East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Other People’s Pulps: The man who invented the Batarang

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51Wtnb+Q4kLLast week I received a gift certificate for Amazon, and – after buying a gift for my brother’s birthday – I went on a rampage through my wish list.
Among the dozen or so ebooks that I bought – and some of which you’ll see reviewed here in the future – I invested about two bucks in the two Wildside Press Megapacks dedicated to Kothar the Barbarian.

A Conan clone that hit the stalls in 1969 to ride the wave of the Cimmerian’s success, Kothar appeared in five novels: Kothar: Barbarian Swordsman, Kothar of the Magic Sword, Kothar and the Demon Queen, Kothar and the Conjurer’s Curse and  Kothar and the Wizard Slayer.
All of these were the work of Gardner R. Fox – an author I did not know, and that is certainly a fascinating discovery for me.

And I know that by saying I never heard before of Gardner Fox I am making comic book enthusiasts cringe and scream for blood, but please bear with me – I was never much into superhero comic books, and when I read them I was so young, I was too busy reading the stories to care for the names written under (or above) the title.

sandmanBorn in 1911, Fox worked in the pulps in the ’40s and ’50s, using a variety of aliases, and writing for a multitude of genres, his stories appearing in such diverse venues as Weird Tales, Baseball Stories and Ranch Romances.
He sometimes wrote using female names.
The bulk of his production, on the other hand, was in the form of stories for Detective Comics. His comic-writing career spanned four decades and then some.
He wrote Batman stories – and he is the man that invented the Batarang and the Bat-belt, and he created The Sandman, the gas-masked avenger (not Neil Gaiman’s character) that’s been a fixture of DC comics… well, forever.
And then The Flash, Hawkman… the man was all over the place in the Golden Age (and the Silver Age too).

13432604But as I said I was never a comic-book conoisseur, and  I am much more interested, in fact, in Fox’s work as a novelist.
He contributed stories to Doc Savage, and followed up his Kothar stories with a series of novels about another barbarian warrior, Kyrik.
He also wrote four titles in a series of sexy James Bond rip-offs called The Lady from L.U.S.T.… and yes, they are so silly, with slightly obscene titles like Copulation Explosion and Laid in the Future, that I’d really love to read them1.

Tower-Books-T-095-3-1970All this said and done, I must admit that my expectations for Kothar the Barbarian are pretty low – meaning I don’t expect anything better than a good Conan clone, enough to make me spend a few hours of fun after dinner.
A little like John Jakes’ Brak the Barbarian (another cousin of Conan that’s been recently reprinted in digital form).
But I am intrigued and fascinated by a man who was able to write so many stories in so many different genres.
Also, from some snippet of interview I read, he was a research fanatic – and therefore a kindred spirit.

“I maintain two file cabinets chock full of stuff. And the attic is crammed with books and magazines….Everything about science, nature, or unusual facts, I can go to my files or the at least 2,000 books that I have”

I’ll let you know my impression about Kothar – but I’m sure he’ll be worth the money I spent.

  1. any pointer to cheap copies of these or the Kyrik books are greatly appreciated. Use the comments, thank you. 

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

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