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The Return of the Originals: Rediscovering I.V. Frost with Ron Fortier

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This September, Moonstone Books is shining a spotlight on the shadowy realm of pulp fiction, with their Return of the Originals event. An expansion of their already extensive line of pulp-influenced titles into a richly textured shared universe, the publisher is offering a fistful of ongoing Double Shots featuring their marquee stars and a veritable legion of colorful, if long forgotten heroes in back-up stories.

Broken Frontier chatted with industry veteran and fan favorite writer Ron Fortier about his newest fictional charge, the strange and wonderful Professor I.V. Frost. Although one of the more obscure characters in Moonstone’s
Return of the Originals line-up, I.V. Frost is a sterling example of the publisher’s goal of thrusting these heroes into the forefront of modern imaginations. 

BROKEN FRONTIER: As an industry veteran, could you please take a moment to tell us about some of your previous work and how it’s helped inform your approach to I.V. Frost?

RON FORTIER: After having written comics for the past thirty years, I began getting involved with the pulp community, always aware that comics had originated from the pulps of the 30s and 40s. This led to my starting Airship 27 Productions, with artist Rob Davis, for the express purpose of publishing new pulp fiction novels and anthologies. We’ve been at it for three years now and have just released our 27th title.

BF: How is this experience different from writing other pulp characters such as the Green Hornet?

RF: Setting the record straight, the Green Hornet was a radio hero and never a pulp character. But even though he never had his own pulp magazine, he was of that same Great Depression era. Thus when writing his comic adventures for Now Comics, I purposely infused my scripts with a pulp sensibility that suited the character well.  Whereas I.V.Frost is a bona fide pulp character, my goal is to convey the same kind of unique storytelling featured in his original tales.

BF: I.V. Frost is one of the more obscure characters in Moonstone’s new Return of the Originals line. Could you please give us the lowdown on Prof. Frost?

RF: Happily.  Professor I.V. Frost and his lovely assistant Jean Moray were created by veteran writer Donald Wandrei, as a continuing series in the Street & Smith magazine Clues. Wandrei created Frost to be a combination of genius scientist and two-fisted private investigator. Imagine the best of Sherlock Holmes and Sam Spade in one hero and that’s I.V. Frost. Wandrei wrote a total of eighteen of his adventures. There was even talk at one time of a Frost movie, but alas, it never happened.

BF: Why do you think modern fans take so well to pulp characters?

RF: I believe readers, especially comic fans, have grown sick and tired of the angst-ridden, dark characters now appearing in most titles from the big two. Stories are complex, convoluted and you need to buy every single title to keep up with their over-inflated event series that are continually foisted on the public. Pulps are about basic, fast paced action adventure storytelling. No complex psychological issues – the heroes are daring, brave and always noble, whereas the villains are black-hearted, crazy and eager to destroy the world.  They fight, the good guys win and the fans get a healthy dose of fun, something that’s missing in this media for a long, long time.

BF: As a creator with an obvious passion for pulp fiction, how do you feel about the recent trend of publishers and creators suddenly turning out modern pulp stories? And here I’m not just talking about DC’s First Wave or Dynamite’s various projects but also about original creations with a pulp influence. Do you consider them true pulp stories in the traditional sense?

RF: Having been a life-long reader, I don’t believe what we consider pulp literature ever ceased being written. When you consider today’s top thriller writers like James Rollin, Clive Cussler and Dean R. Koontz to name a few, they all write modern pulp, i.e. fiction with a flare towards grandiose plots, daring heroes and wall to wall suspense and action. James Bond’s adventures were clearly inspired by the early adventures of characters like Secret Agent X and Operator 5. Cussler’s Dirk Pitt is heir apparent to Doc Savage, while Preston and Child’s Special Agent Pendergast is our modern day Shadow. So this really is not a new trend at all, but simply a continuation of a grand writing tradition that continues to this day.

BF: How do the adventures found in pulp fiction differ from the superhero stories we see today?

RF: For the most part, hero pulp fiction is grounded in the real world. Oh, sure there are fantastic characters such as the larger-than-life heroes and the would-be-conquering villains. Still, reading a pulp novel in the 30s, they were always grounded in the reality in which they were born. Whereas superhero stories, by their very nature, are mythic in proportion, acted out on a much larger stage of make-believe.

BF: How have you updated I.V. Frost for a modern audience? How does your interpretation differ from the original?

RF: We are presenting I.V. Frost exactly as he appeared in Wandrei’s original stories.  He’s such an eccentric figure, trying to modernize him would have defeated the essence of the character.  Frost is a scientist of the 30s, when the world was mired in economic misery and the frontiers of science offered hope to all mankind for better days ahead.

There was an undying optimism to this time that we hope to tap into, in our new stories.  At the same time, our readership is much more sophisticated than their grandparents, when it comes to literature and we have to recognize that fact.  It’s my hope we can offer up exciting, fun stories that stay true to the spirit of the originals.

BF: On the surface, pulp fiction harkens back to a simpler, cleaner (not pure but streamlined) form of storytelling. Having said that, there are some pretty dark emotional themes motivating some of these characters. The Avenger and the Spider strike me as prime examples of this. What motivated I.V. Frost to take up fighting crime?

RF: Frost, despite his genius intellect, is really a man of action dedicated to the progress of society through the moral uses of science. Like the classical heroes of old, he feels a genuine responsibility to combat injustice wherever it rears its ugly head. He especially despises organized crime, seeing it as a cancer that feeds on the weak and the innocent.  He loves nothing better than solving bizarre cases that are beyond the scope of the regular police to handle. In doing so, he has no peer, and law enforcement agencies around the country consider him a valuable ally.


BF: What’s I.V. Frost's role in the Return of the Originals line? Where and when can fans expect to see his adventures?

RF: Well, you are going to have Joe [Gentile, Moonstone Books publisher] the answer to that question. I’ve been led to believe my Frost short comics will be appearing as back up features in books and my Frost short stories in Originals prose anthologies. All of which excites me greatly.

BF: Who are your collaborators on I.V. Frost?

RF: Aside from the editing crew, who include Joe and Tim Lasiuta, my only collaborator on the Frost adventures is the supremely talented artist Jake Minor. When I was told Jake had been assigned to the join me on Frost, I scrambled on to the Internet to check this guy out and was simply bowled away by his art. He has a real Brian Bolland like flair to his work that is perfect for a fun hero like I.V. Frost.  Just by the early sketches he has turned in, I’m already thrilled to be working with Jake. Again, the optimum word here is…FUN!

For more on I.V. Frost and the Return of the Originals line check out the Moonstone Books website.

 

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