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 22, 2014

More Pulp Heroes

More Pulp Hero

The Spider was dated October 1933, and was pretty much a copy of The Phantom Detective for the first two issues. Long-time author R. T. M. Scott created the series, rewriting his characters from Secret Service Smith into the more violent Spider. Smith had already appeared in numerous novels and short stories in the 1920s. The Spider actually came into his own with the third story, December 1933, when Norvell Page took over the series under the Grant Stockbridge house name. Though very popular, the series only lasted 118 issues, ending in 1943 when the war paper shortage put an end to many magazines. The Spider was in reality Richard Wentworth, wealthy man-about-town, and amateur criminologist, until he put on the black slouch hat and cape, and became the nemesis of the underworld. New York is virtually destroyed in every story, as some menace releases deadly viruses and vermin among the people, and mobsters run wild in the streets.

Captain Satan was a fun series, and not quite as violent as The Spider. Written by William O’Sullivan, it lasted but 5 issues in 1938, and then was dropped. Very possibly influenced by Johnston McCulley’s The Rollicking Rogue in the December 1930 issue of ALL STAR DETECTIVE STORIES, about a young man whose family had been ruined by a group of millionaire businessmen, he’s now out to remove their ill-gotten gain, wearing a devil costume to do so. Captain Satan, on the other hand, is a master criminal with a squad of assistants, consisting of safe crackers, and other specialists. A gentleman, he only goes after other crooks (another gimmick used by Johnston McCulley). Extremely rich already, Cary Adair divides the spoils with his men, and keeps them in line so that no innocents are harmed.

The Masked Detective was one of the latecomers to the pulp hero class. Likely due to the success of Superman in the comic books, between 1938 and 1940 the pulps quickly came out with a long string of new pulp heroes to attract more young readers to the pulps. Ned Pines’ STANDARD pulp line brought out several to compete with the growing comic book super heroes. One such was The Masked Detective, a reporter like Clark Kent, he was Rex Parker, a poorly paid crime reporter for a rag newspaper who had a secret: a martial arts expert – in savate – he donned a mask and went after the bad guys. A lot of fun, though a lot of the pulp heroes was using la savate and judo at the time. Again, the war paper shortage ended many new characters during this period too soon. The Masked Detective only lasted 12 issues in his own magazines, from Fall 1940 to Spring 1943, and then a 13th story was printed in the back pages of THRILLING MYSTERY in Fall 1944, probably shortened from novel length. The series was written under the house name of C. K. M. Scanlon, created by prolific author Norman Daniels, and then turned over to a variety of other scribes.

An added treat is a 1945 shot of Diane Arbus, a professional photographer in front of a magazine rack. Her husband later played Dr. Freedman on the TV series M*A*S*H*.

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