BILL BLACK talks about the AC Universe at Pro SE

bill-blackFirst Comics News: What is it about Pro SE that made them the right partners?

Bill Black: I was contacted by publisher Tommy Hancock about the possibility of a joint venture where the characters I created would be adapted into new stories in prose fiction format. It seems that well known New Pulp author Barry Reese had suggested AC to Tommy. Tommy himself was a fan of the AC Comics characters for many years. A while back Barry had sent me several of his pulp novels in THE ROOK series. I loved the ones I read and grew to have respect for Barry’s talents. I thought that if Barry motivated this joint venture and there was a possibility that he would write some of the books then this was a project I should support. Initially they were interested in CAPTAIN PARAGON (PARAGON) and DARKSHADE (THE SHADE). Both characters would be a perfect fit for New Pulp novels. Captain Paragon began his paranormal career back in the Old West in 1875 so he could be adapted into several pulp genres: The Western, the 1930s, the 1940s, the 1950s (the actual eras of pulp magazines) and science fiction. For Captain Paragon the 1930s and 1950s are unmined territories. What was he doing in those eras? I’d like to know that myself. THE SHADE being an astral projection of a crippled vet is a natural hero for the pulps.

Visiting the Pro Se website I saw that their output was prolific and included many Barry Reese books. All this appealed to me. Tommy says that he has other writers who are well versed in AC characters. That is very important because I want to work with people who have made AC a part of their lives for the last 3 or 4 decades. Starting as kids, they grew up on AC just like I grew up on Marvel.

And Pro Se takes a retro approach to writing. They bask in retro. They are keeping alive a form of story telling from
decades past and I applaud their efforts. That’s just what I’ve been doing for the past 45 years. They are wordsmiths.
From the few examples of recent comics that I’ve read it would seem that current publishers are coming close to eliminating “words” from comic books. Well, novels are chock full of words.

1st: Why license the characters instead of self publishing their prose adventures?

Bill: All along I’ve thought about writing prose stories but there just isn’t any time to do that. I’m excited about all the many projects in which I am currently involved. Right now I just couldn’t take on another thing. Let’s be honest, Barry Reese could do a better job of it. He’s got talent and experience. This is the right direction to take. AC Comics will stick to comic books and Nightveil Media will hold with video production. How fabulous it will be to have Pro Se extend the AC Universe into a new arena.

1st: Is this the first time you have allowed someone else to have full control of your characters?

Bill: No, in the early 1990s we licensed the characters to Tri City Games who came up with the SUPERBABES Role Playing Game. They wrote new scenarios featuring our characters.

1st: Will the stories told by Pro SE be parts of the official canon for the AC Universe?

Bill: Pro Se stories will build on the existing back story and no doubt expand upon what has been written. Obviously you can develop characters more fully in a novel than what is possible in a comic book or movie. Will they follow along with current FEMFORCE continuity? I wouldn’t think so. That would be too restrictive. And as I said Pro Se can build their stories in any era and most likely would not stick to a 2016 time line. But this is just my guess. We’ll see.

1st: What can or can’t they do with the characters?

Bill: There will be limits. AC has always respected their characters and it is my understanding that Pro Se will do the same. In thirty plus years AC has never re-booted nor radically changed their characters unlike what Marvel and DC have done, over and over. AC and Pro Se appear to be operating on the same retro wave length so I do not anticipate any radical altering of the characters. It will be an expansion of the characterizations that we already know. In a novel you will know what the character is thinking and that creates a more intimate bond with the reader. I believe thought balloons and expository captions were eliminated from comic books years ago though not at AC Comics.

1st: Do you have any role with approval of story content?

Oh, yes. I will be given every novel to read before publication.

1st: Aside from the Pro SE deal, you have been producing movies with the AC Universe characters. What do you have in production?

Bill: This year Nightveil Media has released STORMY TEMPEST: FIGHT FOR THE FUTURE (85mins), NYOKA AND THE LOST AMULET OF VULTURA (90 mins) and STORMY TEMPEST: CARESS OF THE MOSS MONSTER (54 mins) on DVD. Currently I am doing a re-build of my 2006 movie, THE AMAZING COLOSSAL WOMAN, and I’m having a lot of fun with this one. Many characters will be added to the storyline that were not in the original release and I’m casting well known industry people in cameos, most notably other micro-budget Indy film directors. So far I’ve added Don Glut (THE MUMMY’S KISS), Joel D. Wynkoop (TRUTH OR DARE) and Joshua Kennedy (DRACULA 2015). I’m hoping Chris Walas (THE FLY II, Academy Award winner make-up THE FLY 1986) can work up a bit with Bob Burns (GHOSTBUSTERS) and I’m counting on Fred Olen Ray (ATTACK OF THE 60 FT. CENTERFOLDS and 100+ other films). Steve Latshaw (RETURN OF THE KILLER SHREWS), Craig Scott Lamb (CRASH- THE RAY CORRIGAN STORY) and Gary Hughes (ROCKETMAN) are waiting me to write up their scenes. Nick Cuti will certainly be included as well. Incidentally Don Glut, Nick Cuti and lil ol’ me will be contributors to the new and successful horror comic magazine, THE CREEPS.

Upcoming will be SCARLET SCORPION (a female version of the character) which will introduce Dr. Jonathan Weir as THE PURPLE CLAW. Four more STORMY TEMPEST films have been shot but not edited. Feature length STORMY VS. ASTRA (tentative title) introduces ASTRA and ASTRON from AC Comics into the story line. The Purple Claw is in this one, too. Another Stormy feature follows (DEATH OF STORMY TEMPEST) and two 30 minute films (STORMY TEMPEST: STEALTH (tentative title) and STORMY TEMPEST: BRIDE OF THE MOSS MONSTER. Another film in the can but not edited is THE PURPLE CLAW in which Dr. Weir confronts Morgan LeFey. And there are more episodes of GARGANTA which are slow coming because of the extensive special effects. Next out will be GARGANTA GOT MILK.

1st: Lastly what publishing plans do you have for the remainder of the year?

Bill: Currently I’m putting a 140 page collection of Dick Ayers’ GHOST RIDER stories from his Magazine Enterprises days. This is an authorized edition and does not start with the earliest tales but rather cherry picks some of the best two dozen. AC will continue to publish BIG BANG as the first effort was successful. As always MEN OF MYSTERY, CRYPT OF HORROR, GOLDEN-AGE GREATS SPOTLIGHT and FEMFORCE will continue. The experiment with GIANTESS worked so there will be more of that.

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