15 Favorite Pulp Heroes / Characters and the meaning of Pulp! Pt. 1 of 2!

Price The Avenger Chronicles Here!

We’ll begin this with a definition of pulp, pulp heroes, and pulp writing, then get into my list of favorite pulp characters and pulp runs.

The perceived definition of a pulp character tends to be a character that takes place in the 20s to 40s, in an America besieged by the spectre of War, and consists of slam-bam action, and a colorful larger than life hero and outlandish villains.

It’s with the cementing of pulp heroes to a specific milieu, a specific time, that I take issue with that definition. Characters such as THE SHADOW and DOC SAVAGE and the AVENGER were pulp sensations AT THE TIME OF THEIR PUBLICATION because they spoke to present fears and issues, in colorful imaginative ways.

But now the nostalgia bunch wants to calcify the definition of pulp adventure to a particular time frame or particular writers. I don’t think pulp heroes need to be set 80 or a 100 years in the past, that’s not what Marcel Allain, Norvell Page or Walter Gibson or Paul Ernst (writing as Kenneth Robeson) or any of the pulp writers we idolize today, were doing.

Now I’m not saying ignore the pulp heroes of yesterday, or not set new pulp stories in the 20s or 30s if you want. But what I am saying is… you’re largely missing the point of what the pulp writers were really doing. They were putting these heroes in a world that really needed them, the present world.

I am saying the pulp fiction of Warren Murphy’s REMO WILLIAMS or Marc Olden’s BLACK SAMURAI or Don Pendleton’s MAC BOLDEN are far truer representations of pulp fiction, pulp heroes, than today’s current writers who are making nostalgic re-workings of 1920s, 1930, and 1940s stories.

Again I have no problem with modern writers setting stories in that time frame, I quite enjoy and have championed many of them, but there seems to be this faulty conclusion in the minds of modern writers and readers that setting them in a specific past time frame, makes it pulp. No. Nothing could be further from the truth. Setting it in that time frame makes it a pastiche.

If Gibson or Page or Allain were writing today their heroes would be set in today, and their horror and villains… expressions of timely concerns. Allain’s FANTOMAS or Gibson’s SHADOW would be hanging the president of Exxon or Shell out of a window, saying “You want to explain those gas prices to me now?”

That’s why I love books like BLACK SAMURAI and THE DESTROYER because they are the pulp aesthetic continued, and have original things to say and original menaces to say it to, rather than simply the tendency to nostalgia, and aping dead writers.

When pulp heroes of yesterday fought nazis and gangsters, that wasn’t simply kitschy entertainment, that took some balls. Because gangsters were very much real things, and Nazis a very real threat, and nobody wanted to touch these topics. The way no one today wants to deal with topics of Guantanamo Bay, or Middle Eastern massacres, or corporate over-lobbying of representatives.

Pulp fiction of the 10s (the wonderful, and horrifying Fantamos),20s and 30s and 40s… was timely and controversial. Pulp fiction (and pulp heroes) was about giving the common man a hero who could stand up against the evils of the day, be those evils foreign or domestic. That is pulp fiction, not this nostalgic, safe, hermetically sealed, removed from any relevance of today, pastiches that people want to sanctify.

True pulp fiction, is a fantastic, white-knuckled, adrenalin inducing and entertaining tirade against the evils of its time. Sometimes in-dispute evil.

People forget there was a portion of America, the loud vocal right wing that were pro-hitler and pro the nazis, right up to and even after Pearl Harbor. So for these books to come out in the 1930s with Nazi Villains took balls. It was controversial. They got their share of grief from the Rush Limbaugh’s of the day.

So when people say “Well, true pulp fiction/pulp heroes needs to be set in the 20s to the 40s”, to that I say “only if you’re living in the 20s to the 40s”. True pulp heroes are an answer… an answer to the truths and the lies of your nightly news.

So while it’s wonderful we have this resurgence of so many writers doing pastiches in the pulp vein, it’s unfortunate so few modern writers are actually doing real pulp novels ala Warren Murphy or the late Marc Olden or even the late Ian Flaming.

So few current writers are doing books with great, even salacious covers, breakneck speed, thrilling action, and larger than life protagonists in conflict with outlandish villains, set in a present/timely context. That is the definition of true pulp fiction, and true pulp heroes… and what we are in dire need… of more of.

-to be continued-

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Part II will bring you the list of 15 favorite pulp heroes. Your jaw will drop!!! 🙂

Copyright 2000-2012 Masai Inc

THE BEST OF THE FORGOTTEN! Favorite Movies, Books, and Music by David W of BADAZZ MOFO!


I’ve actually got a nice little backlog of articles, but as way of excuse, a couple of the articles I’m hawking to paying outlets. One is in the can. Three more are toying on the lip.

But here is one entry, that I actually conceived of a while back for a New Years resolution style presentation, but it was a delay getting the feedback from one of the presenters… He knows who he is! But, I’m being facetious, ultimately other things just kept bumping it, but now some of the Web’s coolest personalities consent to answer my questions and present you a pretty damn amazing selection of their favorites.

Without further ado, read and be awed!!!

Modest aren’t I?

In this posting David W of the magazine and blog BADAZZ MOFO, and filmmaker of the extremely well received short BLACK SANTA’S REVENGE is at bat.

HT: what are your 5 favorite movies that most people haven’t seen?

: In terms of blaxploitation, my five favorite films that haven’t really been seen, or at least haven’t been seen as much as they deserve to be seen, the top one would be Melinda. This is hands down one of the best films of both the genre and the era, but it’s never even had a release on home video.

(This is me, HT, interrupting. David and I have pretty different tastes in movies [How do you not love the Poitier/Cosby Trilogy?!] , but I picked up Melinda on his recommendation. The first few minutes, I have to tell you… wasn’t impressed. But I stuck with it and it just kept getting better, and better, and better… it’s absolutely fantastic! WoW! The flick has everything, and at its heart is about a self-centered man, who learns to care deeply for something other than himself, and what happens when that is taken away. I don’t subscribe to the term blaxploitation, think it is a dismissive term for what was an empowering time/movement, but however you want to label MELINDA… it’s great! Okay, back to David’s list:)

David W of BADAZZ MOFO:My list of favorite “seldom seen” classics of the blaxploitation era looks something like this (in no particular order).

1. Melinda – Calvin Lockhart and Rosalind Cash, both at their finest.
2. Together Brothers – Barry White’s score is enough to make this movie a classic, but it also happens to be a very well put together thriller that holds up to repeated viewings. It has yet to get a legitimate release on home video, but it’s turned up on cable recently.
3. The Spook Who Sat By the Door – This is not only my favorite blaxploitation film, but one of my favorite movies, period. It finally got a release on DVD, but most people have never even heard of it.
4. The Landlord – The directorial debut of Hal Ashby isn’t quite blaxploitation, but it comes close, and it is one of the greatest movies of the 1970s. People know Ashby mostly for films like Harold & Maude or Shampoo, but this is really his best, most provocative film.
5. Gordon’s War – This is just balls-out great blaxploitation, with Paul Winfield leading an ensemble cast of ex-Green Berets who decide to clean up the streets. I can’t help but think if this starred Charles Bronson, it would be modern classic.

HT: Good list there David. I’ve seen 3 of the 5 you list, and plan on seeing THE LANDLORD and TOGETHER BROTHERS in the next couple weeks. But yeah the 3 I’ve seen are definitely great films. Okay onto the next question, what are five great books that most people haven’t read?

David W of BADAZZ MOFO: I feel like I’m something of a populist reader. I’m trying to think of books I’ve read that no one else has read that were great, but that combination is difficult to come up with. I have a ton of pulp novels from the blaxploitation era, but most of them aren’t that good, or that memorable. The one exception is Roland Jefferson’s The School on 103rd Street , which I think is an incredible political thriller with a great blaxploitation vibe. Jefferson ’s book reminds me of the novel The Spook Who Sat By the Door, also an all-time favorite, which I guess deserves a place on this list.

1. The School on 103rd Street – Roland Jefferson’s paranoid thriller involves the discovery of underground concentration camps in black communities throughout the United States .
2. The Spook Who Sat By the Door – Great movie, even better book. The first black agent in the CIA leaves the agency to start a guerilla war against the United States .
3. Donald Goines’ Kenyatta series – I’m sure plenty of people have read master crime novelist Goines series Crime Partners, Death List, Kenyatta’s Escape and Kenyatta’s Last Stand, but all four are required reading for fans of urban action thrillers.
Honestly, I’m not sure if Goines wrote the last book in the series, which came out shortly after he was murdered. The writing style is a bit different, but it, just like the other three, is a gritty, action-packed bit of pulp fiction.
4. Joseph Nazel’s Iceman series – Nazel cranked out seven Iceman books, chronicling the adventures of a badass killer. Honestly, I can’t remember anything about any of the books, other than the fact that they were better than other series from that era, with the exception of maybe Marc Olden’s Black Samurai series.
5. If I’m So Famous, How Come Nobody’s Ever Heard of Me? – This has no place on this list, as it’s the autobiography of B-movie actress Jewel Shepard, but I love this book. Shepard is brutally honest about her life and her career, and this book has stuck with me over the years.

HT: Wow, he schooled me! As I like to think I’m on the cutting edge of the best books and films out there, but some of this list has flown under my Nubian Noir detector. Only ones on this list I’ve read are Goines KENYATTA’S LAST HIT, and also the phenomenal Marc Olden BLACK SAMURAI series (took me forever to collect, but well worth it!). Speaking of Marc Olden I also highly recommend his absolutely brilliant and ahead of its time (in its construction) POE MUST DIE (I have a review in the works). But yeah, definitely intend to get all these books. This is real literature, not the poorly packaged hood stereotypes that passes for Black literature today. And moving onto # 5 definitely interested, David did a great interview with Jewel Shepard in his essential, if short lived magazine, BADAZZ MOFO! I highly recommend pestering David for issues while supplies last! Tell him HT sent ya!

Okay David, I see you’re getting sleepy so let’s wrap up this BEST OF LIST by providing your five favorite songs or albums that most people haven’t heard.

David W of BADAZZ MOFO: They are…

1. Street Justice by The Rake – An epic, ten-minute rap song about a guy who’s family is attacked by thugs. When the punks go free, he tracks them down and kills them. Fucking brilliant. “You gotta meet the punks on the battle front/You gotta beat the punks/Street Justice!”
2. Spider-Man – From the bizarre, mid-1970s Album Spider-Man: Rock Reflections of a Superhero. Both the song and the album are incredibly cheesy, but I still listen to it like I was eight years-old.
3. Thunder and Lightening by Thin Lizzy – Makes me want to go out and kick someone’s ass.
4. Daddy’s Little Girl by Khaleel – The most depressing song after Cat’s in the Cradle.
5. Big Dumb Sex by Soundgarden – From the Louder Than Love album, which came out before anyone knew who the were.

HT: Wow. From Spider-man to SoundGarden, talk about eclectic. 🙂 . Great lists David, I intend to pick up all the above. Thanks for taking the time to put up with my nagging and provide these. And we’ll have to do this again.

And in closing readers, you can find more from David W at his site WWW.BADAZZMOFO.COM. And he also has a BADAZZ MOFO book on the horizon, so that’s one you should keep an eye out for.

Okay we have a few more of these lists, as soon as I hunt them up. So keep an eye on this site for move. And if you dug this, drop an email or leave a comment.

That’s all folks!