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.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

New Pulp Heroes

I want to start posting messages on Saturdays, unless we have extra material during the week, this to coincide with Saturday Matinees. So for that in mind, today I'm posting information on our latest book release from FADING SHADOWS, essays on New Pulp Heroes, along with two fiction stories by Ginger and me.

NEW PULP HEROES now available in 280-page paperback from FADING SHADOWS, $12.00, plus $3.99 postage (US). Tom & Ginger Johnson compile 56 essays on new pulp characters, plus 2 essays on villains, plus much more data. Also included are new pulp fiction stories by grandma & grandpa Johnson: “The Mind Master” by Tom, and “The Origin of Mr. Minus” by Ginger. This will only be sold through FADING SHADOWS. This is very likely the first of several books that will chronicle the history of new pulp heroes, and their creators. Order from Tom Johnson, 204 W. Custer St., Seymour, TX or contact

Tom & Ginger will be on The Book Cave discussing NEW PULP HEROES the week of January 2nd, 2014 (episode #263). Please listen in to the podcast as we discuss it. FADING SHADOWS does not get a free ride, we have to pay the printers, it isn’t printed free, and a 280-page book is expensive to print. Not only that, but the friendly person we were working with retired, and left us in the hands of unfriendly people, so we’re now looking for a new printer for our FADING SHADOWS books. We also commissioned and paid for interior illustrations. Due to this added cost, we were forced to limit interior art to six illustrations. If we hadn’t this book would have ended up with a $24.95 price tag. This is a project I proposed three years ago, but it never came about. When the project looked like it was being revived, it hoped it was a go, but after waiting a reasonable amount of time it appeared interest had again cooled off. I should have released it in time for Christmas, but waiting on another publisher proved fruitless, and we decided to publish our material through our FADING SHADOWS imprint. We’ve been in the publishing business since 1982, and don’t have to rely on others. Time is right for these essays. This volume is only being sold through FADING SHADOWS, so be the first to get your copies.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Phantom Detective

The Phantom Detective

After the debut of The Shadow in 1931, pulp publishers were scrambling for a hero title to match The Shadow’s popularity with readers. The first to arrive on the stands was The Phantom Detective in 1933. At first, STREET & SMITH yelled lawsuit, as they thought the new character from STANDARD was a blatant rip off of their character. But before the ink was dry, POPULAR PUBLICATIONS had The Spider & Operator #5 and ACE had Secret Agent X as their leads. The pulp heroes were taking the public by storm and The Shadow was no longer alone.
Spinner Rack With Phantom Detective Pulps

Although The Phantom Detective did not have as many issues as The Shadow, it did outlast the Master of Darkness in number of years. The Shadow ran from 1931 to 1949, with 325 stories, a total of 18 years. The Phantom Detective only            had 171 issues, but lasted 20 years, from 1933 to 1953, and became the longest-running hero title in the pulp magazines.
Phantom Detective Paperback

Some even argue that The Phantom Detective actually lasted longer than the official record indicates. In 1932 STANDARD ran a serialized novel in one of their pulp magazines titled Alias Mr. Death by G. Wayman Jones (D.L. Champion). Mr. Death was merely retooled to become The Phantom Detective. If that wasn’t enough, researchers of also discovered numerous rejected Phantom Detective stories that were published as other characters, so the 171 may someday be altered. And it gets even murkier than this. One of the Doc Savage authors took his unpublished Doc Savage yarns and turned them into Phantom Detective stories. And one more curiosity, a final Phantom Detective author was also writing Shadow radio scripts, and in one of his Phantom Detective yarns he accidentally calls him The Shadow. Only in the pulps, right?
Phantom Detective Comic Book

The matinee serials, or chapter plays, at the local theaters drew upon the other media of the day for their popular cliffhangers. There were probably a dozen Zorro serials. Comic Books like Superman, Captain Marvel, Captain America, and others, were made into exciting serials; the pulp characters also had their turn at celluloid fame. The Shadow, The Spider, Tailspin Tommy, G-Men, and many others were made into serials to attract kids to the matinees. So too did the comic strips, like Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, The Phantom, and Mandrake, and many others. When too much money was asked for the Rights to a character, the producers of serials made up their own characters. Bidding for the first Superman serial in 1940 broke down because of the money Detective Comics wanted for the Rights, so the movie that had already been planned had to change the name of the hero. From Superman, he became The Copperhead, and the serial was The Mysterious Dr. Satan. Comic strips’ The Phantom (The Ghost Who Walks) made one serial and planned a second. The producers decided against the high fee on the second, so the character was changed to Captain Africa. And yes, negotiations were rumored for a chapter play featuring The Phantom Detective, but one never appeared. However, about the time everyone expected this one to show up, a very interesting serial did appear. It was titled The Black Widow, and had all the elements of The Phantom Detective, except for, yep, The Phantom Detective. Still, he was there, even if not in name and appearance. I saw the serial either at the Gem or Tower Theater around 1947.
The Black Widow Serial

The era of the Thirties and Forties was one of the most exciting times for children and young adults looking for escapism. Though the times were harsh, the entertainment was wonderful. Pulps, comic books, picture shows, and serials truly were at the zenith of their achievements for the youth of America. Today’s entertainment, with the sex, extreme violence, and gutter language can never match those simpler times, when the world needed heroes, and children needed someone to look up to, even if they weren’t real, they could be found in their favorite form of entertainment.
Friends of The Phantom ID Card

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Romance Pulps

Romance Pulps

There were numerous romance pulp magazines. Early pulps included romance stories, but by the 1920’s they were given their own magazines. Many of them lasted into the early 1970’s, so they were around for a long time. Pulps were called such for the cheap pulpwood paper used to print the magazines. The slicks also published romance stories, but not to the extent the pulps did. Pulp magazines were the literature of the masses.  The following titles are just a few of the magazines available.

Ranch Romances published 884 issues from December 1924 to November 1971, possibly the longest running romance magazine during its time.

Rangeland Romances also published quite a few issues, coming in at 218 numbers, between June 1935 and December 1955.

Rangeland Love was another popular title for the ladies, coming in with 83 issues, between November 1928 and July 1934.

Some titles, like Red Star Love only came in with a few numbers, publishing 18 issues, between February 1941 and March 1942. Other titles may have surpassed Red Star Love and Rangeland Love, but some have said that the love pulps sold enough copies to support many of the magazines other titles. They were hugely popular during the pulp magazine period.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Rock And Roll History

Rock ‘N’ Roll History

Above is a teenage Elvis Presley before he was a star. Below is a shot of Buddy Holley on his last tour – the Winter Tour – before his tragic death. These were two of Rocks greatest stars. I remember listening to Snuff Garrett when he was a DJ in Wichita Falls, and bopping to Elvis and Buddy.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Ranch Romances & Tex Ritter

Here is Tex Ritter and crew on the movie set reading a Ranch Romances pulp in 1938. I guess ladies weren’t the only ones reading romance pulps back then. I’ll have to post a message about the romance pulps some time this week, or next weekend, maybe.