Monday, October 10, 2011

PULPTACULAR | Altus Press (Featuring an Exclusive Announcement)





As I’m making my way through the list of New Pulp publishers, I’m realizing that I have more experience with some of them than I think I do. Altus Press, for instance. At the beginning of the summer I wanted to do some research on The Purple Scar for another project, so I ordered Altus’ collection of all four Purple Scar stories and devoured it in about a week while I was on vacation. It was perfect summer reading in a well-designed package with nice paper.

I bought The Strange Adventures of the Purple Scar from Amazon, so I didn’t visit Altus’ website until I started preparing for this article. I thought of Altus as a publisher primarily interested in reprints of classic pulp stories and indeed, that’s true. According to founder Matt Moring, 90% of Altus’ product is reprint material. But “primarily” doesn’t mean “exclusively.” I was surprised and pleased to also find other kinds of books on the Altus site, like New Pulp stories featuring old characters and even a Pulp Histories line containing chronologies, series companions, and other essay-collections.

I don’t think I’m quite familiar enough with pulp yet to be ready for the deeper dives of the Pulp Histories, but I looked around their other categories and found a few things to add to my reading pile. I’m a big fan of jungle adventure and jungle girl stories in particular, so one of the first reprints I want to check out is The Complete Adventures of the Jungle Queen.

I also adore lost civilization stories, so I’m totally impressed that Altus has a whole section of its catalog called the Lost Race Library. The first to catch my eye was the collection of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Caspak trilogy: The Land That Time Forgot, The People That Time Forgot, and Out of Time’s Abyss. However, I’m familiar enough with the movie versions of the first two novels that I’d like to try something different for my first pick. I know I’ll be coming back for Caspak at some point, but before I do that I’m interested in Rex Stout’s Under the Andes. My mom’s a big Nero Wolfe fan, so we always had lots of Stout in the house when I was growing up. I’m curious to see how he handles an adventure-thriller like this.

For something New Pulp, I’ll start off with Tom Johnson’s collection of Pulp Detectives stories. It includes recently written stories about several classic detectives including the Phantom Detective, the Masked Detective, Secret Agent X, the Black Bat, the Lone Eagle, and Nightwind. Some of those guys I’ve heard of; some are completely new to me, so it should be a good sampling of the genre.

But enough of my observations. As usual for this column, I asked Altus’ head honcho, Matt Moring, if he’d be willing to answer some questions about his business and how it fits into the New Pulp landscape. He not only did that; he also gave me an exclusive announcement about Altus’ newest offering. So keep reading.

Michael: Matt, thanks for talking to me. What led you to start your business? What was missing that you wanted to provide?

Matt: I'm a designer by trade, and a pulp collector as well. As soon as I was made aware of POD technology and how it was now affordable (ca. 2005), I jumped at the chance to try my hand at it.

Michael: What differentiates Altus from other New Pulp publishers?

Matt: I think we make one of the best all-around products out there for pulp reprint collectors (in terms of layout and value for the dollar), as well as designing intriguing ways of presenting all-new prose in an authentic-looking pulp-esque package.

Michael: Where did the name Altus come from?

Matt: Long story, but I was intrigued by the name while looking at some old, defunct company names. And it doesn't hurt that it's at the beginning of the alphabet, so we get a bit of added promotion that way.

Michael: Which of your titles do you recommend for someone who’s never read one of your books? Where’s the perfect place to start to get an accurate feel for what Altus represents?

Matt: For classic pulp reprint material, I'd recommend the collection of all the stories of the Bat, entitled The Bat Strikes Again and Again by Johnston McCulley. It’s long been a popular title of ours (no doubt due to the Batman connections). It’s also one of our thinner books, but it’s a page turner. It ought to click with any fans of obscure, masked pulp heroes.

Regarding new material, you can't go wrong with the first of the authorized, all-new Doc Savage novels by Will Murray, The Desert Demons.

Also – and this is an exclusive for you – I’m publishing an all-new story by Jeff Deischer featuring the 1940s heroes Adventurers, Inc., who only appeared in one story. Jeff’s written a sequel, and for its publication, I’ve coupled it with a reprint of the original, first story by Doc Savage author William Bogart. It’s designed to look like a first issue of an imagined stand-alone pulp title published by Ziff-Davis had they spun the characters off into their own title. To me, it’s the perfect hybrid of old and new stories.

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My last question in these profiles is usually about what classic pulps the publisher suggests readers check out if they like what the publisher is doing. One of the cool things about Altus – as Moring mentioned with Adventurers, Inc. – is that those recommendations are right there in the publishing line, if not in the same book. Many of their books, like Adventurers, Inc. and The Man in Purple, include the original pulp tales right alongside the New Pulp versions. Others, like the heroes in Tom Johnson’s Pulp Detectives, are well-represented in separate reprint collections like The Phantom Detecive: Phantoms in Bronze and Secret Agent X: The Complete Series. It’s a cross-promotional strategy that I expect works really well for Altus. I know it’s going to work on me.

3 comments:

  1. Be sure to check out the complete three volume Green Lama collection from Altus. The last book in the series features a brand new GL tale by Adam Lance Garcia which bridges the original tales form the pulps with his new GL adventures for Airship 27 Productions. Matt does a great job of bringing old and new pulp together and is a joy to work with.

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  2. Excellent, Ron! Thanks for that recommendation. I need to read some Green Lama and find out for myself why everyone's so crazy about him.

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  3. Thanks for the promotion, Ron! :) Yes, indeed, "Green Lama and the Case of the Final Column" (with art by the incredible Mike Fyles) is the connective tissue between the original stories and the modern stories (as well as tying in the Prize Comics stories). It also explains the minor (and some major) inconsistencies in the original stories and features Kendall Crossen's pseudonym "Richard Foster" as major character. It also sets up some plot seeds for Unbound and Crimson Circle.

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