Lancer: From TV Screen to Page to Online and Back to Screen Again (sort of)

When Samuel A. Peeples created Lancer, and saw it brought to fruition by CBS, I’m sure that he, and everyone else associated with the show, believed that it would sit alongside some of its predecessors and have a long run of multiple seasons in the TV Western genre. But it was 1968 and things were changing – people were changing. Westerns became kind of old-fashioned and were starting to die off. But would those same people ever believe that more than 50 years later there would still be such a diehard fanbase?

Let’s go on a Lancer journey…

For any new TV show there were always the customary TV Guide covers and interviews, along with many of the other TV fan magazines. Some of these TV fan magazines dedicated to Lancer are still out there somewhere, and every now and then one will pop up on eBay for some quick Lancer fan to snatch up and add to their collection.

Publicity also included tie-in books, and other merchandise. Lancer was no different. I’m sure there were lunch boxes – every show had a lunch box (can anyone confirm if there was a Lancer lunchbox?); and maybe even a View Master – they were very popular for some TV shows in the late 60’s and 70’s (I have a set from the TV show “Emergency” that my husband surprised me with on my birthday a few years back). If there ever was one for Lancer, I sure would love to know.

The paperback “Lancer’ by Paul Fairman (below) seems to be quite rare – and would be quite the collectible if it can be found. I have heard, though, that the book bears no resemblance to the TV show other than the names.

Then there are Those books – plagiarism or not?

OK – this section may be quite controversial, and may even anger some Lancer fans – but I do believe it needs to be mentioned.

Apparently there was a former Lancer fan fiction writer who had the opportunity to turn her fanfic into actual published works – for profit (à la 50 Shades of Gray by E L James). Although nowhere near the level of 50 Shades, the The Devil’s Own four book series, written by J D March has received some small acclaim. To anyone at all familiar with Lancer it’s obvious that she unabashedly used the characters and premise created by Samuel A. Peeples. Like E L James before her (and lets be fair, others), J D March removed references to Lancer by changing the location and the character’s names, which I believe is referred to as “filing off the serial numbers”. 

Is this plagiarism? Well, lets look at the definition of plagiarism –

[ pley-juh-riz-uhm, -jee-uh-riz- ]
1. an act or instance of using or closely imitating the language and thoughts of another author without authorization and the representation of that author’s work as one’s own, as by not crediting the original author.
2. a piece of writing or other work reflecting such unauthorized use or imitation.

I wanted to see for myself, so I ordered all four books (used, at a very nominal price for all four), and I read them. Now I’m not going to do a lengthy review of the four books – I already have a book review blog that I’ve ignored for far too long anyway – but I am going to give some general impressions.

  1. Although the names and location has been changed, it is clearly Lancer. There is no doubt in my mind (and anyone else with a brain) that this author didn’t just have this story pop-up in her head. BTW – the names are pretty bad. Guy for Scott, Guthrie for Murdoch, and Sinclair for Lancer. None of it rolls off the tongue as you read the books – because it’s so obviously Lancer. As for Johnny, well she kept the first name, but swapped out Madrid for Fierro. Let’s just face it – Madrid is way cooler, so kudos to Samuel A Peeples!
  1. The depiction of Johnny is just dreadful. Do I mind that he’s foul-mouthed? No not really, I’ve been known to throw a few f-bombs around. Do I mind that instead of sounding self confident he sounds more self aggrandizing? Yes, I do! In Warburton’s Edge, when Tallie says to Johnny, “you don’t look very dangerous”, he quietly, almost shyly answers, “I am”. He is never boastful. Sure we’ve seen Johnny use the Madrid name to his own advantage knowing that it invokes a fearfulness in some – but it was never as over the top as in these books, which is kind of gross.
  1. These books are just not that well written. At least in my opinion. If you read each one, right after the other like I did, without the benefit of having to wait for the next installment to come out, most of it is the same conversation over and over and over again. It’s actually tiresome, and I was able to skim through most pages.
  1. The author thanks a few supporters, but never once mentions or gives credit to the actual creator of Lancer. I guess that would be admitting it’s not your own work, but I find that kind of low.

Honestly, I’m not trying to be mean here, I give anyone credit that can write a book and then have it published, but my goodness this sounds an awful lot like plagiarism to me.

Rant over….

Online lancer community – fan fiction

Which leads us to the wonderful world of FanFiction. Something that has always amazed me is how serious fans are when it comes to keeping their favorite TV series alive (which is why I started this blog). For a short-lived show like Lancer, fanfiction writers had to jump in and fill that void of only a two season stint. And we’re so glad they did.

Fanfiction is such a great way to explore canon, which is defined in the FanLore Wiki as follows: “(in the context of fandom) is a source, or sources, considered authoritative by the fannish community. In other words, canon is what fans agree “actually” happened in a film, television show, novel, comic book, or concert tour. Specific sources considered canon may vary even within a specific fandom.”

Fanfiction is also a great way for an author to add their own spin, or to create different worlds or versions. This is typically known as fanon, also defined in the FanLore Wiki: “any element that is widely accepted among fans, but has little or no basis in canon. Sometimes it’s a small event in canon that gets exaggerated; sometimes it’s something in a fanfic story that gets picked up on and repeated by other writers until it’s so common that newbies might think it’s a canonical fact.”

Either way, whether a fanfic author creates a story based in canon or fanon it brings the characters, the show, the setting, back to life. For many of us that don’t have the talent to create our own fanfic stories, we look forward when those authors develop and create something new for us – the fans! And remember, this is not done for any form of profit – just for the love of the fandom. Another important distinction from the section above – Lancer fanfic authors make a point of saying that they don’t own the characters and they give credit to the show. They never take the credit away from the original creator. That’s critical.

Here are a couple of great sources for Lancer Fan Fiction that are my go to, time and time again.

For more interest – There is a great article that I encourage all fanfic writers, and aspiring fanfic writers to read: Canon vs. Fanon: Folksonomies of Fan Culture. I found it very interesting.

Screen (Again?) – Once upon a time in hollywood

OK – this one still blows me away. I’m at my in-laws for some holiday dinner – can’t remember which one. All of the women are still sitting at the table, drinking wine, enjoying family gossip. The men and kids are in the living room watching a movie. A Quentin Tarantino movie – and honestly, I’m not a fan of his work. But I glance over and what do I see; Timothy Olyphant dressed surprisingly like Johnny Madrid (I use Madrid because this is early on in the pilot episode, before he chose Lancer). Now, that got my attention! I decide to watch a bit, and I finally realize what’s going on. And I’m pretty stunned. I look over at my husband and say, “that’s from Lancer”. He casually answers, “oh yeah, looks like it”. I think my mouth actually hung open for a few minutes. Why did Quentin Tarantino make a movie that features Lancer?

Apparently, Quentin Tarantino is a fan of Lancer – who knew. There are a lot of articles about how he resurrected a forgotten (ahem! not by us) TV show, and rumors that he may want to re-make the show. I have no idea what his motivation was or is, but (and it pains me to say this) kudos to Tarantino for having some taste in TV. I hope the rumor of his re-creating the show is brought to fruition; I hope that he doesn’t “Tarantino” it up too much; I hope that it brings renewed interest in the original; and I hope that we get a DVD set of the original Lancer. Fingers crossed.

Oh, and one last thing – if Tarantino does re-make the TV show, I hope he casts Ray Nicholson (Jack Nicholson’s son) as Johnny Madrid Lancer. I defy anyone that watches Ray’s performance in Panic (Amazon Prime) to say he wouldn’t make a pretty decent Johnny.

What do you think – would Ray make a good Johnny Madrid? Take a look at this clip

I would love to know your thoughts and experiences with Lancer. Please leave a comment below – and don’t forget to follow the blog. You will be alerted to any updates and new posts. You can follow via email or through WordPress, just select your choice below in the Subscribe section at the bottom left-hand side of this page.