Back in 2009 I wrote in this ’ere blog about it being over ten years since THE PALADIN MANDATES was published by The Alchemy Press, and how a review of same in THEAKER'S QUARTERLY DIGEST provoked me into writing a sparkly fresh Paladin story: “Sailors of the Skies” for DARK HORIZONS #55 (The British Fantasy Society, 2009).
Paladin himself had been born many years earlier, in “Death Wish Mandate” published in KADATH #5, by Francesco Cova. He’d had a long gestation.
Ever since he drew SWORD OF SORCERY for DC Comics (1973), I’ve been a fan of Howard Chaykin. In 1975 he wrote and drew the first two issues of THE SCORPION for Atlas/Seaboard Comics. Set in the 1930s, it pitted an apparently immortal character – Moro Frost – against slightly more mundane villains. At the time I didn’t know much about the rich history of masked avengers who had graced the pages of pulp magazines back before the Second World War (with the exception of Doc Savage and the Shadow), so I was pretty ignorant of where Chaykin was coming from. After THE SCORPION ceased publication, he took the idea over to Marvel and created, with a slight change of costume and dropping the immortal bit, Dominic Fortune. Despite my ignorance of history, there was something about both characters that sparked an interest in me. I wanted to do something similar. But what, and how? I couldn’t quite nail it.
It took a phone call from David Sutton to crystallise the idea. He told me that Francesco Cova wanted to do an occult detective issue of KADATH, and there was space left if I wanted to submit. That was all I needed. An occult detective – of course! Set in 1930s New York, and dressed in a style not unlike the Scorpion. Over the following years I wrote a few more Paladin tales – selling a couple – before The Alchemy Press collected them for their first publication in 1998.
The character went into something of a hiatus for over a decade, until his resurrection in DARK HORIZONS. Again it was just the spark I needed. I wrote several more Paladin stories, including: “There’ll Be A Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight”, for an expanded Kindle edition of THE PALADIN MANDATES (The Alchemy Press, 2012); a cross-over with Nick Nightmare (co-written with Nick’s creator, Adrian Cole) “Fire All of the Guns At One Time” for the British Fantasy Award winning NICK NIGHTMARE INVESTIGATES (Alchemy Press/Airgedlamh, 2014); and the Christmas-themed “Deck the Halls” in OCCULT DETECTIVE MONSTER HUNTER (Emby Press, 2015).
And finally, in 2017, almost treading on each other’s heels, OCCULT DETECTIVE QUARTERLY #2 included “The Black Tarot” (in which I sneakily introduced the world to a brand new masked vigilante character – having learned a little more of the Pulp tradition in the intervening years), and Pro Se Productions published the eagerly-awaited (well – I was all agog anyway) collection/portmanteau novel, WALKERS IN SHADOW: six new tales of adventure, plus a revised “Sailors of the Skies”).
So what’s next? Well, there are plans to re-issue PALADIN MANDATES in expanded form, and “The Black Tarot” is intended to be the first in a new bunch of adventures for Paladin, Leigh Oswin and his expanding repertory company.
One thing’s for sure: the world shall hear from Damian Paladin again.