AP: Wayne, thanks a ton for taking a break from your busy schedule, much of which we’ll discuss in a bit, to sit down with ALL PULP. Before we get into you and Pulp, can you give us a bit of background on yourself?
WS: I’m tempted to quote Dr. Evil “The circumstances of my upbringing are quite inconsequential.” but Sure: I’m a lifelong fan and collector of comics and fantastic fiction. My two first heroes were Batman and oddly enough Conan the Barbarian, the Marvel Comics version. Those 1970’s Conan comics were the gateway to pulps for me and as a kid I devoured Robert E. Howard and quickly discovered and fell in love with Doc Savage. My interests naturally led to me wanting to tell my own stories.
AP: You have your hands in several things pulpwise, so let’s tackle it in pieces. First, your writing. Can you give us an overview of your published works, both fiction and nonfiction, in the field of pulp?
WS: Yow…that list is getting away from me! I was surprised myself when I started going over it recently. From fan fiction and little no name local comic fanzines as a teen to my first “real” published story which featured my own pulp hero, Prof. Stone. about six years ago. An overview: I’ve written and am writing articles on Comics History for Jim Main’s “Comic Fan!” magazine, Several articles on the history of golden age heroes and classic comic creators, a well recieved article on the history of Doctor Who as well as a handful of Sci-Fi and Fantasy stories for Startling Stories and Lost Sanctum, I’ve had stories in various anthologies with classic characters such as Ki-Gor, The Black Bat, Doctor Satan and The Griffon. I’ve done a good deal of costumed super hero prose, primarily in my own universe but I also contributed a story in that genre for Van Plexico’s Sentinels Widescreen edition. The last couple of years I’ve been having some fun in the Western Genre. I have a few original characters, most notably Prof. Stone. I was (and still am) dumbfounded that I was recently asked to write an Avenger story for Moonstone.
AP: Now, you have a handful of original characters, but one stands out. Tell us about Prof. Stone.
WS: Professor William Henry Stone is my homage to Doc Savage. He’s not as simple as a pastiche though, he has very much become his own character. One fan once described him as “A cross between Doc Savage and Remo Williams”. I love that. To date he has appeared in 2 novellas and half a dozen short stories. He also guest stars in Barry Reese’s latest Rook volume. Several new stories are in the works.
AP: You are also a publisher. Can you tell us about how you started Age of Adventure, what your company produces, and the mission and purpose of Age of Adventure?
WS: Age of Adventure (AofA for short) started out putting together collected editions of Public Domain Comic book material. Basically it was stuff I wanted on my shelf in a nice format that didn’t cost too much. Others seemed to agree and sales were good. It quickly grew into what it is now. We publish 3 ongoing magazines as well as the odd Pulp anthology, collection or novel. You can check out our storefront at: http://stores.lulu.com/goldenage1
We try to keep costs as low as possible so that more people can afford to enjoy them. Our goal is simply to put out material that the fans want to read!
AP: Age of Adventure covers several sub genres within pulp, but two in particular have been prominent from you in the last year or so. What appeals to you about the western story and about war stories?
WS: I don’t know if War stories are big from us, but I love a story that embraces adventure combined with brotherhood and often thats the core element of a good War story. Our Westerns have been selling gangbusters! I grew up watching Western movies and TV shows and have always been a big fan of John Wayne, Chuck Connors, Clint Eastwood, etc. I feel that Western stories are so appealing due to the fact that its an American take on the classic Knight Errant. Wandering hero, codes of honor, tin stars in place of armor and six guns instead of swords. Plenty of damsels in distress too. Whats not to love? Every story is like re-visiting a Saturday morning of my childhood.
AP: You also are the organizer/creator of your very own convention? Can you tell us about that, what it’s called, its history, that sort of thing?
WS: I run “Savage Con” once a year in St. Louis. This will be the second year under that name, there were 3 prior which were known as the “LaPlata Doc Con” due to the fact that they were held in LaPlata, Mo. The hometown of Doc Savage scribe Lester Dent. It started as a simple gathering of Doc Savage friends and while we’ve kept our original crew of attendees its blossomed into something a bit bigger than it originally was.
AP: Doc Savage is definitely a well known character and has influenced many fans, writers, and artists? What goes into building a convention around a single character? Is there enough about Doc to warrant that much attention over a two or three day period?
WS: Our get together is a day and a half and there is definitely enough Doc to fill that. He’s the archtype for so many heroes today and has such a rich history and catalog of stories. Doc fandom is very much a brotherhood all its own. From buying, selling, and trading, to fanmade original swag, discussions and trivia. One of our brotherhood, Matt Hiebert, put together a really wonderful “DOC”umentary even.
AP: What about this year’s Con? What’s the agenda for those who attend?
WS: The typical Trading, Buying, Selling, and comradarie. A silent auction for some original Doc Art, Trivia contests with prizes, and various pulpy films to be shown. We may even have a book signing or two. One of our regulars is Dr. Art Sippo who wrote “Sun Koh: Heir of Atlantis” released through AofA. Art is one of the nicest and most knowledgeable guys you could ever meet.
AP: What are your long term plans for Savage Con?
WS: I’m hoping to start attracting comic fans as well as pulp fans, and possibly expand some content that is still high adventure, but not nec. Doc-specific. Just to add to the fun.AP: All right, now on to for what is probably for some the most interesting aspect currently of your relationship to pulp. You are a chef by trade. And now you own a restaurant. Can you describe the Raygun Café’ for us?
WS: Absolutely! Raygun Cafe’ was born in part out of my attempts to get some kind of Pulp Museum going. Things didn’t work out in LaPlata to that end, though I and some other fans did get a nice, permanent Dent/Doc display established at the Library in his hometown. Raygun is basically the pulp and comic version of a Hard Rock cafe’. Pulp, comic, and Sci-Fi art and memorabilia, Serials, OTR, etc. Thats the atmosphere and the food is second to none! Italian beef, Gourmet Hotdogs, Panini’s, fresh, seasonal soups and stews and local micro brews and artisan beers. A lot of positive buzz locally so far!
AP: Pulp is definitely a genre that is on the upswing, experiencing a renaissance. Is there a market for a pulp themed restaurant and if so, what market are you targeting?
WS: We’re targeting not only fans who know the genre, but fans of adventure and nostalgia buffs as well. I think the market for such an endeavor is ready to be tapped. Who doesn’t love action and heroic imagery? Who doesn’t love to eat!? Its got a big eye appeal factor, its family friendly, and I plan to try and sneak a little pulp history lesson in here and there to help create a new generation of fans.
AP: Now, this is much more than a restaurant for you. You’ve been quoted as describing it as an educational experience as well. Would you mind elaborating on that?
WS: The artwork, pulps, and comics on display naturally lend themselves to discussion and people asking questions. I’m working up info-cards with pulp and creator history tidbits to display as well as just being available and encouraging questions and discussion on the decor and exhibits. “Who is that guy?” will be something a person asks once and winds up answering for others later.
AP: Can you tell us what patrons can expect to be on the menu at the Raygun Café? Also, what artifacts/displays they might expect to see from the world and history of pulp?
WS: Well, as I said before on the menu, we’ll have Italian Beef (Art Sippo will vouch for how good that is!) French Dips, Deli style sandwiches and sides, Various gourmet Hotdogs, Panini’s, fresh soups, stews, and chowders, and when weather permits, we have a grill out back for BBQ specials. Just don’t touch the art!!
As for displays we have original pulps and vintage comics, Pulp and Sci-Fi artwork enlarged to gigantic size, Retro space toys, and original genre related artwork from local artists (including some amazing stained glass). I’ll be constantly rotating the actual pulps and comics that are displayed and will likely have “Gallery Talk” sessions when I do so.
AP: What are the future plans for the Raygun? In ten years, will there be one in every major city in America, if you have your way?
WS: …gah! One is enough stress right now! I’m certainly not against franchising, but we need to get this one going strong first. Right now the goal is to excite the masses and provide an income for my family!
AP: Let’s back up and talk about your writing a bit more? What particular process do you go through to create a character and write a story? Do you just sit and let the words flow from your fingers or do you follow a particular pattern?
WS: I’m very much comic book inspired, I tend to think very visually and i’ve been told I write that way as well. Someone once told me “Your stories are too comic book!” They meant that as an insult, I took it as a compliment. I never outline anything to be honest. Usually I’ll get an idea for a scene or a story and let it evolve in my head for a few days, after that I sit down and hammer it out. Once I get going with a character they pretty much write themselves, I just provide a situation they have to deal with and they act accordingly. I don’t obsess with daily wordcounts and such, that simply builds frustration. If I have a story to tell I tell it. If it takes me a day or a month to write it then thats what it takes. I basically write stories I myself would like to read.
AP: What sort of stories and writers is Age of Adventure interested in?
WS: Right now we’re taking open submissions for our Western Magazine (short stories). We also look for good, solid action and adventure in any setting, from pulp era to contemporary. I like working with writers I’m familiar with, but if you have a good story to tell, I’m happy to give it a shot. I’ll be honest, being a publisher, even a small press one, you get your fill of big egos pretty quick. Politeness and humility go a long way towards getting anything you want in this world!
AP: What’s in the future for Age of Adventure?
WS: We have our ongoing Western Mag issue 3 of which is due out later this month, and a really fantastic anthology which will be hitting the stands by the 20th titled “Vampires Vs. Werewolves”. Great cover art by Rob Moran on that one. Thrilling Adventures is gearing up to return along with Super Heroic Tales (our other two magazines). We have a collection of Barry Reese’s stories in a variety of pulpy genres titled “Dangerous Worlds”, and Art Sippo is busy working on Sun Koh 2…
AP: What about Wayne Skiver, the writer? Anything coming down the pike you want the public to know about?
WS: Actually i’ve been hard at work scripting a comic series with some original characters. Can’t say too much about that right now, but its going to be a lot of fun and I’m working with some really amazing like-minded cohorts. The next issue of Comic Fan! from Main Enterprises has an article on the history of the Charlton Action Heroes from me as well.
AP: Wayne, it’s been awesome to spend some time with you. Anytime you want to push Age of Adventure, the restaurant, the convention, or what you’re writing, let us know!
WS: Thank you, it was good to talk with you. The pulp community is a close niche, its good to have a site to get a glimpse of whats going on in various aspects of all things pulp, print and non!