Teamup of two of McCulley's serial pulp characters
One thing I hear from pulp fans is wanting to see various pulp heroes meet up, or more properly team up, against some pulp menace.
This is something we’ve seen in the comics for a long time. During the “golden age” of comics, National Allied (to be DC Comics) had their main heroes team up as the Justice Society of America. At Timely Comics (to be Marvel Comics), they had several battles between the Human Torch and the Sub-Mariner, and later had them team up with Captain America and others to fight the Axis. During the “silver age” of comics, similar team-ups and meets at the two main companies lead to ongoing teams.
But in the pulps, this rarely happened. Never did the characters published by Street & Smith, Thrilling, Popular, etc., meet each other, much less make mention of each other.
But there are a few exceptions. Some by Johnston McCulley, author of Zorro and a slew of other serialized characters, many in S&S’s Detective Story Magazine.
In 1920 in one of The Thunderbolt stories, his character The Black Star is mentioned. But more interesting is when he wrote a serial with The Crimson Clown meeting and working with Thubway Tham. This meeting ran as a five-part serial in November and December 1928. And it has been reprinted by Bold Venture Press in a single volume, Thubway Tham Meets the Crimson Clown.
So here’s a quick overview of the two characters. The Crimson Clown is really rich bachelor Denton Prouse, who wears a red onsie with a white mask as The Crimson Clown. More for the thrill of it, he steals from the unjust rich and gives half to charity. There is no servant, nor a hint of a fiance like with McCulley’s other characters. The Clown carries first a syringe of knockout drug, and later a gas gun. But he must contend with Detective Dan Donler, who is after the Clown, but doesn’t know Prouse is the Clown.
Thubway Tham is lisping pickpocket “Subway Sam.” A long-running character of McCulley’s, who appeared from 1918 to 1960! He has tried to go straight, but is never successful. And he seems to have a general aversion to it, but he tries to makes a point of targeting people who deserve to be robbed. He has to deal with Detective Craddock, who tries to catch him in the act.
The meeting of the Clown and Tham is in a form that hearkens to The Gray Seal. Someone contacts Denton Prouse and states they know he is The Crimson Clown, much as when Tocsin contacted The Gray Seal. But they offer to keep it a secret if the Clown steals some jewels from a criminal mastermind known as Baron Bleud. Since the Clown needs information on where Bleud has the jewels, he enlists, even if reluctantly, Thubway Tham to get the information.
This action also causes both detectives — Donler and Craddock — to team up to try to capture both criminals.
Well, it’s not a traditional “team-up” of the Clown and Thubway Tham, but it also adds in the element of police going after both characters while they are trying to steal the jewels from the thieves who originally stole them.
So do they succeed? Well, the police don’t. The jewels do go back to their rightful owners. What about the person blackmailing The Crimson Clown? That, you’ll have to read the story to find out.
This is a good collection, with artwork from the original stories.
This is a good collection and a very enjoyable book with one of the only original pulp team-ups.