The Spider Is Dead! Long Live The Spider!

For the past few years, I’ve subscribed to Girasol Collectables’ “Spider Pulp Doubles” series reprinting the classic adventures of one of pulp’s greatest heroes, The Spider. Four times a  year, I’d receive a nicely produced magazine-sized trade paperback containing two of these apocalyptic wonders which were originally published back in the thirties, and I’ve enjoyed reading them and watching my shelves sag with my growing pulp collection.

The latest, pictured above, arrived today, but with it came a dire note: Continue reading

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Get THE SPIDER For 1¢!!! (Classic Pulp Adventure From 1934)

Bruce Timm Draws The Spider!!!

Hey, folks, right now, if you want a taste of pure, original, crazy-fun pulp action, Radio Archives is offering one of the old Norvell Page stories of The Spider as an ebook for just a penny. Click the image below to go get it. I have no idea how long this offer is good.

Prince of the Red Looters was originally published in August, 1934:

Never before had any criminal dared give open challenge to the Spider! Never before had Richard Wentworth faced a foe who welcomed personal combat with the grim avenger whom all others feared… And while they fought — the Spider and the Fly — a new and fearless criminal army was forming; men and women were dying by the scores; and the youth of a nation was flocking to the dark banner of that gentlemanly killer whose battle cry was “Kill the Spider — and the world is ours!”

The Spider is probably my favorite pulp hero, even more than Doc Savage and The Shadow (As I once wrote, “The Spider started as a Shadow rip-off, but evolved swiftly into something much more demented. The Spider tales are more violent, more epic in scale, and far weirder than usual, even for pulp. At the same time, The Spider is a more human and realistic hero than either of his more famous brethren, showing genuine emotion and even involved in a fully committed, intense, passionately romantic relationship.”) I’ve got an ongoing subscription to Girasol Collectibles’ paperback reprint series of the character’s exploits, and I’ve blogged about what makes him so great here (that piece also has links to more completely free Spider material). (Also check out this video introduction to the character).

This is a great chance to try out one of his adventures for effectively nothing.

And while you’re thinking about pulp, don’t forget my current Kickstarter campaign for the relaunch of The Astonishing Adventures of Doc Wilde. Help a poor wordsmith bring out some really cool books and get cool rewards. Everybody wins! :)

Sex And The Single Pulp Hero

My pulp brother Barry Reese (author of The Rook series, among other things) has started a conversation at his blog on the subject of sex (and romance) in the pulps…

In the classic hero pulps, there wasn’t a whole lot of sex. You’d have the occasional lurid cover, with some scantily clad woman (usually with stockings showing) in distress while our hero moved to protect her but for the most part, guys like Doc Savage, The Shadow and The Avenger were not very interested in knocking boots. Doc occasionally in later years would display a kind of boyish interest in the fairer sex and The Avenger’s love for his wife was constantly being referenced but even in the first book where you see The Avenger alongside his wife and daughter, you didn’t exactly get the image that they were passionate lovers. They were partners, friends and spouses, yes, but there was no sign of “heat” in the relationship.

There were some exceptions, of course. Jim Anthony was basically Doc Savage with a sex drive but by today’s standards, he was still a bit tame. In fact, the idea of Anthony was racier than the truth — he liked to lounge around at home in a speedo while working in the lab. Hell, what guy doesn’t?

The fantasy pulps (like Conan) got a lot of mileage out of ladies whipping one another and there was no doubt that Conan and others got into lusty embraces. But I’m focusing on the hero pulps because those were my favorites and that’s where most of the New Pulp writings out today fall into place.

So…

Now we’re in the age of New Pulp. Writers are now bringing in more modern ideas about race, gender relations, etc. into their pulp-inspired writings.

But we still don’t have much in the way of S-E-X. I’m not saying we *need* it, I’m just surprised there’s not more variety out there.

Sex and pulp fiction (in that order) are two topics I spend quite a bit of time thinking about, and I’ve given some thought to their interaction too. I commented on Barry’s post:

I’m with you 100%.

One of the things I enjoy about The Spider is the fact that you get the sense that not only are Dick and Nina  rabidly loyal and utterly romantically enraptured with each other, they’re fucking like bunnies. I was bugged by Doc Savage’s apparent pre-adolescent state even when I was reading the books as a kid, and it bugs me even more now.

In my Doc Wilde series, Doc is a widower, but over the course of the stories he will start to develop romantic connections again (indeed, we’ll see some of it in the second book). But he’s already a warmer, in every way more emotional, hero than his literary ancestor. And his parents are very old but still quite youthful, and enjoying each other just as much as The Spider and his lady. (And I’ve already made reference to the fact that the elder Wilde, the “original” Doc Wilde from the pulp era, used to be very stoic and humorless, but his wife opened him up emotionally, making him more loving and playful, and, frankly, human).

Making my characters as human as possible is very important to me, and the stolid sexlessness of heroes like Doc Savage (and even the skirt-chasing antics of his sidekicks, who acted like horny thirteen year olds) is, to me, one of the unfortunate failings of those tales I love so much. (It reached its nadir in the terrible seventies Doc Savage movie, in which the most romantic thing Doc says to the gorgeous jungle princess is “Monja, you’re a brick.”)  Sex, romance, emotion in general, are all very interesting to readers because they’re human themselves. And it’s hard to take a hero completely seriously if he’s unable to function fully as a grown-up in the emotional world.

Granted, with Doc Savage’s background as essentially a cloistered lab experiment, it does make sense that he may not be emotionally mature, though it would have been nice to see him undergo an emotional puberty through the years and become more fully adult.

Of course, this literary neutering of the heroes resulted from an attempt to pander to young readers, just as through editorial edict Doc Savage very early on stopped killing bad guys on his adventures. In his earliest exploits, he was a lot more pragmatic, taking down mooks when he had to, but very quickly they made it so that he never killed anyone, relying heavily on non-lethal methods and gear, though many a villain did bring on their own demise and Doc didn’t shed a tear for them. They did this for the kids. But in those early stories, there is a jagged vibrancy that goes away when Doc gets too pacifistic, and as a horny thirteen year old (and as a horny much older year old) I missed that.

Just as I kept wishing Doc would actually bed one of these perky beauties who threw themselves at him all the time. Didn’t have to see it in detail. Coulda happened off-screen. But it would have been nice to know, for instance, that he was getting his ashes hauled by Princess Monja every time he got down to Hidalgo…

Far as I’m concerned, maybe he didn’t let Lester Dent know, but that’s exactly what was happening.

Pulp Adventure In The Sheets [Updated]

It has been a gloriously pulpy week here in the Byrdcave. Three deliveries brought big doses of pulp adventure to add to my to-read stack. The assorted volumes can be seen here, cavorting in my bed:

First delivery brought my latest Doc Savage and Shadow reprints from Anthony Tollin’s Sanctum Books.

Second delivery brought Wayne Reinagel’s Pulp Heroes: Khan Dynasty, the prequel to his epic Pulp Heroes: More Than Mortal (which I intend to review at some point).

And finally, third delivery brought the hefty hardback B.P.R.D. Plague of Frogs, collecting lots of Mike Mignola goodness in the Hellboy universe. And, yeah, Hellboy is pulp. Hellboy is as pulp as it gets.

UPDATE: Wow, this is a pulpilicious week. The fourth delivery brought the new Spider reprints from Girasol.

Lots to look forward to.

I also received a photo of a beautiful woman with her brand new copy of Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom, all dark-eyed glee that she’s got my book.

I tell you, that does a writer good.

Look out! Here comes The Spider, man!

If you read this blog regularly (well, as regularly as I post to it anyway, these days), you may have noticed I love old school pulp adventure. Doc Savage, The Shadow, Conan, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, Indiana Jones, The Rocketeer, that sort of thing.

It’ll also be obvious to anyone who takes a peek at my book Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom, first in my series of pulp adventure novels from G.P. Putnam’s Sons, suitable for all ages, incredibly well-reviewed, buy it now. ;)

Anyway. One of my favorite pulp heroes is The Spider. I subscribe to Girasol Collectibles’ quarterly reprints, each of which contains two of the Depression-era Spider novels, most of which were written by Norvell Page under the publisher’s house name of Grant Stockbridge. I also have other paperback Spider reprints, including one of those currently in print from Baen Books.

The blog entry I linked to in the first paragraph gives some basic info on the pulps, and sources for pulp books including The Spider. In it I also wrote, “The Spider started as a Shadow rip-off, but evolved swiftly into something much more demented. The Spider tales are more violent, more epic in scale, and far weirder than usual, even for pulp. At the same time, The Spider is a more human and realistic hero than either of his more famous brethren, showing genuine emotion and even involved in a fully committed, intense, passionately romantic relationship.”

Now, Age of Aces Books has released a volume of three interconnected Spider novels called The Spider Vs. The Empire State: The Complete Black Police Trilogy. My copy arrived from Amazon yesterday, and it’s a gorgeous book, all lurid red and black with the feel of a fascist propaganda poster.

Credit for the cover art and book design is to maestro Chris Kalb, who also produced this poster for the recent Pulpfest convention:

(And if Age of Aces or anyone else out there has a copy of this poster they’d be willing to donate to a poor modern pulp author, please let me know).

Gotta love that tag-line. They said it couldn’t happen here. Then they said one man couldn’t stop it. Continue reading

A Smorgasbord of Adventure

For the first time in a long while, it’s easy to build a nice collection of classic pulp adventure fiction, and I’ve been doing just that. I started with the Doc Savage reprints put out monthly by Anthony Tollin, magazine-size volumes using gorgeously restored original art, each book collecting two of the long out-of-print novels, like:

“Resurrection Day” and “Repel”
“The Polar Treasure” and “Pirate of the Pacific”

“The Man of Bronze” and “The Land of Terror”

For the uninitiated, Doc Savage was second only to The Shadow in popularity during the pulp era, and served as a key inspiration to the creators of later characters ranging from Superman and Batman to James Bond and Buckaroo Banzai. He’s also the primary ancestor of my own hero, Doc Wilde. The Savage books were reprinted earlier by Bantam, starting in 1964, and I grew up reading them and wanted to give my son something to read that offered the same sort of adventure.

Tollin offers The Shadow in the same format, also monthly. Till this year, I’d read some Shadow comics and two novels, heard a radio play or two, and seen the film with Alec Baldwin (which is unfortunately campy, but possesses some genuine wit, some gorgeous visuals, and a perfectly cast hero). I was going to just get a Shadow volume here and there, being a lot less of a fan than I was of Doc Savage, but after reading a couple I subscribed to that whole series as well. The Shadow is a magnificent character, and the stories are intricate and action-packed. Here are some great examples:

“The Red Blot” and “The Voodoo Master”
“The Plot Master” and “Death Jewels”
“The Blue Sphinx” and “Jibaro Death”

I subscribed to one more series, The Spider. These reprints also come two to a volume, in nice magazine-sized editions using the original art, but are published quarterly instead of monthly, and by Girasol Collectables.  The Spider started as a Shadow rip-off, but evolved swiftly into something much more demented. The Spider tales are more violent, more epic in scale, and far weirder than usual, even for pulp. At the same time, The Spider is a more human and realistic hero than either of his more famous brethren, showing genuine emotion and even involved in a fully committed, intense, passionately romantic relationship.

Baen Books offers a great place to start with The Spider,  a couple of volumes of classic tales with beautiful artwork by Jim Steranko:

The Spider: Robot Titans of Gotham
The Spider: City of Doom

Pulp adventure tales like this are great for us grown-ups who love Indiana Jones, The Rocketeer, or James Bond, but they’re also great for young readers, especially boys. And if you start building your own shelf of pulp, don’t forget to put Doc Wilde into the mix. ;)

Anyone know more great pulp stuff that’s available?