Blog: Thoughts and comments on the world of the pulp magazines

The obligatory Watchmen entry

Posted by at 7:23 am Thursday, March 5, 2009 in Movies/TV/Radio, Pulps
Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Ads about the Watchmen movie, which opens Friday, are all over the TV and Web this week. They’re hard to miss. So, why not something about Watchmen on a pulp blog?

Pulp heroes are important in the genesis of a “masked adventurer” in the Watchmen graphic novel.

Nite Owl, from Watchmen

Nite Owl, from Watchmen

As a diversion from pulp reading last summer, I picked up a copy of the graphic novel Watchmen, by writer Alan Moore and illustrator Dave Gibbons. I knew little about it, but had read rave reviews over the years and knew there’s a movie in the works. So I thought it would be worth reading.

Much to my surprise, pulp magazines, in particular The Shadow Magazine and Doc Savage, play a part in the story early on.

Each chapter of Watchmen (each originally was a single issue of the series) features a typical comicbook narrative with panels, then ends with several pages of text. The first chapter includes the first two chapters of the supposed autobiography, Under the Hood, of Hollis Mason, who was the first Nite Owl. (Stephen McHattie, pictured above, plays him in the movie.)

He recounts his childhood during the Great Depression:

When the gap between the world of the city and the world my grandfather had presented to me as right and good became too wide and depressing to tolerate, I’d turn to my other great love, which was pulp adventure fiction. Despite the fact that Hollis Mason Sr. would have had nothing but scorn and loathing for all of those violent and garish magazines, there was a sort of prevailing morality in them that I’m sure he would have responded to. The world of Doc Savage and The Shadow was one of absolute values, where what was good was never in the slightest doubt and where what was evil inevitably suffered some fitting punishement.

I haven’t seen the movie version of Watchmen yet, so I don’t know if there is any reference to pulp heroes in it. I doubt it since there is so much story to cram into the roughly two-and-a-half hour movie. Nonetheless, there’s that tip-of-the-hat to them in the printed version.

– William