Part I: The Origins of the Admiral
First Note– In 1962, when it looked like no more Bulletin books would be written, Judd Harkins retired the characters with an engagement and an indicated Eppings on High Street wedding. When the Cerf Publishing Group relaunched Bulletin the following year, the betrothal was explained away and disposed of. (The “engagement” scene in empty Paddington Station had been staged for the eyes of the villain, although fans have pointed out some logical inconsistencies with the notion.) In Bulletin’s aired appearance on the Saturday morning cartoon series Defenders of the Earth (Episode 121, “The Lost Ship”), Bulletin was depicted raising a son with Miranda on a farm they’d improvised in the lost recesses of the Congo basin. Like fans of the other King Features Syndicate characters used in the show (Flash Gordon, The Phantom, Mandrake the Magician, et al) few Bulletin fans regard the episode as canonical.
Second Note– The original lines, as written by Peter Stepford (Admiral Bulletin and the Turning Sea, First Edition, 1932. Page 214):
“There’s no time left!”
“I said bring her hard a-port!” the Admiral shouted.
“Into the minefield? Are you mad? There isn’t berth.”
“There must be!”
Part II: The Golden Age
First Note– MacRae, Jodi (Judith Mankiewicz) “Backstage at the Bulletin”, The Observer, Feb 12, 1993. Packard’s trial records refer to his mother’s house on Wentworth Street in East London. This meshes with the address given by Packard in his contract with Glencannon Press.
Second Note– The number is somewhere between 289 and 314. If you have your own copy and want to count it, page by page, please… be my guest.
Third Note– There is some debate about when exactly the Golden Age ends. Bulletin’s hiatus from novels between 1939 and 1941 is often considered its logical end. Many fans, myself included, believe that the daily strip storylines continued the best Golden Age traditions well into the 1950s, but I disagree in asserting that this makes them true Golden Age works. (Though I have some affinity for the “Silver Age” nomenclature. Don’t send letters though; I’m not going to use it in the essay.)
Part III: Admiral Bulletin and the Daily Strip
First Note– Hartley illustrated trades of Stevenson’s Treasure Island, Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo, Wells’ The War of the Worlds, Verne’s Five Weeks in a Balloon, and probably one or two others. I’ve seen a few scans of his early work, and while its not on par with the Brandywine school artists, or even Hartley’s own later Bulletin strips, it’s worth a look.
Second Note– Hartley’s tradition endured with such remarkable force that when in 1967 Marvel comics based a major plot point of revealing Miranda’s face (“Admiral Bulletin #32”) public outrage in Europe was so intense that the authors were forced to backpedal with a plotline involving a double. The later Image comic would not make the same mistake.
Third Note– Personally, I think he was trying to cover his butt. I have trouble believing that Hartley’s flair for intrigue didn’t spring from a fair dose of real-life paranoia, and Glencannon Press’s management wasn’t always one to honor its agreements.
Fourth Note– Increasingly off his leash, toward the end of his Bulletin’s run, Stackpole’s artwork began to slide into very baroque territory. Fantagraphics (who is doing an amazing job with Peanuts) is planning to release the Bulletin Strips beginning in 2007. These will be full hardcover editions, unedited, and otherwise just about everything the old ’70s trades weren’t. I haven’t figured out if Fantagraphics has the “lost” Stackpole strips, but I’m keeping my fingers painfully crossed.
Part IV: The Turbulent Years After/Colophon
First Note– I’m basing this on Silvestri’s introductory essay in issue #1. He seems to have known Bulletin by the ’70s collection of daily strips. I’m not really sure how old Silvestri is, but I’m guessing he wouldn’t remember the strip when it first ran, and he doesn’t mention the books in his intro.
Second Note– Marvel didn’t have the rights to the A. C. Vellum pseudonym, and it was not used on the Admiral Bulletin comic book series.
Third Note– I hadn’t really found a better place to put this, but a biographical sketch of Robespierre by Nigel Hartley is known to exist. It’s been floating around with fans for years. This comes courtesy of Troy Minkowsky, OfTheAtomic:
“The Tragic Tale of Robespierre”
Robespierre Cholmondeley was born in Vezelay France, the only son of a watchmaker. At three years of age Robespierre started showing inhuman skills, such as transformation and being able to read the future. He was discouraged by his deeply Catholic parents to display his talents and suppressed them. It was not until he turned sixteen when Robespierre used his powers to save his girlfriend from a burning building. This caught the eye of the French Government.
At age seventeen Robespierre earned special agent status in the French government. He dealt with threats to France an of occult nature. A significant tool for many years, his loyalty came into question when word of his involvement with the French Communist party leaked out. The accusation was only a half truth, for it was RobespierreÕs girlfriend who was the Marxist. While no longer trusted, yet still a valuable tool, the French Government recommended him to a special tasked force formed by the Brits. The head of this taskforce was one Admiral Bulletin.
The two soon became quick friends. Both where child prodigies, Robespeirre a high Shaman at age twenty-three and Bulletin commanding his own fleet at twenty-six. The two had a great love of sport, cinema, and the ladies. The only time the two argued was over chess and women.
Their first mission together was a voyage to the deep heart of the Congo. A British trading post was attacked by a Snake Goddess and it was up to them to restore order. Foolhardy with a sense of invincibility that could be blamed on youth, the two rushed in.
The Admiral lost thirty men when the fleet was attacked by giant Congo-Serpents . Robespierre was held captive by the Snake Goddess for two months before Admiral Bulletin was able to set him free. With what was left of his strength Robespierre was able to banish the Serpent Goddess into another dimension, but not without a price. His head started to fall apart, chipping away, and the chaos magic inside him began to spill out. No longer alive, yet not quite dead, he existed in Limbo.
He fled to Tibet, wishing to spend the rest of his existence in solitude, but it was not to be. For his good friend Bulletin was organizing a group of people with extraordinary powers to save the world, a mission Robespierre could not resist.