Johnny T Gerald
johnnyt at aol.com
Thu Nov 11 19:48:00 PST 1993
jnevins at bgsu.edu (Basho) writes:
> I found another place where some early Moore might have been printed,
>although I can't get my hands on it in person. In the early 80s, when
>people mistakenly thought the White Hat had fallen into public domain, one
>of the short-lived weekly publishers in Britain launched a series of comics
>and text stories featuring him. All the stories in White Hat Weekly were
>written by one "Bart Stone," a pseudonym for a bunch of different authors
>doing work-for-hire. Rumors are that Alan Moore was one of the Barts,
>although I can't find any reference to him confirming or denying this.
>Maybe someday I can go to England and spend a month just rummaging through
>their old comics and pulps. What? A guy can dream.
Hey! Maybe I have some early Moore work on my hands! When I was a kid,
my family went to England on vacation, and dad bought me some comics at one
of the stores there because I was bored by all the culture stuff. Wow, was I
stupid back then! Anyway, I dug up the issue of White Hat Weekly I got, it's
still in readable shape. If I can get access to a scanner, I can email
someone the scans to post to an alt.binaries group (AOL doesn't carry the
hierarchy, or if they do I can't get their crappy newsreader to access it).
For now, though, I can type in the text piece about White Hat. Dude, prairie
"THE SOD MEN" by Bartholomew "Bart" Stone
Abilene Kansas was a small prairie community that was perched on the
edge of its seat, waiting. Quiet now, within weeks it would be a riotous hub
of activity as the cattle drives of the Chisholm Trail arrived at the rail
head, sending beef to the Eastern cities and money to the cattle barons like
Conrad Lebold. Once the herds arrived, the population of the town would
swell by hundreds of people and tens of thousands of cattle. But now, in the
late summer of 1899, Dirk Landon's arrival in town was actually notable.
"Hullo, stranger. Lose yer way?" U.S. Marshall Clem Johnson tipped his
hat back as he watched Dirk tie his horse to the hitching post outside the
Marshall's office. He was a bit on edge, but hiding it well. He wouldn't
have been hiding it at all if he were able to see Dirk's spectral companion,
the ghost of his murdered uncle Abe.
"Hullo, Marshall. If this is Abilene, then I'm in the right place," he
tipped his white hat back a bit in greeting.
"That 'tis. A mite early for the cattle, though," Clem eyed the hat
warily. It was uncannily bright and clean, considering the trail dust that
covered the rest of the newcomer's outfit. "What might Abilene be the right
"I'm looking for a killer, Marshall. Rough sort by the name of Harry
Jackson...do you recognise the name?"
"Can't say as it stands out. But speaking of names, what's yours?"
"Dirk Landon. And I heard that Jackson took up with one of the Red
River roundups after fleeing Arizona, I thought I might find out where he's
likely to go once he hits town. And wait for him."
Marshall Johnson's eyes narrowed. "Look. This isn't the 1870s. I
don't want any 'Wild Bill' incidents. You looking for justice? Fine. I can
bring this Harry Jackson in for questioning when he gets to town. But I
don't want to hear that you're waiting around for him with a gun."
Abe snorted dismissively at the Marshall. "Citified pansy. Farther
East we get, the less I like it." Dirk was well-used to ignoring his uncle's
ghost when they were in public, and he smiled genially to the lawman.
"I'll try to make sure you don't hear about any such thing, don't
worry," Dirk unhitched his horse and moved to remount.
Just then, a child of perhaps nine or ten years dashed around the
corner, calling for the Marshall.
"It's the Sod Men! They took my pa!" the child shouted, skidding to a
stop in front of Marshall Johnson in a cloud of dust and a smattering of
"Now, Dwight, those 'Sod Men' you're always on about aren't real," the
Marshall chided. "You were probably napping and dreamed it, your pa just
stepped out while you were asleep."
Dirk paused at the side of his horse. "Sod men? That sounds like the
sort of thing that shouldn't be happening in a nice town like this."
The Marshall blinked, then chuckled. "No, sod as in chunks of turf.
Young Dwight here claims to have seen men who looked like they were either
made of or covered in chunks of dirt and grass, and moved like walking dead
"The walking dead?" Abe frowned. "I'm not liking the sound of that."
"You might want to take the child seriously," Dirk started leading his
horse into the street, in the general direction of a nearby hotel. "I've...
heard tales of Indians covering themselves in grasses and dirt so they can
blend in and ambush people."
"Maybe you still have injun problems back in Arizona, Mister Landon, but
Kansas is civilised. Hm...but you might have a point, could be some regular
old rustlers taking a trick from the injuns and getting ready for some
mischief once the herds come in. Maybe they decided they needed an engineer
and nabbed Mr. Eisenhower," Marshall Johnson pondered.
"Well, I wish you luck. I need to get settled in, I'll leave the law in
your hands, Marshall," Dirk resumed heading for the hotel.
Once Dwight had led the Marshall away, Abe sighed. "Yer gonna stick yer
nose in, ain' ya?"
Dirk smirked. "If it's just rustlers, no. As the Marshall pointed out,
this isn't Arizona. Or Wyoming. If I want to get Jackson here, I need the
law on my side. So I'll keep my nose clean if I can. But if the boy's
right, and it really is something unnatural...well, I don't want Jackson
scared off by news reports of weird things killing people, do I?"
"Yeh, keep tellin' yerself that. I suppose ya want me ta sniff around
for spirits?" Abe asked.
"I'd appreciate it muchly," Dirk nodded, not adding that it would also
be appreciated to have his ghostly uncle away from his side for at least a
little while. Over the years, Abe had become grimmer and his demands more
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Not where I'd expect to find sod men," Dirk shrugged as Abe led him to
a fairly new-looking building. "Wasa-Tusa" read the sign on the front, which
Dirk recognised as being a native word for health. "A medicine manufactory?
Some sort of mad science run amok, perhaps?"
Abe shook his head. "Definitely magic. Somethin's wrong with the feel
of this part of town. Somethin' dead that decided not ta stay that way."
"Fancy meeting you here," Marshall Johnson emerged from the main doorway
of the medicine factory. "Following me, or just seeing the sights? The
Lebold Mansion's a bit more of an attraction, if you are."
"I'm surprised to see you here too, Marshall. Many cattle rustlers come
for patent medicine?" Dirk replied from horseback.
The Marshall shook his head. "Mr. Eisenhower has been doing some work
at the factory here, I was checking to see if he'd come in after hours," he
inclined his head towards the setting sun. "But no one's seen him since he
clocked out for the day."
"SOD MAN!" Dwight shouted. He'd emerged behind the Marshall, and was
now pointing to a corner of the factory, where Dirk was just able to glimpse
a figure darting out of view.
Without a second thought, and ignoring the shouts from the Marshall,
Dirk spurred his horse to motion and followed the purported creature. He
could just see it, shambling at an incredible pace over the dried mud of the
trails that led into town, heading for the prairie grass. The setting Sun
threw long shadows that distorted everything, but even allowing for that the
loping figure couldn't be human.
A few minutes later, the Sun was dipping below the horizon and Dirk was
deep within the tall grass. "You feel it, Abe?"
The hovering spectre nodded. "Slow down, boy. I don't need yer horse
hitting a gopher hole and sending you to the other side. I need ya alive.
The thing's close, anyway. We're in its territory."
Dirk dismounted and started to lead the horse, which was blowing and
foaming from the brief chase. Almost as soon as his feet touched the ground,
figures rose up all around him.
They were human...or once had been. Withered men with blackened skin
and tufts of dirt and grass clinging to their bodies, they looked like the
"bog mummies" he'd once seen in a traveling circus freak show. Their motions
were stiff but sure, and while they shambled slowly now, he knew they could
move as fast as a horse could run, should they need to.
"Trapped," Abe snarled. "A fine mess ya got yerself in, boy."
"Hullo?" called a voice from outside the circle.
"Mr. Eisenhower?" Dirk called back, guessing at the identity of the
"Yes...how do you know my name?"
"Your son saw you captured by these sod men," Dirk replied, craning his
neck to try to see past the shambling figures. He suspected they wouldn't
react well to him getting back in the saddle.
"Oh, no...it's all a misunderstanding. I think. I'm trying to
communicate with these...people...but they don't seem to warm up quickly to
newcomers." Finally, the face behind the voice pushed through the throng,
mostly hidden by the long shadows.
"What are they?" Dirk gestured at the sod men.
"Preserved corpses, from centuries or even millennia ago, reanimated by
some process that I have been endeavouring to determine. I believe that it
might have been a result of some of the chemicals from the Wasa-Tusa
manufactory. We have been experimenting with certain sedatives derived from
Haitian folk remedies, which the superstitious believe are involved in the
creation of zombies."
"So you made zombies by mistake?" Dirk asked.
Before Mr. Eisenhower could stammer out a reply, Abe shook his head.
"These are restless ghosts. Trust me, I know that sort of thing. Any quack
medicine they were messin' with was just a coincidence. Or maybe the spirits
didn't like their fake hoodoo."
"I was trying to determine how the bodies we found while working on the
foundation could be so well-preserved, actually. If anything seeped into the
ground from the manufactory to cause this, it was before I was engaged to
work here. They're astonishingly like the 'bog men' I've read about being
found in England. Yet, as you can see, this is a plains area, no forests or
forest bogs to be found."
At this, one of the sod men raised a hand, and Dirk could hear its
spectral voice echo in his very soul. "There were forests here once, across
the whole of the world. Do not be so arrogant, Americans, to think you are
the only ones who can despoil a land. We felled the trees, tilled the soil,
grew our crops from horizon to horizon. The last of the forest was where we
stand, and I was among the last to be buried in its bogs. My children's
children felled the trees, and then there were no more. One day, the crops
failed. The people died, or left. And all that remained was the bare land,
a few grasses clinging to it."
"What's happening?" Mr. Eisenhower asked. "I see his mouth moving, but
nothing's coming out."
"Now you Americans come, before the land can heal, and destroy it again.
I see death and dust for your children. We did not learn, and we died. You
will not learn, and you will die. But we could not return to our rest until
we at least warned one who could hear. The other could not hear, cannot
hear, but you can."
With that, the sod men seemed to melt into the ground, as if it were
quicksand. As the last rays of the Sun vanished, only Dirk, Eisenhower and
Dirk's horse remained visible in the brief skyglow after sunset.
"A warning," Dirk mounted his horse and offered Mr. Eisenhower a hand
"Of what? Are we building on sacred grounds, and they're going to come
after us like revenants in a penny dreadful?"
"No, they're not after vengeance. Pity, maybe. Atonement, I guess.
And you're not totally wrong about the sacred grounds...they wanted us to
know that this is ALL sacred, and we're treating it like, well, like dirt."
"Basho" is the handle Jess Nevins went under in 1993 and early 1994, his
ASH-verse counterpart used with permission of the real world version. I
imagine his later career as a pulp historian would be rather complicated in
the ASH-verse, given the difficulty in telling which stories were based on
true events and which ones were made up out of whole cloth in order to fill
pages. Johnny T. Gerald is a reference to Johnny Twelveyearold, a fictional
letterhack during the RPG sessions of the Raiders in 1993-4 (the advancement
system had players writting lettercol entries justifying their characters
checking off various progress points, and Blitzkrieg's player Chris Tatro
wrote as Johnny Twelveyearold).
Some of the historical details in this story are...well, wrong. Abilene
stopped being the rail head for the Chisholm Trail in 1871 as the railroad
pushed westward. But when you're writing cheap pulp as work-for-hire in the
1980s, there's not a whole lot of incentive to research beyond what's in your
desk encyclopedia (and I name-dropped a bunch of stuff that would likely be
in a short 1980s encyclopedia entry on Abilene). Of course, even these days
when a quick trip to Wikipedia could show the inaccuracies, a lot of
piecework writers aren't going to bother. ;) Also, I deliberately misspelled
"marshal" as "marshall" throughout, and tried to consistently use British
spelling. And, of course, I had to throw in a bit of misanthropy and a dig
at Modern Society (and Americans in particular) and how we're destroying the
planet, to make it feel more like an early 80s British comic. :) However, I
did not make any particular effort to write like Moore in particular. Even
assuming his style had gelled by the early 80s, there's always the
possibility that he didn't write any Bart Stone pieces at all. It's just a
fandom rumour, after all....
"Sod" is a rather ruder word in Britain than it is generally used in
America, being shortened from "sodomy" or "sodomize". I'm sure many a
British schoolboy has snickered at references to American pioneers referred
to as "sod-busters".
As a final historical note, recent archaeological evidence suggests that
the Kansas prairie is the result of man-made ecological disaster that played
out maybe a thousand years ago, overfarming in the region that left things
pretty messed up, and they'd only recovered as far as grasslands by the time
European explorers arrived. But I don't recall any evidence of fens, I made
that up for the story.
For all the back issues, plus additional background information, art,
and more, go to http://www.eyrie.org/~dvandom/ASH !
To discuss this issue or any others, either just hit "followup" to this
post, or check out our Yahoo discussion group, which can be found at
There's also a LiveJournal interest group for ASH, check it out at
you're on Facebook instead, there's an Academy of Super-Heroes group there
More information about the racc