Inspirations - King Solomon Comes For Your Life, Roscoe Goodman!
The inspiration for this story is of course the American pulp heroes of the 20s & 30s - cheap, violent, and nasty stories of square-jawed, murder-crazy vigilantes. The most famous from the era is The Shadow, but they all hit similar story beats - the secret identity, the girlfriend, the wealthy socialite with a secret, the hero's distinctive calling card, etc. If you know Batman, you've got the gist.
To prepare for this story, I read a vintage The Spider story, The City Destroyer - to get the flavour of the genre without drowning in it. The Spider is mostly forgotten these days, but he was a hit in his era - your standard gun-wielding millionaire who torments criminals while disguised by a messy wig, vampire fangs and a hunchback (because why not).
This story was written by Norvell W. Page, who wrote the bulk of the stories about The Spider. Honestly, it was a pretty good time - clearly written at pace, loose in detail, and full of juicy, ludicrous violence. This one involved a criminal mastermind who had developed a chemical that would weaken steel, leading to many 9/11-style scenes of apocalyptic building collapses. Typically, The Spider's stories were known their over-the-top villain schemes, catastrophic bodycounts, and unhinged hero.
So, inspired by the style of the pulps, I cut loose in this story with adjectives, adverbs, tautology, cliche, sloppy misuse of words - if anything, compared to the pulps, I was restained! There really is nothing like the energy and recklessness of the original pulps. For the violence, I wanted to make it over-the-top so it felt like a cartoon. The sex was easier - I just made it as silly as I could.
The structure of this story is Three Billy Goat's Gruff - three encounters with a monster, which in this case is the pulp hero. I wanted to have a pulp hero encounter a henchman several times, and realise the futility of their crusade in the economic conditions of the Great Depression. Only when I had begun plotting the story did I have the idea to make the vigilante and the henchman war buddies, and to lean hard on the hero's trauma-wrought delusion. This draws a direct line between the brutal justice of the pulps and wartime horrors - where like Marvel's gun-loving The Punisher, the soldier can't leave the war overseas. I like this twist, but the original concept was buried by that new dimension to the encounters - King Solomon doesn't encounter an anonymous stranger, but someone who he feels has betrayed him.
From there, I had to develop my pulp hero. I love demonology (thank Japanese videogames like Shin Megami Tensei and Shadow Hearts for that), so I decided that my hero would model themselves on the historical magic book The Lesser Key of Solomon, and use a different demon for every criminal they fight. So, all the references to demons in this story are accurate to that book - and so possibly, depending on how superstitious you are, accurate to real demons.
As a side note, Alan Moore's Promethea has a villain who summons every demon from Solomon's Key - with stunning illustrations from J.H. Williams III.
From there, I was happy to invent some generic details for my hero's world, and a few vile, equally cartoonish villains for him to fight. Cramming key parts of three hypothetical pulp novels into one story was a delibrate stylistic choice - just the money shots.
Obviously, I had a bit too much fun writing this one, and I'm overall pretty happy with how it turned out... Adverbs are the true demons, they offer great power, but are terrible and corrupting... I do not think I can safety return to the pulps for inspiration again soon, or I won't be able to write anything else!