Volume 7 of Airship 27’s anthology series Mystery Men (& Women) was published in early October. So just about two weeks before his untimely passing, Greg Hatcher got to see his very own ‘weird hero’, Dr. Fixit, get cover treatment (in this very sharp illustration by Adam Shaw):
Since Greg always wrote a column whenever any of his fiction got published, we thought it would be nice to continue that tradition – in some limited capacity at least. Obviously, we can’t do what Greg normally did, i.e., tell us a bit about the story, his writing process and the pop culture antecedents that may have inspired him and to what extent. We can, however, tell you a little about it and why it’s well worth reading.
First, a little summary in the style of a back-cover teaser: Ernie Voskovec, aka Dr. Fixit, ‘the handyman to the supervillains’, recounts the one time he did a job for a superhero instead of a villain. In 1962, a masked vigilante called the Ghostwalker, who has no superpowers but is highly trained in all forms of physical combat and uses all kinds of gadgets and stage magician tricks to take down small-time criminals, needs a really sweet ride. Money is no object (he’s also a filthy rich guy in real life), so he sends his assistant, a very proper Englishman named Alistair, to hire Ernie to help them build the ‘Ghostmobile’. However, all is not on the level with the ‘hero’, as Ernie learns that he’s blackmailing a young acrobatic former cat-burglar known as Serpentina into resuming her criminal activities for reasons that are not entirely clear. Since Ernie had befriended ‘her a few years earlier while on another job, he decides to do something about it…
This is such a wonderful story that works at so many levels. There’s action, and humor, but also a lot of heart. As in the first story, there’s a number of references and callbacks to 1960s comic books and pop culture in general (and there’s a line near the end that will make anyone who’s ever watched the 1960s Batman TV giggle with sheer delight). But, as usual, Greg put a lot of himself into it as well. As he noted in the column he wrote for his first Dr. Fixit story last year, the relationship between Ernie and his wife Debbie was very much based on Greg and his wife, Julie. However, anyone who’s read any of Greg’s columns in which he talks about his cartooning students and the fact that he and Julie were always there to help them out whenever they needed (confirmed at this very site by Rowan Hatcher and Brianna Longwell) will immediately recognize an echo of this in the sub-plot involving Ernie, Debbie and Serpentina – can’t say any more without giving away too much of the plot.
As usual, this story, and the entire book, has outstanding illustrations by Rob Davis. A sample:
And, of course, there are three other stories that we think most folks will enjoy: “A Walk in the Park” by Teel James Glenn, set in a dystopian near future, introduces a team of super-powered law enforcement agents called the Exceptionals; “The Rise of the Bund” by Curtis Fernlund sees the return of ‘Kiri the Mist’, a samurai woman who operates in 1930s New York; and “The Ghoul Strikes!” by the father-daughter writing team of Harding McFadden and Eleanor Hawkins also introduces a new pulp character similar to the Spider or the Shadow, global adventurer Marvin MacCormac, ‘The Ghoul’.
Otherwise, Greg had yet another Dr. Fixit story completed. The crew over at Airship 27 have said that they will see to it that it gets published, possibly in a separate volume collecting all of the Dr. Fixit stories. We’ll keep you posted on any news in that regard.