Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Discuss: Pulp Heroes

Doug: During my recent trip to Washington, DC, I used my Kindle and the flight time to devour (for the third time) Jungle Tales of Tarzan. I chose that because it is a collection of short stories and I knew I could down it during my allotted four hours of air time. Of course I take the racism of Burroughs' day for what it is/was and move on from there. A few days after I got home, while on the treadmill, I watched an episode of The Lone Ranger. It, too, had racist overtones: "Some man in a white hat and a redskin!" was one line. But I don't really want to get bogged down in the unsavory aspects of our past. Rather, let's have a conversation on these pulp heroes who persist to the present in their various incarnations. Take this any direction you want to - favorite iterations, multiple media representations, actors and/or comic book creators, etc. But be sure to have some fun before you leave.


Anonymous said...

It was the Johnny Weismuller films that first introduced me to Tarzan and it wasn't until later on that I discovered the "real" Tarzan who is really Lord Greystoke. That version of Tarzan has never appealed to me as it's annoying that if he's British he must be a bloody aristocrat (Marvel did exactly the same with their British superheroes). My Tarzan will always be the b/w Weismuller films with Tarzan, Jane and Boy, no snooty aristocrats anywhere in sight. And they always remind me of school holidays in the '70s. But my favorite pulp hero is Conan. In the Marvel comics it always said "adapted from the story by Robert E. Howard" and I didn't have a clue who REH was but I imagined him as an elderly professor puffing on his pipe and sipping brandy while typing out his Conan tales - it was a shock years later when I read about the real REH, especially that he had died aged only 30. Amazingly, although I've known about Conan since 1975 I didn't buy my first collection of the original REH Conan stories till early November 2009 and then my mother died suddenly three days later, a strange coincidence. Another pulp hero of mine was the British detective, Sexton Blake, who was created in the 1890's and ran continually till the 1970's. For a time I read any Sexton Blake novel I could find. The Lone Ranger always makes me think of the action figures from the '70s - the Lone Ranger, his horse and Tonto :D

Doug said...

Colin, I also came to Tarzan through the Weissmuller films and was amazed at how different that depiction was from Burroughs' intentions. Similarly to the influence of the 1966 Batman television show, generations know Tarzan and Batman only from those iterations. Honestly, I like the diversity of the various interpretations (of really all of these characters) through film and literature over the years.

I think it's been mentioned here before, and in the 21st century is totally politically incorrect, but Zorro, The Gay Blade remains a favorite of mine. George Hamilton is equal parts dashing and hilarious in that film.


Garett said...

The Pulps had some exciting painted art on the covers. I like George and Jerome Rozen, Norman Saunders, Walter Baumhofer, Rafael DeSoto, H.J. Ward. Colorful, dramatic! It's a bit like the Golden Age comics with reading though-- the covers ignite my imagination, but the stories mostly don't do it for me. I agree with Colin about Conan though-- I enjoyed those.

The Shadow inspired some of the best pulp covers. I recently visited a comic store and found the hardcover reprint of the '70s DC Shadow comic by Mike Kaluta and Dennis O'Neil: https://www.amazon.ca/Private-Files-Shadow-Dennis-ONeil/dp/0930289374 Pretty cool find, and I wonder if it had been sitting there since publication in 1989! It's a store I don't visit often, but I'll find unusual old treasures on their shelves along with the new TPBs.

Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser are interesting characters created in the pulps that I've just started reading in the last few years. I liked the Chaykin/Mignola version: https://www.amazon.ca/Fafhrd-Gray-Mouser-Howard-Chaykin/dp/1593077130 and I just picked up the new reprint of the O'Neil/Chaykin/Simonson version from the '70s: https://www.amazon.ca/Fritz-Leibers-Fafhrd-Gray-Mouser/dp/1616559853/

Anonymous said...

I agree on Tarzan and Conan...great stuff, despite all the problematic aspects. I also like H. Rider Haggard, though he has a lot of the same problems (racism, sexism, and various other isms). I just got done reading Swords and Ice Magic, so I'd definitely put Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser on the list, Garett!

I haven't really read much else as far as Pulp goes; I think I like the IDEA of it more than the actual execution in a lot of cases. I like the feeling it evokes, the "flavor" of the era, if that makes sense. So anything that gives me that feeling, I tend to like...King Kong, Warlord, Indiana Jones. Even some RPGs (Daredevils, GURPS Cliffhangers, Call of Cthulhu, Spirit of the Century) give me that feeling of pulpy goodness.

Mike Wilson

Edo Bosnar said...

Oh, yeah, Doug: Zorro the Gay Blade. I love that movie way too much - as I said in the comments of the inaugural "5 Guilty Pleasures" post, it's got George Hamilton and Ron Liebman (can't forget him, he almost stole the show!) speaking in Spanish accents. So wrong, yet so funny.

As for the old pulp heroes, and their writers, I tend to agree that the original Tarzan books really don't hold up well for a number of reasons. It's not just the racism that crops up in many of them, as there's also the fact that Burroughs was a really formulaic writer and nowhere is that more apparent than in his Tarzan books. I think his Barsoomian stories are much better, and they did in fact launch an entire sub-genre of SF (and fantasy SF): the planetary romance.
Like others here, I prefer Howard's work, and I think they stand the test of time better. Other pulp heroes I like are the Shadow and Doc Savage, although I only very recently read any of the original stories. In that regard, I really like the Shadow novels by Walter Gibson (writing under the pseudonym Maxwell Grant), while I was less impressed with the Doc Savage stories by Lester Dent (writing as Kenneth Robeson). Despite that, I'm still looking forward to this new Doc Savage movie that's in the works. I think the casting of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson in the title role is perfect.

spencer said...

The old pulps of the '30's 40's are fascinating, and it's fun to look back and see how much they influenced the comic heroes that came after. My intro to Tarzan was the books that my grandma read and gave to me.
They, along with discovering the Ace Conan story collections and the book versions of Doc Savage were awesome for this kid of the 70's. And, while i fervently hope that the rock does Doc justice, I'm not holding my breath!

spencer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Gotta agree with my buddy Edo - the three that stand out for me are Conan, the Shadow and Doc Savage. Tarzan to a lesser extent, although like most people I'm more familiar with the cinematic Tarzan than the one Burroughs wrote about in his novels.

- Mike 'who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?' from Trinidad & Tobago.

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