Street & Smith kicked off the hero pulp trend with The Shadow in 1931. They eventually followed that with Doc Savage in 1933. While those were successful, their subsequent series were not, as they tried western (Pete Rice), detective (Nick Carter), and air adventures (Bill Barnes).
Next they tried to copy the success of The Shadow and Doc with The Whisperer and The Skipper.
Walter Gibson suggested something different. A pulp magazine that would contain about three novelettes (long short stories) of different serial pulp heroes, from which successful ones could be spun out in their own magazines. Editor John Nanovic decided to go with that idea, but made some changes (probably not for the best).
In 1937, they dumped The Whisperer and The Skipper, and retitled Best Detective Magazine (which was mainly reprints) as Crime Busters.Read More
Another pulp hero who has been largely overlooked by most pulp fans is I.V. Frost. A science detective created by Donald Wandrei, he appeared in Street & Smith’s Clues magazine in 1934.
S&S was frustrated that Clues, their newly-acquired dedicated mystery pulp, was being outsold by Black Mask. So they commissioned Wandrei to create a continuing character that would attract and keep readers.
Ivy Frost ran for 18 stories from September 1934 to September 1937. Several stories were cover featured. Was it successful? I don’t know, but Clues/Clues Detective Stories lasted until 1943 and appears to have ended due to the wartime paper shortages.Read More
His first serial character was The Black Star, a villain who appeared in Street & Smith’s Detective Story Magazine from 1916-30, though most stories appeared between 1916 and 1921. The stories appeared under both McCulley’s name and one of his pseudonyms, John Mack Stone.
The Black Star pre-dates Zorro by a couple of years (and Zorro doesn’t appear to have been created with the intention of making him a serial character).
The series sets down several elements we will see in further McCulley characters. The Black Star wears a sack-cloth hood, black with a jet black star on it. (He also wears a mask underneath the hood.) Such a hood will be used by characters such as The Thunderbolt, The Bat, and The Green Ghost.Read More
In the past I’ve written on the pulp-comics connections with several of the major and minor pulp publishers. And recently I posted on the pulp roots of Marvel Comics. But I guess I need to take a look at DC Comics.
The pulp connections at DC Comics are even more obscure then Marvel’s. Not helped that, again, most are not aware of DC Comics “origins” as a company.
What we now know as DC Comics was formed as National Allied Publications by Major Malcom Wheeler-Nicholson in 1935. The Major was a pulp writer, but never a publisher until he formed National Allied. The major change he brought to the comic-book industry was to publish original comic-book work, not just comic strip reprints. That was actually kind of daring, and increased his costs (and risks).
However, when he was trying to get his third title out, Detective Comics, he had to take on backers. These were Harry Donenfeld and Jack Liebowitz. Within a couple of years Donenfeld and Liebowitz forced out Wheeler-Nicholson and took over his company. And that is putting in mildly. Most liken it to a “hostile takeover.”Read More
For those who don’t know him, Jess Nevins is probably one of the main pure researchers today in the world of pulp. And not just pulps in the U.S., but also overseas.
He has in the past maintained several websites that had information on a wide number of pulp characters. He has also put out several encyclopedic books on the topic, most out of print. He works as a research librarian, and so has access to information that most of us can only dream of.
Thankfully Nevins has shared much of that information. And his recent small book, The Pulps: A History, is but his latest.
While not flashy or the like, this small little tome provides a lot of data on the pulps that too many are either ignorant of or overlook. It seems that part of the reason for putting out this work is to correct all the misleading or inaccurate information out that. As an evocative historian in several areas, I can understand where he is coming from. I’ve tried as best I can in this blog to present as much accurate information as I can, usually hampered by what I have access to.Read More
One series that is a bit different from the rest is his Isaac Bell series. Unlike the others, this one is set in the early 20th century and focuses on Bell, the lead investigator for the fictional Van Dorn Detective Agency. Also unlike the prior series, nautical matters don’t play a big part.
One element of this series, we often see the villain in action without knowing who he (or she) is at first. And usually there is a follow-on part set years or decades after the main action, to sort of put an end to the story.
The first novel was written by Cussler, the rest have been co-authored by Justin Scott, who holds the record of not only co-authoring the most novels with Cussler, but being the sole co-author of one of the Cussler series.Read More