INTERVIEW WITH ALL PULP’S TOMMY HANCOCK!!!
AP: Thanks for agreeing to take the Hot Seat, Tommy. First up, please, give us a little background as to your age, education and where you hang your hat these days.
TH: I guess it’s only fair that I take my turn, but man, I do like it better where you’re sitting. Well, I’m 38, I have a Masters’ in History with a certification in Secondary Education, but most of my work experience has been in the area of mental health, juvenile law, and marketing. As for where I hang my often tipped fedora, it has its own nail in my home in Melbourne, Arkansas (smaller than a small town) where I live with my three children, Braeden, my miracle, Alex, my gift, and Kailee, my angel, and their mother who there isn’t enough purple prose to describe how wonderful she is, Lisa.
AP: Before jumping into Pulps, were you a comic book fan and if so, how much? Were you a big collector and con-attendee?
TH: Con attendee, no. I have hit a handful that were close to where I lived, the farthest away being Dallas. And I was a major comic book fan, focusing almost exclusively growing up on DC Comics, but not really the mainstream stuff. I’ve always had an interest in the Golden Age characters as well as obscure characters. Superman, Batman, etc. are great, but give me The Red Bee, Johnny Quick, and Brother Power, the Geek anytime. But your question was about me being a comic fan before jumping into Pulps…actually it was sort of the other way around.
AP: So how did you discover Pulps? And what was it about Pulps that made you want to get involved with the genre?
TH: The first two books I remember seeing areThe Bible and a Doc Savage paperback. I’m sure it was one of the Bantams, but I have no idea which one. I just remember the image on the front of this large bronze skinned man face forward, looking right at me. Comics came some time after that, but before them came the random Doc Savage novel, my tripping across a reference to The Shadow and other hints of Pulp, while also becoming completely enamored with black and white movies, old serials, and especially old time radio. I guess it’s no wonder that when I did get into comics, I was drawn to the obscure and the old.
What drew me into the Pulps is easy to answer. I grew up steeped in John Wayne, Sherlock Holmes, Steve McGarrett, Wyatt Earp, Hercules, Rick Blaine, Paul Bunyan, Han Solo, and Robert B. Parker’s Spenser among others. The story/myth/legend of the Hero has always been a part of my life and exploring that, adding to that, weaving my own tales of Heroic fiction…that’s one of only a few things I always knew I would do.
AP: What was your first real entry into the world of Pulps?
TH: As a fan, that first book. As a writer, it’s actually been fairly recent. I am a partner in a company, Pro Se Productions (www.proseproductions.com). My partner, Fuller Bumpers (Writer/artist/actor) came to me with an idea to get into production of some sort, originally video and audio. We worked on audio as well as developing some stage stuff, but I brought the focus of print work with me. It turned out after our first set of audio productions (all three of which are available for free on our site) that print in a lot of ways would be easier, more profitable, and better overall. That was more the editing side initially, although I do write.
My first published work was in an Airship 27 anthology, THE MASKED RIDER: TALES OF THE WILD WEST. I wrote a story focusing on my favorite Earp brother, Virgil. Fortunately, it was well received enough that not only am I writing another Virgil story for Airship 27, but the state paper did a story on my first published work as well as Pulp in general.
AP: Tell us more about Pro Se Productions. Where did the idea come from and was it realized exactly as you had imagined or did you have to adjust certain concepts to make it real?
TH: Well, Pro Se Productions is a company that Fuller, my partner, started after he returned to Arkansas from spending a few years as an actor and writer in LA. He brought me on board a year and a half year ago. Pro Se is a print (for now) production company focused on the publishing of monthly Pulp. The idea to go into print was largely mine in one respect, but also came out of Pro Se wanting to throw its net as wide as it could initially and then narrow the concept appropriately. That narrowing happened fairly quickly and our focus for the foreseeable future is Pulp related, print and conventions primarily.
As far as adjusting concepts, you bet. As I said before, we started out producing audio and for a variety of reasons changed that direction to print. Our original plan was to produce three monthly magazines and although we had the material for it, time was a major factor as were the general issues with putting together one print project, much less three. We are extremely lucky in that we have a formatter, Ali, a good longtime friend and supporter of mine and an absolute genius at putting our books together. His work is art all by itself. Still, three issues a month is a load, so after we got the original debut issues of each title out, we readjusted our plan.
AP: How many different titles is Pro Se doing and what’s the schedule?
TH: OK, well, let’s start at the beginning. We debuted three number one issues two months ago. After those, we determined we would be better off putting out one magazine a month, so we created one title with three rotating ‘subtitles. Pro Se Productions puts out PRO SE PRESENTS monthly, around the middle of the month give or take. The three subtitles (PECULIAR ADVENTURES, MASKED GUN MYSTERY, AND FANTASY AND FEAR) rotate under that banner, retaining their original numbering. PRO SE PRESENTS PECULIAR ADVENTURES 2 came out in September. PRO SE PRESENTS FANTASY AND FEAR 2 will be out early next week. PRO SE PRESENTS MASKED GUN MYSTERY 2 will be out in November, then the rotation starts again.
Also, starting next year, Pro Se will be producing collections, anthologies, original books, and comics.
AP: I alluded to your Theater experience. Before getting into the other Pulp stuff, how about some info about your work in community theater. Are you solely a producer, or do you direct and act as well?
TH: It’s funny being called a producer at all because I’ve never really seen myself as such, but I guess I am. I organized, started, and ended a community theater in my area in the past three years. We are still an acting troupe of sorts, held together in case Pro Se ever steps back toward the stage arena. I am also the Drama Director for our church drama ministry, ACTS OF FAITH. I direct, act, write, stage manage, costume design, pretty much I do it all as is the wont when you are in community theater. Now, if you are asking how well I do it all, I’m definitely the wrong guy to answer that.
AP: Okay, now for the real big topic. Where in the hell did you get the idea to launch a full blown weekend Pulp Convention? And did your friends and family think you were crazy when you first suggested it?
TH: They thought I was crazy before then for writing, jumping into a production company, starting my own theater, and all the other wild things I’ve somehow been associated with in my lifetime. As for where the idea came from, part of it has to do with that just being who I am. Anything I become involved in, I’m always looking at how to do it more, what the next level is, and how I can get there. A bigger contributor, though, to the genesis of Pulp Ark has to do with the local interest and support. Once the article about my first publication came out, people, both individuals and groups, came to me and congratulated me. Some suggested getting these ‘Pulp writers’ together and doing readings and such, then some others took that a step farther and suggested some writers workshops and the like. Well, all that stirring of ideas mixed together in my head and came out as Pulp Ark.
And let’s clarify, Pulp Ark is not simply a convention. It is that, most definitely, but it is also designed to be a conference for writers and artists of Pulp fiction. Even if a single fan does not walk through the door (God forbid), the action is so designed that this will be an opportunity for us as a community to learn, grow, and work together to improve the craft we call Pulp.
AP: Do you have a ballpark tally of just how many Pulp creators are going to be attending the first ever Pulp Ark? What kind of con events will be happening at this show?
TH: The show is May 13-15, 2011 in Batesville, AR, about 90 miles straight north of Little Rock, three hours from Memphis, five hours from St. Louis, six hours from Dallas. Right now, looking at the guest list that I know is confirmed, we have over 20 creators that will be present. I have sort of an informal goal of having 50 different creators minimum at this thing and I really think we can get to that. In hopes of doing that, we are offering free tables to Pulp writers, artists, and publishers. Vendors we are charging, but its a very small fee. And let me say, although we don’t have any vendors yet per se, this is an extremely vendor friendly conference/convention.
As for events, well, there’s quite a few and news will be forthcoming on even more…but there will of course be panels of all types from Pulp writers and artists. There will be writers’ and artists’ workshops as well because I don’t care how long you’ve done this, something can be learned by all of us all of the time. There will be evening events as well. And since this is being done on Main Street Batesville, there are events being planned for family members of attendees as well as for guests and vendors up and down the street.
Also, there will be an interactive drama that will take place the entire weekend. It utilizes my troupe of actors and it is a live action Pulp adventure that will take place without warning throughout Pulp Ark. Other things in the works include a gallery showing of Pulp Art as well as an art auction, and the First Annual Pulp Ark Awards will be presented. And yes, there will be more information on all of this hitting the newsstand in the coming days.
AP: You have a reputation for being the hardest working creator in Pulps today.
After everything else you were doing, what was the inspiration behind starting All Pulp and what do you see as its primary mission?
TH: The idea for All Pulp has been with me for a long time. Having been a comic fan, I’ve frequented the website Comic Book Resources quite a bit and have thought for at least two or three years that Pulp needed a site to do for it what CBR does for comics. Now, don’t get me wrong. The definitive site for listing what is available for purchase in the Pulp field has existed for a long time and Bill Thom’s Coming Attractions is still a weekly stop for me and always will be. What All Pulp is designed to be is the step beyond Coming Attractions. All Pulp is the news venue for Pulp, the behind the scenes peek at the creators, the history, all of it, and delivered in a variety of styles. Its mission is pretty evident in its name and in the content the Spectacled Seven, that’s the crew, myself included, behind All Pulp, have been putting on the site. To deliver all the news and more that can be called Pulp.
AP: There’s been a little internet flak concerning the team you recruited for All Pulp.
Would you like to explain your reasoning for choosing this particular group?
This is simple, really. The six people who make up the Spectacled Seven with me were, at the time that All Pulp became a reality the six people I talked to within the Pulp genre more than anyone else. When I decided to do All Pulp, it was because discussions with these six people, all individually, never as a group initially, often went toward discussing the need for a one stop shop for news and such for Pulp. Did I discuss it more with some of them than others, yes, but it was a discussion I had with people I was talking to, most of them nightly, because they were my friends and the people I talked to.
And, in their own rights, these guys are no slouches. Each one brings a different set of skills and benefits to the table. Now, does that mean that they were the only people that could have been a part of this crew? No, and trust me, some people have not been shy about telling me and others that. Within the past five weeks, every member of the Spectacled Seven, myself included on multiple occasions, has been mentioned by someone as ‘not being qualified to be a part of a news site’ or that there is ‘someone more qualified to cover Pulp news than him.’ Well, as far as more qualified, I will guarantee you there are people in this field that have been at it longer, know more, and have given far more to it than I have at this point. There is absolutely no argument there. And the six people that helped me start this were not chosen for any reason other than they shared my interest in getting this done and we actively talked about it and they each brought talents with them. I am likely not the most qualified, although I don’t know of a list of ‘qualifications’ that exists anywhere, to front a Pulp news website. The fact of the matter is, though, that I have done just that.
The Spectacled Seven will remain the same seven people until one or more of them moves on. Having said that, though, All Pulp welcomes writers to present articles on history, events, etc. There will be guest writers in the future, guaranteed. I have discussed this with several notable names in the field and have been told by at least two that I will be receiving work from them soon. All Pulp, I hope, has done a good job of showing that it is fair and open for the entire Pulp community and I definitely welcome submission of articles from guest writers. But I’m also supportive and glad to be a part of the Spectacled Seven with the six men working with me.
AP: Back to personal focus now. Is there a particular classic Pulp hero you enjoy more than others and why?
|Peculiar Oddfellow, drawn by Erik Burnham|
TH: Not a particular hero, no…but a particular type of hero. I may be in the minority, but I am a major fan of obscure, little known and/or little used characters. Now, do not mistake me. I am a Doc Savage/Shadow/Spider/etc. fan and always will be. But as far as writing and creating, I am fascinated with taking a character that has a bit of history, that has the makings of something great, and trying to weave that something great out of what little is there. So, yes, the less known, the more appealing to me.
AP: Aside from your own Pro Se, you have worked for other Pulp outfits. What can we expect from your fantastic imagination in the near future fiction wise?
TH: Well, due to some medical issues I’ve struggled with for a while and am still dealing with-I’m basically fighting a battle with diabetes and who’s winning depends on the day- I have had to cut out some writing projects (And thank you by the way to all within the community who have been supportive and understanding and encouraging while I’ve been dealing with this). Basically what I had to do was trim my writing commitments down to what was already in progress, to the projects I had actually put words on the page for. Even with doing that, though, the list of what’s coming in the next year or so is pretty substantial.
Age of Adventure, Wayne Skiver’s company, has a ‘VAMPIRES VERSUS WEREWOLVES’ anthology due out around Halloween and I have a story, “Beastly and Bloody” in that collection. I also have two stories that have been done in the last few months centered around my concept THE MAN FROM SHADOW LIMB that have appeared in issues 1 and 2 of Age of Adventure’s SIX GUN WESTERN.
I have three projects in various levels of progress for Airship 27. Two short stories, the previously mentioned follow up to my Virgil Earp tale and one set in the South Seas for a collection entitled TALES FROM THE HANGING MONKEY. I also have my first full length novel in the works for Airship. It’s centered around an obscure Pulp character and is entitled FUNNY FACE: RICH MEN KILL EASY.
|The Shipman from YESTERYEAR
Art by Fuller Bumpers
I’m also working on adapting a whole universe of characters of my own creation, my take on golden age characters entitled YESTERYEAR, into audio scripts for Brokensea Audio Productions. Some of these characters have already appeared in prose form in magazines from Pro Se, including one in a story penned several years ago by Derrick Ferguson.
Speaking of my own magazine, I am writing the adventures of one of our flagship characters, Peculiar Oddfellow for each and every issue of PRO SE PRESENTS PECULIAR ADVENTURES. I am also working on one third of what is being called THE SOVEREIGN CITY PROJECT, the other two thirds being done by Barry Reese and Derrick Ferguson. My character is DOC DAYE, 24 HOUR HERO. I have a third series in the works as well that will debut next year in the Pro Se lineup. That series will focus on a character by the name of Jameson Journey…more on that later.
|Ad for ‘Peculiar Oddfellow’ Comic
due 2011 from Pro Se
Art by Lou Manna
Colors by John Palmer IV
Also from Pro Se, scheduled to debut early next year, will be a four issue comic mini series entitled THE VARIED ADVENTURES OF PECULIAR ODDFELLOW. I’m very excited about this as Pec is a character that I’ve had ready to go for almost ten years now. The artwork on this book is done and most masterfully so by comic veteran Lou Manna. This will be a pleasure to see, trust me.
I’m also working on the outline for ‘THE CASE OF THE BLOODY PULP’ which is the story at the center of the interactive drama at Pulp Ark next year. The story will be plotted by me and co written with Bobby Nash.
And then there’s a project, one of those ‘I’m not at liberty to discuss it yet, but when I am…’ things…Actually, there’s two of those…
AP: Tommy, thanks so much for taking time out from your always busy schedule to take the hot seat and best of luck with all your great endeavors.
TH: Thanks a ton for interviewing me. Now…uh…can I have my chair back on THAT side of the table please?