Once, a very long time ago in the 1980’s, DC put out a comic “maxi” series called, “Silverblade”. It was written by Cary Bates and the art was done by Gene Colan. The hero was Jonathon Lord, an aging movie star. One day, bitter, washed-up Lord makes a wish that is answered by an uncanny entity in the shape of the Maltese Falcon.
The entity gives Lord the ability to transform into any role he ever played on the silver screen, the most notable being the swashbuckler, Silverblade. Of course, Jonathon Lord is delighted, he’s thirty years old again. But the entity has more planned for our hero. As Lord gets his feet wet as Silverblade, a deeper plots unfolds. There’s a jealous villain after him, of course. And a ghost from Hollywood’s halcyon days. There’s a second Silverblade running around, too, this one, Native American. Is he friend or foe…? Or, perhaps something entirely different? And then there’s the mysterious bird-entity who’s running the show and whose enemy inhabits an empty suit of armor. It’s a grand adventure.
The comic wasn’t just about Silverblade’s escapades, however, there’s a supernatural thread in it, too. It’s in this secondary thread that you can see a ghost of the old science fiction pulps. The heart of the story leads back to ancient Atlantis and an eternal struggle between good and evil reoccurring throughout human history. There’s a lot of supernatural theory in the comic: channeling of extra-dimensional entities, possession, altered states of consciousness, visiting other planes of reality, Mandela Effects (although, not by that name), alternate timelines, and the eternal struggle that resides within ourselves and not without.
All of this suggests that Silverblade is a top notch story. It was good, but great…? Not so much. It was noteworthy though, at least good enough for me to remember it for more than thirty years. When I recently re-read it, I could feel the original stories that might have inspired the writer. In the old days, Leigh Brackett might have written a such a story as this. But “Silverblade” doesn’t have the meat of one of her excellent adventure stories.
And then there was the art. I liked it the first time around. I’m certainly a fan of the style used in this series, something we see in other comics of the time. But, the hero’s costume always bothered me. Why would a swashbuckler from the 1930’s/1940’s be dressed like a land-based Aquaman? It finally occurred to me that he was supposed to be dressed like Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon. Then it all made sense! So, I asked myself —how might an illustration for “Silverblade” look if the story had been put out in a science fiction pulp such as ASTOUNDING STORIES or THRILLING WONDER STORIES in the 1940’s? It proved an interesting exercise.
Here are the original pages that inspired my drawing, from Issue #1 of “Silverblade.”
Here’s my illustration with caption, inspired by the original text. Of course, it’s done in black and white as interior illustrations were in that era. I used pen & ink and waxy pencil on coquille, a type of textured paper. These are the same techniques used for most of the interior artwork during the pulp era.
I’m a student and curator of the old styles of illustration from the early 20th century. I use hand-drawn or painted techniques to re-create the styles of art used in that long-ago era. These techniques are rapidly disappearing. When they’re gone, they’re gone…for good. There will never be another Virgil Finlay or Edd Cartier but I will continue in their footsteps creating “new” pulp art in the old styles. It’s a passion, as is writing “new” illustrated pulp stories such as, LANDSCAPE OF DARKNESS and ANCHOR: A Strange Tale of Time.
If you have a need of an illustration or a painting for your book, article, or project, please contact me through this website. I have some more pictures for you to peruse, here.