It would be so nice to have a working crystal ball that could effectively predict which projects would be a success and which would be forgotten the minute after they were published. Which is to say that when creating my Brother Bones the Undead Avenger almost ten years ago, I honestly had no idea how it would be received by readers. Having gotten hooked on pulps at this time and launched our New Pulp publishing house, Airship 27 Productions, me, and Art Director Rob Davis, had agreed we’d do books on classic pulp heroes and newer characters written in the same vein.
My idea was to create a dark, tragic hero who could go toe to toe with both the Shadow and the Spider but with a supernatural twist. Thus the concept of a big city mobster who, upon being shot to death by his own twin brother, is sent back to this world by a guiding spirit to atone for all the bad things he has done while alive. That figure was Tommy Bonello and his brother was Jack Bonello. In the first tale, “The Bone Brothers,” Tommy, through a bizarre series of events, actually grows a conscience and gives up his life as a hired gunman. Fearing him to be a dangerous loose end, the Boss gives Jack the job of finding Tommy and ending his life. But here comes the real twist of the story, when Tommy’s spirit returns to the land of the living, it invades Jack’s body, effectively ending his life. Now that dead body is controlled by Tommy’s spirit…ergo, it is a zombie and wearing a white skull face mask becomes the gun blasting Undead Avenger, Brother Bones.
All of this took place in a fictional northwest metropolis I called Cape Noire. It’s a very bad place in which all manner of evil exist and is populated by some truly strange beings. None more so than Harry Beest, a one time gangster whose brain was cut out of his head and put into the body of a silverback gorilla. There were no limits to my imagination when it came to weaving Brother Bones tales. Pulp has always been about exaggerations.
The first story appeared on a website and was very well received. Which was encouraging enough for me to pen six more over the next two years. Finally, with Airship 27 up and running, we decided to bring those half dozen tales, plus a brand new one, to print in the very first volume. Rob provided both the cover painting and black and white interior illustrations. Thus was Brother Bones born.
Along about this time it was thought that a comic book adventure would make a great cross-promotional item and so I write “Bullets of Jade,” a 48 pg Brother Bones one shot that was illustrated by the stylistic John Polacek and published via Rob’s own independent comic imprint, Redbud Studio. With that out, I set about writing new short stories for what I thought at the time would be the second volume of prose adventures. What I didn’t realize was how much the first book had won over pulp fans including a very talented writer named Roman Leary. Months after its publication, Roman began corresponding with me and eventually submitted a short story for one of our Masked Rider western anthologies.
Then, while I was still writing new shorts, Roman asked if I’d be willing to allow him to write a full length Brother Bones novel. Naturally it was a surprise, albeit a pleasant one, to know someone else was that into what I’d created. Initially I had my doubts but in the end Roman convinced me by sending along a detailed plot outline which impressed the hell out of me. I relented and gave him the thumbs up. Once the novel was completed we recruited Scottish artist Rob Moran to provide the cover and interior illustrations and released, “Ron Fortier’s Brother Bones – Six Days of the Dragon.” That it became a big hit with our fans and readers came as no surprise. Roman is a gifted writer and he thoroughly had a blast handling my bizarre cast of characters.
I almost forgot. Soon after the first book’s release, Jase Marshall of Marshall Collectibles began making custom Brother Bones action figures which are amazing. Jase is a great guy and after several readers of the book wanted to commission him to do Brother Bones figures, he sought me out to get my permission, which I was only too happy to provide. Since then he’s made several versions, all of them superb.
Now we had two books and a comic and action figures out there. It was time for me to get busy again. A few months later, I’d finished the second collection of shorts and brought Rob Davis back on board to handle the interior illustrations while recruiting Pat Carbajal to do the painted cover for “Brother Bones – Tapestry of Blood.” In that particular collection we added a new member to the Cape Noire family, a sexy female vampire calling herself Sister Blood. My little pulp idea was growing every day.
That became most apparent when T Glenn Bane, the owner and manger of Scaldcrow Games came to me with the request to produce an RPG module based on my stories. Although I’d never personally been a gamer, Rob had and he found Glenn’s offer a terrific idea. So, with his urging, I agreed. Off to Kickstarter they went and within a few months had completed a successful campaign to produce “Ron Fortier’s Cape Noire,” a model that will play with many popular pulp-related games. October of this year is the set date of release.
At which point, if you are the guy who started all this, you have to start wondering, “What next?” More stories of course and hopefully more comics. I mean, what else haven’t we covered? And of course ask that question of the universe and it has a funny way of answering. This time in the form of another request concerning Brother Bones. This one from two young filmmakers from Seattle, Erik Franklin and Daniel Husser, wanting to know if I would let them make a small budget, independent Brother Bones movie! After I picked myself off the floor, I fired back a reply asking to know a lot more about this offer. All which led to a conference call between the three of us and then later with Rob sitting in.
So here’s the scoop on the Brother Bones movie-in-the-making. It is based on the very first two Brother Bones stories from book one; “The Bone Brothers” and “Shield and Fang.” I, along with Erik Franklin, wrote the story and then Erik used that as the basis for the finished shooting script. The film will be shot entirely in Seattle, and unlike the big Hollywood studios, I’ve have final say on all aspects of the production, particularly in casting and story. Both Erik and Daniel are huge Bones fans and dedicated to bringing these wild stories to the screen the way I wrote them. Note, though I doubt the finished movie will ever play in theaters, they are in the midst of negotiation a really great contract with a well respected video distributor so that DVD copies will most likely end up in major retail chains ala Walmart and Target when done. And the possibility exist for sales to cable companies. Am I excited? Oh, yeah, in fact when principle photography begins, I’ll most likely fly out to Seattle to meet with the cast and do a Stan Lee style cameo. I mean, who would want to pass up such a chance to be in a movie based on something one created? As of now the boys are in pre-production and Rob has lent a hand doing character sketches which will aid in both casting the right actors and costuming, as this is a 1930s period piece.
And as if that wasn’t enough, I spent the last two weeks adapting Erik’s shooting script into a 130 pg graphic novel I hope to sell to a comic outfit. All fingers crossed.
And that, my pulp loving friends, is where we are at today. Thanks to Facebook, I’ve been able to keep folks updated on all things Bones, he even has his own FB page, so please, feel free to drop by and sign on. The more the merrier. It’s been a wild ride so far and there doesn’t seem to be any slowing down any time soon.
Remember how I started all this. Long, long ago, I wrote the Green Hornet series for Now Comics and it launched my writing career. Whereas thirty years later, it remains the one property I am known for. Not a bad thing by any means. But maybe that is all going to change now. The next time my name pops up in fan conversations, they might be saying, “Ron Fortier…didn’t he create Brother Bones?” Damn, but I like the sound of that.
Guest Post by
Exactly how I became acquainted with Ron’s work was the work he did on Green Hornet for Now Comics back in the 90’s. His work and history he laid out for the Reid family was simply amazing and moved me to write my first and only fan letter ever….to Ron. Amazingly enough that fan letter saw print in one of the later Green Hornet issues. Here we are decades later and full circle as Brother Bones brings me back to one of my young adulthood idols. Though I’ve never met Ron personally, we’ve had multiple conversations and the old saying of one should never meet their heroes couldn’t be more false. Ron is a kind and gracious man and I am proud and honored to consider him a friend.
I truly appreciate the kind words in this article about my Brother Bones figures. Honestly though the credit lies with Ron. It’s been his stories and descriptions that have wormed their way into my brain creating the 1/6 scale versions I make. He truly painted the haunting rich world of Cape Noir and the cast of characters within it….I simply helped them crossover to “our” plane.
Now at 6’1″ and 275 pounds I might not be the most attractive cheerleader you’ll ever meet but I cannot recommend Brother Bones and the different publications he’s in enough. Since becoming a “Fan” (and I truly am, wholeheartedly) I have shouted the praises of Ron and his creation and Rob Davis work to the masses. Since starting MMC (Marshall Made Collectibles) some 2 decades ago I’ve done countless reviews and have made numerous custom pieces and shared them with my 2,200+ friends, fans, and followers on Facebook…with that said…in that time though I’ve only recommended one character, and only one character…Brother Bones. That in itself speaks volumes of the brilliance of Ron’s writing.
Just sent over an email questionnaire to Erik Franklin about the film. Really excited to see someone get a new pulp character onto the screen.