Friday, March 22, 2013

Story Papers & Six Gun Gorilla

I don't profess to be an expert on the British Story Papers. Existing around the same time as the pulp novels in America and with similar fiction, they were thinner than the pulps. Young fans of Harry Potter might find it interesting that their great grand-parents were also excited about reading about adventurous kids and cads in school, the boys of the Greyfriars school or the girls that formed their own masked group "The Secret Three". It's also interesting just how much of the pages were devoted to the American West or American detectives and gangs. Comic and pulp fans might find it interesting just how many masked men and villains populated these pages as well such as the Green Mask vs the Black Bat!

Under their pulp fiction banner, Comicbook Plus has lately been adding of these books, including Wizard, Magnet and others.

One of the stranger characters and strangest Wild West vigilantes to emerge from this site is the Six-Gun Gorilla. A serial telling the story of a gorilla trained in the use of pistols who goes on a mission of vengeance against the gang that killed its master, an old prospector. To give the writer credit, he manages to tell this story while maintaining a certain level of credibility to it. Intelligent and capable, SGG remains thoroughly an animal in its actions, motivations, and point of view. The whole story is collected here.

Meanwhile, Si Spurrier is revamping Six Gun Gorilla for comics, the interview and details can be found here.

What is Pulp?

Which leads into a whole 'nother discussion. The interview calls Six Gun Gorilla a "pulp" character. CBR interviewers and interviewees use this term indiscriminately. Three different interviews concerning Dynamite's upcoming Miss Fury comic and all three refer to her as being a pulp character. Talking about Captain Midnight, he's referred to as a "pulp" character. Because he fights Nazis, Captain America from the movie is referred to as being "pulp". I feel like I'm constantly repeating myself over there, "Not a Pulp!" Can you imagine the next hot writer of Batman, Superman or Wonder Woman calling the character a pulp character? It is akin to me calling Harry Potter a television character, which at least would have the validity of that being where I first encountered him, in a television airing of the first movie.

None of these characters ever appeared in the pulps. Captain Midnight in particular appeared almost everywhere but: Big Little Books, Radio, Movie Serial, Comicbooks. Miss Fury appeared in comicstrips and was reprinted in the comicbooks. Not to mention, most of your hero pulps... they rarely fought the Nazis. Out of the thousand and more adventures that make up the stories of Doc Savage, the Shadow, Avenger, Secret Agent "X", The Spider, Phantom Detective, Black Bat, Green Ghosts, Operator 5, less than 1% fought Nazis. G-8 fought the Germans, but that was WWI. It's narrowly pigeon-holing pulps while using it to describe things that don't fit.

Of course the interviews then frequently go from talking about the "pulp" character to how this character is NOT that character, and it's more about the changes they are making to the character, keeping just the name and sometimes look but little else.

Pulps were not just hard-boiled detectives as some fans are wont to refer to them nor campy masked Nazi-fighters. Sure, there's the likes of Dan Turner and Doc Savage. But, it's also John Carter, Tarzan, Conan, Solomon Kane. It's H.P. Lovecraft, Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, and Dashiell Hammett.

And, I think we are still surrounded by the pulp mind-set today. Not in pastiches and period fiction though and not through their first successors, the comicbook superheroes. Stephen King if he was writing in the 30s and 40s would be in the pulps. And with King, there's Lee Child's Jack Reacher, the works of Preston and Lincoln Child, Clive Cussler and associates, the prolific Dean Koontz, Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden, books of the Forgotten Realms by writers like Mel Odom, R. A. Salvatore. There's television's Monk, Psych, Eureka, NCIS, Person of Interest, White Collar, Arrow (yes, based on the comicbook character, but owing quite a bit more to the likes of pulp era characters Green Hornet, the Green Archer and even older Count of Monte Cristo). It's genre fiction rooted in the realms of possibility and wonder as well as a look at the world around us. Escapist fiction simultaneously acknowledging what we are seeking to escape from or strive against. It speaks to our fears and righteous indignation while providing a light in the darkness. It's where modern comic books and their superheroes have lost their way, they have forgotten that relationship and instead have reversed them. Their backdrops and concerns are less real world and instead canabalistic. Superheroes instead of operating in the real world, operate primarily in worlds of other superheroes. Their supporting casts and love interests are increasingly other superheroes. And, heroes are regularly killed or made into killers or other questionable choices. The heroes themselves are given some kind of "realism", saddled with feet of clay and inadequacies and failures.

Which is why I think we're seeing a resurgence in pulp today. After all, even I who grew up reading Doc Savage, it was all second hand. I didn't read my first Spider, G-8 or Phantom Detective until my twenties. Only a few out there that discovered these characters when new. Part of it is the internet, making the stories and communication between fans easier, quicker, cheaper and more widespread. At no other time would I be able to easily come across a story as wild as the Six-Gun Gorilla. Or in the space of minutes, be able to call up and read Edgar Wallace's "The Green Archer" (an excellent story by the way). I also think that the stories themselves have renewed resonance. Events such as 9/11 make the stories of The Spider and Operator 5 speak to us in ways they wouldn't have before. Wars overseas, job scarcity, government corruption, casual bigotry... the events and characters that flit across those yellowed pages seem more relevant and familiar to us than ever before. It's why the Harry Potter books were such a huge success and Steam Punk is taking off (though having been around quite for some time, all the way back to the time periods these books are set in).

Oh well, that's my rant for today.

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