How did I get interested in pulp fiction? What was the original spark that fired my imagination to chase down stories of fearless heroes, hard-boiled detectives, and daring archaeologists hacking their way through the jungle to find a lost temple?
For me, my passion for pulp fiction came fairly late in life. When I was much younger, I certainly did enjoy the adventure stories of child detectives such as the Hardy Boys, The Three Investigators, and just about every other junior mystery that my municipal and school libraries had in their possession. These books certainly fed my interest in adventure stories.
At the same time, I was a very avid comic book reader and I was fortunate enough to catch the run of Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams – and later Jim Aparo in the 1970s Batman comic books, and I still remember buying the 1st issue of the 1973 shadow comic book drawn by Mike Kaluta. Let’s just say that the 1970s and early 1980s were very good to someone who had an interest in action/adventure stories.
For somebody who was growing up in small-town Alberta, adventure seemed like a pretty good way to escape the prairies.
Then, in the 1980s, a lot of things started to change. The release of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns and the rise of the X-Men in comic books marked a couple of changes in how comic book stories were being told and how characters were being portrayed. Whereas Batman originally was a detective who had profound martial arts and athletic abilities and who dressed up in costume to fight crime, after Frank Miller’s seminal work, Batman became more and more of an unhappy and unlikable character. Some writers chose to portray him as on the verge of being a psychopath.
With the X-Men, everything at Marvel became about the mutants. Now, I can’t blame Marvel for wanting to capitalize on a trend that would only gather steam in the 90s. After all, the X-Men were some of their biggest titles and Marvel certainly wanted to make the most of a good thing.
However, with Batman becoming crazier and darker by the issue, and with Marvel’s entire line of superheroes becoming increasingly infected by the mutant virus, there wasn’t an awful lot out there to provide characters that were relatable to ordinary people.
Those were the characters that I always found most interesting. I always wanted to see how ordinary people could become extraordinary – how someone could rise well above their origins to challenge the unknown, and to do good simply because it’s the right thing to do. And in comic books, those characters went away.
Sure, there were a few characters who were holdouts against the trend towards the un-relatable. We had John Sable Freelance written and drawn by Mike Grell, we had Moon Knight in his first independent run written by Doug Moench and drawn by Bill Sienkiewicz, and we had the famous G.I. Joe comic line written by Larry Hama. But, more and more, comics were moving over to portraying characters that offered no inspiration to ordinary people.
So, I had to find inspiration – elsewhere. My Path to pulp fiction will be continued.