At Comic Con 2012 I had the privilege to sit as a guest on the “Captain Action” panel. During the course of the panel we were treated to several great announcements for the franchise such as a special, limited edition Arctic Caption Action figure for the holidays, news of the development of a CA animated series, and the news that there would be an original pulp novel written by none other than Jim Beard. The novel is called
Jim is an old friend and a long time collector. He hung out a lot on RTM in it’s heyday. Jim is best known recently for his his labor of love Gotham City 14 Miles: 14 Essays on Why the 1960s Batman TV Series Matters and is a regular contributor to Marvel. com. Jim was introduced to comic books at an early age by his father, who passed on to him a love for the medium and the pulp characters who preceded it. After decades of reading, collecting and dissecting comics, Jim became a published writer when he sold a story to DC Comics in 2002. Since that time he’s written official Star Wars and Ghostbusters comic stories and contributed articles and essays to several volumes of comic book history.
We reached out to Jim to find out how this project came to happen, how he approached it and what’s next for him. Reading Jim’s answers below you can tell this project was a blast for him and his excitement really shows through.
Captain Action-Riddle of the Glowing Men is now available both in print and for the Kindle (and Kindle app) on Amazon.com.
AFi: First up give folks a little bit of your background. You are a veteran writer, but can you give folks an idea of what other things have you written?
Jim Beard: I’ve been a professional writer since 2002, when I got a few gigs with DC Comics and then a Star Wars story with Dark Horse. Tried hard for a few years to keep that toe in the door of the comics industry, but it proved to be more difficult than I imagined. So, from there I fell into the role of comics historian with work in several of the TwoMorrows “Companion” tomes and then returned to comics with a Ghostbusters one-shot in 2010 from IDW. Later that year, I compiled, edited and contributed to a labor of love, Gotham City 14 Miles, a critical examination of the 1966-68 Batman TV series. Just this year, I’ve debuted as a prose pulp writer, with two full books and two anthology stories.
AFi: You had the original idea for the novel and approached Ed and Joe of Captain Action Industries, correct? Did you know Joe and Ed already or did you just think “I have a great Captain Action story; I need to find the guys that own that!”
JB: Seems like I’ve been friends with Joe Ahearn and Ed Catto for ages, but it took a little while for me to actually start talking to them about Captain Action comic book stories. That was my real focus in the beginning, but since I’ve been writing pulp I started to groove on the idea of a CA pulp prose novel and, with the guys being big fans of pulp, it all fell together. I think with the switch of the CA property from Moonstone Comics to Dynamite, Joe and Ed were looking for ways to keep the Captain in everyone’s minds and push his exposure while his new comic series ramps up.
AFi: Why did you all chose to go with a pulp novel instead of putting this story in the Captain Action comic book?
JB: Pulp’s where it’s at, man! As much as I love comics, I’m so entrenched in pulp prose now that it seemed like the way to go for me at this time. I’ve always been fascinated by prose tie-in projects and the challenges in translating one medium to another. To this day, it my opinion that there have been very, very few novels that have effectively captured the feel of comics – and taking an action figure and building a prose world around it was too cool of a concept to ignore.
AFi: What is it about the pulp genre that appeals to you?
JB: Simple: pulp is no-nonsense, stripped-down, and ready-for-action. I learned a while ago that I am not cut out to write the Great American Novel…but I think I can become a pretty damn good pulp novelist. The important thing to remember is that pulp is a style, not a genre. The pulp style can be adapted to any genre and that means that pulp can, basically, take over the world. And the universe.
JB: Like I said before, it was the challenge of adapting a beloved, iconic action figure to pulp prose. Frankly, I think the character is made for pulp. And I hope I’ve proven it in Captain Action: Riddle of the Glowing Men.
AFi: You made the story a period piece and set it in the 60’s, the original decade the Captain Action toy line debuted. Can you talk about that decision?
JB: Yes, that was something that Joe and Ed were set on, and with good reason; like you say, its Cap’s decade. It also happens to be my decade – I was born in ’65 – and I love the pop culture that sprung from it. In the novel, I peppered a few references to the times in there, but not enough to be annoying, I think. The action and the adventure are paramount in the story, not winky-winky 1960s name-dropping, etc. Though, admittedly, there is a reference to a certain favorite 60s TV series…
AFi: I know you are a toy collector, but were you a Captain Action fan growing up? Did you have a favorite character/costume/set?
JB: For my own personal connection with CA, I will refer everyone to the Author’s Essay in the back of Captain Action: Riddle of the Glowing Men, but I will say that I was born just a tad too late to hit Cap’s heyday as a toy – but I still brushed up against his legend in the early 70s. As for a favorite set, it has to be the Batman costume, as goofy as it is, with the Green Hornet set coming in a close second. And I love the carrying cases and the equipment sets, too!
AFi: Did they give you any parameters about which characters needed to appear in the story? Were you free to create new characters (apart from the “glowing men”)?
JB: Joe and Ed’s marching orders were simple ones, and that’s what makes working with them such a joy. They wanted Cap and Dr. Evil in there, of course, and I found a way to include a pre-Action Boy Action Boy, but above and beyond that, they wanted new characters, especially a female lead. And I gave them that. Oh boy, did I give them that.
They also wanted me to include another classic Ideal toy from the 60s, one that…oh, but that would be telling. Read the book.
AFi: I know they are looking at an animated series that also features A.C.T.I.O.N. Were there elements of that universe/incarnation that they shared with you to incorporate into the novel?
JB: No, when I wrote the novel, the news of the animated show wasn’t out there yet.
AFi: One of the defining characteristics of Captain Action is the element of disguise. Is that a component of your story?
JB: Yes, very, very much so. Cap has at least five different disguises throughout the novel, one of which still amazes me that he got away with it as long as he did. Joe and Ed asked me to use as much from the CA “bible” that was designed for the comics series, and I was able to adopt a lot of the backstory from that and the properties of “plastiderm,” the wonderful material that allows Cap to create his disguises.
AFi: This is the first time that Airship 27 has published a novel based on a licensed property. Were there any additional considerations that you had to take into account, or did that all fall to Airship management?
JB: Let me tell you something: as much as Joe and Ed are a joy to work with, so too are Ron Fortier and Rob Davis of Airship 27. I wasn’t sure exactly what they’d think when I pitched the idea of a 1960s action figure pulp novel at them – I mean, it’s not the Shadow or Doc Savage, right? But, not only did Ron and Rob say “sure,” they embraced the idea. They got excited for it. Within twenty-four hours of me pitching the idea, Airship 27 had joined with Captain Action Enterprises to allow a poor little purveyor of pulp to make his dream come true.
And, by the way, Ed Catto has taken to describing the story as “What if Ian Felming had written a Doc Savage novel?” So, I guess it is a little bit Doc Savage.
AFi: Does your novel end on a cliff-hanger? Do you have any ideas for a follow up novel?
JB: It ends with…wait! I can’t tell you that! Read the book! And do we have plans for more? Holy Sequelization, Batman, yes! We are now talking and thinking and dreaming about the next book, and maybe even the one after that!
AFi: What’s next for you?
JB: Too much! I have two pulp anthologies that I created and co-created coming out by the end of the year, Monster Aces from Pro Se Productions and Monster Earth from Mechanoid Press. Monster fans are gonna LOVE these books. Monster fans of many stripes. Then, next year I have a few bio comics coming out from Bluewater Comics, the sequel to my Sgt. Janus, Spirit-Breaker, which is the adventures of an Edwardian ghost detective, and then, hopefully, Captain Action Book Two!
A big thanks to Jim for the interview. You can find out more about what Jim is up to these days at http://sgtjanus.blogspot.com and on Facebook at http://facebook.com/thebeardjimbeard. And you can check out all of Jim Beard’s work on Amazon.com.
If you are at NYCC next weekend you can meet author JIM BEARD and get your copy of the book signed!
Date: Saturday, October 13 Noon – 1:00 pm
Sunday, October 14 11:AM to Noon
Location: Booth #3136
Description: Come meet Jim Beard! The author of our critically acclaimed CA Pulp Novel: Riddle of the Glowing Men will be on hand to sign your copy!
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