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This is an old revision of AvengerThe made by Yingko2 on 2006-05-20 13:52:18.

 

The Avenger


After the dread loss of his wife and child, millionaire adventurer Richard Henry Benson undergoes a terrible shock that paralyzes his face, turns his hair white and sets him on a mission to punish criminals the law cannot touch.

Background

The AvengerThe Avenger
Publisher: Street and Smith
Publication range: September 1939-September 1942
The Avenger came from the hero-pulp factory Street & Smith in what was probably a last-ditch effort to create another best-selling magazine in the tradition of Doc Savage and The Shadow. Editor Henry W. Ralston, in a meeting with Wlater Gibson and Lester Dent, created much of The Avenger mythos, handing the reins to reluctant sci fi and horror pulp scribe Paul Ernst. Ernst didn't really want the job, but Ralston made him an offer he could not refuse--$750 per month and ready-made plots. Ernst penned twenty-four novels from 1939-1942, before the magazine folded do to war paper shortages and lower than hoped for sales.

The initial novel, Justice, Inc. ranks as one of the best pulp origins ever developed, and, despite Ernst's comments to the contrary, was far better written than the majority of material appearing at the time. It is in fact much more a mainstream novel with solid characterizations and motivations rarely found in pulp fiction. It was probably one of the most progressive as well, as evidenced by the inclusion of black husband and wife team members Josh and Rosabel Newton.

The first novel sets the tone for the series, and features the inclusion of The Avenger's first two aides, Scot pessimist Fergus MacMurdie and engineer Algernon Heathcote Smith (Smitty). The second novel adds the diminutive Nellie Gray; the third, Josh and Rosable Newton. The team is solidified until the thirteenth adventure, when Cole Wilson joins the band.

The Avenger is identified not only by his immobile face and white hair, but by the many trappings included in the series: his three buildings thrown into one headquarters on Bleek Street, myriad gadgets, death-defying escapes and the turn-about technique he used to vanquish his adversaries, his wepaons Mike & Ike (a small tubelike gun and needle- sharp knife he keeps strapped to each calf), and his constant grief and remoteness, which provides the motivation for the series (in fact all members carried the same motivation, though not to the extreme Benson did, of having lost close friends or loved ones--except Cole Wilson, who was more in the vein of Doc Savage's aides, an adventure seeker).

The motif set for the first half of the series, the adventures alternated between beng Doc Savagelike romps to The Shadow's organized crime tales. In the thirteenth adventure, Murder on Wheels, the series took a startling and posisbly fatal turn. Benson was caught in a ray tempering machine that restored the use of his facial muscles and black hair. His drive for venegenace remained the same but the uniqueness of the series suffered. It didn't take long for the editors to realize that, as the change appeared played down after a few books and Benson developed a drug to make his face immobile again.

After twenty-fouyr issues the series was cancelled, but continued in a series of six short stories in Clues Magazine and The Shadow Magazine. These entries were penned by Emile Tepperman, who'd ghosted a number of Spider novels and provided much material for the various pulp magazine companies. The stories are slight, harshly edited and bear little resemblance to Ernst's portrayal.

The series saw reprint under the Warner Paperback Library imprint in the early seventies, proving more popular than in its original run. Gorgeous covers painted by Peter Caras and George Gross, using the same model Bama used for the Doc Savage paperbacks, Steve Holland, helped propel the series through its orginal run of twenty-four then onto twelve new tales written by scif fi author Ron Goulart. Goulart's novels varied considerably from Ernst's, relying more on Cole Wilson as a proxy hero. His largest contribution to the mythos was probably the villain The Iron Skull in the novel fo the same name.

The contributors

The original concept for the Avenger came from an editorial meeting ar Street & Smith that inlcuded such pulp giants as Walter B. Gibson and Lester Dent, chroniclers of The Shadow and Doc Savage. They provided many of the concepts for the series, while S & S contributed plots. But it was veteran pulpsmith Paul Ernst (1899-1985) who breathed life into the series and made it his own. Ernst penned the original twenty-four novels (after the series ended the character was shunted to the back of Clues Magazine and one issue of The Shadow in a series of short stories written by Emile Tepperman, but the character became nearly unrecognizable) starting with Justice, Inc. and ending with Midnight Murder. When Warner Paperback Library reprinted the series in the early seventies it proved so popular they hired sicence fiction author Ron Goulart to continue the novels. Goulart wrote twelve more novels starting with The Man from Atlantis and ending with Demon Island.

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