Sunday, April 03, 2005

Johnny Mayhem

For some reason Duane Swiercyznski's Secret Dead Men reminded me of Johnny Mayhem. I'm sure only a few of you have ever even heard of Johnny Mayhem. He was a series character created by Milton Lesser (better known as Stephen Marlowe) for Amazing Stories in the 1950s. He began life as Johnny Marlow, "a pariah, a criminal, . . . who had been mortally wounded on a wild planet deep within the Saggitarian Swarm, whose life had been saved, after a fashion, by the white magic of that planet. Mayhem, doomed now to possible immortality as a bodiless sentience, an elan, which could occupy and activate a corpse if it had been frozen properly." Being an elan has reformed Marlow/Mayhem, "who had dedicated his life to the service of the Galactic League because a normal life and normal social relationships were not possible for him." See, that's because an elan can't "remain in one body for more than a month without body and elan perishing." Since you never know when you'll need a guy (or an elan) like Johnny Mayhem, "Every world which had an Earthman population and a Galactic League post, however small, had a body waiting in cold storage, waiting for Johnny Mayhem if his services were required."

I really liked the Johnny Mayhem stories when I was a kid. The one in the November 1958 Amazing is both typical and different. It involves an escaped con and a one hundred member symphony band. All the band members are women. Judging by the interior illo for the story, they all wear really short shorts, tight blouses, and boots, which seems like a good idea to me.

About that cover: there was a time when both Amazing and Fantastic went through a "monster of the month phase." And of course the monster was usually menacing a woman who looked as if she might be headed for an audition for a spot in a symphony orchestra. Ah, the good old days. Posted by Hello


Graham said...

"...they all wear really short shorts, tight blouses, and boots..."

Sounds like a good idea to me, too.

Anonymous said...

It's surely a shame that Lesser & John Jakes never got together for a Johnny Mayhem-Johnny Havoc team-up!
-- Art Scott

Anonymous said...

How many Johnny Mayhem stories are there? I just found 3 on Amazon, and was wondering if I was missing out on any more.

Bill Crider said...

I don't know how many there were. Probably more than three, though.