Admiral Bulletin and the Internet Elucidation, Part IV

The Turbulent Years After

Glencannon transparently ended an era with publication of its last Bulletin book, Admiral Bulletin and the Eudoxian Delay, in January 1954. The publisher never really recovered from its losses in the war of the previous decade. Infighting and incompetent storycraft had already crippled the venerable pulpmaster, and Hartley’s killing of the daily strip sealed its fate and its doors. The book itself was a wild, disjointed cutup of much that had come before in Bulletin’s swiftly-turning planet, with far too much Space Boy for its own good. (Call it the Scrappy Doo Syndrome, or the Inevitable Gizmoducking.) Rob Cohen likely wrote it, as he’s the only name shared between Glencannon Press and Masterbooks, who bought up Bulletin and much of the wreck of the older publisher. Masterbooks continued the worst traditions of the later books, depleting the property further of its apparent value. Cerf Publishing Group itself bought Masterbooks in 1965, and after a cursory two-book relaunch pretty much left the Bulletin series to swing.

But this was not the end of Bulletin.

Bulletin returned a few short years later, in America, in the pages of a self-titled Marvel comic book. Of note is “The Return of the Hydrator,” issue #12, wherein none other than a pre-Star-Trek Harlan Ellison posed the questions of a masked marauder unleashing a net positive effect on an unsuspecting populace. (It should be noted that there is no “Hydrator #1,” though I’ve met people who swear they’ve read it.) “Admiral Bulletin” was published irregularly after the first two years, and officially cancelled in 1970.

But this was not the end of Bulletin.

A swell of interest brought back several of the Bulletin books in paperback form, in the mid seventies, as well as a three volume “Best of…” collection of Nigel Hartley and Teddy Stackpole’s comic strips. Most readers prior to 1997 remember Bulletin this way. Some think he was created in the mid seventies. Alas, like all swells, there was a trough to follow, and Bulletin fell back out of print in the United States and Great Britain for another two decades.

But this was not the end of Bulletin.

In Italy, where Bulletin still enjoyed a measure of popularity, a tv series was begun in 1979. Armando Barsotti played the Admiral, with Ingrid Soft as Miranda. The cast and setting were Italianized, and by accounts the show was campy and played mainly for comedy. It was released on VHS-PAL, in Italian, and there are no official subtitled versions. The show ran for two seasons, beginning in the spring of 1979 and ending in 1980.

But this was not the end of Bulletin.

Upstart creator-owned imprint Image Comics brought out its own, darker version of Admiral Bulletin in the fall of 1994. Marc Silvestri, a founding partner in the Image venture, was the apparent driving force behind the relaunch, although the art and story chores were passed off to Brandon Peterson and Norman Schultz, respectively. Similar in tonal change to Mark Gruenwald’s ’80s writing for Captain America, Schultz’s Bulletin had become a “contractor,” privatized under the blind Thatcherism/Reaganomics push of the previous decade, embittered, emboldened and dangerous to be on the wrong side of. Bulletin had come a long way indeed. Much like the previous Marvel attempt, and indeed the rest of the Image stable in the early years of its existence, this Admiral Bulletin was irregularly published. In 1994 it became a victim of Silvestri’s Top Cow/Image split.

But this was not the end of Bulletin.

Bulletin’s most recent sighting has been with Vintage Books, part of the behemoth Random House Group. In 1997, Vintage brought out three trade paperbacks in Great Britain:  Admiral Bulletin and the Western War,  Admiral Bulletin and the Foreign Star, and  Admiral Bulletin’s Last Exchange. Fan excitement quickly waxed, however, when the American publication failed to materialize, and a promised Admiral Bulletin and the Jungle Gods was delayed until 1999. As of this writing (October 2005), the final promised Vintage reissue,  Admiral Bulletin and the Cretin Conspiracy, has materialized on neither side of the pond, and all references to it on the Vintage web site have disappeared.

But this is not the end of Bulletin.

Colophon

Maybe the world would be just the same without Admiral Bulletin. Biggles didn’t need an older brother. Flemming didn’t have to perfect Packard’s odd little experiment in “The Quantum of Solace.” After Glencannon Press folded in 1954, no one ever made any money off the Admiral — certainly not Image or Marvel. Miranda’s obsessive filing of the strange and inexplicable in the old vault at Eppings on High Street may not have been the germ of the warehouse scene at the end of Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark. (He’s never claimed as much.) Who’s ever written a Bulletin novel — or even short story — to later win fame and fortune writing under his own name?

But maybe, just maybe, we do need Bulletin. Bulletin gives us something we lack. He’s certainty. He’s chance as a foe and a friend. He’s the reason we never wanted to play the bad guy at cops and robbers. To different generations, he’s been different things; ironically, it’s his inherent rigidity and stability that makes him such a foil for our preconceptions. Image made him one thing. Masterbooks another. Squabble as we will over what is and is not cannon in Bulletin’s convoluted universe (Did Robespierre die in Khartoum, the Mirage Islands, or not at all?) we will be missing the point unless we remember that neither the future nor the past of Admiral Bulletin has been written.

He is what we make.

*****

Special thanks to Isaac Salleo (Wesl.d.Amor) for corrections and additional dates, and to Troy Minkowsky (OfTheAtomic) for typing up the Robespierre bio. Dedicated to all Bulletin fans worldwide. The author of this page makes no claim of copyright over “Admiral Bulletin,” “Miranda,” “Eppings on High Street,” “Dr. Posthaste,” “Robespierre,” or other related Bulletin characters and properties. Please contact the author with any corrections, additions and the like.

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