Monday, February 10, 2014

Mack Bolan, the Executioner

Mack Bolan, the Executioner

The grandaddy of the Men's Adventure genre, the series that started it all, and the only one still in print.

The series was started by Don Pendleton in 1969 with War Against the Mafia.  Pendleton wrote 37 of the first 38 installments, though he may have contracted out some of the writing duties.  These, the best of the series, had Bolan as lone vigilante fighting the mafia.

Bolan is a Vietnam vet who comes home for leave when most of his family is killed.  His father had gone into debt to the mafia, and his sister had turned to prostitution to pay it off.  Shamed, his father killed his daughter, wife, and himself, leaving Mack and his high school aged brother (who is promptly forgotten about).

Bolan goes AWOL and begins his war on the mafia, usually with a combination of sniper attacks and infiltrating their ranks.  It becomes a running joke that anyone that aids Bolan ends up as "turkey meat", a made up slang term for the bodies left over from mafia torturers.

Bolan avoids Bruce Wayne syndrome and quickly admits to himself that he isn't doing any of this for his dead family.  Once the war starts and there's a price on his head, he figures he's a dead man, and that fatalism gives him a boldness and carefree attitude at times.  This is helped by Pendleton's occasional poetic flourishes.

Bolan wears a tight black outfit, has a war journal, and drives a tricked out van called his war wagon.  If any of this sounds familiar to Marvel fans, the Punisher is a shameless copy.

Pendleton's Bolan also had regular one night stands (ala James Bond) who more often than not met a bad end (ala James Bond).  Many of these encounters were with mafia prostitutes.  Like, you know, his sister.

Then the 80s happened.  Pendleton left, Bolan sold out and joined a shadowy government agency Stony Man and turned his attention to terrorism and communism.  The focus went from vigilantism to military fiction, as did Men's Adventure in general.

There were two spin offs, Phoenix Force (51 books, 4 SuperPhoenix Force books) and Able Team (51 books, 2 Super Able Team books), both military group titles.  They were kind of combined into Stony Man (130+ books), which is still ongoing.

Bolan himself still headlines two titles, Executioner (425+ books) and SuperBolan aka Mack Bolan aka Don Pendleton's Mack Bolan (165+ books).

While I prefer the original Mafia Wars installments, it's good to see some remnant of serial Men's Adventure survive long enough to take advantage of the 21st century.  Reasonable digital editions are available at Amazon.

More at the official Gold Eagle site and a superior fan site

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