Mike Black recently retired from the Blue Island, Illinois, police force with too many decorations and citations to count. He is also a kick-boxer and multi-talented author with numerous stories, articles, and books to his credit, including the Ron Shade PI series, the Leal and Hart police procedurals, and the fantastic adventures of Doc Atlas, his homage to the legendary Doc Atlas.
Recently, Mike teamed with award-winning artist Geof Darrow and best-selling author Andrew Vachss to try and capture the wildly adventurous pulp-style heroics of the 30s and 40s. Resurrecting Darrow's previously heralded "Shaolin Cowboy", the results are to be found in THE SHAOLIN COWBOY ADVENTURE MAGAZINE (available everywhere, including this Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/Shaolin-Cowboy-Adventure-Magazine/dp/1616550562/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1354029101&sr=1-1&keywords=the+shaolin+cowboy+adventure+magazine). I'll turn it over to Mike now to tell you how this whole undertaking came about:
The Shaolin Cowboy Rides Again by Michael A. Black
The first time I officially met Geof Darrow I thought he looked familiar. He must have remembered me as well because he asked, “Have we met before?” It turned out that we had crossed paths previously, but neither of us remembered. It took our mutual good friend, mentor, and brother, Andrew Vachss, to make the formal introduction. Andrew was on one of his book tours and had stopped in Chicago. As part of “The Wolf Pack” (Andrew, Mike McNamara, Zak Mucha, and me) I always spend as much time as I can with him when he visits. This particular day he wanted to pay a visit to another good friend, Geof Darrow, who also lives in Chi-town.
I was familiar with Geof’s work. He’s an enormously talented artist and has illustrated several best selling graphic novels and comic books. His work on Hard Boiled (with Frank Miller) and The Big Guy and Rusty Robot were legendary in the comic book field, as was his satirical take on the “chop sockie” martial arts movies, The Shaolin Cowboy. Fascinated by Darrow’s incredible artistic ability, I’d purchased all of these works before I met him. But I didn’t put it together that this was the same Geof Darrow until Andrew introduced us. That’s when Geof and I kind of stared at each other, both thinking we’d met somewhere before.
We’d actually met a few years prior at a pulp con in the Chicago area. I’d rented a table there and was hawking copies of my new Doc Atlas novel, Melody of Vengeance. I’ve always been a fan of the pulps and Melody was my homage to the genre. It was a labor of love—a pastiche of the traditional, larger than life pulp characters told with a retrospective hindsight. It turned out to be a long day in which many people stopped by to chat about the pulps. One such guy was a big dude who looked to be about six-foot-six if he was an inch. He looked at Melody and mentioned he’d always been a fan of Doc Savage and the Shadow. I don’t remember much about our conversation, except that the guy’s quiet manner kind of reminded me of Ron Ely, who had played Doc Savage in the George Pal’s ill-fated production, The Man of Bronze.
I thought no more about the pulp con or the conversation with the big guy until a few years later when Andrew introduced us.
“You two guys should get along great,” he said. “You’re both fans of the old pulps.”
Geof showed us his impressive collection of pulp magazines and the more we talked, the more I felt that we’d met somewhere before. Finally, I mentioned my Doc Atlas stories and Geof snapped his fingers. “Weren’t you at the Windy City Pulp Con a few years ago?” he asked.
Then it dawned on me: he was that big guy who’d stopped by my table to chat. We’ve been fast friends ever since.
“What? You two know each other?” Andrew asked. This was one of the few times that I can remember him being surprised by anything.
In addition to working in the field of comics and graphic novels, Geof also does work for motion pictures. He did the concept designs for the immensely popular Matrix movies and even had a cameo in one of them. (I’ll leave it to you to find him, but he’s the only guy in the movie who’s wearing glasses.)
Fast forward a few years to the present. Geof called me and asked if I was interested in writing a story as a back-up feature for his latest project. “We’re doing a knock-off of the old pulps for Dark Horse,” he said. “It’ll be called, The Shaolin Cowboy Adventure Magazine, and Andrew is writing the main story.”
I told him I would be honored to be part of it.
Originally, we wanted to use a Doc Atlas story, but the Doc novellas tend to run a bit long, just like the old pulp versions, so we had to select something else. Geof had already sent me a prototype of the cover, which was beautifully painted by Scott Gustafson, and it featured the Shaolin Cowboy battling a Tyrannosaurus Rex with a nunchauk. The T-Rex was holding a beautiful babe in its claw as its serpentine tongue flicked toward her.
“There’s no damsel in distress in the actual story,” Geof told me, “but this is supposed to be an homage to the old pulps. They always had a beautiful girl in danger on the covers.”
I understood completely, and thought that the cover was reminiscent of those grand paintings by the great artists of the thirties and forties.
“It just so happens I have a dinosaur story myself,” I said. “It’s called ‘Time Factor’.”
Geof asked to see it and the rest, as they say, is history.
“Time Factor” is my first published sci-fi story and I think it would have fit perfectly in one of the old pulp magazines. It features a military squad sent back in time to the Cretaceous period where they encounter some real, live dinosaurs. Geof got his friend, artist Gary Gianni, to do the illustrations and they are magnificent. When I first saw the galleys I thought I’d been sent back in time to the 1930s and was looking at one of the original pulp magazines.
Andrew did a fabulous job writing the main feature, “The Way of No Way,” featuring the Shaolin Cowboy and Geof provided his customary, excellent illustrations. He also put in some other witty bits of satire giving the mag the appearance of an actual pulp from a bygone era. Andrew said he had a lot of fun writing the story, and if you read it, you’ll see why. And as I said before, I am honored to have been part of this one.
Michael A. Black
If you like your reading wild, wooly, pulpy, and imaginative, be sure to check out this collaboration. You won't be sorry you did.