Returning to the Barnum System

We were saddened to learn of the passing in mid-January of prolific writer Ron Goulart, at age 89.

At The Library of American Comics, Ron shared with us his memories of Alex Toth for our Genius series; contributed key chapters to King of the Comics, our celebration of King Features Syndicate’s 2015 centennial; and delivered a fresh and frank retrospective on the Star Hawks comic strip series he co-created with his friend, artist Gil Kane.

Of course, those credits scarcely scratch the surface of Ron’s prodigious output. He was perhaps best known as a fiction author, with a variety of science fiction originals in his oeuvre; several of Ron’s SF works are set in the “Barnum System” that was used as the backdrop for the Star Hawks comics. He sold novels to SF publishers such as Donald A. Wollheim (DAW) Books, and he was a regular contributor of short stories to The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction under both editor/publisher Ed Ferman and Ferman’s successor, Gordon Van Gelder.

Outside the SF realm he wrote a wide range of fiction under his own name and a variety of pseudonyms. He roamed far and wide, crafting a number of mysteries featuring Groucho Marx as a detective (nimbly mimicking Groucho’s famous rapid-fire witticisms) and also serving as the 1970s “Kenneth Robeson” by extending The Avenger series for the Warner Paperback Library, adding a dozen original novels starring adventurer Richard Henry Benson after Warner had successfully reprinted the twenty-four pulps originally published by Street & Smith as a companion series to their popular Doc Savage and The Shadow magazines.

Comics strip fans recognize Ron as one of the most energized and enthusiastic of the “first wave” of comics historians. He produced a number of books about comics, foremost among them arguably The Adventurous Decade, about the rise of action-continuity strips during the 1930s. Even today, with the proliferation of comics histories, overviews, and retrospectives, Adventurous Decade remains a lively read and a valuable reference resource.

Ron had a deep love for and interest in popular culture. He was equal parts writer and fan, which made him a pleasure to speak with and a fun author to read.

He will be missed.

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