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Full Name: Mack Bolan
Series Name: The Executioner
Nationality: American
Organization: Stony Man Group
Occupation Agent

Creator: Don Pendleton
Time Span: 1969 - 2018


       Mack Bolan, the Executioner, is a freelance agent with the Stony Man Group.
       While serving his second tour in Vietnam, Sergeant Mack Bolan was called home to bury most of his family. His father had killed Bolan's mother and sister, tried to kill Mack little brother, and then turned the gun on himself.
       Bolan quick learned that while the perpetrator of the massacre was his father, the man had been driven to it by relentless Mafia pressure. In deep debt to loan sharks, the father had tried to get extensions and suffered beatings for his actions. When he learned that his teenage daughter had been recruited to 'work' off the debt, it was too much for the proud man and he snapped.
       Mack knew that if the Mob had left his sister alone, none of the tragedy would have happened. Upon learning that there was nothing the police could do about it, Bolan made a vow to avenge his family. Using the training he learned so well in the jungles of Indochina, he takes his new war against the mob in their backyards.
       The police and other law enforcement groups do not take kindly to vigilantes, regardless of their motives or successes. Policing is the job of professionals duly trained and sworn to protect and when someone like Bolan starts his own war, they are forced to try to stop him. Stopping a man trained to disappear into any jungle, even urban ones, though, is a huge task, especially in days long before the Internet and constant surveillance. Plus Bolan would meet more than a fair number of sympathetic people who would help out when they could, many of whom suffered at the hands of the Mob for their work.
       Eventually, the nets began to close and Bolan knew his luck would run out. He feared most that it would come in a shootout with authorities and he had sworn from the beginning to not fire on the good guys. If his survival depended on killing a good cop, he would rather die.
       That is when a major player in the Justice Department, Hal Brognola, stepped in. Brognola had been one of the leading figures in the nationwide manhunt to stop him but he saw also the good that the destruction of the Mob was doing. He also saw how the world was changing and how the enemies were bringing their angers to the States. The KGB was stepping up their actions as the Soviet Union wrestled with survival. Terrorists around the globe found it better to attack Americans than their own people. The face of the enemy was changing.
       In a serious sit-down with Bolan prompted by a new love of Bolan, April, Brognola offered a chance for life. Bolan would die in a fiery explosion, ending his crusade. John Phoenix would rise from those ashes to take the fight to the new enemies.


Number of Books:455
First Appearance:1969
Last Appearance:2018

       There is nothing comparable in modern publishing to the phenomenal success of Don Pendleton's creation. It not only became a cottage industry all its own, it started an entire genre of action heroes and it turned a tiny imprint into a major paperback player.
       Before Mack Bolan, there were private eyes and spies. After he opened the door, the world was given another type of hero - the vigilante. This new fighter was the sort of man, or woman, who could walk through a door, shoot, stab, or beat up the bad guy(s), and then disappear before legal authorities showed up. The fighter could do the fighting back that many readers dreamed of doing but, of course, would never do.
       The names of those what came after the Executioner were many. Quite a few have made it to these pages with their own columns but others have not. The Destroyer, The Death Merchant, The Avenger, The Revenger, The Marksman, The Sharpshooter, The Terminator, The Eliminator, The Expeditor, The Sexecutioner. And on and on.
       What these people would do might vary and how they did it might change from character to character, but they all share one major common thread. They all struck back at the bad and defended the good.
       Interestingly, however, the reason that Mack Bolan, the Executioner, is within this compendium of spy heroes came after the initial flush of success that Pinnacle would enjoy. Don Pendleton, the creator of Bolan, saw the first books hit the street in or around 1969. Two more would be copyrighted in 1970 and several more in 1971.
       On a personal note, I saw the first six on a turnstile rack in a 7-Eleven in the fall of 1971. I was intrigued and bought the first one 'just to see'. The next day, I returned to that convenience store to buy the remaining five and have been a huge fan ever since.
       Don Pendleton kept his fiery character going strong against the evils of organized crime despite a considerable backlash against the tremendous violence that Mack inflicted on the baddies, the lawless way that Bolan went about being judge, jury, and executioner, and, most vehemently, the way he made Italians the brunt of his anger. If the target of Bolan's wrath had been named Brown or Smith, it is unlikely he would have been as vilified. Nevertheless, Pendleton and Pinnacle Books suffered all the way to the bank.
       But the reason for inclusion of the Executioner in this list of spy series came at the end of the run of Pendleton's authorship of the character's adventures. For 38 books (with one exception) and 11 years, Pendleton scripted each step of Bolan trek against the Mob. And Pinnacle Books published each one, averaging 3 a year.
       In 1981, three major changes took place. The first was the alteration of the character from a vigilante against the Mob to a government agent fighting terrorism and enemy agents. The second was the authorship changing from one man to the work of many different writers. The third was the publishing house switching from Pinnacle to a new imprint, Gold Eagle, a Harlequin company.
       It took a bit of time for the plans of the new management to get underway. The first book came out in April of 1981 and the next didn't get released until January of the next year. But after that hiatus, production went into high gear and has not slowed down much. 1982 saw 9 books and then from 1983 to date, each month has seen a new Executioner adventure.
       1982 would also see the publication of two new series starring people that Mack had worked with over the years, including several from his Vietnam days. Able Team and Phoenix Force were two small groups of men and women, connected closely with Stony Man and made largely of people from Bolan's struggles. Both lasted over a decade and had over 50 books.
       It didn't stop there. In 1983 the first of what would be called Super Bolans by the publishing industry and fandom was released. It was Stony Man Doctrine and really kicked the Bolan system into high gear as it solidified the concept that Mack Bolan, alias John Phoenix, was the focal point of an ultra-secret intelligence group.
       From that moment, in addition to the Executioner books, Gold Eagle would periodically release double-sized adventures under the 'Mack Bolan' heading (the Super Bolan tag was mostly an internal title). These Super books came at first slowly but soon the frequency increased until within five years they were coming every quarter and within ten years they were bimonthly.
       The names of the authors listed in here are from the excellent website devoted to Mack Bolan (
       Note: Because there were two separate series running at the same time, both devoted to the same character, I chose to list them separately, hence this entry for the Mack Bolan series and a different one for the Executioner. Both series are about the same man and they both have the same sort of plots but this series has longer, more involved storylines.



Number of Stories:1
First Appearance:1977
Last Appearance:1977

1 Willing To Kill Willing To Kill
Written by Don Pendleton
Copyright: 1977

According to, this short story is found in the anthology The Great American Detective edited by William Kitteridge and Stephen M. Krauzer. "Bolan stumbles upon a Mafia hit team in Dallas and shadows them into the Texas/Arkansas borderlands where he must protect a federal witness against overwhelming odds."


Number of Stories:3
First Appearance:1993
Last Appearance:2008

1 War Against The Mafia War Against The Mafia
Published by Innovation
Contributors: Sandu Florea (illustrator)
Copyright: 1993

4-issue graphic novelization of the first adventure depicting how Mack Bolan learns of his family tragedy and decides the Mafia must pay for the pain they caused. The first three issues came out and then the company filed for bankruptcy and the fourth and final issue was never released.

2 Death Squad Death Squad
Published by Vivid Comics
Contributors: Sandu Florea (illustrator)
Copyright: 1998

A 128-page graphic novelization of the second novel in which Mack Bolan takes his war to Los Angeles and is joined by several members of his old outfit in Vietnam.

3 The Devil's Tools The Devil's Tools
Published by Worldwide Library
Contributors: Doug Wojtowicz (writer), S. L. Gallant (illustrator), Rebecca A. Wrigley (cover artist)
Copyright: 2008

A 6-issue adventure dealing with an international conglomerate of crime bosses calls itself the Steel Border Cartel which are bringing major arms into America.


Number of Books:1
First Appearance:1977
Last Appearance:1977

1 The Executioner's War Book The Executioner's War Book
Written by Don Pendleton
Copyright: 1977

This was a reference manual for fans of Mack Bolan. It tells what he has done so far, why he traveled the road that he did, and how he managed to stay alive.


       My first great love of action series started with The Executioner. Great characters like Doc Savage and the Shadow, as well as mystery solvers like Hercule Poirot, had my interest prior to then but with Mack Bolan, my interest expanded greatly.
       The amount of vitriol heaped upon the series over the years by critics is tremendous and probably only second to that given James Bond. Critics, IMHO, dislike something when it is very bad or very popular. The former is understandable. The latter is not so easy to see but it nevertheless too often the case.
       If you are looking for serious cloak and dagger reading, don't bother with The Executioner. If you are looking for tremendous amounts of solid action, look no further.
       My grade of B- is the hundreds of books written by a plethora of different authors once Mack Bolan became a government-sponsored operative. Don Pendleton's books of him as a vigilante deserve an A for excitement, enjoyment, and creating a new genre.


My Grade: B-


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