Sunday, June 30, 2013

Are YOU a Junior Secret Centipede?

We recently unearthed this rare photograph of the very first Junior Secret Centipede Club. It was taken while the Black Centipede was in Hollywood for the filming of the motion picture "Blood of the Centipede." The club later went public, and memberships could be purchased through "Tales of the Black Centipede" magazine, and the popular Black Centipede radio show. For ten cents, fans received a certificate, membership card, badge, and an informative illustrated booklet entitled "How to Turn Ordinary Household Objects Into Lethal Weapons." (A class action lawsuit connected with the booklet was settled out of court in 1943.)

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Imaginary Soundtrack Project Part One

Here's something I came up with to keep me from going to bed at a reasonable hour. I've been thinking about an imaginary soundtrack for an imaginary movie that an imaginary studio will one day make out of my upcoming-- un-imaginary-- novel, BLACK CENTIPEDE CONFIDENTIAL.

I'm still pondering it, and would certainly welcome any suggestions. So far, here is what I have-- complete with links to the songs on YouTube, so you don't have to imagine that part. (There will be imaginary updates as the imaginary project progresses-- imaginarily.)

MAIN TITLE/BLACK CENTIPEDE'S THEME: "Magic and Ecstacy" - Ennio Morricone

MORIARTY'S THEME: "Verne Langdon's Carnival Of Souls"

ANONYMOUSHKA'S THEME: "Look What They've Done to my Song Ma" - The New Seekers

"GOOD" MARY JANE'S THEME: "Una Paloma Blanca" - George Baker Selection

"BAD" MARY JANE'S THEME: "The Curse of Millhaven" by Nick Cave

AMELIA EARHART'S THEME: "Bumble Boogie" - B. Bumble and the Stingers


"Stagger Lee" - Professor Longhair

"Brother Can You Spare a Dime" - Ronnie Lane

"Joan Crawford (Has Risen From the Grave)" - Blue Oyster Cult

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Return of Doctor Reverso, Chapter Fourteen


As told to Chuck Miller



"Where the hell do you dig up these characters?" Stan Bartowski asked me as he put the police cruiser in gear.

I just shrugged. "I don't try to, Stanley," I said, hoping for a bit of sympathy. "They just seem to find me."

He gave me a look that contained no sympathy, then concentrated on moving the vehicle out into traffic. I just sat there silently, hoping the "characters" in the backseat would do the same.

In the event, I had been accompanied not only by Anonymoushka, but also by Prudence and Stymie Beard. Prudence had insisted that she be allowed to come along, and I thought it best not to try to dissuade her. She had also insisted that Stymie come along. I didn't care for that, but... In addition to my healthy fear of both of the girls, they also seemed to know things other people didn't. They never insisted on anything unless it was absolutely urgent.

So I was on the alert, certain that this trip would turn out more interesting than I would like. I was armed to the teeth, as were Prudence and Anonymoushka. Stymie had been equipped with a set of bullet-proof undergarments, just in case. Prudence had also insisted that the child star would be in no danger, and I had no choice but to believe her.

Since Prudence was non-verbal, I didn't have to worry about her saying anything crazy -- her insistences had been made through Stymie, who seemed to be able to "hear" her in some curious way. But the youngster had sense enough to watch what he said in the presence of people like Stanley.

Anonymoushka was another matter. She still had her her crude facial appliances in place, obscured behind a veil. She had held her tongue so far, but I knew the danger was ever-present.

Stanley guided the car across the Custer Bridge and out into the countryside beyond Zenith. The facility we were bound for had no name. It was operated by officials who were also nameless. They wroked for an entity-- presumably an organ of the government-- called the OAB. If the initials actually stood for anything, nobody knew what it was. Based on a couple of cases in which we had proven ourselves to be trustworthy, Stanley had an "in" of sorts with them, and so did I.

The OAB had been in charge of transferring the body of Doctor Almanac to the nameless facility that was our present destination. That had not gone well, but the OAB couldn't be blamed for that. Almanac had been snatched from their custody by forces no government agency, no matter how secretive and elite they were, could possibly have been prepared for. But they had learned from their mistakes.

"That kid looks familiar," Stanley said out of the blue, after forty-five silent minutes. "I feel like I've seen him before, but I can't place him."

Of course, Matthew "Stymie" Beard would have looked familiar to just about any moviegoer, being one of the stars of Hal Roach's hugely popular "Our Gang" comedy series. Dressed as he was now, though-- out of his urchin costume and minus his trademark derby-- he would do nothing more than nag at Stanley's inability to place him. After all, who on earth would expect Stymie Beard to show up with a mysterious, masked adventurer for a trip to a super-secret government facility? It was fortunate, I reflected, that Stanley, who did not quite appreciate the extent to which absolutely anything at all is possible where the Black Centipede is concerned, would never make the connection.

No sooner had that thought blossomed in my mind than Stanley slapped the steering wheel and exclaimed, "Stymie! That's who that is! Stymie from 'Our Gang!' Why the hell did you bring him along? Are you nuts?"

I looked back over my shoulder. Stymie smiled nervously and waved.

"Don't be absurd," I said to Stan. "That isn't Stymie Beard! The very idea! Why would I bring a child movie star along on a potentially dangerous mission?"

"Why the hell do you do any of the stuff you do?" he shot back. "Don't get me wrong, I trust you. If you're doing something, it probably needs to be done, I know that much. But sometimes, I swear..."

"Stanley," I said, "it's obvious that you're spending too much time in theaters. You're starting to see movie stars everywhere. I suppose that young girl back there is Mary Pickford, and Miss Vernet is really Greta Garbo."

He snorted. "I never see movie stars that aren't there, and I ain't seeing one now. That's Stymie Beard, alright. My little girl loves 'Our Gang,' and drags me out to see them every week. I know you're not gonna explain it to me, but you need to know I'm not an idiot."

"I don't think you're an idiot, any more than you actually think I'm dangerously insane."

"Hell, I know you're dangerously insane-- but not in a bad way. A sane person would never take on the likes of Adrian Countenance or Jeremiah Zodiac or Professor Necrosis the way you do. We need your kind of insanity. You should be proud of it."

I didn't know what to say to that, so I said nothing. I knew in my heart that Stanley was absolutely correct. And, to be honest, I was a little proud of it.

We rolled on through the countryside until we came to a road sign that said, "EUREKA-- 2 MILES."

Stanley took a right turn a hundred yards past the sign, and we bumped along a rutted dirt road that ran through a heavily-wooded area. A few minutes from now, we would arrive at the Place With No Name for our play date with Crusher Cranium-- if nothing went wrong.

I knew what a big "if" that was, so I was preternaturally alert to our surroundings, prepared for whatever was out there that could not possibly be prepared for.

The trees were so thick that very little sunlight made it through them to the road. I started thinking about those ghastly rustic scenes described so often by my friend, Howard Lovecraft. I imagined that the weight of countless strange centuries pressed down on us from above, eclipsing the sun and sky, driving away everything wholesome and familiar, making this darksome place fit for the nameless horrors that leer hungrily at man from a point just beyond the limit of our perceptions.

Believe it or not, the preceding paragraph was exactly what went through my head that day, word for word. I had read a lot of Lovecraft by that time, both published and unpublished, and his style had sunk deeply into my subconscious. Under certain conditions, it would emerge to shape my thoughts in its own image.

And that is the frame of mind I was in when Stanley cursed loudly and slammed on the brakes, bring the car to a jolting halt in the middle of the road.

We had just come around a curve. In the road ahead of us, which had just come into view, stood two people. They were no more than twenty feet in front of us when the car stopped moving. And I recognized them.

"What the hell's wrong with them?" Stanley groused. "They trying to get run over?"

I wasn't up to making a reply just then. Until that moment, I had thought myself prepared for anything I might see, no matter how bizarre it turned out to be. I had been wrong. The familiar forms and faces I saw belonged to the very last people I would have expected to encounter-- one, because I had just been thinking of him-- and knew that he seldom left his home for any reason-- and the other, because she had been dead for more than six years.

Howard Phillips Lovecraft and Lizzie Borden.

"Oh, my stars and garters!" Anonymoushka exclaimed cheerfully. "Do you see what I see? God has truly blown a gasket this time!"

I turned my head to ask her if she had any idea what was going on, but I forgot all about that when I saw what Prudence was up to. A broad grin had appeared on her face. She flung the rear door open, and hopped out. She pulled Stymie out with her, dragging him along as she made a dash toward the two impossible people in the road.

Before Stanley could start asking questions, and Anonymoushka could start making nonsensical pronouncements, I hopped out, too, drawing one of my guns as I did so.  

I was determined to get answers. 

And if I couldn't do that, I was determined to shoot someone.