I often joke with friends that the reason that I moved to The States from the UK is that I have a genetic disorder. I prefer football to soccer. Even when I lived in the UK I would rather watch weekly coverage of the NFL than the traditional Saturday afternoon Match of the Day. Not for me cold terraces of chanting fans. I would, however, turn up at work bleary-eyed the morning after the Superbowl having, thanks to the time difference, stayed up till the early hours of the morning to watch the game.
When we moved to the US we arrived to a new home just outside the city of Baltimore the same year that the Ravens franchise made its roost in the city. I had found "my team," not only because of chronological and geographical happenstance, but also because of that team name. A team whose mascots are named Edgar, Allen and Poe.
Poe had always been a massive influence on me. A master whose work covered the fantastic and the detective procedural, along with some of the most vivid imagery in literature.
Come the day I started to seriously write and develop my own characters and stories, I decided to add my own small tribute to the master (and my favorite team). Whenever possible I would include a raven somewhere in the story. For instance in my Tokyopop manga series, GOD SHOP the characters hang out in The Raven Bar. A long-in-development graphic novel opens with a close up of a raven’s eye; and I even managed to squeeze a nod to the black bird into the pulp detective story I’m currently trying to finish. I'm sorry to say that, unsurprisingly, the Disney*Pixar CARS comics I wrote are raven-free.
When I was asked to contribute something for the planned superhero prose anthology project, The Protectors, the name of my hero could be nothing other than The Raven. But this wouldn't be just one hero, but in line with my interest in generational heroes, a whole lineage.
Central to this line of heroes is its originator, a guy wearing a slouch hat, and toting twin .45s running around a 1940s era New York. A real pulp style protagonist.
After my last column a couple of people asked where they could read his story. The answer is - right here.
While we wait for full The Protectors anthology to reach print, with thanks to my co-author, Rick Klaw, and Protectors editor, Paige Roberts, I'll be running the story of the pulp era Raven in bit parts as part of this ongoing column.
Hope you enjoy this trip to New York in the year 1941 – As the storm clouds of war cover Europe and America stands on the brink, strange things are happening in the city that never sleeps….
NAMELESS HERE FOR EVERMORE
By Alan J. Porter & Rick Klaw
NEW YORK CITY - 1941
From his vantage point on top of the old Manhattan Theater, he scanned The Great White Way from Times Square back down towards Central Park. A black 1935 Buick Sedan raced towards him at highly illegal speeds, skillfully darting between a mix of cabs, limos, and delivery trucks, all with their horns blaring.
A sharp report of gunfire split the evening air as a couple of police cruisers came into view further down Broadway. Leaning out of the windows, officers fired at the rear end of the fleeing Buick, their bullets ricocheting wildly off its trunk lid.
The Buick rode low on its leaf springs. So low that each time it made a change in direction, the running boards momentarily scraped the pavement sending up a dramatic shower of sparks. The ride carried a lot of extra weight. Undoubtedly, modifications added to serve the special needs of its current owner. He guessed steel plating all around.
He watched the way the Buick weaved in and out of the traffic. He knew the style of the man behind the wheel.
*********Dutch Mandel knew cars. He had mastered almost any vehicle known, but this overweight tricked-out mobile fortress responded like a pig. Even with all the extra weight, he knew he could still make it do things that no one else could. That's what made him the best wheel-man on The Boss’s payroll.
He waited in the car while The Boss’s hired goons did the dirty work of smashing up that Circle-K deli—a reminder to its owner of the consequences of missing a month’s payment—when some nosy neighbor apparently alerted the cops. As a result one of the goons, Dutch never bothered to learn their names, had been left on the sidewalk to bleed out like some slaughtered calf, while the armor plated four-wheel fortress barreled down Broadway, bullets pinging off the trunk.
Dutch took a quick glance in the rear-view mirror, checking on the pursuing flat-foots. They’d stopped firing their Thompson sub-machine guns, realizing that their ricocheting bullets harmed nothing but the civilians lining the busy sidewalks. The Boss smartly planned on making the getaway down Broadway. Use the crowds as an advantage. Put the maximum number of people in harm’s way and the cops won’t fire. As always, The Boss had been right. Dutch smiled, and returned his gaze to the road in front of him. They were home free.
“What the ______ !” Something dropped out of the sky, landing on the road just in front of the speeding car. Initially, Dutch thought it was some sort of wounded giant bird that must have fallen off a building. But when it rose, he saw that it was a man dressed all in black. A black scarf covered the lower half of his face, a black wide brimmed hat pulled low, and a flowing black cape attached to his shoulders. Dutch felt fear for perhaps the first time when he saw the piercing red eyes . They seemed to shine out from between the scarf and the hat.
But then the two Colt .45s pointed straight at his head and belching smoke caught his attention.
“Shit!” The glass on the right hand side of the windshield cracked into a starlike pattern, and then shattered into a thousand tiny shards. He slammed on the brakes and violently tugged the wheel to the left. The car shot across into the face of oncoming traffic. He suddenly felt a sharp pain in his right arm. The bastard shot him! The arm lay at his side useless. Without it, it was impossible to straighten the course of the speeding car.
The front wheel of the large Buick dug into the rain gutter, then buckled as it slammed into the curb. The big ungainly, overweight car started to tip over. Dutch Mandel helplessly watched the rapidly approaching fire hydrant that would soon spear through the driver’s side window and smash his head to a pulp.