Skip directly to content

Scalphunter: The Devil's Pay

on Mon, 11/24/2014 - 00:00

From their inception, comic books were never exclusively about superheroes. While Action Comics #1, featuring the first appearance of Superman, in effect established the new medium as a legitimate source of entertainment, publishers branched out in the early days with issues ranging from romance to war, horror to science fiction. In many ways, the selections offered during the period reflected the same genres popular at movie theaters and on television sets. This included westerns, and by the time World War II had ended, all of the major publisher had their own line of comic books dedicated to the Old West. DC launched Western Comics in 1948, for instance, and the series lasted until 1961 before giving way to a renewed interest in superheroes.

Just like with anything else, what goes-around-comes-around within the comic book industry, and DC again began publishing western comics in 1972. Although Weird Western Tales initially centered on bounty hunter Jonah Hex, a new hero—Scalphunter—was created in 1977 to take over the reins of Weird Western Tales when Hex was given his own series. Scalphunter was born Brian Savage, and his origin story tied into the Western Comics of the 1950s by establishing that Savage’s father was Matt Savage, the final main character in that particular comic book. Abducted by Native Americans as a child and raised by Kiowa Indians who named him Ke-Woh-No-Tay, Brian Savage later made his way back to white society, donned the moniker Scalphunter and fought injustice throughout Nineteenth Century America. In a 1980 issue of Weird Western Tales, meanwhile, Scalphunter’s journeys led him to the Steel City of Pittsburgh.

The Horrible Plan of Horace Pickle

on Wed, 11/19/2014 - 00:00

Although August Munch can technically be considered a superhero, he’s actually more of a sidekick for the Baron, the true protector of Windsmith City. Horace Pickle, meanwhile, isn’t really a supervillain, he’s just not the most pleasant of people as well as a genius with lots of money. When the Baron extends his stay in South America following a mission, leaving August Munch to oversee the safety of Windsmith, and Horace Pickle decides it’s time to make a name for himself before he turns thirty, these two relative unknowns are forced to match wits and outmaneuver one another in The Horrible Plan of Horace Pickle (Fantastic Journeys Publishing, 2014), the first novel from Pittsburgh author Brian Hagan.

The Horrible Plan of Horace Pickle may sound like an odd name for a superhero narrative but is quite entertaining nonetheless, a novel filled with wit and humor that incorporates all of the tropes of a good superhero story with plenty of unique twists thrown in along the way. August Munch, for instance, initially appears as a mere underling to the Baron and not necessarily a superhero in his own right. Being the son of a now-deceased former protector of the community, August takes an even further backseat in the affairs of Windsmith City. It is well into the novel, meanwhile, before it is revealed that August has any super abilities of his own. “Even though the vast majority of the city knew who he was, most didn’t know what he looked like,” The Horrible Plan of Horace Pickle says of August Munch. “He could probably change that, if he really wanted to. Get a logo and a bright outfit and everybody would recognize the Non-Newtonian Man.”

Pittsburgh: A Tradition of Innovation

on Mon, 11/17/2014 - 00:00

Say the name Pittsburgh and what comes to mind? Steel mills, bridges and rivers perhaps? How about Steelers, Pirates and Penguins? All would be valid responses, but in reality Pittsburgh extends beyond the obvious and has been on the cutting edge of culture and society since its founding in 1758. Maybe there’s something in the water, or maybe it’s because the city’s three rivers has made it one of the centralized locations in the United States, but as the ongoing exhibit at the Senator John Heinz History Center eloquently states, Pittsburgh has a “Tradition of Innovation” that goes back centuries. The region has bared witness to many of the major moments in American history, while likewise being at the forefront of mankind’s most significant and greatest achievements.

Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, for instance, began their famed Lewis and Clark Expedition in Pittsburgh, making their way along the Ohio River to the Missouri and then literally across the country to the Pacific Coast. In late 1811, Robert Fulton—often considered the “Father of the Steamboat”—built a specially designed version of his craft with his partners Robert Livingston and Nicholas Roosevelt, launching it in Pittsburgh and proving the capability of such vehicles to transverse the Mississippi Rivers, opening a new form of transportation to America’s Heartland. The popularity of steamboats, as well as Pittsburgh’s three connecting rivers, exposed a young Stephen Foster to multiple musical formats, enabling him to combine these various elements into a unique style and becoming the “Father of American Music” in the process. Famed engineer John Roebling, meanwhile, perfected his wire rope cable suspension bridge over the rivers of Pittsburgh years before he built the Brooklyn Bridge.