Moonstone, the pulp-focused publishing house behind such series as "Kolchak the Night Stalker," "Buckaroo Bonzai" and "Captain Action," is in for some major changes this summer. The Phantom, the pulp hero that has until now been a staple of Moonstone's line, moves to Dynamite in July, but filling his boots will be a new slate of projects under the banner "Return of the Originals," an initiative comprising five new ongoing series as well as other projects. CBR News spoke with Moonstone publisher Joe Gentile and writer Mike Bullock about what's coming up.
Bullock, who has the distinction of penning more Phantom stories than any other American writer, brings the "Phantom: Ghost Who Walks" series to an end with issue #12 in June. "The last arc of 'Phantom: Ghost Who Walks' (#9-12) encompasses the second 'Invisible Children' storyline. Readers will learn who's been pulling the strings all along, see the return of several familiar faces and witness the final showdown between Phantom and the worst villain he's ever faced," Bullock told CBR. "Oh, and watch out for the wildlife, it's a killer. This all comes to a head in #12, featuring an homage cover of Bill Sienkiewicz's 'Moon Knight' #25 drawn by Fernando Peniche."
Reflecting on his run as a whole, Bullock told CBR, "In the grand scheme, I hope I've been a good custodian of the character. I've done my best to honor the legacy of one of the greatest sequential story tellers in history and hope that when I finally meet him in the afterlife, Lee Falk will be proud of what I've done with his marvelous creation.
"I really wanted to make it to 75 issues, but you never know what the future holds. Either way, it's been a wonderful experience."
Next up for Bullock, then, is writing a new "Black Bat Double Shot" series as part of Moonstone's "Return of the Originals" line, as well as back-up features starring Captain Future. "Black Bat is the precursor to Batman and Daredevil. His pulp stories inspired those two famous crime fighters and many others," Bullock said. "Anthony Quinn, a highly successive District Attorney, tires of watching criminals walk free on technicalities, botched evidence and bought judges. When an attempt to destroy evidence goes wrong, Quinn finds himself blinded by acid. He retires from his job as DA, but takes his fight to the streets in the guise of the Black Bat, complete with heightened senses, a pseudo radar sense and two guns he's not afraid to use. You see, unlike his successors in Gotham and Hell's Kitchen, Black Bat follows his own code of ethics, doing whatever it takes to rid the streets of evil. If that means a large body count, then so be it. An eye for an eye...or maybe two.
"The first story will flow through 'Black Bat Doubleshot' #1-3 like a river of blood," Bullock continued. "The tale introduces readers young and old to the thrilling adventures of Black Bat as he takes on a local mobster who is turning smack addicts into spree killers. Why he's doing this? What's he after? How can he be stopped? These questions and more await you within the pages of 'Black Bat Doubleshot.'" The artist on the series will be Michael Metcalf, with the first issue shipping in September.
As to the other hero in Bullock's charge, the writer said, "Captain Future, along with E.E. 'Doc' Smith's Lensman, launched the space opera sub-genre. Often described as Doc Savage in outer space, Captain Future, along with his Futuremen, uses his ridiculously intelligent mind, vast resources and whatever else it takes to keep the solar system safe for all of mankind," Bullock said. "The Futuremen, consisting of Otho, the synthetic man; Grag, the living robot; and Simon Wright, dubbed the Living Brain (as he's nothing more than a mind floating in a transparent box), are always at his side."
Bullock is joined on the Captain Future stories by artist Norm Lanting, and this hero's adventures will run as second features in alternating Moonstone "Return of the Originals" titles. "Captain Future's first story is a nod to another great science fiction property, which sets the stage for future tales. This yarn appears in Moonstone's Widevision format and will either land in the first or second issue of Moonstone's new pulp fiction magazine," Bullock said. "Widevision" refers to Moonstone's format of using double-page spreads throughout an issue with a band of text across the bottom.
Bullock's own pulp creation, Death Angel, will also be returning, following his debut in "Phantom: KGB Noir." "The newest pulp hero shares the spotlight with another costumed avenger in the pages of 'Black Bat Doubleshot,' penned by me with art from the amazing and versatile Michael Metcalf. Beyond that, I'm helping Josh Aitken launch 'Gladiator,' the character Superman and Captain Marvel are derived from. Once those are in the can, I'll be bringing out Moonstone's first pulp sword and sorcery character Runemaster, in the pages of the aforementioned pulp fiction magazine with art from my good friend Rob Osborne," Bullock said.
To discuss the rest of Moonstone's ambitious upcoming projects, CBR next spoke with publisher Joe Gentile. Gentile explained that the "Return of the Originals" line will include, in addition to the Black Bat series, "Double Shot" titles starring the Phantom Detective (written by Aaron Shaps, with Danillo Guida on art), Secret Agent X (by writers David Watkins andMatthew Baugh, art by Robert Geronimo), the Spider (Martin Powell/Pablo Marcos), and Rocket Man (James Kuhoric/Hannibal King). Each new series will be published 6-8 times per year with the lead in each title sharing space with a rota of second features, including Green Lama, written by Mike W. Barr; Moon Man, written by Elizabeth Massie and illustrated by Cortney Skinner; Ki-Gor, by Martin Powell and Tom Floyd; Green Ghost, written by Win Scott Eckert and Eric Fein, with art by David Niehuas; I.V. Frost, written by Ron Fortier, drawn by Jeff Minor; Skull Killer, written by Jai Nitz with art by Christopher Jones; Golden Amazon written by Howard Hopkins; Gladiator written by Josh Aitken; Honey West, written by Will Murray with art by Jake Minor; and Domino Lady written by James Chambers. Each character has a long and storied publication history, and Gentile gave CBR a brief run-down of what many of these heroes represent.
"The Phantom Detective appeared in more pulp stories than any other character except the Shadow! His stories were everywhere from 1933 to 1953," Gentile said. "He is part investigator, part disguise artist, part metaphysical adventurer. His noir adventures will take you through evil that most cannot believe actually exists, except in your wildest dreams.
"He came before Doc Savage, and has a lot of elements that were used to inspire the guy with bat ears and the big red 'S.' This character will be like nothing you expect!"
As for Secret Agent X, Gentile said, "No one knows his true identity - not those who call upon him to save the day, not those he vanquishes and not the girl who loves him. He is the greatest hero we'll never know. The most daring crimefighter...who could be anyone...anywhere...you will never see him coming."
He described G-8 as an "aviator and spy, fighting against the supernatural and lethal super technology," while the mysterious Ki-gor leads readers to wonder, "savage jungle man...or mystical shaman?" And, from jungle to jetpack, there's Rocket Man. "The jetpack is a wanted device, and the man wearing it is not the hero it was intended for," Gentile said, "and that 'hero' now wants the pack at all costs!"
Next, "Golden Amazon is a woman missing a large chunk of her past and it is catching up to her. Something buried deep in her DNA is clawing to get out and she is at once frightened of its power and exhilarated by it," Gentile said. "She doesn't know who - or what - she is...but others do. Others who want to use her gifts to their own ends. She is given to great bursts of fury and violence, and possession by a chilling monstrous force from within that is as powerful and all-consuming as a narcotic. Government shadow agencies, Nazis and alien intelligence all lurk in the darkness as she discovers her mission, the horrors of her forgotten past and the secrets of her creation."