Monday, September 27, 2010

"Om Mani Padme Hum!" So Speaks...the Green Lama!

In the 1930s-40s The Shadow was big!
We're talking "Harry Potter"-level popularity here!
Between a bi-weekly magazine (and hardcover reprints), a radio show, b-movies (and a serial), a newspaper comic strip, a comic book, big little books, and lots of collectible merchandise, He Who Knows What Evil Lurks was one of the FIRST multi-media and merchandising phenomenons!
It was inevitable that rich playboy-turned-cloaked avenger imitators would pop up.
Some were obvious and blatant like The Whisperer.
Some were obvious, but had a really distinctive style, like The Spider.
And some were...well...unique, like The Green Lama!

The Green Lama was rich playboy Lamont...I mean Jethro Dumont who spent a decade in a lamasery in Tibet learning how to become a Buddhist priest (or Lama).
This training gave him amazing mental powers including the ability to cloud mens' minds. (This is not to say all Buddhist priests go around doing that sort of thing. Jethro apparently took some extra-credit courses.)
Jethro also picked up radioactive salts which gave him physical enhancements as well, including super-strength and enabling him to fly.
Upon returning to America, Jethro resolved to use his abilities to right wrongs, punish evildoers, and in general, fight crime.
Like The Shadow, who had several other identities besides "Lamont Cranston", Jethro also used the identity of "Dr. Pali" to go places rich playboy Dumont couldn't.
Unlike The Shadow, he never used a gun, instead depending on his mental powers (and, if necessary, his physical prowess) to deal with villains.

That's his fictional "origin".
The creation of The Green Lama in the real-world was a little less exciting.
Experienced pulp writer Kendell Foster Crossen was hired by pulp publisher Munsey Publications to create a character to compete with The Shadow on the newsstands.
He conceived The Green Lama and penned, under the name "Richard Foster", over a dozen tales about him for the Double Detective pulp magazine from 1940 to 1943.
(While The Lama was always the cover feature from his first appearance onward, he never had his own pulp, like The Shadow.)
The Lama also appeared in comic books, first in Prize Comics from #7 in 1940 to #34 in 1943, then moving into his own comic for eight issues until 1946.
Crossen wrote most of the comics, which were illustrated by Mac Raboy, one of the best artists of the period! (Raboy was the only choice to take over the Sunday Flash Gordon strip from creator Alex Raymond and Mac continued it until he passed away!)
Three years later, the character was revived in a summer-replacement dramatic radio show which ran only 11 episodes starring Paul Frees, who sounded eerily-similar to Orson Welles, who had played The Shadow on radio!

In all these incarnations, efforts were made to portray Buddhism sympathetically, if not always accurately.
For example, The Lama's primary incanation to invoke his powers; "om mani padme hum", is a mantra used while praying or meditating, not going into battle!

After the radio show ended, the Lama faded away except for the occasional reprint...until 2007, when Alex Ross revived the character as one of the major players in the new Project SuperPowers line of comic books using long-lost comic book characters.
In addition, Dark Horse Publishing recently published high-quality hardcover reprints of his long out-of-print comic!
And Moonstone Publishing will be including Jethro Dumont's emerald alter-ego as one of the characters in new stories in the upcoming comic book anthology title Return of the Originals.

We at Atomic Kommie Comics™ want to do our part in re-presenting The Green Lama to the pop culture world with a line of kool kollectibles including t-shirts, mugs, even a Classic Green Lama 12-Month Calendar for 2011!

So have a look at The Green Lama, today!
And "om mani padme hum" to you! ;-)

BONUS! A pre-Halloween "treat" for our faithful fans: a link to FREE mp3s of some of the Green Lama radio episodes!

And remember...pick up Project SuperPowers, where The Green Lama LIVES!

Note: I'm reminded by writer Adam Garcia that modern pulp publisher Airship 27 is releasing NEW Green Lama prose tales both in short story anthologies and full-length novels! You'll find them below!

1 comment:

  1. Everything old is new again. I just learned the other day that the old boomerang-wielding Daredevil is, apparently, a character in SAVAGE DRAGON now. It's interesting to see creators like Alex Ross and Erik Larsen digging into the public domain, though it's surprising more writers don't do that. There seems to be a lot of pulpy goodness waiting to be updated.