AP:Mike, Welcome once more to ALL PULP.Catch us up on what you’ve been doing since the last time you sat in the interview chair.
Mike Bullock: Hi, thanks for having me back. Let’s see, since last time we met I’ve pitched four New Pulp ideas and I can thank God that all four have been accepted by the publishers I pitched ‘em too. That ‘depths of the gut’ feeling I get when waiting for a publisher to reply to a pitch really sucks… even more so when they don’t come back with a “yes”. One pitch I was even able to blow wide open and turn it into four new books, by yours truly and three other writers far more talented than myself, that will pit some enduring pulp heroes against some equally enduring monsters in this Octobers RETURN OF THE MONSTERS from Moonstone Books. I’ve also plotted out four short stories for my original New Pulp character Totem’s new anthology coming in 2012 from Pro Se and written the first five thousand-ish words for my first full-length novel, coming in 2012 from Airship 27 featuring my original New Pulp hero Runemaster. Somewhere in all that, I’ve proofed the first Black Bat graphic novel (yes, it’s the first of many to come, never fear!), worked on my all-ages series Lions, Tigers and Bears and a few other comic projects I have going. Somewhere in all that, I’ve found time to hang with my beautiful wife and awesome son as we prepare to move cross country once again in June.
AP:You have a very special project coming up for Moonstone that deals with one of your original characters.What is that?
MB: One of the aforementioned pitches was for the first ever full-length Death Angel novel, coming in the new Moonstone Books New Pulp novel line. I plotted out the story a few weeks back and just ironed out the agreement with Moonstone last week. Hopefully, this time next year, I’ll have three prose books featuring Runemaster, Totem and Death Angel sitting on my bookshelf… and hopefully on your bookshelf, too.
AP:For readers who don’t know, can you share some background on Death Angel, who she is, what inspired you, the whole kit and caboodle?
MB: Death Angel is my take on the dark vigilante type, with a twist. Years ago I developed a slightly different character I’d dubbed Revenant. He was pretty much just a vehicle for me to tell stories I would rather tell while writing Moon Knight comics, I’m ashamed to admit. Sadly, doing that meant Revenant wasn’t really fully-fleshed out as his own man, so to speak. I worked with an artist to try to pitch some Revenant comics, but it just didn’t work out. I shelved the character for a bit, then brought him back to insert into a team of heroes I was commissioned to develop for an upstart comic publisher in 2005 that never got off the ground. Once again, Revenant was put back on the shelf.
Then, when I’d convinced Moonstone to roll with the pulp stuff, I revisited Revenant, scrapped just about everything I’d developed about him except the mask, belt and cape and reinvented him as Death Angel. However, Death Angel was anything but a Moon Knight clone, as I found myself in one of those writing modes where I could barely type fast enough to keep up with all the ideas for the character that sprang up from a show I watched on science fiction technology and some recent world news I’d read. I gave DA a suit that enhanced strength, based on technology first dreamed up in the 1940s and finally proven to work in the early years of the 21st century. Then, I spent some time studying photon and aural pulse effects and how they could create hypnotic states in living things – another “fringe science” thing brought up by a sci-fi writer in the early 20th century and proven to work at the end of the millennia.
Once I had all that worked out, Rebekah Killian came to life, battered soul and all. Revenant had gone from a two-dimensional guy beating up goons in a dark alley to a fully fleshed out female bringer of vengeance striking terror into the entire underworld.
Death Angel debuted in the back of Phantom: KGB Noir #1 and the fan response was overwhelming. The amount of comments I received stating people wanted more of Death Angel actually outweighed the amount of feedback I received for the Phantom part of that issue, which blew me away.
That’s when Moonstone agreed to let Death Angel be the flip-side of the Black Bat coin in the Return of the Originals books. I wrote a five-part story, the first four parts from each hero’s point of view and the fifth, the story’s climax, would bring the two together. The first three chapters in that saga appear in the Black Bat graphic novel #1 with the remaining chapters coming in #2.
But, all that is just a build-up to putting Death Angel in a spotlight all her own, which is the goal of the new novel.
AP:Death Angel has graced the pages of both comics as well as some text/image based widevision fiction, but what made you want to bring her to life in a novel?What about that medium compliments the character and her story?
MB: Well, the New Pulp movement has really excited me. I’ve been reading pulps since I was an adolescent and that style of story-telling has always cranked up my adrenaline levels. Several people I know, most notably my lovely wife, have been pushing me for years to concentrate more on writing prose than comics. The people who know me best think I’m better suited to write prose than comics, so the thought has intrigued me. I dabbled in prose with a handful of Phantom stories, then I did the wide-vision tales for the Pulp Fiction magazine starring Black Bat, Captain Future and Death Angel. It seemed a natural progression from there to start doing novels. I’ve ghost written a few so far and I really wanted to sit down, now that I have the confidence I can do it, and write my own characters in my own stories. I’m feeling really honored that Airship 27, Pro Se and Moonstone all have the confidence in my ability to let me write these tales, too.
AP:Does the fact that Death Angel is a female underneath all the costume and weapons change how you approach writing her?
MB: Absolutely. I mean, anyone who writes a female character the same way they write a male character shouldn’t be writing. Rebekah Killian is a tough woman, but underneath the wings, fangs and claws of Death Angel is a battered young girl who drives all of Angel’s decisions and actions. She is at once a mother tigress, defending her young and an intelligent woman seeking to make the world a safer place for those she cares about. Unfortunately (for the bad guys at least), somewhere in there is a little mental instability brought on by years of child abuse.
AP:You’re obviously a writer and creator influenced by the whole ‘Pulp’ style.What aspects of that style have had the most impact on you, maybe favorite authors and/or characters from the classic days of Pulp?
MB: I’m an adrenalin junkie. Period. Always have been. Princess of Mars from Edgar Rice Burroughs, all the Conan tales from Robert E. Howard, the original Phantom, Black Bat and Captain Future stories and all the rest are all adrenalin charged story-telling at its best. A roller coaster never lets up until the ride is over and the same can be said for just about every pulp tale I’ve ever read. Once I hit the words “The End” I’m a little worn out, but in a good way. If a story can actually make me feel a little physical exhaustion when I’m finished with it, then it sticks with me. A well written pulp scene leaves me with clenched shoulder muscles and a quickened pulse. Those are the kinds of stories I aspire to write, the kind that make the reader respond on levels much deeper than surface consciousness. I realize I still have a really long way to go before I can write something at the elevation of the John Carter or Black Bat or Conan tales, but I’m having fun trying.
AP:Noting the influences of classic Pulp on you, You’re also one of the movers and shakers behind what has recently become termed The New Pulp Movement.What, in your view, does that term actually mean and why are you throwing your hat into the movement concept?
MB: For me, New Pulp is just modern day talent creating stories with the same adrenalin-charged story telling that the original pulps exuded. I feel honored to be named alongside guys like Ron Fortier, Barry Reese, Scott Eckert, Martin Powell and so many other extremely talented minds and that feeling brings with it a sense of responsibility to hold up my end. So, it only seems like the right thing to do to toss my hat full in and do whatever I can to push this thing up the hill. I’ve always been an all or nothing kinda guy, and pulp has been “all-in” in me since I was watching black and white Flash Gordon serials on Saturday afternoon when I was five. It’s just who I am…
AP:Some may have concern that New Pulp’s intent is to change the basic structure and classic ways Pulp is written.It’s been made clear by others that that isn’t the case at all.What is your thought on this and if not change, what does New Pulp bring to the table that can’t be found in reprints of old pulp magazines?
MB: To me, if what’s created veers from the basic structure, it’s no longer pulp. I mean, if I write a heavily character development laden romance story that has zero action and takes place entirely within the confines of a bedroom, then I call it New Pulp, I’m only fooling myself. I can’t create something that’s not pulp and make it pulp anymore than I can write a horror story and call it a comedy. It just won’t happen and I’ll look delusional when I’m done. That being said, if men like Burroughs, Doc Smith and Howard never wrote anything, instead satisfying themselves with re-reading The Curse of Capistrano forever, we wouldn’t have John Carter and Conan. The same can be said for authors from Lester Dent and Edmond Hamilton to Barry Reese and Van Allen Pelixco. I love the old stuff, but there’s only so many times I can ride the same ride before I know it so well it loses a little luster and I start wanting to take a new ride. But, that new ride has to thrill me the same way the old one did, or it just isn’t worth it.
AP:You are a very religious man.How, if at all, do your beliefs influence your creative process and most notably, how did your religious convictions influence your creation of Death Angel?
MB: I’m not religious at all. Religion is a set of rules and edicts created by men to control one another. I do, however, firmly believe in Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit and God Almighty. I have a personal relationship with them that no amount of rules and regulations can equal. One thing that boils my blood is supposed religious people doing acts of evil under the guise of religion, as we’ve seen in growing frequency lately, most notably the number of priests found guilty of child abuse. To me, that’s a whole new form of evil that’s not just plain wrong, but duplicitous and deceitful, bringing harm to far more than just the immediate victims and their families. When religion goes wrong, bad things happen every time without fail.
Death Angel is a product of religion gone wrong. A young girl raised in a religious orphanage, under the auspices of being protected by pious men and women who actually took advantage of the children in every way imaginable, and some unimaginable. The disconnect between Rebekah’s spiritual belief and her childhood experiences is what birthed Death Angel. While the character in no way is meant as a vehicle to voice socio-political views, those views do shape who she is and where she’s going.
AP:What does the future hold for Mike Bullock? More than one Death Angel novel?Anything else?
MB: Well, Eric Johns is already turning in some pretty sweet pages for the RETURN OF THE MONSTERS tale starring Black Bat and Death Angel versus Dracula entitled ANGELS AND THE UNDEAD. I’m also working on the Runemaster novel, a new comic book series that should be announced real soon with Fernando “KGB Noir” Peniche doing the line art and three novels at once. I found out the other day that Doug Klauba will be painting the cover for the Death Angel novel, which really excites me as not only am I huge fan of Doug’s work, but I consider him to be one of my indispensably great friends. Going forward, I have a handful of other New Pulp and comic works coming including a Black Bat/Spider crossover from Moonstone I just finished up last week. Next month brings the release of Black Bat graphic novel #1 and Lions, Tigers and Bears volume III. Oh, and in all that I’m also penning a Black Bat novel for Moonstone that I don’t think has been announced yet, so there’s the All Pulp exclusive for the day. And, I’m also in talks to take the writing lead on an massive story created by a popular musician that can only be described as utterly epic in scale. Look for news on that in July.