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The Resurgence of Pulp in Comics

Pulp comics have been making a come back in a big way in recent years: here's why we think you should read them.

When people think of comic books their first thought usually goes to the superhero genre. They think of Batman or Superman, or the X-Men and Iron-Man. And although the superhero genre can be a ton of fun, it is only one type of comic; it is not the end-all, be-all of comics. In fact, there are many other types of comic books and genres: fantasy, sci-fi, horror. Yet there is (debatably) only one genre that is truly seamlessly told through the comics medium: pulp. This might be because pulp, as a genre, was first born in the early 20th century in Pulp magazines. Those early magazines gave way for many of the popular characters we see today like Doc Savage and The Shadow and their stories are often best told through the use of a comic strip, art and dialogue bubbles.

Was pulp in comics ever really dead, or has it always been there and we have just recently begun to notice it as being more prevalent in the comics we read? "Pulp" in comics (or more specifically, "pulp noir,") was never something that had ever disappeared from comics completely. It is recently, however, that the genre is seeping into more and more of the comics we read. What can we attribute to that, though? Could it be the art? In a sense, the art has a lot to do with it. Artists like Francesco Francavilla, for example, have really embraced "pulp" in comics and have helped bring it back to the mainstream. One look at Francavilla's blog and it's hugely inspired by pulp noir and noir concepts. Even his blog, which is updated every Sunday is titled appropriately "Pulp Sunday." Francavilla's THE BLACK BEETLE series for Dark Horse is also heavily influenced an inspired by "pulp" as a genre, and it seems he is not the only one.

Whether it is because comics are like history in that they repeat what has already been published, or perhaps it is because publishers are looking to something that worked really well in the early days of comics and simply want to relive that era, it seems that in recent years the "pulp" genre has experienced a sort of resurgence.

We spoke to Nick Barrucci, the CEO and publisher at Dynamite Entertainment about the importance of pulp influence in comics and he had plenty to say about the resurgence of many of these classic characters into the mainstream.

The characters that influenced Marvel and DC are still here, still around. They just needed someone to shine them in the right light.

We have a great love for these characters, and there are many creators who also have a great love for the characters. And that keeps them around. And that keeps some of the greatest comics writers and artists coming to them. Matt Wagner, John Cassaday, Alex Ross, David Liss, Brian Buccellato, Jae Lee, Chris Roberson, and so many others. The pureness of the characters, the influence that they have for other existing characters, keeps their flame alive.

At Dynamite, we do publish many of these characters, and hope to announce more soon. Why? Because they're great characters. Our job is to remind the fans.

Dynamite is one company that has been at the forefront of acquiring the rights to many pulp characters and printing them in all-new adventures, particularly recently.

Since we already mentioned him in the previous paragraph, we'll take Doc Savage, for example. The character was first created in the early 1930's by writer Lester Dent and he starred in nearly 40 pulp magazines, most of which were published in a span of twenty or so years. In the mid-1970's a film was issued based on the character, but for nearly thirty years Doc Savage failed to make an appearance in any medium, that is of course until the launch of DC's New 52 where the character was issued his very own series written by Paul Malmont and the art of Howard Porter. The series did well at first, but unfortunately only made it to issue #17. The series' 18th issue was published digitally following its cancelation.

And although things did not necessarily bode well for Doc Savage in the last couple of years, he is far from being the only example of a classic pulp character that has sashayed his way into modern comics. Dynamite Entertainment, for example, has taken the liberty of bringing many of these classic pulp characters back by purchasing the rights to publish new stories of which they get to star. The Shadow, for example, was a character that was widely popular from the early 1930's to the mid 1940's. The character was first introduced via a dramatized radio program. The character went on to become the central character in THE LIVING SHADOW which was first published in 1931. The character went on to star in his own series through various publishers: DC Comics during the 1980's, Dark Horse in the 1990's until the rights to the character were finally acquired in 2011 by Dynamite Entertainment. The character's very own series was launched in April of 2012 and was written by Garth Ennis featuring pencils by Aaron Campbell. The series seems to be a success, and The Shadow frequently crosses over into other Dynamite Entertainment series like THE SPIDER, another pulp character.

Dynamite Entertainment has made huge strides in acquiring the rights to publish stories featuring many popular pulp characters like The Shadow, Black Bat, The Spider, Zorro and The Lone Ranger -- but they aren't the only ones. In 2009 Dark Horse comics decided to released CREEPY, a comic anthology series featuring horror-pulp. The series, which was first published by Warren Publishing from 1964 to 1983 hadn't been in print for nearly 26 years and it has made its return to the mainstream.

Although we would like to think that pulp in comics never really went away, something tells us that it has been making its way back in recent years with a vengeance -- and we couldn't be happier for it. The introduction of these classic characters and concepts is a welcome change and addition to many of the superhero and independent titles that we read each month, but what do you think? Are there any pulp comics that you enjoy reading? What are some of your favorites? Is it a genre and type of comic that you are interested in?

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Posted by akbogert

Nice article!

I'm a huge fan of noir...have been for years, long before I got into comics, and I am slowly discovering the wealth of that sort of thing comics, particularly newer ones, have to offer in that regard.

Side note: that The Spider cover is really chilling, when you take it all in.

Edited by Hit_Monkey

I'm loving the resurgence of Pulp these days. It's a real guilty pleasure of mine when it come to genres. Doc Savage, Shadow, Spider, or the newer Incognito, Fear Agent, Lobster Johnson, Black Beetle. It's ALL good. Great article btw!

Posted by NightFang

Bring on the Pulps!

Posted by ccraft

DC nor Marvel have really wowed me lately, since I started getting TMNT, X-O Manowar, and Shadowman. So I'm always looking for something new! I need something with horror and mystery, I might look into Creepy and The Shadow, and suggestions would be great.

Posted by Onemoreposter

@hit_monkey: Dude, Fear Agent was RIDICULOUSLY good. Here I thought I was the only one who'd read that.

I love pulp heroes and I almost feel guilty for not supporting their titles more than I do. To me Doc Savage is really the proto-Superman with his Fortress of Solitude, super-science, and uncanny abilities. In many ways I also see The Shadow as a forerunner of Batman. He's a dark, ominous figure, operating at night and striking fear into the heart of the villainy.

"Who knows what evils lurk in the hearts of men? THE SHADOW KNOWS...MWUHAHAHAHAHAHA"

So yeah, pulp fiction is awesome.

Edited by Jonny_Anonymous

I love Pulp in all it's forms, I read all the Dynamite stuff like The Spider, The Green Hornet, Black Bat, The Shadow, IDW is doing some great stuff with the Rocketeer, I also love Lobster Johnson and Black Beetle over at Dark Horse. One of my favourite characters at DC is The Sandman. I also really like th horror pulp like Creepy, Tales form the Crypt and Creepshow.

Marvel used have this really good pulp-noir book, what was it called again....? Oh that's right.. Daredevil. Ah those where the days.

Posted by Jonny_Anonymous

@ccraft: Fatale at Image and Lobster Johnson and Black Beetle at Dark Horse are what your looking for.

Posted by akbogert

@ccraft said: I'm always looking for something new! I need something with horror and mystery.

Go buy Fatale and Locke & Key immediately (particularly Fatale if you're specifically looking for pulp).

Edited by Kneepawn

Great article Sara! I love reading Fatale and Rocketeer right now, still have yet to give Masks a try mainly because people deterred me from it. Might pick it up anyways though. lol

Posted by WaveMotionCannon

I loved the Howard Chaykin "Shadow"mini series from DC and the new "Masks" from Dynamite is growing on me. Pulp is good.

Posted by lightsout

Informative article, but I'm a super-hero fan & comics just happen to be a great place to find them. No interest in other genres.

Posted by Jonny_Anonymous

@lightsout: Superheroes came from Pulp, if it wasn't for Pulp characters like Batman and Superman wouldn't even exist.

Posted by ccraft

@akbogert: @jonny_anonymous: Thanks for the suggestions, I'm certainly interested in Fatale, I just got the 1st issue for free on comixology. Lobster Johnson seems like a good series too, I just checked out the preview for issue #1

Have you guys read CREEPY, I'm lost, I have no clue where to start is it a good series too?

Posted by Hit_Monkey
Posted by pikahyper

Finally some pulp respect on CV !!!! without pulps we wouldn't have comics, people need to learn the history of the medium and show it the respect it deserves :)

Moderator Online
Posted by No_Name_

Finally some pulp respect on CV !!!! without pulps we wouldn't have comics, people need to learn the history of the medium and show it the respect it deserves :)

Ah, I'm glad you liked the topic I chose for today :P

Edited by etragedy

Excellent article!
Without the pulps, comics as we know them really wouldn't exist.

Posted by iaconpoint

I'm a huge fan of Black Beetle and Fatale. Gonna have to check out Creepy as well. So glad pulp and noir are getting all of this attention.

Edited by SavageDragon

I love the Brubaker Criminal series. Havn't read Incognito yet but I really want to.

Sin City was my first pulp/crime noir series I read and that was a blast.

Currently one of my top 3 favorite comics is Fatale by Brubaker and Phillips and I am also loving Francavilla's Black Beetle. His art is truly special.

Posted by Lieutenant_Awkward

You know what I can use? A resurgence of pulp in my orange juice. Been drinking a lot of pulpless lately.

Posted by ccraft

@babs: This article and some helpful Viners got me interested in Fatale, just read the 1st issue. I'll be looking more into Pulp genre now, Thanks.

Posted by lightsout

@jonny_anonymous: That's an interesting factoid, but I fail to see how that's relevant to me saying that I'm not interested in that genre. I never said that genre was bad/stupid, just that it doesn't interest me. (The article said "here's why we think you should read them" and "And although the superhero genre can be a ton of fun, it is only one type of comic; it is not the end-all, be-all of comics. In fact, there are many other types of comic books and genres" . So I said that I'm a super-hero fan first, and comics happen to be a medium to easily find them in. I'm sure many others are like this too. So it's not as if someone who only reads super-hero comics is being closed minded about other genres.)

Edited by pikahyper

@babs: love love love me some pulp, it really is a shame that so little attention has been paid towards them until recently, memories of those old pulps are dying out and even finding the issues is getting harder and harder as they wither away. I really wish we could preserve the covers and information here in the wiki but adding most pulps is not allowed since most of them don't fall under the typical sequential art classification :(

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Edited by ccraft

@lightsout: I used to read only superhero comics, but now that I've tried other non-hero comics I've felt that I've been missing out on some great comics. I'd recommend trying Fatale #1 and TMNT #1 there both free on comixology. (I add the links for them) Also heres my Pull list if your interest in comics I get. I've recently moved most of my superhero comics from my Pull list to my Collect Later list to save some money.

-sorry for rambling.

Posted by ccraft

Does anyone recommend CREEPY?

Posted by RedheadedAtrocitus

The interesting thing is that most people don't realize that pulps as we know it grew out of the 'dime novels' of the Victorian Era, latter 19th century. Real popular books dealing with Gothic themes and of course tall tales that would entice people from Victorian London all the way to America's Wild West. From there hen we can say pups then really had its inspirational start to become the entertainment and literary medium it eventually came to evolve into in mainstream comings. I've always been a fan of pulp and grew up reading many of the old stuff despite the fact that Iw as born later int he 20th century. I was weaned on the likes of the original Daredevil, the Owl, the Shadow, the Spirit, the Crimson Avenger, the Green Hornet, Buck Rogers, Doc Savage and so many others. In truth I think its the genre that go me started in comics in the first place when I would watch old episodes on television. That's why it always delights me to see what new pulp favorite Dynamite puts out into another ongoing, so that today's generations can enjoy them just as I did back in the day. Pulp has never gone anywhere and never WILL go anywhere. Its as much a part of comics as apples are to pie, plain and simple.

Posted by Fuchsia_Nightingale

Don't chew me out, I love pulp I do <3, but I still count it under capes. To me not much of huge difference between Batman and the Green Hornet <3

Posted by Danial79

Informative article, but I'm a super-hero fan & comics just happen to be a great place to find them. No interest in other genres.

I'm the same. I've tried so many other comics, but none keep my interest for very long. However, on the subject of pulp/noir, I think my favourite, Moon Knight, would perfectly suit a noir-style book :)

Posted by Queso6p4

Very good choice for an article and kudos for giving the spotlight to pulp comics. Boy, I wish I could've been alive in the 70's to read this stuff as it came out but it's always fun to catch up.

Posted by BajiNaji

Blue Estate, from Image, also well worth checking out.

Edited by the creator

Since the film in 1975, Doc Savage did continue to appear in print, as the re-release of his adventures were reprinted and a new Lester Dent novel published in 1979. Additional stories were then published in the early 1990's. then another batch of new stories were printed starting in 2011. So I think it fair to say that Doc Savage has been actually seeing a lot of exposure other then in comics or film.

Posted by Darkmount1

Uh....Doc Savage got two other comic series--Marvel did one in the 70's (when that aforementioned movie was made) and one from DC in the late 80's/early 90's.

Edited by bob808

I love all of the classic pulp characters.

Edited by manwithoutshame

Great article. My favorite pulp comic is the fantastic Sandman Mystery Theatre series.

Here's an idea, why doesn't Dynamite bring back Dick Tracy as well? Could you imagine a crossover with The Shadow?

Posted by SergeStorms

I like some of the Pulps and have read a lot of Dynamite and Dark Horse stuff. For me, the most important role Pulps have after providing cool entertainment is to broaden the comic book reach in content. While the supes are cool for most, their dominance may suffocate the industry if that is all people believe is in it. Pulps can help branch out what people see out there. They also apparently can be used successfully by smaller publishers like Dynamite. If the Pulps work, I hope Dynamite and others keep looking for veins of content and prove to people that graphic novels and comics can cover a broad reach of entertainment.

Posted by ccraft
Posted by BaneStrokeLoboGrundyBatArrow

Pulp alright then....

Edited by spacechipAT

The very best comics genre! Good article! Btw, here's something i made a few months ago to a friend.

Edited by excalibur5150

I've always felt that the Pulps always had some of the best characters in literature. These are truly the heroes who have nothing but skill and wits to keep them alive. Doc Savage for my money has always been Captain America and Batman rolled into one. I also love the Shadow, Mandrake, the Rocketeer, and newer guys like Indiana Jones, the Twilight Avenger and Darkman.

Edited by Jonny_Anonymous

@spacechipat: That's reel good.

I would love if Dynamite got the rights to Doc Savage and Dick Tracy

Posted by jangcrow

Loving Black Beetle right now, might give some of the Dynamite titles a try.

Posted by Jonny_Anonymous

@ccraft said:

Does anyone recommend CREEPY?

I love Creepy, you can get the first issue free on Dark Horse Digital

Edited by Hit_Monkey

@jonny_anonymous: Daredevil is still a great "pulp-noir" book. You're just being bitter is all. :p

Edited by Jonny_Anonymous

@hit_monkey: pfft there ain't nothing pulp or noir about that book

Edited by Botiste

I know that this question is a little off centered given the time period and publishing dates of these writings but are there any minority pulp heroes other then the Green Hornet?

Posted by Jonny_Anonymous

@botiste: I can't think of any off hand but I suppose Tonto from the Lone Ranger and Ram Singh from The Spider would count

Posted by Hit_Monkey

@jonny_anonymous: Perhaps not noir (though there are moments I reckon) but that book is dripping with pulp.

Edited by Jonny_Anonymous

@hit_monkey: This clip is the very definition of Noir and I don't see anything like it in the current DD:

Posted by revbucky

I have been reading Doc Savage novels since I was a kid. Great stories and fun adventure!

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