Back in the ‘60s, this comics artist-writer Jim Steranko, a cult figure today, was drawing and writing for Marvel Comics Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. which would prove to be some of the source material for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on TV now. One of the storyarcs Steranko did was revive this admittedly “Yellow Peril” character, the Yellow Claw, a super-villain who for a brief moment in the late ‘50s had his own comic book title when Marvel was still known as Timely.
The Claw’s nemesis was FBI agent Jimmy Woo, an All-American Chinese-American. Smoking a cigarette, Woo tells Fury and a guest-starring Captain America, “Back a few years ago, I fought one of the most sinister evil masterminds who ever lived.’
Steranko, who drew his spies in a kind of cool “Mad Men” style in tailored suits, thin ties and tricked out Italian sunglasses, while piloting flying sports cars, also brought back Woo, turning him into a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent.
In my short story, “Bret Khodo, Agent of C.O.D.E.”, which is in the just dropped Asian Pulp (a follow=up to the well-selling Black Pulp of two years ago from Pro Se Press and a prelude to Black Pulp II) I sought to capture some of that élan Steranko ushered in on the page having himself been influenced by the Bond and Flint films – gadgets, sexy, smart women, fast cars, swinging sixties threads and a dastardly villain.
Here’s a sample from the opening of the story:
The scuba diver in nylon trunks and flippers swam as fast as he could, pursued by two mermen. One of the sea creatures had a spear gun and the other a good-sized knife. A spear hit the tank of the scuba diver but only dinged its surface. He descended toward a rusting hulk of a freighter partially buried in the ocean floor below. He shot through undulating seaweed and into the ship.
The two mermen, grey-blue scaly bodies, with gills on the sides on their necks and large, bubbly slit eyeballs, slowed as they got closer to the ship. They signaled to each other and one went in through the opening to the cargo hold, the other through a jagged hole in the side where the long useless ballast tanks were located.
There was an oily gloom pervading the interior of the freighter.
The two pursuers proceeded cautiously from opposite ends, essentially trying to box in their quarry. The one with the knife came to a bend in a passageway, on the lookout for tell tale air bubbles. But the scuba diver had been holding his breath and he jumped on the merman’s back as he swam past. They thrashed and twisted as the scuba diver held the wrist of the merman’s knife hand. He had his other arm around the merman’s neck. But rather than try and pull his grip tighter, the scuba diver relaxed his hold. Like an underwater Fred Astaire, he let him go, spinning him away from his body and into the bulkhead.
The merman with the spear gun had arrived and, having reloaded his weapon, shot a spear again at the scuba diver. The diver reacted fast enough that the spear didn’t impale him dead center. Still his bicep was nicked by the tip and blood eddied from the wound. The spear gunner moved in. But the scuba diver struck with the stiffened ends of his fingers, right into the area of the merman’s Adam’s apple.The merman gagged, a wreath of air bubbles escaping his open mouth. He tried to clear his head but the scuba diver struck him again and then ripped off the combination mask and regulator, also tearing lose the hose to the oxygen tank hidden underneath the ribbed rubber dorsal fin on his back. He broke for the surface as the other pretend merman attacked the scuba diver anew.
The two fought with their knives, the scuba diver having unsheathed his as well. As they engaged in their underwater ballet of parry and thrust, a great white Shark suddenly shot into the passageway, attracted by the blood in the water. The combatants went still at the sight of nature’s near perfect killing machine. The scuba diver went horizontal, stomach up and kicked the merman in the chest. This sent him toward the shark and it did what sharks do, and promptly clamped his jagged teeth on the merman’s thigh. He screamed a burst of air bubbles as the shark shook him like a poodle’s chew toy and began devouring him.
While the great white was busy rending and biting his disguised human prize, the scuba diver cut the other merman’s mask into strips. Swimming away, he tied them around his wound to prevent trailing blood. Up toward the light, he could see the remaining merman swimming across the water’s surface. The scuba diver increased his speed…
The beachgoers lazing or playing on the warm white sand stared at the scuba diver coming out of the ocean. He took off his mask to reveal a chiseled handsome six-foot Asian man, stark eyes, tawny skinned and muscular in a lithe way with high cheekbones and black hair, a bit long over his ears. That’s not why he attracted attention, other than turning the heads of a few pretty women. It was the man in the sea creature costume he dragged with him by the collar of his rubber suit that was the grabber. Some looked around for movie cameras but saw none. A pretty brunette in a turquoise bikini listened to a transistor radio laying on a blanket. Playing was “Midnight Confessions” by the Grass Roots. She stared slack jawed at the newcomers.
The scuba diver let go of the unconscious man who plopped onto the sand as something buzzed. He unhooked a square compass from his weight belt and clicked a hidden button on the side of its casing. The compass was a disguised two-way radio.
“Agent 77?” a query sounded over the radio-compass. It was a whispery, ethereal voice. It was as if a specter had materialized on the other end of the connection, and was experimenting in how to speak to humans via their artificial devices.
“Yes, sir,” the scuba diver said to the head of CODE, Confidential Operations for Defense and Enforcement.
“Have you had success dealing with the saboteurs?”
“I have, Zero-One,” Bret Khodo, Agent 77 of CODE answered.
Zero-One’s true identity and even what he looked like were known only to a select few. His office in CODE’s headquarters was sealed and guarded, and he communicated with his personnel via radio speakers. If it was necessary for him to be in person, he wore gloves and a silken hood with reflective material behind the eye slits.
“Good man. As you’re already on the West Coast, I’m sending you in to rendezvous with Agent 82 in Los Angeles.”
“What’s the situation?”
“Briefly it’s this…”
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