Downtown Wichita Falls, Texas, in the mid 1940’s was a bustling metropolis for a boy of 7 just away from the farm and ranch community where he was born. My father, a cook and cowboy by trade, had just started as one of the first cooks for the Casa Manana restaurant in 1947. He moved us to an apartment on Ohio Street, right across from the Gem Theater, between 7th and 8th Streets. It’s here that we would stay for the next three years. The Gem Theater became a magic palace for a young mind. But it had to share that distinction with the rest of the magic that was Wichita Falls. I attended San Jacinto and Carrigan elementary schools, as well as Reagan Junior High, and belonged to the Boys Club on 6th Street. Please join, and share your stories and pictures through a Guest Blog, of early Wichita Falls - or your home town. Contact me at or leave a comment. We could use old pictures of movie houses, drive-in theaters, and other nostalgic pictures related to our youths.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

A Couple Pulp Ladies

A Couple Pulp Ladies

Although most women in the pulps fell under two categories: one, they were pretty damsels to be rescued, or two, they were Mata Hari’s or femme fatales.  A few exceptions do come to mind. Back in 1921, Johnston McCulley's serialized short novel, The Masked Woman was originally published as a serial in The Washington Post; this is another of McCulley's early costumed characters, appearing nearly two decades before The Domino Lady and The Black Cat. Like her future protégés, she brought beauty, brains, and sex appeal to the female vigilante long before they were popular. Calling herself Madame Madcap, she wears a sexy evening gown, long black cloak with hood, and a black mask to cover her features. Appearing mysteriously, she recruits a gang of hoodlums to do her bidding, demanding complete loyalty. Then she sets them up for a fall, handing them over to the police with enough evidence to convict. This was an interesting story from the very first. As with most of McCulley's stories, his characters are heroes who act outside the law, but for the good of society - or for a purpose, like Zorro. Though there are no gun battles or sword fights, we see plenty of fisticuffs. Madame Madcap's chauffeur and bodyguard is a huge, muscular black man, and her right hand man is a professor of anthropology, who is studying the criminal element of society.

The Masked Woman was the forerunner of The Domino Lady, a masked crime fighter that appeared in 1936. Truth is, many of Johnston McCulley’s characters were the influence of the pulp heroes of the 1930s. Like The Masked Woman, The Domino Lady was a beautiful woman in a mask. Criminals had murdered her father, and she was after them, and any that got in her way. She wears a gown of either black or white satin, daringly cut and backless. The halter-neck of the negligible bodice revealed a gleaming expance of faultless white bosom and creamy shoulders. She drew a cape of black silk around her shoulder, then a shiny black domino mask over her eyes. Her adventures appeared in SAUCY ROMANTIC ADVENTURES and MYSTERY ADVENTURE MAGAZINE.

Sheena, Queen of The Jungle, first appeared in comic books, but was so popular she moved over to movies and pulps. Wearing a leopard-skin, she is a golden-haired beauty. Slim, tall and bronzed, with blue eyes. Unfortunately, she was short-lived in the pulps; only two issues were published. Fiction House released SHEENA, QUEEN OF THE JUNGLE in 1951, with three novelettes; then a final story was published in JUNGLE STORIES in 1954.

Lady super heroes fared much better in the comic books, as the men seemed to dominate the pulp magazines, which to me is a surprise.  I’ve never been able to figure out why this was so. Of course boys were probably the majority readers of the pulps, and I’m sure they wanted to read about characters they could connect to. Still, boys were also fascinated with girls and they read comic books that featured them.

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