Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Jess Nevins is a Superhero

Jess Nevins is a Scholar. He's the type of Bibliophile & Pop-Cultural Scholar that would be right at home in Riskail, and I mean that in the best possible way. His work in Annotating various comic book series such as Kingdom Come led into his compiling a series of in-depth Annotations for Alan Moore & Kevin O'Neil's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen which in turn led to the publication of his annotations (plus some essays, a great introduction and an interview with Alan Moore as well) as Heroes & Monsters . A second volume, A Blazing World, was likewise compiled from Nevin's erudite annotations and informed ruminations concerning the League's Second Series. He has also gone on to annotate The Black Dossier in his Impossible Territories, and Century: 1910, which is an on-going project that you can find here.

If you want a quick idea of just how formidable a task it is that Nevins took on in annotating the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, take a look at this list of the literary characters appearing in these 'funny-books.'

But that's just one example/project. Jess Nevin has also compiled a very thorough and eminently readable & enjoyable essay on Timely Comics, the shop that became Atlas and then Marvel. He has also expanded upon that essay with a number of follow-up essays on many of the classic and criminally neglected Timely Comics Characters such as The Blue Blaze, The American Avenger, Dakor The Magician, The Invisible Man, Hercules, The Thin Man, The Black Widow, Merzah The Mystic, The Black Marvel, and even Sub-Earth Man. Whew. And there's more. Like the 3Xs, but that's enough for now. Fascinating stuff. The Thin Man isn't Nick Charles, he's a super-scientist from a happy valley in the Himalayas who can turn himself super thin to get into places ordinary guys can't. Oh and he has a beautiful assistant named Oalla who helps him out. Likewise the Timely Comics' Black Widow isn't a Russian spy who bears an uncanny resemblance to Scarlett Johanssen, but rather is the "...strangest, most terrifying character in action picture magazines - the Black Widow. You've heard of the black widow spider - that evil creature whose bite spells doom. Now start the adventures of another black widow - a human tool of Satan whose very touch means death." Yeah. You read it. They wrote it. This is a character that I definitely want to learn more about, and probably would never have learned about at all if it hadn't been for Jess Nevins--Superhero Scholar and Librarian of the Lost Antiquities of Pop Literature. Ah the Golden Age of Comics, the more I learn about it, the more I come to realize just how short-changed we've been thanks to corporate myopia and greed...but that's a topic for another day, another post.

But there's much, much more. Jess Nevins has also done a great deal of research and annotation involving the Golden Age Superheroes and the Pre-Fantastic Four #1 Superheroes of Marvel Comics (The comics Giant that grew out of Timely above...).  He offers you a glimpse into the forgotten and buried secret history of the Blazing Skull, Dynamic Man, The Eternal Brain, KaZar (before he became a hippy), and Vagabond & the Fighting Hobo (Both of whom sound like off-beat heroes that you might meet in The City), amongst many, many others. (Some of whom overlap with the aforementioned Timely characters, being in fact direct continuations or revisions of those earlier superheroes--comics, especially older comics, are more than a little cannibalistic as well as incestuous.) There is even a page devoted to the Lost Generation of Marvel heroes active prior to the Fantastic Four's fateful (and all-too-often-and-Badly-RetConned) rocket-trip. You can find more details on the Lost generation characters here.

He has also has contributed some rather intriguing things to the Wold Newton Universe community such as the priceless You Weren't Nuthin' But A Hound Dog essay that really throws the WNU to the dogs by speculating on the canine descendants of a bitch irradiated by the meteor that set all of the WNU into motion in 1795. You can find a set of links to Nevin's WNU essays here. The essays on The Carters of Virginia: A Tragedy and Reach For Yuh Genealogical Charts, Stranger are really well-done. It is especially weird and wonderful to consider the implications of John Carter (Warlord of Mars) being related to Randolph Carter (the Silver Key wielding Dream-master from HPL's tales).  It certainly is one way to make a Statement. Nevins is also a contributor to the Win Scott Eckert edited anthology of P. J. Farmer WNU-focused parascholarship Myths for a Modern Age.

Have you ever heard of Captain Mors aka der Luftpirat? You can find out about this forgotten hero of the German Dime-Novels of the Early Twentieth-Century. In some respects he gives a German spin on Verne's Robur the Conquerer (with some Robin Hood style quasi-socialism) and might even be considered a distinct predecessor to Perry Rhodan. His adventures were far-ranging to say the least, extending out unto the rest of our solar system and possibly beyond in at least 165 installments, most of which remain in German. The dime-novel series featuring Captian Mors was very possibly the first Science Fiction magazine, but that's an argument for Scholars to settle with their swords. In the meantime, you can check out one of the two E-Text versions of Captain Mor's adventures here, thanks to Jess Nevins (and Justin Gilbert who translated it over from the German). Like Perry Rhodan and Dray Prescott, there is a great deal of this stuff that is trapped in German language just begging to be translated and unleashed upon an otherwise unsuspecting English-reading audience...

If you are at all interested in doing research into Literature, Art, Books, Comics, Maps, Medieval Stuff, History, or Role Playing (amongst many other things), Jess Nevins provides pages upon pages of links and references for you to make use of including his exceptional list of Reference Texts. And yes, I realize that his page of Role-Playing links is a bit out of date, but with all the stuff this guy has going on, that's perfectly understandable, and besides, it's still a very extensive list that is worth investigating. The Anarchy & Espionage page is perhaps my favorite of the bunch, but that's because it is the most appropriate to the next few Riskail posts. You can find a directory-list of Jess Nevins assorted Bookmarks here. It's quite a lot of resources, so you'll definitely want to bookmark it yourself.

Nevins has also built an Online Directory to Golden Age Heroes that offers a listing of just about every known Golden Age Hero from 1935-1949, all arranged from A to Z and navigated via the little box on the upper left. This is an incredible treasure-trove of obscure, esoteric and mostly forgotten information sure to help others in their research efforts. It's a handy reference for digging back through the accumulated data-debris in order to look up or locate obscure old characters that might have fallen not only into obscurity, but the Public Domain. Alternative sites in this area include The Mystery Men & Mystery Women Encyclopedia, Hero Goggles' Golden Age Superhero and Villain Encyclopedia, Cash Gorman's Golden Age Encyclopedia, Mikel Midnight's Golden Age Directory, and others whom I hope to get to in the near future. And of course there is Jeff Rovin's amazing Encyclopedia of Super Heroes. You might also want to check out Lev Gleasons' Comics Page for a bunch more Golden Age links.

If you're a fan of the classic superhero Lee Falk's Phantom then you might want to check out these posts over at Nevins' No Fear of the Future blog: Painted by Pygmies, and The Color Purple (as rendered in black newspaper ink).  He also maintains a Livejournal that is simply fascinating, if you are interested in the market shares of the old Pulps from back in their hey day, which I actually am. All those numbers came out of the process of assembling The Pulp Magazine Holding Directory, which is about as rampant a bit of nerdistry as you can shake a stick at, but it's damn cool...to anyone really, really interested in the Pulps.

You can also find a wonderful article at io9 by Jess Nevins that details the development of Science Fiction from out of the Pulps.

And if you are interested in the Pulp and Adventure Heroes of the Pre-War Years then you need to go here. Right now. No fooling. Jess Nevins has compiled another incredible collection of Heroes dragged from the cold wreckage of the earliest days of the Pulp and Adventure magazine days, all of it alphabetized, annotated and presented as a wonderful jumping-off point for really diving into this are of the Pop Cultural Underworld/Wasteland for days on end.

Then there's the vast amount of Fantastic Victoriana stuff that Jess Nevins has likewise compiled, annotated and converted into an Encyclopedia of the Fantastic Victoriana. The site offers you a wealth of incredible, well-researched and fun essays that range from A to Z.  He has also included at this site a detailed list of links for researching the Fantastic Victoriana all for yourself--a true gift to every would-be steampunk and Victoriaphile out there.

Is this the end for Jess Nevins? Not by a long shot. But it is the end of this post.


  1. OK, I think my brain just turned to goo and my OCD kicked in. I MUST GO AND RESEARCH THIS FURTHER I say to myself in my best zombie voice. I find this interesting and now I won't be able to sleep tonight without going and acting upon this urge. Ah well, such is life ;). Thanks for the overview!

  2. @Johnathan: It'll be okay. Really. Honest. This is an asynchronous blog--it is meant to be dig around in, and for you to come back to after the fact. The order & sequence of the posts aren't as important as the content and a lot of this stuff is for future refernce...so relax, take a deep breath, and use it when you have a few minutes(hours?) to spare.

    Maybe we ought to include a Rabbit Hole Index at the top of these sorts of posts? Caution--you may lose 1D6 hours in the course of reading this post--something like that?


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