I couldn’t stay away. After the last time I needed a bit of a breather, but I came back for more of The Spider. I should have known what I was getting myself into.
As the story begins our hero, Richard Wentworth is tipped off that something is afoot in Chinatown. When him and his fiancé Nita go to investigate as civilians the daughter of an old friend, Fu-Chang approaches them to ask for help. Before we know it, she has been killed by a poison blood orchid whose touch causes flowering from inside the lungs. Moments later Wentworth and his lady love are miles below the streets in a series of underground tunnels host to trap doors, false staircases and lined with deadly menaces. There’s one part in particular where the floor beneath them all of a sudden slants in one direction and a heavy controlled wind is blowing them towards a series of spikes in the wall…and that’s only the beginning! It makes me wonder if the author devises a series of problems and traps prior to starting and then writes a story around being able to use them.
Our cover of the day comes to you courtesy of legendary artist, Jim Steranko. Mr. Steranko is definitely no stranger when it comes to the world of pulp. This was Issued in 2007 as the cover for a novel that collects 3 old school stories of The Spider, by the series main author Norvell W. Page. It’s got guns, robots, Steranko and the word Gotham in the title. What more could you need?
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If you’re interested in the heroes of the pulp genre, The Shadow stands head and shoulders above the rest. He was one of the first and definitely one of the most successful. In the wake of his popularity many other companies clamored to put out their own type of Shadow like character to capitalize on his fame. One of these who has gained his own cult following is The Spider.
The concept was created in 1933 by Harry Steeger. The first two books were written by Reginald Thomas Maitland Scott (which by the way is a hell of a name) but were rather slow and mundane. Scott was then replaced by Norvell Page writing under the company’s house name, Grant Stockbridge for the majority of The Spider’s 118 issue run.
Dynamite Entertainment is an interesting comic book company. They have rights to a lot of licensed franchises and movie adaptions giving them access to numerous characters like Voltron, John Carter, Robocop, Buck Rogers, etc. They also have the market cornered on classic pulp creations like The Shadow, The Spider and The Green Hornet and have been responsible for the recent “boom” in pulp. With all of these characters falling under the same umbrella for the first time, Dynamite decided to develop a mini series that would be a first ever crossover for all these major pulp characters. The series is called Masks and the writing is helmed by Chris Roberson and the first issued has interiors painted by Alex Ross. This is a big deal since Alex Ross hasn’t done any interiors for a comic in about 5 or so years. Of course, he’s no stranger to pulp as he does many of the covers for different Dynamite books. For the rest of the series Dennis Calero will be handling the art duties.
As I hinted in another article, I have a fascination with the pulp genre. It started with movies and the film noir movement of the 1940s and 50s but from there I quickly moved to the hardboiled crime novels that inspired those movies and eventually pulp books and art. I decided to develop a new feature on the Evil Geeks site where I can rant and rave about all things pulp related. I figured I would start with a basic overview and why the genre could be important to you.
There’s no way two ways around it, pulp novels are the early ancestors of comic books. Clear and simple. Dating back as far as the 1890’s, pulp books reached their zenith in the 1920s and 30s. Many of them feature heroes, mortal men who sometimes have some kind of special power…but aren’t quite superheroes. People like The Shadow, Zorro and Doc Savage. Their stories were often published in installments in magazines with each chapter ending on a cliff hanger so you’d absolutely need to buy the next issue to find out what happens. Many of them also star wealthy protagonists who dole out vigilante justice by way of an alter ego. These pulp tales mostly alternate between street level, gritty crime scenes or expansive and exotic globetrotting. Thus the early Golden Age of comics grew out of this.
Don’t believe me? Check out a list of things you might find in comic books that originated from pulp stories.
- Fortress Of Solitude (Doc Savage)
- Man Of Steel (The Avenger)
- Red Skull (Doc Savage)
- The Hand (The Shadow)
- Hydra (The Shadow)
- COMMISSIONER JAMES GORDON (The Whisperer)
These ALL predate their respective comic book mentions. I found those just by browsing the titles of various pulp books with minimal research, I wasn’t seeking out comparisons. Can you imagine what else is out there? Some of these titles even made the jump to comic books and are still be published today (The Phantom, The Shadow, The Spider etc). This is a vast world ripe for rediscovery. So check back often as we begin to dive into all aspects of pulp and what makes it so damn interesting.
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