December 30, 2013


In celebration of the 100-year anniversary of Sax Rohmer's infamous character Fu Manchu, PulpFest hosted a fascinating round-table event last summer. A panel of pulp historians, including Ed Hulse (Blood 'n' Thunder), Gene Christie (Black Dog Books), Win Scott Eckert (The Phantom, Green Hornet, Honey West and T.H.E. Cat), Nathan Madison (Anti-Foreign Imagery in American Pulps and Comics), William Patrick Maynard (Fu Manchu, Sherlock Holmes), and Will Murray (Doc Savage, The Spider), discussed how the character developed over time and how the stories reflected attitudes about Asian immigration, culture, and foreign policy.

Fu Manchu inspired the quintessential fiendish mastermind, an archetype that ruled popular fiction in the 20th Century and continues to appear in contemporary stories (Iron Man III). James Bond fans will recognize the template in characters like Doctor No (Doctor No/1962) and The Claw (Get Smart/1965-1970). Rohmer's villain appeared in Cold War comic books (Master of Kung Fu/1974-1983), Pyramid paperbacks, on television (Adventures of Fu Manchu/1953), and in a series of 1965-1969 movies starring Christopher Lee (Man With the Golden Gun). Fun Manchu continues as a literary figure through the efforts of the Rohmer estate and author William Patrick Maynard.

Pulp historian Nathan Madison starts off the 50-minute discussion below. Check out the Fu Manchu images here from the 1960s Christopher Lee films. Some topics of note: The Brides of Fu Manchu campaign from 1966 is based on a common anti-communist slogan of the era, "better dead than red." The women from Blood of Fu Manchu (1968) are wearing fur, but those geometric cuts are all Space-Age fashion! Spy Vibe's Christopher Lee collage and tribute here. Spy Vibe interview with William Patrick Maynard. Spy Vibe's Pinterest image archives: DiabolicalMystery/AdventureCliffhanger Serials, The Phantom, Dick Tracy, Mandrake, The Shadow, Fantomas. Thanks to PulpFest and all of the panel guests for offering such a fascinating discussion. Enjoy!

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