter how much changes, the characters at their core need stay true to the creator's intent.
One of the things that struck me about this book was that it felt like your Final Word on the Green Lama and his posse. Are you in fact done with these characters or is there more to come?
In many ways, this story is meant to be the end of a specific era of the Green Lama, but is this my Final Word? Not by a long shot.
Moonstone is currently putting together a brand-new Black Bat anthology that features my Green Lama crossover story “Homecoming” and is chronologically Jethro’s earliest published adventure… at least, for now.
There is quite a bit more to come after that, none of which I can reveal just yet, but I can tease there are a few more books in the works, that take place before and after CRIMSON CIRCLE, including a number of crossover tales that I don't think anyone is expecting.
Don't get me wrong there will come a time when I'm going to hang up the hood—I have a very definitive ending in mind that I hope will satisfy fans new and old—but it’ll be a few years from now.
And finally, what else are you working on that CBR readers might want to know about?
In a couple of weeks Polis Books is releasing the sci-fi anthology Occupied Earth, which features my short story "Traitor." I’m incredibly honored to be a part of the collection and my editors, Gary Phillips and Richard Brewer, put together something I think is really, really special. You can pre-order the book here.
I also have my original graphic novel Sons of Fire. The first volume is available on Amazon and we’re currently shopping the series out to publishers.
Other than that I have a short time travel film that’s in pre-production, and a few audio plays that should be coming out early next year…
Basically, I’m chained to my keyboard and am not allowed to sleep.
And there you have it. Many thanks to Adam and also to Mike for letting us use all the cool artwork here.
As for me, I'll be back next week-- I hope with news about a cool 'new pulp' project of my own that's due out soon. See you then.