Dieselpunk + Steampunk Culture

INTERVIEW - Pulp Artist / Creator Tom Floyd

Tom Floyd
Artist and Creator of Captain Spectre and the Lightning Legion

What can be said of Tom Floyd? Beyond starting his own country, winning the Olympics single-handedly, and receiving a second doctorate is astrophysics just for fun, he went and created his own pulp hero comic entitled Captain Spectre and the Lightning Legion.

Stick to what you know, right?

On his way back to terra firma from battling evil, Tom hit us up on Dieselpunks to chronicle this epic tale; a tale of a simple American turned into an internet super star.

Avert your eyes mere mortals! The secrets that come next are not meant for the weak!

Captain SpectreWhere are your roots, Tom? Where did you grow up and who taught you how to sling ink? I actually had the best of two worlds growing up. I was born in Beatrice Nebraska; I mention the town's name because in the pulp world it is the birthplace of Barney and Victoria Custer. Barney is the lead character in 'the Mad King' by Edgar Rice Burroughs - creator of Tarzan, John Carter of Mars, and tons of other characters. Victoria is the main character in 'the Eternal Savage', another Burroughs novel.

The other world was completely different from the farmlands of Nebraska. When I was eight my family moved to west Texas. My father worked for a gas transmission company and he was transferred. We lived at the gas plant, which was 35 miles from town, and about five miles from any other kids. So I spent most of my time in my own imagination. We kept a strong connection to Nebraska and returned almost every summer and some holidays. It was a great time to be a kid.

In high school I had a real artist for an art teacher. I was lucky he was around. He taught me all he knew about art, materials, and history. He also became a second father to me, as my dad died early in my life. He, my art teacher, kept me sane and pointed in a good direction.

As far as drawing and painting it is always an uphill battle. No one taught comics back in my day so it was all learned from looking at different art styles and trying to figure out how different artists worked. Drawing, drawing and more drawing is the main thing to do. I am always working on something.

Thanks for helping us with Pulp! week at Dieselpunks. When did you first fall in love with pulp fiction (before Tarantino) and do you have any special favorites we should be reading right now?

I was actually reading pulp style fiction before I even knew what it was. Once I saw one of the Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan movies and found the Tarzan novels I was hooked. I think I was in the fifth grade then and became an avid reader. From the backs of the Tarzan books I saw that Burroughs had written other books and sought those out. Most of these Ace books had Roy Krenkel or Frank Frazetta covers and helped me find them. I loved those Ace books - they were only 40 cents then and would fit in your back jeans pocket. Also my brother, who is five years older, would hand down sci-fi books to me. Most of the books then were reprints from pulps but of course we didn't know that. From there pulp heroes started re-emerging in paperbacks. I was in high school when the Doc Savage books started coming out again. Then of course comics were my main interest, since I loved to draw. And early comics were just pulps told in pictures.

There are a lot of favorites I have. I like the hero pulps the most. Tarzan is probably my all time favorite, since he meant so much to me as a kid. Once I found the Spider that was an awakening also, just by sheer body count in his novels. Of course Doc Savage, the Shadow and others kept me going also. I haven't read all of them but I am working on it with all the great re-print companies going now. I only wish that the Green Hornet had his own pulp, because his radio show is my favorite.

Also any of the stories of Robert Howard, the creator of Conan, rises above all others. I admire the storytelling ability and the coupling of his words to form images.

What does pulp mean to you today and what keeps you interested?

Pulp has always been a serious thing to me. I am not really into all these 'modern' day revivals of some of the characters. I don't think making something modern helps it one bit. When comics or Hollywood makes it silly, or changes it to make it have modern sensibilities, I hate it when they do that. It's like they are trying to rewrite history and who we were at that time. Like they are ashamed of it.

What keeps me interested in the pulps/serial is a longing for the time when heroes were heroes and bad guys were villains. Very little grey areas, and a time when science and adventure were still important in the world.

Also people are starting to reprint the pulps and re-release the serials in new formats. Of course a lot of that has to do with things coming into public domain.

But with the Doc Savage, the Shadow, and the Spider reprints going full steam more and more companies are reprinting.

Introduce us to Captain Spectre and The Lightning Legion. Where did the idea start? Do you have any favorite characters? What kind of adventures did you have to survive in order to get the series going?

The idea for Captain Spectre started in a couple of ways all at the same time. I was always trying to break into comics so I would try working for smaller companies. The scripts were terrible, at least most of the ones I got picked for. The books never happened, people never paid or the companies would run out of steam before publishing or something. One day I got a script that was just god-awful. I thought I could at least write this bad. And with the wave of web comics happening I thought I would just do my own thing. Of course I had to have an idea, and bounced back and forth between wanting to do a sword and sorcery strip and a serial/pulp strip. The pulp idea affords a more varied outlet for stories. So I went back to some of my first loves. My favorite serial hero was always Commando Cody and my favorite TV show as a kid was Captain Midnight. So I kind of combined the two and came up with Captain Spectre. I took things from all the places that I liked as a kid. Things like 'Rocket' who is Captain Spectre's dog was from Roy Rogers' dog 'Bullet.'

As far as favorite characters in the strip, I really don't think I have a favorite overall. Each character has distinct personalities and at different times I feel more in touch with some of them. 'Patch', Goodwin Sands, is kind of the mentor of the group so more times than not he is closer to me than the others. Since I am pushing the characters around, 'Patch' kind of represents me in the strip, and he is kind of modeled after me.

I have survived through military service, a broken marriage, and the Texas oilfield and countless other things just to get to this stage. At one time I ran a small comics company in the 80's that no one remembers - it was during the black and white boom then. I ghost inked for Marvel for a very short time. I have worked for odd comic companies from time to time. And even still when I have to let the strip go for a period of time, like when I have a big freelance project.I am the one that misses it the most.

Captain Spectre letter page

What can people expect when they visit your website?

Hopefully people that visit the site will see the total love of the hobby I have put into the strip, and the items there. I want the strip to represent the best in all the pulp genres. I hope the art and the writing are good enough to bring people back from time to time to read some of the pages. Right now there are about 80 pages up on line and it is all for free. I just want to bring back some of the great adventure that I had as a kid, that sense of wonder at the world and the heroes we needed.

I love The Lightning Legion gear, like the patch, ID card, and badge. When you were researching promo items from the pulp era, did you come across anything really crazy like decoder rings or x-ray goggles?

Most of the items I have offered so far are patterned after the Captain Midnight things I already knew of, especially since I am still a card-carrying member of the Secret Squadron, complete with 1956 style decoder badge. I even carry one of the Skelly Secret Squadron membership coins in my pocket each day.

Most of all the shows had loyalty clubs or secret societies of some kind. Most had cards and other items. A lot of the items tied into an adventure on the radio at the time. One of the most sought after items is from the Lone Ranger series. It was a whole frontier town made from cardboard only in miniature. The shows from that year happened in and around the town and you could follow in the Ranger's footsteps as he went through town. Also one I could never figure out was the Lone Ranger Atomic Bomb ring! It is amazing how much radioactive material was sold to kids.

If anyone knows of a company that would produce limited edition decoders, good ones, I would love to hear about it. I would love to have a Captain Spectre one.

If you had the cash and free time to have more fun with the Captain Spectre brand (e.g. Statues, movies, radio serials), what would you have in mind?

Well I always have things planned that I want to do. And like you say it is time and sometimes money that hold me back. Mostly time, because if I had more time I would find the money someplace. I do punch a clock at a full time job so that takes more time than I like most weeks.

Some of the things planned that you will see from the brand are: a pulp replica of Action Science Adventures magazine and that is in the works already, also a series of stand-alone comic magazines or the Lightning Legion. I am currently starting work on the first one of the comics. Both of those taking advantage in the new digital print on demand kind of technology.

I would also love to finish out an idea I have had to make a serial cartoon. I thought that combining the cliffhanger serial format with short five to seven minute animated Captain Spectre adventures would be great. Then at the end of it you would have a full feature length animated movie. I try to find time to work a bit on that from time to time too.

Everyone has someone they would like to thank, whether it's a favorite art teacher or a very patient spouse. Who helped make Captain Spectre and The Lightning Legion possible?

Well I really can't name one person. It is kind of a collective of people from the past. More people like Milton Caniff with his Terry and the Pirates strips, and Alex Raymond's Flash Gordon strip and many others. Those are the people I admire and study.

What can we look forward to with Captain Spectre and The Lightning Legion?

Right now I am on the tail end of Chapter 4 -'The day the sky screamed.' and once that is finished I am working full time on the first full comic for a while. Then I hope to have that in a stage shortly to start Chapter 5. Which will be the most action packed so far of all the chapters. I have plans to take the good Captain through all the genres of the serials and pulps. One chapter is a monster story; one will be a murder mystery, one a sword and sorcery chapter, and one a total outer space one. So hang around it's gonna get good, just bear with my slow schedule. If I could I would work full time on the strip, but that won't pay the bills - which makes me sad.

Do you have any other projects on the burners?

I mentioned some of the Captain Spectre projects earlier - the pulp replica, and the stand-alone comics. But outside that realm is a freelance graphic novel I am working on for pay with the University of Nebraska. Also I need to work up some work inspired from the Edgar Rice Burroughs novels, because I am going to attend the Burroughs convention next year.

We want to help make Tom Floyd famous. What can we do to help?

Spread the word about the Lightning Legion, that is the best way. I would like to thank you and everyone here at the site for taking the time to let me ramble on, and in helping spreading the word.

Keep up the good work Legionnaire,

Strike... like Lightning SWIFT SURE TRUE

- Captain Spectre

Captain Spectre coming soon

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Comment by KIT KAT VON BITCH on May 26, 2010 at 1:39pm
Comment by Tome Wilson on August 3, 2009 at 1:36pm
Found it.

Dynamite Entertainment
Comment by Tome Wilson on August 3, 2009 at 1:29pm
You're right.

However, there's a small comic company near me that bought the rights to a ton of obscure Golden Age characters. Maybe they hold the rights to Sandman? I know they have Red Sonja and a ton of other heroes.
Comment by Tom Floyd on August 3, 2009 at 12:40pm
Wouldn't I have legal problems with Sandman? As I own the Arthur Williams / nightmare character I can use it without worrying of legal attacks. I have already had to defend some things in Captain Spectre. Even the logo, ha.
Comment by Tome Wilson on August 2, 2009 at 7:32pm
Or maybe within a brief Sandman appearance?
Comment by Tom Floyd on August 2, 2009 at 6:31pm
Thanks David....welcome aboard over here, we can make this a fun ride. Thanks also for the kind words, and hey you never know when Arthur Williams/nightmare might show up in a dream like episode of Captain Spectre.
Comment by David Wright on August 2, 2009 at 2:40pm
Interesting interview. I enjoy the Cap. Spectre online comic strip (amazing what technology has brought), and I haven't forgotten your 80's Epsilon Wave comic from the black & white days of the independents. I thought it was a unique idea for using sleep studies to create your own brand of super hero. I know you are enjoying your current creation, however, so it seems like full steam ahead. Some of the new story arcs: monsters, mystery, and sword & sorcery; all sound intriguing. Continued success.
Comment by Tom Floyd on August 1, 2009 at 7:59pm
That's ok....I think it is actually a modified one rather than an original. Even tho it is from Republic studios, I think they might have raided the Universal Flash Gordon serial costume dept. for it. ha.
Comment by Tome Wilson on August 1, 2009 at 4:39pm
That looks like a different pattern from the standard garrison cap. Might be beyond my skills.
Comment by Tom Floyd on August 1, 2009 at 12:49am
Here's the one I always had in mind....of course with the New Legion patch on it.

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