Friday, October 7, 2011

Blood 'n' Thunder Magazine

Issue #1
Adventure. Mystery. Melodrama. Whether Tarzan ripped open the jaws of a ferocious lion or The Shadow rolled out from under a car to shoot hid deadly foes, these iconic images thriller and chilled those who sought high adventure. "Blood and Thunder" is a vintage expression alluding to mayhem and bloodshed. And the best magazine today to cover all aspects of the genre is titled appropriately enough, Blood 'n' Thunder.

Edited by Ed Hulse, who certainly knows his stuff, the magazine just recently celebrated the 25th issue. Now I'd like to state that most magazines contain dated material that expires with the next issue. And those are certainly worthy of going to a digital format. But Blood 'n' Thunder contains articles that are reference-related. You can turn to them ten years from now and they are still great reads. And this is the kind of magazine that is worth buying and stocking up. As a researcher, I often find myself turning to magazines like this one for material such as quotes from exclusive interviews, trivia that hasn't been documented in published reference books, and offers a little background on retro topics I am not familiar with.

In the summer of 2002, with the assistance and encouragement of old friends Mark Trost and Rick Scheckman, Ed launched Blood ‘n’ Thunder, a quarterly journal for connoisseurs of adventure, mystery, and melodrama in American popular culture of the early to mid 20th century. "Our 'fanzine' was meant to appeal to anybody who shared our enthusiasm for escapist entertainment that trafficked in lost races, buried treasures, secret formulas, super-scientific weaponry, yellow-peril villainy, trap doors, hidden passages, and various and sundry character types typically associated with such things," Ed explained. 

What first grabbed me was a superb article written personally by Ed, which appeared in the Spring 2004 issue. Ed wrote a piece about The House Without A Key (1926), a silent cliffhanger serial considered "lost" by film buffs. Based on the Earl Derr Biggers' novel of the same name, it marked Charlie Chan's film debut, pre-dating the Warner Oland and Sidney Toler incarnations. Ed reconstructed the entire plot summary, chapter by chapter, from the sole surviving copy of the original shooting script, and then compared it to the Biggers novel. Background material gave a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the production. It was this very reason that we had Ed attend the 2007 Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention to deliver two presentations: a history of cliffhanger serials and a history of pulp magazines.

In the same issue, Ron Goulart contributed "The Haunted World of Cornell Woolrich," reminiscing about his relationship with mystery writer, Cornell Woolrich, a great companion piece to Mike Nevins' superb biography, the brilliant Woolrich biography, First You Dream, Then You Die (1988). Having read David J. Skal's biography about film director Tod Browning, and his assertion that Browning wrote pulp stories under the pen name of Charles R. Allen, I was shocked to read Will Murray's take on why that is a myth, and proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that Browning never wrote for the pulps.

Blood ‘n’ Thunder truly was was conceived to fill a specific void. "At that time pulp fandom—made up of those devoted to the collecting and researching of old woodpulp magazines—was underserved, so we skewed BnT’s contents to this group of hobbyists. But having always been fascinated by other storytelling forms (dime novels, movie serials, Old-Time Radio dramas, and so on) with similar thematic preoccupations, we decided to cover those as well."

I myself have written a number of articles for this magazine. From I Love A Mystery, The Green Hornet, The Adventures of Sam Spade and The Shadow, old time radio buffs would find some juicy photos and trivia about their favorite crime programs.

When I asked Ed what got him started in the hobby, he explained: "Basically, I'm an old fanzine guy; at the age of 13 I wrote my first fanzine article for a well-respected horror-movie zine called Photon. A year later, before I had even graduated from grade school, I published my own sine, which was called Fantasy World. It was mostly devoted to horror, SF and fantasy films, but I also reviewed new SF books and did occasional nostalgia-related articles on such things as the Flash Gordon comic strip.  Back then, in 1967, most fanzines were mimeographed, which involved the laborious typing of stencils that would be affixed to the drum of a hand-cranked mimeograph. I loved the smell of printer's ink but my parents didn't. Fortunately, they allowed me to turn a corner of our basement into a print shop."

"In a few years -- especially after I discovered girls and got my driver's license -- I quit the fanzine world and confined my hobbyist activity to collecting books, pulps, and 16mm film," Ed continued. "But I never entirely lost the urge to self-publish and for years afterward the smell of printer's ink continued to intoxicate me."

The in-depth, fastidiously researched articles of the past cover a wide variety of topics from gangster pulps of the Prohibition era, a retrospective of the 1943 cliffhanger serial based on Zack Mosley's "Smilin' Jack" comic strip, the genesis of Doc Savage's archenemy John Sunlight, Al Tonik wrote a piece about the eight Lone Ranger pulps, and Ed Hulse discussed a 1941 Wild Bill Elliott "B" Western adapted from a story by detective-pulp specialist Norbert Davis.

The most recent issue features an essay explaining the difference between the fictionalized novels and the William Boyd movies, of Clarence Mulford's Hopalong Cassidy character. Sex and sadism in the shudder pulps of the thirties, and an enjoyable piece that is best described as a beginner's guide to cliffhanger serials (also known as chapter plays). 

The authors of such articles are both experts and fanboys. Contributions poured in from well-known professionals in the writing trade, others accomplished researchers from the world of academia. "The pages of BnT have been graced with articles from Ron Goulart and Will Murray, pop-culture historians who also happen to be prolific novelists in the pulp tradition," Ed explained. "University of Alaska history professor Robin Walz supplied an informative overview of the influential French series featuring master criminal Fantomas, with Premiere senior editor Glenn Kenny adding his thoughts on the 1913 Fantomas movies directed by pioneering auteur Louis Feuillade. Another college professor and long-time pulp fan, Garyn G. Roberts, prepared for BnT a lengthy tribute to Frederick C. Davis, one of the field’s legendary wordsmiths."

The articles have to adhere to BnT’s editorial mandate: Make the articles entertaining as well as informative. "Although we always pushed for well-researched pieces, we were determined to make BnT lively and fun, to eschew the parchment-dry texture of academic journals. If nothing else, the contributions reprinted here reflect their authors’ enthusiasm and affection for the material under review," Ed concluded.

With so many magazines going non-glossy, it's nice to know that I can still buy a hard copy, hold it in my hands, take it with me to the beach to read, the bathroom should I want to relax for a few minutes, or hand it to a friend who can check it out on his own spare time. Best of all, it's not something I have to worry about when the hard drive crashes or my Kindle breaks and I need to buy another.

The early issues were thinner than they are today. In the past year, Blood 'n' Thunder is now perfect bound and stretches 108 pages. It's really a book if you consider the format. Retail price for present-day issues is $11.95 but a yearly (three issue) subscription is $30. You can send your subscription to Blood 'n' Thunder Magazine, 2467 Route 10 East, Bldg 15, Apt. 4B, Morris Plains, NJ 07950. It comes with my highest recommendation. A four-issue subscription is available at the discounted rate of $40 postpaid. Subscriptions can be purchased most easily via Paypal at

The recent Spring and Summer 2011 issues include a two-part article I wrote titled, "He Always Knew What Evil Lurked," documenting the early years of The Shadow radio program, before he became a crime-fighter on the airwaves. I picked them up at the recent Pulpfest Convention.

In Closing
The earliest issues are so prized that it is difficult to determine the value because no one seems to want to part with their issues. (I've never seen issues one through five sold on vendor tables, so it's impossible to say how much they sell for at the present time.) But there is hope! Ed just completed The Best of Blood 'n' Thunder, a 340-page book that reprinted the best articles from the first ten issues, which have been long out of print. The book debuted at Pulpfest and I, along with many others, bought my copy. Imagine my surprise when I reviewed the table of contents to discover the article I wrote for issue seven, I Love A Mystery, was considered worthy of reprinting!

Ed's web-site is