Sunday, May 16, 2010

Some of the Greats

One of the real delights of writing tie-in fiction is being able to add one's own little touches to the overall quilt of stories that exist about beloved fictional characters. During my career, I've been invited to write about a wide spectrum of the characters I grew up loving, including Spider-Man, Superman (and other DC Comics characters--Jonah Hex fans, take note, if you like the Jonah Hex movie, Jonah has only ever appeared in one novel, my DC Universe: Trail of Time), Conan, and more.

Recently I've received copies of two anthologies that contain stories I wrote about a pair of the characters who have been in my favorites list even longer than those mentioned above. Those books, both published by Moonstone Books, are The Phantom Chronicles, Volume 2, and Tales of Zorro.

The Phantom is, of course, also known as The Ghost Who Walks. He was created by Lee Falk (who also created Mandrake the Magician) in 1936 as a comic strip character, and he has appeared in numerous novels, comics, movies, and TV shows. The Phantom comic strip still runs today, albeit with a different creative team. He was the first character to wear the skintight suit and pupil-less mask so common in superhero comics. When I was a boy, I clipped the strips from the newspaper and pasted them into scrapbooks so I could read his adventures as one long story instead of in daily increments.

The Phantom Chronicles, Volume 2, was just released by Moonstone Books in trade paperback and hardcover editions. Other contributors in the book include Harlan Ellison, Ed Gorman, Robin Wayne Bailey, and many more. My story, a traditional hardboiled tale set in postwar San Francisco featuring PI Phil Cleveland, is called "The Leopard's Eye."

Zorro is Johnston McCulley's great champion of human rights in early California. The masked, cloaked figure of justice is one of literature's truly brilliant creations, one of the inspirations from which Bob Kane created Batman, and being asked to write a story about him (and, in the process, getting to meet Guy Williams, Jr., son of the Disney TV Zorro [the only real filmed Zorro, in my opinion] and to handle one of his father's screen swords]) is a double honor I'll never forget.

The book came out last year in trade paperback, and it includes stories by luminaries such as Elizabeth Massie, Max Allan Collins, Loren D. Estleman, Peter David, Nancy Holder, Greg Cox, and more, along with an introduction by Williams and a foreword by Isabel Allende.

Although Tales of Zorro came out last year, I just got my hands on the limited edition,and it's a beautiful piece of work. In addition to being signed by all the above, except Allende (but including interior artist Ruben Procopio [who, incidentally, is a fine sculptor--I have his Mighty Mouse maquette standing in a place of honor here at the ranch], trade paperback cover artist Douglas Klauba, editor Richard Dean Starr and publisher Joe Gentile), it's numbered and held in a gold-stamped slipcase. It's the first anthology of Zorro short fiction ever published, and contains many fine stories. There's also a super-limited lettered edition, that comes with a lithograph signed by the contributors and an original sketch by Ruben Procopio, making each copy truly a one-of-a-kind item. Either one would be an asset to any book collector's library. My story, which leads off the collection, is "Mission Gold."

Moonstone Books manages to scoop up some of the most outstanding characters anywhere, including Buckaroo Banzai, Kolchak, the Green Hornet, Doc Savage, Honey West, Johnny Dollar, and many more.

Getting to write about characters like The Phantom and Zorro is a true pleasure, and one of the best arguments I can think of for being a tie-in writer in the first place. Thanks to Moonstone for making it possible, and to the late Falk and McCulley for creating these characters in the first place!