Girasol and the mechems
I’m a huge fan of the Girasol pulp magazine replicas and have found some of them. What I could not find was much information about who made these and the company behind. Ed Chaczyk made me aware of the two brothers behind it all and led me to finding a way to contact them. Neil Mechem answered me and I don’t think I can write it any better than he did so I’ll just leave it with his words and my pictures. Here are the words from Neil himself:
“The company was made up equally of two people, my brother Leigh and I. The Girasol name comes from the jewel on the Shadow’s ring, which was depicted on many of the original covers. A girasol in jewellery terms is a type of opal that changes colour depending on the light. We were both avid pulp collectors from the 1970s up into the early 2000s, and as many similar collectors did, helped support our collecting habit by buying and selling pulps, comics, vintage magazines, and eventually some original art as a sideline to our regular day-jobs. Our main interest was in hero titles such as The Shadow and the Spider, ‘though we did enjoy other writers such as REH and HPL, Dashiell Hammett, and so on. We published some of REH’s work along the way, and we still enjoy re-reading it periodically, but we were not actually diehard collectors of his material. Our interest in the pulps was not only the content, but the format of the original magazines themselves, and their place in popular culture history. We began taking it more seriously and incorporated the Girasol Collectables name in the early 2000s. The company was officially closed down at the end of 2017 when Leigh and I both retired from actively pursuing any further projects.
The Pulp Replicas line got off to a slow start, and was always a small-volume, print-on-demand project. In total, there were around 450 different issues in Replica form when we called it quits. Each item was done in small batches as we needed them. Most issues saw print of between 50 to 150 copies total; a few were higher, and a few were lower. As fans of the format of the pulp magazines as well as the content, we tried out the idea of facsimile reprints scanned right from the original pages with no alterations or editing, assembled in as close to the original style as was reasonable, given current digital printing methods. The concept was to provide fans of the original magazines a more affordable, less fragile substitute for more expensive originals. While there were all kinds of pulp reprints at that time, (circa the late ‘90s), most of it was in standard reprint form which meant the text had been reset and it did not include the original illustrations. Unlike most other reprints, the Replicas contained the complete magazine from cover to cover, not just the main character or story. The only thing we changed was to leave out the ads on the inside covers, and replace them with an explanation of the project. That was both for information purposes, and to prevent anybody from putting one of our covers on a coverless pulp and trying to pass it off as original.
We felt our way along with a few sporadic issues before eventually settling on a two-per-month, then three-per-month schedule. In order to produce each issue,
we typically worked from a low grade or coverless copy that was taken apart in order to get a good quality scan of the pages without any distortion, then a scan of a better grade copy for the front and back covers and spine. The covers were retouched digitally to bring them back to a ‘like-new’ appearance. In a few rare instances, we scanned the original pages from photocopies if an original magazine was unavailable.
Our main focus with the Replicas project was to reprint the sets of the Spider, Operator 5 and Terror Tales, which we completed in the summer of 2015. At that point, we stopped adding new items to the Replicas catalogue. We also concentrated on the early Weird Tales, and managed to reprint the first 40 issues, (all of 1923, 1924, 1925, 1926 and January 1927) as well as a number of issues of interest from the late 1920 and 1930s, many with REH stories. We covered the early issues of the four Spicy titles, as well as a number of other short-run sets and unusual issues. The Spider, Operator 5 and Terror Tales were published in order starting at #1, but Weird Tales and the Spicy titles came out as we acquired ‘parts’, not in chronological order. Initially, we did not anticipate being able to find source material for all of the early Weird Tales issues, due to their rarity, but over time, we were able to make it happen. The project came to a close for a number of reasons, but it was mainly a classic case of increasing costs and declining sales, which made it no longer workable to continue.
In 2005, we published a reset text softcover edition of 5 REH stories titled Blood of the Gods. It included REH’s 4 stories from Top-Notch Magazine, and 1 from Complete Stories. These are his desert adventure tales with El Borak and Kirby O’Donnell. The raw text was supplied to us by REH authority and all ‘round great guy Paul Herman of TX, USA. We borrowed some unrelated, early 1900s line illustrations from Joseph Clement Coll that fit nicely as spot illustrations to go with the text.
In 2006, we published our first facsimile hardcover project, a 2 volume limited edition set of 50 copies titled The Weird Writings of Robert E. Howard, and a follow-up edition of 75 copies, The Exotic Writings of Robert E. Howard. Scanned directly from the original magazine pages, the purpose of the books was to get back to the original printed versions of the stories, without any of the editing, alterations, additions, or general meddling that plagued many previous REH reprints. There was also a subsequent, un-numbered, open-ended reprint version that had the same content, but without the same title page illustrations of the limited editions. The 3 books cover all of Howard’s material for the original run of Weird Tales, as well as much of his weird and detective fiction. They do not include his westerns, humour, or boxing stories.
In 2007, we published a 50 copy limited edition facsimile set of 3 volumes reprinting the complete run of the 9 issues of Oriental Stories Magazine and a 4th volume of the 5 issue run of Magic Carpet Magazine. There was no follow-up, open ended version. The REH stories contained are duplicated from the Exotic volume, but there is quite a bit of good stuff in addition to that in the run.The slipcases were not part of the original project. A few buyers in particular wanted slipcases, so we had 10 sets made as an after-market add-on for Weird Writings of REH (1 slipcase for 2 books), Exotic Writings (1 slipcase for 1 book), and the Oriental Stories/Magic Carpet set (1 slipcase for all 4 books). They were done at a place in the US, but I don’t remember the name of the supplier, and they wouldn’t have stock anyway, we only did the 10 at the time. In 2008 we published a 200 copy limited edition facsimile volume of King, of the Khyber Rifles by Talbot Mundy, with interior line illustrations by Joseph Clement Coll. The story was serialized over 9 issues in Everybody’s Magazine, 1916-17. There was no follow-up, open ended version. This one, as well as the following Messiah edition, was primarily to showcase the incredible artwork by Coll. There was a previous reprint of King in hardcover form, but we always felt that the illustrations hadn’t been reproduced as well as they could have been. In 2009 we published a 200 copy limited edition facsimile volume of The Messiah of the Cylinder by Victor Rousseau, and other stories all with interior illustrations by Joseph Clement Coll. The Messiah story was serialized over 4 issues in Everybody’s Magazine in 1917. There was no follow-up, open ended version.
In 2010, we published a 2 volume facsimile project of HPL’s material from the original run of Weird Tales, titled The Weird Writings of H.P. Lovecraft. In this case, there was only a limited, numbered version of 200 copies, there was no follow-up, open-ended version. The dust jacket illustrations were private commissions licensed from UK artist extraordinaire Ian Miller.
Our other pulp-related reprint projects included 25 issues of our Pulp Doubles tpb format featuring 2 Spider stories per issue. These have reset text, but include the original pulp magazine illustrations. Our goal was to concentrate on stories that had not been reprinted in standard paperback or trade paperback form, as a cheaper alternative to the Replicas. We also published 5 hardcover volumes in a series called Pulp Cover Gallery Editions, which showcased top-quality images of full sets of the front covers of various pulp magazines. Volume 1 was Weird Tales, the others a mix of SF and other material. Leigh and I are both retired now, and are no longer actively involved in any publishing ventures. Our current collection focuses primarily on original comic and fantasy art, ‘though we are still tremendously fond of the pulps and that early 1900s era. I occasionally help out other projects with cover scans from our archives, or other material that we came across. Our Replicas inventory has long since been exhausted, and unfortunately we don’t have any issues of Weird Tales left to offer.”
Best wishes for 2021, Neil Mechem