Sunday, August 4, 2013


So there I was at PulpFest 2013, which took place from July 25-28
at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Columbus, Ohio.  I joked that it was
my recuperation vacation from Comic-Con.  But I didn’t go there for
the pulp magazines themselves.  I went there because a whole bunch
of friends were going to be there...that and because I really like
staying at the Hyatt Regency.

I don’t collect pulps.  They are old, they are smelly and they fall
apart...much like myself.  When I have time, I enjoy reading pulp
magazine reprints like those published by Anthony Tollin’s Sanctum
Books and some of the comic books based on old pulp heroes.  No, I
was there for my friends.

I drove to Columbus on Friday, July 26, after finishing up a quick
ghosting job for one of my newspaper strip clients.  The convention
rate offered by the Hyatt was decent and the room was great.  There
is a food court - and a comics/gaming/toys store - connected to the
lobby level of the hotel.  I strongly recommend Chicken ‘n’ Eggs for
breakfast and, for lunch, the Chinese restaurant whose name I can
never remember but which serves the best chicken fried rice in the
state.  There are also terrific restaurants but a short walk from
the hotel.

I talk to Anthony Tollin over the phone at least a couple times a
month, but PulpFest is usually the only place where we get to spend
any quality time.  He was selling Sanctum Books titles: Doc Savage,
The Shadow, The Avenger, The Phantom Detective, The Spider, 

Nick Carter and a personal favorite of mine, The Whisperer.  Tollin
was one of DC’s best colorist for close to two decades and, after that,
he called upon his vast knowledge of so many things, to write spiffy
booklets for recordings of old radio shows, to write for radio broadcasts,
and, ultimately, to publish more Shadow adventures than any other
publishers save for Street and Smith.  His books look amazing and,
in addition to the pulp adventures themselves, include informative
essays and occasional comics reprints.

Tollin and I go back over four decades.  When he first came to New
York to seek fame and fortune, he stayed in my apartment until he
landed a job and could get his own place.  Of all my friends, he’s
one of the most accomplished and did it all without hurting another
soul.  I admire the heck out of him.

Of course, doing what old friends do, I razzed him during drinks at
the hotel bar with my son Ed and our mutual friend Roger Price, he
of the mighty voice.  About the only thing I have that Anthony does
not have is the Inkpot Award from Comic-Con.  So, as Tollin talked
about his accomplishments, I just said:

“I have an Inkpot Award.”

Without missing a beat, Tollin came back with:

“I have a hundred pairs of stretch socks.”

Okay, for the kids under 60 reading this, go ask one of your elders
why this is so hilarious.  It became our running joke for the rest
of our time at PulpFest, but will never be uttered again.  You had
to be there.

PulpFest 2013 had a good-sized dealers room.  Maybe about 50 tables
of old pulps, reprinted pulp novels, vintage paperbacks, new pulp-
style novels and even some comic books.  Though I wasn’t a buyer of
actual pulp magazines, I was hoping to find reproductions of some
of the pulps published by Martin Goodman, the original publisher of
Timely/Atlas/Marvel.  Since I’m eagerly awaiting the coming of The
Secret History of Marvel Comics: Jack Kirby and the Moonlighting
Artists at Martin Goodman's Empire
by my friends Blake Bell and Dr.
Michael J. Vassallo [Fantagraphics; $39.99] - the book covers the
non-comics Goodman publishing empire - I wanted to check out some
of the Goodman pulps.  Alas, there was not a single reproduction of
a Goodman pulp at the convention.  My search will have to move to
the Internets.

One cool feature of the PulpFest dealers room was that three tables
were set up in the middle of one aisle so that weary fans could sit
and relax for a spell.  I ran into Cleveland buddies Jim Baron and
Marty Swiatkowski at one of these tables and had fun catching up
with them on this and that.

I also spent quality time with Ron Fortier and Rob Davis.  Ron is
the creator and writer of Mr. Jigsaw, which I’ve praised on several
past occasions, the author of modern pulp novels and the publisher
of these and other pulp novels through his Airship 27 Productions.
Rob is a terrific comics artist and designer who works with Ron on
these books.  I’ve known these guys for decades.

Lots of other nice surprises for me as well.  Michelle Nolan, one
of the best of the Comics Buyer’s Guide writers and a great comics
historian, was there and we had a nice chat.  Several PulpFesters
who knew me from my comics work also stopped by Tollin’s table to
say “hi” to me and ask about Comic-Con and my current activities.
But the biggest surprise came while I was sitting with Fortier and
Davis at their tables.

A smiling guy comes up to me and, his badge turned around, asks me
if I remember him, which, being an old coot and all, I don’t.  Then
he turns the badge around.  It was Sam Maronie, who has written a
zillion articles for Starlog and other magazines.  Sam’s very first
sale was to Marvel’s Planet of the Apes black-and-white mag.  Guess
who was the editor who bought the article?  It was wonderful seeing
Sam for the first time in probably decades.

The PulpFest 2013 programming schedule had over a dozen panels, an
auction and, over the course of three nights, a complete showing of
The Spider’s Web, a 15-chapter Columbia Pictures serial from 1938.
For me, though, the can’t-miss presentation was “Doc and the King,”
described thus in the program book: Radio Archives’ Roger Price
will be reading from Will Murray’s Skull Island,” recently released
as an audiobook.  Will and Roger will be available for questions
following the reading.  

Roger read the prologue of the novel, in which a young Doc Savage
meets King Kong.  I was astonished by the ease with which Roger can
shift from one voice to another.  No hesitation.  One moment he’s
one character and the next he’s another.  Outstanding.

I was also excited by what Roger had read of Skull Island.  I can’t
imagine anyone experiencing that prologue, whether by reading it or
from hearing Roger read it, and not want to buy and read the novel.
It’s high on my list.

I was heading back to Medina Saturday night, but, first, I went to
dinner with Anthony and Will.  The restaurant was only so-so, but
the talk was exceptional.  I’m a fan of Will Murray the novelist.
I’m likewise a fan of Will Murray the historian.

As much as possible, Murray treats history as an exact science with
no personal agenda save the uncovering of truth.  Because he’s so
knowledgeable, Will’s speculations make more sense than most.  But
he always puts them forth as speculations and leaves the door open
for new information he uncovers.  You can see this in his essays
for Tollin’s Sanctum Books reprints and in his writings about comic
history.  In short, Murray is my kind of historian.  I love reading
his essays.

That’s it for my PulpFest 2013 report.  My thanks to Mike Chomko,
the other organizers of the convention and the guests and pulp fans
who make the event so enjoyable.  See you next year.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2013 Tony Isabella


  1. Thanks for this report Tony. I'm always interested in what others think of the pulp conventions. I've been attending them 40 years now and I always have a good time.

    By the way, one correction, there were around 100 tables in the dealer's room.

  2. Thanks for the correction. Math is hard.

  3. I remember reading that '100 suits of armor - 100 pairs of stretch socks' exchange in the back seat of our car, and my parents asking why I was laughing so hard. Couldn't explain, of course.

    'Skull Island' is pretty good. Some nice exploration of Doc's relationship w/his dad. Normally I'm wary of any kind of psychoanalysis of a classic character, but here it was done w/respect.

  4. Thanks for the nice comments, pal. It made me feel better about all the many voices in my head.