The Return of the Originals: Serving Pulp Justice Cold with Tim Lasiuta

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Over the past few weeks Broken Frontier has been fortunate enough to pick the brains of some of the most creative and innovative creators in comics about their contributions to Moonstone Books’ Return of the Originals expanded line of pulp comics and prose.

Featuring an extensive line-up of heroes from every shadowy corner of the pulp genre, Return of the Originals is a project of startling scope and depth. In our final ROTO interview, Broken Frontier spoke with the man charged with making it all come together, line editor Tim Lasiuta, about some of the highlights and challenges of introducing these characters to a new generation of readers.

BROKEN FRONTIER: Comics news coverage often spotlights the creators of a given character or piece of work. It’s not often we get to chat with the editors working behind the scenes. Could you please give a brief overview of what a typical day is like for you as a comic book editor?

  Parties, conventions, phone calls, power lunches.  I can hardly keep up with the engaging social activities…Seriously, editing is like being paid to read your favorite writers.  My day begins after my day jobs, and includes editing stories, tracking where each story is at and where and when it will appear. When pencil art appears in my inbox, it is satisfying to be the eyes that make sure our tales jump off the pages! It really is cool to see a story take shape in front of your eyes, and then see the finished project with some of your suggestions included. This really is a TEAM effort, no matter how big you are in the industry.

BF: What are some of the challenges of editing an entire line of books the size and scope of the Return of the Originals? What was (or is) your role in the line’s creation and evolution?

TL: I came upon this project when Joe [Gentile, Moonstone Books publisher] asked me to research various pulp characters. In my role as research/development, I often search the copyrights and trademarks for characters we can use in our books. I was asked, one character at a time, to look up the Black Bat, Secret Agent X, The Phantom Detective, the Green Ghost, Captain Midnight, and some I can’t tell you yet. The result is our current line-up that will surprise you once we have our complete smorgasbord of anthologies and illustrated fiction.

To paraphrase Frank Sinatra, ‘Challenges, I’ve had a few…’. In no particular order, tracking 20 characters, various stories and formats, collaborating with Joe on the exact books, and trying to find time to have a life is the struggle. While many of the characters have no ‘following’ today, we have to revitalize the books and re-introduce characters who have not seen light for 50 years almost.

These are cool characters, and I have enjoyed reading the stories so far. Our authors are talented, and it makes the Originals more fun than work.

BF: There are so many great pulp characters that Moonstone could have chosen for the Return of the Originals line. What were the criteria in the decision-making process? That is, how did you determine who made the cut?

That’s like asking Captain America who should not be an Avenger. Or which Brady Bunch kid gets the clean polyester pants this week…(sorry for the flashback). Our characters were chosen by ‘who’ was available, having a writer who really wanted to write pulp for today, and pure dumb luck, when someone called and asked us the question we love…“Have you ever thought about a book with ______.” In the final analysis, our line-up will change as our audience decides who they like and [who they] would like “lost” forever. We have our favorites already (I like the Green Ghost), and will establish our most popular strips in a regular book. 

BF: It seems most, if not all, of the characters involved in the line could exist just as successfully on their own, as within the realm of a shared fictional universe. Why did Moonstone decide to set these characters’ adventures in a single shared world?

TL: The world of pulp/noir is a complex place. With the New Originals, setting them in a shared world allows the opportunities to “team” our heroes up, as well as pit them against their own villainous forces. Clearly, some characters will “live” in the days of WWI, and some will be more active in the 1970s. The beauty of fiction is that you can age a character to create a believable encounter or storyline. With our line-up, many of the characters already share a WWII setting for the most part. G-8 has been aged to make his appearances more logical for our pilot fiction.

BF: Some of the characters appearing under the Return of the Originals banner are fairly well known to most comic book fans, if only in passing. The Black Bat, the Spider, and the Phantom Detective come to mind. Other pulp heroes may not register so quickly on their radars. Which character do you feel is positioned to really break out or strike a chord with fans?

TL: As a reader, I can say that many of the characters have struck a chord and forced me to ask questions like “Isn’t this the She Hulk?” As a fan, I am already enamored with the Spider, G-8, and The Phantom Detective. The Green Ghost by Win Scott Eckert and Eric Fein will grab people and soon be on their must-read lists. Secret Agent X is very cool, and the Secret 6 by Will Murray hearkens readers to a time when Doc Savage was the hottest title around!  Our character line-up will have something for everyone, and hopefully readers will descend upon comic stores and don dark capes, hats, and wear WWII vintage holsters while hunkering down to read our outstanding fiction.

BF: I’ve asked this question of many of the creators involved in the Return of the Originals line but I’d like to hear your thoughts on this as well. What is it about pulp fiction that continues to engage readers in this modern age of digital coloring, webcomics, and franchises such as Twilight?

TL: Justice is best served cold. And no genre dishes up justice like hardened pulp era heroes. With our modern “system” drowned in human rights, and court cases bordering on the illogical, the time for quick justice and pure good vs. evil is now. The Spider dishes out revenge and justice while destroying half of New York State monthly. The Golden Amazon wreaks havoc on those around her who might exploit her for selfish ends. G-8, Captain Midnight, Airboy, and the Secret 6 operate on mysteries and adventures we “normal” beings might only dream of. Through pulp fiction, we readers can wield a Tommy gun and dispense justice when once we might have spent our time facing natural dangers head on. In our digital age, nothing says escapism like pulp fiction. 

The audience that reads webcomics and Twilight is not our audience. A Twilight fan will not read the Spider and go “Wow!  What a great team-up this would make.” In reality, the Spider would take one look at that world and watch it go up in flames, then go off to his favorite nightclub. Webcomics readers have a better chance of connecting with many webcomics dancing on the edges of pulp. 

BF: Moonstone is offering a wide range of titles under the Return of the Originals banner. How does it all kick off and what are some of the major highlights fans can expect as the line evolves?

TL: Phantom Detective #1 hits stands in October. Honey West #1 comes out in August with live appearances in California of Gloria Fickling and our Honey West, Hollis. Our Widevision books will smack readers and give them a new appreciation of a long gone art form. The Green Hornet Anthology will rock fans, as will the Captain Midnight book edited by Chris Mills.

Fans can keep abreast of Moonstone news at our website, www.moonstonebooks.com and sign up for our monthly newsletter from the Man in the Moon! Award-winning author, Elizabeth Massie, will bring us the Moon Man, and Jai Nitz will spin tales of the Skull Killer and Captain Action. Writer extraordinaire Mike Bullock explores our sand box with the Black Bat, Captain Future, and Gladiator. Ron Fortier tackles the Green Llama with great aplomb. Aside from that, we have some surprises up our reversible sleeves that will shock even our most ardent fans.

Throughout this process, I have discovered that there are writers out there just like Joe and I who love the “old” yet embrace the “new”.  The current wave of pulp reprints from companies like Sanctum (Doc/Shadow/Avenger), Adventure Press, Pulpville Press, and Wildside Books is good news for Moonstone.  Airship 27 publishes new pulp, and has for several years now.  With both markets, new and reprint, we all benefit, as their audience is OURS as well.

Look out First Wave, the New Originals Are coming! 

Tim Lasiuta is a man of many interests. Once he discovered the world of comics as a youngster, his life was never the same. Comics, books, classic films, radio plays and drama, art, and pulp adventure heroes are vividly alive in his imagination, he says. Lasiuta writes on a variety of topics for such entities as True West Magazine, Comic Buyers Guide, Wildest Westerns, Penguin Comics website (www.penguincomics.net), amazon.com as a top 1000 reviewer and at www.happyharborcomics.com (Lasiuta's Look).  His published work includes Collecting Western Memorabalia (McFarland), Brushstrokes With Greatness (TwoMorrows), Misadventures of A Roving Cartoonist (www.lonerangercartoonist.com), and short fiction for Moonstone (Zorro, Green Hornet, and Captain Midnight).  His first 'comic' story, The Hold Up, will see print in January of 2011 illustrated by the great Dan Spiegle. 
His work for Moonstone includes property acquisition, research, and now editing for the New Original Line.  His wife of 21 years, and four children (and a future son in law) put up with his pursuit of pulp and comic related material.  He will never grow up! 

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  • Bart Croonenborghs

    Bart Croonenborghs Aug 18, 2010 at 7:56am

    Cool, I pre-ordered Return of the Originals and signed up for the newsletter.

  • Andy Oliver

    Andy Oliver Aug 18, 2010 at 11:31am

    Another good interview Jason for an interesting project.

  • Jason Wilkins

    Jason Wilkins Aug 19, 2010 at 12:32am

    Thanks Andy - couldn't have done it without you. This was a fun series of interviews to work on. Love the old stuff and learned a lot in the process.

    I'll be picking up the OGN for sure and a few others. I'm a huge Mark Sparacio fan now.

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