PULP ARTIST’S WEEKEND-ARTIST TERRY TIDWELL AND WRITER JOHN WOOLEY!
AP: Tell us a bit about Miracle Squad and Twilight Avenger and how these books came about?
John: The Miracle Squad is a loosely knit group of people from a Poverty Row movie studio who band together to try and prevent a takeover of the company by a powerful L.A. gangster. Running the gamut from studio head to star to handyman, they find adventure in 1930s Hollywood, and beyond.
The Twilight Avenger
also takes place in the late 1930s, but in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Tulsa was a progressive city, the “Oil Capital of the World,” the place to be in the Midwest. The banks were full of money, and Oklahoma had its share of flamboyant bank robbers such as Pretty Boy Floyd and Bonnie and Clyde. Reese Chambers, local college football star, suffers a loss at the hands of some of these bank robbers. With the help of a college chemistry professor, who was active in the design of gas weaponry in World War I, a gas gun is created and Reese dons a gas mask and goes after them as the Twilight Avenger.
That story, by the way, will be a part of the boatload of extras planned for the Miracle Squad graphic novels from Pulp 2.0 Press.
AP: How did you hook up with everyone’s favorite Mad Pulp Bastard, Bill Cunningham, at Pulp 2.0 Press?
John: Bill actually contacted us. As it turned out, he’d bought the original issues of Miracle Squad and the Twilight Avenger off the stands in the ‘80s, and he’d enjoyed them and remembered them when he decided to start his press. One phone conversation convinced me that his heart and head were both in the right place, and we were delighted to have the characters come out again under the Pulp 2.0 imprint.
Plus, Bill obviously navigates cyberspace with ease, and is hip to all the most current ways of marketing and delivering books and comics to this generation, which opens us up to a vast potential new audience. Me, I don’t even understand my own website.
Terry: Bill contacted me via Facebook.
AP: Do you have plans to tell new stories with Miracle Squad and/or Twilight Avenger?
John: We’d love to. When the black-and-white comics boom went bust, we still had plenty of ideas we hadn’t yet been able to get down on paper. Thanks to MPB and his Pulp 2.0 Press, we may just get a chance to do that – even if it is a generation later.
AP: Both Miracle Squad and/or Twilight Avenger have a pulp vibe to them. Are you fans of the pulps?
John: As I said earlier, I’m a huge pulp fan. In fact, my love of pulps has provided me with some of my writing income over the years. I’ve either edited or co-edited a number of pulp-story collections, including At the Stroke of Midnight and Thrilling Detective Heroes for Adventure House, Super-Detective Flip Book for Off Trail Press, and Robert Leslie Bellem’s Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective for Popular Press.
I’m sort of considered the authority on Dan Turner, certainly one of the wackiest hard-boiled detectives to see print, and he’s been good to me. In addition to editing a couple of Turner collections, I wrote a Dan Turner series for Eternity Comics and scripted the 1990 made-for-TV movie Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective (aka The Raven Red Kiss-Off), which starred Marc (Beastmaster, V) Singer as Dan.
I’m a regular attendee at the Windy City Pulp & Paperback Convention and PulpFest (as well as its predecessor, Pulpcon). At Pulpcon 35 in 2006, I was honored with the Lamont Award, given “for outstanding effort in keeping alive the memory and spirit of the Pulp Magazine Era.”
Growing up, I was a fan of Houdini. I used to practice escaping from ropes and such, and seeing how long I could hold my breath using Houdini’s methods ( such as forcing air into your stomach and burping it up, ha) . I owned a couple of books exposing how Houdini did his escapes. They were written by Walter Gibson, Houdini’s assistant.
Gibson also wrote the Shadow. So yeah, I read and enjoyed the Shadow too.
I think Miracle Squad has a Doc Savage feel to it, while Twilight Avenger has elements of The Shadow.
Twilight Avenger I knew of John way before I actually met him. I’d heard the talk around Chelsea, Oklahoma of this wonder boy, who sat around reading newspapers when he was four years old. They said he had a monstrous comic book collection. I had a drawer half full of them. Then , while I was in junior high, I became friends with his younger brother, Mark. One day when I was over at Mark’s house, and John was away at college, Mark asked if I wanted to see John’s comic book collection. He led me up narrow stairs to a small room over the garage. The room’s walls were covered with old movie posters and photos. In a case of huge wooden drawers was the mother lode! He had everything: Fantastic Four, Avengers , Spiderman and something I’d never heard of …. PULPS. I remember being nervous, thinking what would happen if John were to return at that moment and find his neatly stored editions strewn all over the floor.Jump to years later…… I was in college and Mark introduced us. I was trying to break into comics then and John had some cool ideas for stories. We started to work……
AP: Both Miracle Squad and Twilight Avenger were originally published in the 1980’s. What makes this is the perfect time for these pulp graphic novels to return?
John: Maybe it’s just me, but I seem to be seeing a pulp renaissance, or maybe just a new pulp sensibility, out there in the zeitgeist right now. Part of the heyday of the actual pulp magazines was the Great Depression, and those wild escapist stories provided a few hours of stress relief for millions of strung-out and worried folks. We’re in some fairly hard times today as well, and the great thing is that pulps still work, still provide some beautiful alpha waves for readers beset upon by the world, or simply looking for a little entertainment.
Both the Twilight Avenger and the Miracle Squad, I think, carry the true spirit of the old-time pulps. We’re not being cynical or post-modern. We love to read this kind of stuff ourselves. I read a lot, in fact, and sometimes nothing but a pulp will do.
Well……hmmmm. Pulp-based projects have had a tough go of it over the years, with Indiana Jones movies being the one exception. I think a lot of pulp projects throughout the last few decades were presented tongue in cheek , with camp sensibilities. They’ve had these great properties such as Doc Savage or The Phantom, and just didn’t take the subject matter seriously. John and I love, understand and have respect for the pulps. I think our approach in Miracle Squad and Twilight Avenger will be what makes this a “perfect time” for pulp graphic novels. YES!!!! We have untold stories, and ideas for new tales! I was a fan of Doc Savage. I was pulled in by those gorgeous James Bama covers!!! I have a collection of them now. The concept of Doc Savage and his band of five, working out of the top of the Empire State building engages me and sparks all kinds of images! Oh, by the way Lester Dent worked at the Tulsa World newspaper for a bit, way back then. John used to work for the World too!
AP: What does pulp mean to you?
John: Pulp is something more than escapism and nostalgia, although the best of it contains both those elements. But I think there has to be a sense of wonder there, too, a willingness to, as the saying goes, suspend your disbelief and give yourself over to the material, just as you would have when you were a kid.
The world wasn’t so well explored back in those pulp days. Who knew then? Maybe there was a Pellucidar at the bottom of the planet, a city of Opar in the jungles of Africa, or a group of Mayan miners tending to a secret gold mine in central America.
I guess pulp gives me a chance to imagine what it would be like to live in that era. Of course the reality of that time was that of an economic depression. Pulps were an escape then from the economic realities of the day. Hmmmm. Maybe it is the perfect time for a pulp resurgence! Creating pulp-based comics is just pure fun!. I love the design of the cars, the airplanes, blimps and locomotives of that era. I also love the clunkiness of the machines of that time, whether it’s an autogyro or mechanical desktop calculator. I used to be an engineer before I quit to draw Miracle Squad and Twilight Avenger. I love being able to look at these old machines and envision how they actually worked and how simple they were in terms of today’s high-tech wonders. The art deco buildings and streamlined designs are beautiful.
AP: Where can readers find information on Miracle Squad and Twilight Avenger?
I’m also, Lord help me, tweeting @JohnSWooley
Terry:I know John has already listed his web site. I have quite a bit of stuff concerning Miracle Squad and Twilight Avenger on my blog: http://uncannymanfrog.wordpress.com/
AP: Where can readers find learn more about John Wooley, Terry Tidwell, and your work?
John: Same places.
Terry: www.miraclestudios.com is my art studio. It was named after Miracle Studios in the Miracle Squad. You can see lots of my current work there. Also at Miracle Studios’ blog at http://miraclestudiosblog.wordpress.com/An interview by Doug Kelly featuring John and me and our work on The Miracle Squad will be published soon in Back Issue magazine, published by Two Morrows Publishing . http://twomorrows.com/John and I are in an exhibit at the Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City. If you go there you can watch videos of us going on and on about comics, ha. Art from the books is on display and the Twilight Avenger costume, complete with gas gun and magnesium light stands there in a glass case! Check it out here…..http://www.okiecartoonists.org/Information about John and me, as well as art from Twilight Avenger and Miracle Squad, is on display at the Toy and Action Figure Museum in Pauls Valley, Oklahoma, where we were both inducted into the Oklahoma Cartoonists Hall of Fame. http://www.actionfiguremuseum.com/oklahoma_cartoonists.htm
John: I have two books scheduled to hit the shelves next spring: Wes Craven: A Man and His Nightmares, from John Wiley and Sons, and Shot in Oklahoma, a history of movies made in the state, from the University of Oklahoma Press. With Pulp 2.0 Press scheduled to bring out the first of the Miracle Squad/Twilight Avenger books around the same time, it should be a pretty lively season for me. Thankfully.
Terry: I’m working on two new graphic novels which will debut at Comic Con next year: “Blood Code” which is a new Uncanny Man-Frog book, and “Liberty” set in a futuristic dystopia where a Joan of Arc type character, leads a boy scout army against the evil status quo.
AP: Are there any upcoming convention appearances or signings coming up where fans can meet you and pick up copies of Miracle Squad and/or Twilight Avenger?
John: At this point, I plan on making the Windy City Pulp and Paperback Convention in Chicago on April 15-17, and PulpFest in Columbus, Ohio, July 29-31. I’m sure there will be other signings and appearances for one or both of us.
Terry: I will be at Comic Con next year. Look me up!
AP: Thanks, John and Terry.
John: Thank you, Bobby. We appreciate it, and if there’s anything else you need from me, please let me know.