Wednesday, May 30, 2007

"The Pulpy Heroes That Time Forgot": Episode 1- The Prowler

In the '80's, as my Shadowmania was in the first spasmic throes, I would buy any comic I could find with a fedora or slouch hat on the cover. I was diving into the world of pulp heroes with gusto. I may not have understood or appreciated the history and effects of the pulp era yet; I just knew anything with a hat was cool.

Sue me: I was just a kid.

Anyway, the first pulp-pastiche hero I found was The Prowler (not to be confused with the Marvel character of the same name). I wish I could give you a better link, but time seems to have swallowed this character up. Weird.
Anyway, the series was set in the late 1980's, although sometimes the narrative would show a flashback set in the 30's or 40's. We are introduced to college student Scott Kida, amateur karate student and artist. Scott has found himself a friend and apprentice of one Leo Kragg. Leo was once a Spider-like vigilante called The Prowler, but had fallen on hard times and was planning a comeback... a comeback that Scott (as his apprentice) was to play a part in. During the series, Leo was grooming Scott to carry on the name of The Prowler, to someday wear the fedora, greatcoat, and ski-mask of the once legendary hero.

It's an understatement to say that the series was gritty and dark: one storyline has Leo, Scott, and some old allies (more on them in a moment) taking on a child pornography ring. Before it's over, the reader feels like he needs to take a shower to wash off the despair and dirt. Leo deals "death to the bringers of death" on a regular basis... the book's violence is a constant factor in the story, and Scott has a hard time dealing with it all. He's basically a nice kid, and it's a dark ride as he's drawn into the world of Leo Kragg, a truly scary, sinister figure.
Part of the appeal of the title is the mix of heroes and villains from the past that pop up here, and a few forgotten golden-age heroes are name-checked and make cameos. Those allies I mentioned earlier? They're Tom and Corby, the Marine heroes from the movie-serial "Fighting Devil Dogs". Then there's the connections with "White Zombie" (the movie, not the band), which sees Bela Lugosi's "reprisal" of his role as arch-villain and voodoo doctor Murder Legendre. There was even a black and white Prowler one-shot that connected directly to the movie. Connections also appeared to "The Vampire Bat", and real-life serial killer Ed Gein had a cameo in one issue as well. It seemed like the flashback material was more fun to read, and the modern-day stuff was a lot more pitch-black in it's world-view... Of course, it WAS the '80's, and a lot of that was going around at the time in comics.
Sadly, my Prowler collection is incomplete, and I haven't been able to track down the missing issues. But it was a fun ride while it lasted, and I recommend picking up an issue... if you can find one.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Killer stuff as always Don!