This week, Barry, Bobby and Mike play a fun game of What If?
Question (Barry): I've been enjoying DC's New 52 quite a bit and it got me to thinking -- if you were suddenly proclaimed Pulp Lord of the World and given free rein to revive a line of pulp titles, which five would you choose and how would you integrate them together? For example, I'd go with the Icons to start:
Doc Savage would, for lack of a better term, be the "Superman" of my universe. He's the shining Ideal, the one that others look up to. He's the people's hero. The Shadow would serve my Batman role. He's extremely capable and people aren't sure if he's real or a myth... but he scares everybody, heroes and villains alike. I'd throw Domino Lady in next, though I'd tone down the cheesecake just a tad. We need a strong female lead and though I considered using Pat Savage, I want someone who's separate from the Doc mythos to start. If things went well, we could always expand past the first five series. Next up would be a mystical character of some sort, perhaps a Ravenwood or a Green Lama. Someone to take us into the more occult-oriented direction. My fifth and final series would be Secret Agent X -- I never really warmed to this hero but I think we need someone who would be a direct government operative to add some variety. If those five took off, I'd look into expanding the line.
Mike: I actually hoped to do this in Moonstone's Return of the Originals Line, but since I'm obviously not Lord of the Moonstone World, it has yet to happen.
I took Gladiator, Black Bat and Golden Amazon as my "Trinity" of heroes, then wanted to add in Phantom Detective and an as yet un-published New Pulp hero. Gladiator filling the Superman role is obvious, to me, as is Black Bat for Batman and Golden Amazon for Wonder Woman. The parallels between the three original pulp characters and DC's heroes are glaringly obvious. After that, I thought Phantom Detective would give the group a certain dynamic the other three don't bring to the table.
I know fellow New Pulp author Aaron Shaps is working on something big with a lot of the characters in the Originals line, but I'm not sure how close to this he is, as I've not seen much more than a few teaser comments by him.
Bobby: I like this idea and some of mine will be familiar, but I’d start with Richard Henry Benson - The Avenger. Growing up I was more of a Marvel guy so Benson is my Iron Man, the guy who gets everyone together and gives the team a home. Secret Agent X would be next. Although a guy who mostly works alone, X would come in as situations require, much as Batman has done with the JLA in recent years. Domino Lady is a given because I adore this character. I would tone down the cheesecake a bit as well, but would leave her flirty nature intact. If we could bring comic characters into the mix, I would add Moon Girl. Not only to give the team another female, but I would really play up her mystical side and make her the apprentice of Ravenwood, the fifth person on the team. Of course, since this would be me writing it, the team would hire out Lance Star to fly them to their far off destinations as needed.
This topic has given me idea. Hmmm... Of course, The Avenger isn’t public domain, but he rest of my cast is. Did I mention, hmmmm...?
Mike: [laughs] Yeah, I might just do my Gladiator/Golden Amazon/Black Bat book on my own, too… Maybe we can publish it under Barry's swanky new imprint.
Barry: Mike, I had a feeling your plans for The Originals would come up in this discussion Wish more of those had come to fruition. I debated long and hard about The Black Bat but in the end, I had to go with The Shadow. And Bobby knows how much I love the Avenger – I actually had him on my list before deciding to go with Secret Agent X instead.
Reese Unlimited would love to have such projects onboard! Hah – I’ll have to start coming up with questions based upon what I’d like to see you guys do, eh?
I’m glad that Bobby went the Marvel route a little – when I saw that both Mike and I were doing the DC thing, I wondered if we all would.
The Gladiator is a good one, by the way. I still would go with Doc in my “perfect” world but if I had to go with the Public Domain route, Gladiator would be a great one to step in.
Bobby: I was a little surprised that The Avenger wasn’t on your list, Barry. As for the Reese Unlimited thing, that sounds like fun. Fire away!
For my list I played it safe and only chose characters I was really familiar with and had already written at least once. That said, part of the fun of writing pulp characters is getting to know new characters so I would certainly enjoy the challenge of learning about other pulp characters and bringing them into the mix.
On that note, is there a pulpy character, or characters, out there that you’re not as familiar with, or never really connected with for one reason or another, that you would find a fun challenge to write or reinvent?
Mike: I'd put Golden Amazon at the top of that list for me. I don't know why, but I've really enjoyed writing female protagonists over the last few years and I've been very intrigued by GA ever since Joe Gentile at Moonstone first brought her to my attention. Aside from that, I'm not sure if they land in "pulp" or not (to me they do) but I'd love to do something with the Lensmen. E.E. "Doc" Smith created a very rich mythos and seemingly endless opportunities for great storytelling.
Bobby: That’s a good pick. I know nothing about her. I also enjoy writing female protagonists. I know we’d talked about the Crimson Mask once before. I knew nothing about the character until I started researching, then I saw potential. The same was true with Johnny Dollar. I was unfamiliar with the character, but a little research and listening to episodes of the radio show made me a fan.
Barry: I had never heard of The Golden Amazon until Moonstone started using her in interviews and promotional materials – she did catch my eye.
Purists would want this to never happen, but I’d be intrigued to do something with The Spider. I’ve never cared for the character but there are aspects of him that I wouldn’t mind doing something with – the way Wayne Reinagel used a pastiche of him in his novels made him appealing to me for the very first time. So I might go with The Spider as a result.
Mike: Another one that really intrigues me is the Sign of the Crimson Dagger. I pitched a variation/reboot of that to Moonstone a while back, too. Alas, it never went anywhere. But, it's still bubbling around in the back of my mind.
Bobby: I have this idea of doing a modern day version of Secret Agent X. The back story wouldn’t even have to change because the world at the moment is in a similar situation as when the character was created. I suspect I’d catch a lot of flack from some quarters who feel the character should never operate outside of the 1930’s, but I think X would do well in a modern setting.
Bobby: What pulp character(s) do you think would work in a modern setting?
Mike: I think just about any of the ones that operated in the 1930s could work today, as long as the story was done well. Now, which ones would resonate with the modern audience is a different question that I'm not sure I have an answer for… Who do you think modern audiences would gravitate to?
Barry: I agree with Mike that most classic pulp heroes could be transplanted to the modern day without distorting the things that made them what they were. As for which classic characters would have immediate appeal to folks in the 21st century? I agree with Bobby that Secret Agent X would be an easy one – but I also think that somebody like The Avenger would be really easy to do. The key to The Avenger is the origin, the shock and pain that Benson goes through. That would translate very well – and him waking up in the asylum would play off the paranoia we all experience in the year 2011.
Bobby: That’s a very good idea, Barry. I could see that working in a modern setting. I think Domino Lady and Ravenwood would both work today as well as their origins are not specific to the time they were originally created. You both bring up a good point though. Would these characters be well received by modern audiences? Would pulp fans follow them into the 21st Century? All good questions, but none to which I have the answers.
Over the past decade, Barry Reese has written for publishers as diverse as Marvel Comics, Moonstone Books and West End Games. Primarily known for his pulp fiction creations The Rook and Lazarus Gray, Barry has also penned stories featuring The Green Hornet, The Avenger and Ki-Gor. He won the Best Author Award at the 2011 Pulp Ark Conference.
From his secret lair in the wilds of Bethlehem, Georgia, Bobby Nash writes novels, short stories, novellas, comic books, and graphic novels. Visit him at www.bobbynash.com.
Born with an excessively overactive imagination, Mike Bullock has parlayed that into a successful career writing comics and prose fiction. Bullock has written more Phantom comic book stories than any other US author and won the Angouleme Discovery Prize in 2007 for his creator owned series Lions, Tigers and Bears.