Personal blog - and temporary home page until new website is finished - of writer, editor and graphic artist Christopher Mills


Monday, January 29, 2007

Richard Benson, The Avenger

In 1939, Street & Smith Publications, publishers of the legendary pulp magazine heroes Doc Savage and The Shadow, launched another crime-fighter onto the newstands and magazine racks of America. Allegedly written by Kenneth Robeson, the masterful scribe of Doc Savage's adventures (in fact, "Robeson" was a S&S "house" name), new hero Richard Benson, alias The Avenger, made his debut in a high-octane thriller entitled "Justice, Inc."

Never quite as popular as Savage or The Shadow, The Avenger nonetheless managed to secure a small cult following, and when the paperback reprints of Doc Savage became best-sellers in the 1970's, Warner Books reprinted the 24 Avenger adventures as well. Those sold so well that acclaimed sci-fi author Ron Goulart was commssioned to ghost write another dozen or so. There was even a very short-lived comic book from DC around that time, called Justice, Inc., after the character's debut story, drawn by the legendary Jack Kirby (the cover above is from that series, drawn by the equally-legendary Joe Kubert. Beautiful, isn't it?).

Richard Benson was a grim vigilante with a deathly gray, immobile, wax-like face, which he could reshape into various disguises simply through manipulation of his deft fingers. He had a few assistants (just like Doc and The Shadow), and carried a custom firearm he called "Mike" and a slim throwing knife named "Ike." The Avenger may not have been the most popular pulp hero, but damn, he was cool.

So what provoked this little informal history lesson? Just this: Moonstone Books, for whom I'm writing a Kolchak The Night Stalker comic book, and already wrote a Spider prose adventure, have landed the license to The Avenger and have asked me to contribute a short story to a new Avenger anthology. Reportedly, they've even persuaded the above-mentioned Ron Goulart to contribute a new story to the book. I also know that my pal Martin Powell – who previously contributed to The Spider, Kolchak and Phantom anthologies – is participating in this one, too. It should be a great book!

I always wanted to be a "pulp" writer – and now I am! And best of all, these are authorized, licensed projects, so I'm legitimately part of the characters' legacy. How cool is that?

More details when I can. Stay tuned!

3 comments:

Glen said...

I can't wait for this. Got most of the the books and the DC comics series. I even have the terrible two part mini that DC published in the late 80's. I think that Benson has cooler sidekicks than Doc Savage.

Didn't Benson show up in either the Doc Savage or The Shadow comic books of the '40s?

Sometime in the book series Benson received some sort of shock, and his went black, and he had to inject his face with some sort of substance to allow him to mold his face. Was that Goulart's idea or from the original series?

Andy said...

Thanks for the update.

After reading all of ERB as a teenager I settled into SciFi/Fantasy until a few years ago when I wisely branched out to mysteries, thrillers, etc. I've been wanting to read "good" pulps for a few years now. What Pulps would you recommend?

roguewolf said...

This is very cool news. It's great to see pulps making a comeback.