When we released the first issue of The Octopus as an audiobook, of course you asked for more. This ultra-rare 1939 pulp magazine was a Weird Menace extravaganza named after its villain, with the nominal hero operating in not two, but three identities battling him every step of the way.
For reasons that remain recondite, the second issue of The Octopus was retitled The Scorpion. And the sinister supervillain was renamed. Otherwise, the magazine was a direct continuation of the previous incarnation, with the new leader of the Purple Eyes Cult attempting to force New York to knuckle under his iron rule through terror and intimidation. Only the Skull Killer could stand up to him.
There’s a lot to be said for this crazy pulp concept. And much more to be wondered about.
Why did Popular Publication change the title? No one recalls. But only a few months prior to the debut of The Octopus early in 1939, The Spider’s Web movie serial debuted. It pitted the Master of Men against the super-criminal called the Octopus. This was a different Octopus, but perhaps Popular Publications’ editors decided the name was too good not to exploit. Quite possibly Columbia Pictures felt that Popular was infringing upon their rights, and asked them to cease and desist, forcing a hasty rewrite of Randolph Craig’s second novel. It’s as good a theory as any.
For that matter, who was the pulpster lurking behind the pseudonym, Randolph Craig? Was he even one individual? Theories range from The Spider’s Norvell Page to Terror Tales mainstay Donald G. Cormack.
Popular’s records show that Edith and Ejler Jacobson were paid to rewrite the Octopus origin story, The City Condemned to Hell. But the single payment record that survives for Satan’s Incubator suggests that the husband and wife editorial team may have penned the only Scorpion novel from scratch.
For yes, sadly, this is the end of the brief but bloody career of Jeffrey Fairchild, who also did good as ghetto medico Dr. Skull and by night operated as the scourge of the underworld, the Skull Killer, stamping a grisly death’s head on the foreheads of his dead, defeated enemies.
Now, steel yourself for this hair-raising sequel read by the nervous but otherwise very capable Michael C. Gwynne. For as vicious and diabolically over-the-top as the Octopus was, the Scorpion is far, far more sinister. Here, he transforms entire families into soulless, bloodthirsty maniacs....
Also included are three weird novelettes, William Hines’ “Evil in a Glass Jar,” Donald Dale’s “Vendetta for the Dead,” and Wyatt Blassingame’s “The Corroding Death!”
The Skull Killer strikes again!