INTERVIEW WITH RON FORTIER!!!!-Creator/Writer/Publisher/Reviewer
|Ron Fortier (on left) and Rob Davis|
AP: Ron, ALL PULP really appreciates you putting all those irons you have in the fire down for a bit to answer some questions for us. First, tell us about yourself.
RF: I’ll be 64 born on Guy Fawkes Day, Nov.5th. A post war baby who grew up reading comics in the 50s and 60s and fell in love with them. Enough to want to pursue a career as a comics writer, while at the same time working for a local GE Plant in New Hampshire and raising a family of five (three boys and two girls) who in turn gave us six wonderful grand kids (four girls and two boys). Retired from the day job with a full pension almost eight years ago now and devote most of my time to the family and my writing. We recently sold the home in N.H. and moved to west to Fort Collins, Colorado where I am just now setting up my new office.
AP: Now, although this is an interview about your work in the pulp genre, you also have a background in writing in other fields, both past and present. Briefly, tell us what other mediums you’ve written and work in?
RF: Well, I mentioned the 30 yr. comics writing career which had me writing such diverse licensed characters as Popeye, Peter Pan and Rambo and my own inventions like the every popular Mr.Jigsaw Man of a Thousand Parts. I’m most known for my work on the Green Hornet for Now Comics and having written the first comic script ever illustrated by Alex Ross; Terminator – Burning Earth. About ten years ago I started writing pulp fiction and with Texas fantasy writer, Ardath Mayhar, wrote three paperback fantasy adventures. About the same time I wrote a play; a romantic comedy called Where Love Takes You that was performed by a local theater company. So I’ve dabbled in lots of various venues with this writing thing.
AP: How and when did your heavy involvement with pulp start? Were you a diehard fan like so many writers and artists in the genre now or did this interest and obsession come to you later in life?
RF: I’d always been aware of the pulps as having been genre of fantastic literature that spawned the comics. As my comics career grew, I kept learning more and more about those amazing magazines that entertained an entire generation during the Great Depression and that fascination led to my studying pulps and quickly becoming a devoted fan. So although I came to them late, my interest and passion for them has grown steadily over the years.
AP: You are one of the men behind Airship 27 Productions. What are the origins of Airship 27?
RF: Five years ago only a very few publishers were actively publishing new pulp adventures. Most outfits were content with reprinting the old originals over and over and over again. Wild Cat Books was one of these and I suggested to Ron Hanna the idea of publishing new material. He agreed to take a stab at it and I created Airship 27 Productions as a label for those all new books to be released under the Wild Cat book imprint. I wanted them set apart from his reprints. Hanna saw that these titles were selling extremely well and opted to do more of them himself. Whereas that would have meant we’d be competing against each other under one banner, we both agreed Airship 27 should divorce itself from Wild Cat Books and go it alone as an entirely new pulp publisher. Now along this journey, my old comic pal, artist Rob Davis, had joined me as Art Director and when we launched, he agreed to stay on as my partner in the venture wherever it took us.
AP: How would you define the mission and purpose of your publishing company. What are Airship 27’s plans and intentions?
RF: Airship 27 Productions’s mission is a simple one, to keep the pulp genre alive and healthy by publishing the best new pulp fiction and art available on the market today.
Over the past two years we’ve broadened our line up to include classic characters like Sherlock Holmes and Dr.Watson. We are bringing out brand new 30s pulp heroes created by our stable of talented writers and at the same time still shining the light on the classic heroes ala the Green Lama, Jim Anthony and Black Bat. In the coming years we hope to continue this diversity of books across an even wider spectrum of pulp titles.
AP: Airship 27 is partnered with Cornerstone Publishers. How did that come about and exactly what is the arrangement between the two companies?
RF: Initially Rob and I were going to self-publish our titles via print-on-demand like Wild Cat and all the others out there. Cornerstone Book Publishers is a traditional book publisher out of New Orleans run by Michael Poll. Michael learned what we had in mind with Airship 27 and offered to become our “real” publisher. Ergo, Rob and I produce the books and Cornerstone publishes them. Note they do so traditionally through their printer and get them out to all reputable book distributors while at the same time, they also offer print-on-demand edition on all our titles for those fans looking to save some pennies via an Airship 27 Lulu store. This is our way of thanking of pulp fans by allowing them to get our books through several different options.
AP: Airship 27 publishes pulp novels. What sort of properties are you currently working with, both of the public domain and original variety?
RF: Well I mentioned several of our classic public domain series such as Jim Anthony Super Detective and Green Lama. To date we’ve done books featuring these characters and have lots more on the way. At the same time we released B.C Bell’s Tales of the Bagman, a pulp hero he created in the classic mold of 30s adventures. Bell puts a nice spin on an old style of writing. At the moment we are gearing up to do another Secret Agent X, which will be our fourth in that series at the same time looking to debut several new heroes and a brand new anthology of such called Mystery Men now in production.
AP: What does it take to be a writer or artist at Airship 27? What are you looking for in staff members?
RF: There is no staff per se, just yours truly and Rob. As for how does one get to work for Airship 27, that’s an easy question to answer. All creators need do is send me a sample of their work. With writers I ask to see two pages of fiction focusing on high speed action, whereas artists have to impress me with their level of skill and understanding of what it means to illustrate a scene. It is not comic drawing and many artists really can’t do it. The same applies to those artists wanting to do our covers. They need to understand the differences between a comic cover and a fully painted pulp cover.
AP: Are there any long term plans for Airship 27 that go beyond publishing quality pulp collections and novels or are you and company just pleased to be doing what you’re doing?
RF: I don’t really see us expanding the books department. Being basically a two man operation, we’d like to continue releasing between 10 and 12 books a year. But at the same time we have also started putting together pulp themed comic books that will tie in with our prose books. We’ve a Captain Hazzard graphic novel in the works and another starring Secret Agent X. So in that regards, Airship 27 will expand to some degree.
AP: You are a publisher, but you came into this field a writer. What are some of your writing credits in the pulp field?
RF: Hmmm, okay. I created and wrote the Brother Bones character/anthology. Co-wrote the Hounds of Hell with Gordon Linzner wherein the Moon Man battles Doctor Satan and of course my four Captain Hazzard novels. I’ve also contributed shorts stories to many of Moonstone’s Chronicles series to include the Spider, the Phantom, Domino Lady, Green Hornet and the Avenger. I am also writing a comic strip pulp series for their Return of the Original lines starring I.V. Frost with art by Jake Minor.
AP: Captain Hazzard is one of your credits. You’ve written one novel and have another in the works. But Captain Hazzard’s original lifetime in the pulp lasted all of one issue of one magazine. What appeals to you about this character so much that you breathe life into him again in the modern era?
RF: I’ve actually written four Captain Hazzard novels, starting with my re-write of the one and only 1938 magazine adventure, Python Men of the Lost City. Then with Martin Powell, co-wrote Citadel of Fear, followed by Curse of the Red Maggot and finally Cavemen of New York. And yes, I am currently writing Captain Hazzard # 5 which I hope to have finished by the end of the year. Hazzard appealed to me because he very much a clean slate. Having only appeared in that one story, most of the potential inherent in the concept was never realized and I saw an opportunity to do that. To take the series in whatever direction I wanted to and make it mine. Something that would have been impossible doing pastiches of licenses stars like the Shadow and Doc Savage. Apparently the fans like what I’ve done with Captain Hazzard and want to seem more. I’m only happy to oblige them.
AP: Tell us a bit about your original characters you’ve created for pulp. Can you give us five or so sentences on any Fortier original pulp characters?
RF: Brother Bones is a former mob assassin who is sent back from the dead to atone for his sins by avenging the innocent victims of crime in the dark city of Cape Fear. He’s a zombie avenger and his stories deal with the supernatural. Whereas John Lazarus is the leader of the Ghost Squad that I created with a writer Andrew Salmon. He appeared in their debut novel, Rise of the Black Legion. He is the Lazarus from the bible and is immortal. He has led various teams throughout history in combating Satan’s legions and in this new pulp series, he puts together another team in the late 1930s to fight Hitler and the Nazis. Andrew and I hope to get a second book done in the near future.
AP: You’re also a reviewer of pulp fiction. Do you have a particular process you go through when doing a review? Do you just read the material, then write your opinion or do you have a checklist that you use when you read something, looking for certain things, or any other techniques you use in doing reviews?
RF: I have no set formula for writing my reviews. I merely read the book, allow my reactions to settle in and then write my honest thoughts about what I’ve read. Obviously for me to label anything pulp, be it a western, crime novel or sci-fi, it has to meet certain requirements ala fast pacing, exotic locales and heroic characters. If those are present, then I feel justified in reviewing the book as a pulp. Currently my Pulp Fiction Reviews are being posted on four different websites beside my original blog page. Guess you could say I’m net syndicated. Ha.
AP: You are founder and a member of the Pulp Factory? Just what is the Pulp Factory and what are the Pulp Factory awards?
RF: The Pulp Factory began as just another Yahoo Web Group for pulp fans. Thing is it just got bigger with more and more members. Two years ago, two of them suggested we create some kind of award to support and promote “new” pulp art and fiction. That year, at the Windy City Pulp Con, ten of us from the PF got together over breakfast one morning and hashed out the creation of the Pulp Factory Awards. Rob designed an actual statue and proceeded to find a sculpture to get them made. I, in turn, worked up the nomination and voting process and we created four categories to include Best Pulp Novel, Best Pulp Short Story, Best Pulp Cover and Best Pulp Interior Art. These to be awarded for material published the previous year. There were other parameters which we explained to the membership. Only members of the PF can nominate and vote on the final ballot awards. Then we contacted Doug Ellis, one of the promoters of Windy City and asked if we could make our first every presentation at their show this past Spring.
Thus we awarded the first ever Pulp Factory Awards for works done in 2009. They were a huge success and got us lots of great publicity and tons of new members, almost swelling our ranks to twice their size. Come Jan. 2011, nominations for the 2010 PFA will begin and by April, we will be giving out four more very cool statues at Windy City.
Note, any pulp fan reading this who would like to join the Pulp Factory and participate just needs to drop me a line. Membership is by invitation only.
AP: Any future projects you want to promote? Your own work? Anything on the horizon from Airship 27?
RF: Our most successful Airship 27 series to date has been our Sherlock Holmes – Consulting Detective which went to number 45 on the Amazon Mystery Anthology list. Bloody amazing. Volume Two sold just as well. I want to let all our SH fans know that we are indeed releasing a Volume Three in Jan. 2011 and the stories are as ever top notch, old fashion Holmes and Watson winners. Don Gates has created a new pulp hero called Challenger Storm and his first novel will soon be coming out and features interior art by one of the finest graphic artist in the history of American illustrations. His identity will surprise lots of people. And writer R.A. Jones has signed on to write a new series of adventure fantasy books for us that I can only describe as the exploits of a Native American Conan in a world where there were no Europeans to invade these shores. It has the potential to be something truly unique and pure pulp magic. Tentative title, Deathwalker. Look for that also in 2011. That and of course lots and lots of other cool pulp stuff.
AP: Ron, it’s been a genuine pleasure sitting down with you!
RF : Pleasure was all mine, thanks a million!