The Groovy Agent's Pad

Like classic/retro comics, music, tv, movies, sci-fi, fantasy, etc., etc., and etc.? Then hang out with The Groovy Agent as he makes the universe safe for all the cool stuff that has come before...and even makes a little room for cool stuff yet to come!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Pulp Nostalgia!


Back in the Groovy Age, you could go to any library, drugstore, grocery store, five-and-dime, or bookstore and find a treasure-trove of paperbacks reprinting the exploits of heroes (and anti-heroes) of the Golden Age of pulps (mostly 1930s vintage). What a world of wonders these books opened up for ol' Groove! Though more expensive than my beloved comics (a normal comic at the time was going for twenty to twenty-five cents, while paperbacks went from about ninety-five cents to a buck and a quarter), these superheroes of the printed page found their way into my sweaty little palms with some regularity--especially those starring Tarzan, Doc Savage, the Shadow, Conan, and the Avenger! Now, at the time I didn't know that these were the archetypes of fellas like Superman and Batman--I just knew they were awesome!

In reality, I'd been introduced to these heroes through comics. True! Marvel was publishing Conan and Doc Savage (first in a standard color comic, later in a black and white magazine), while DC was churning out Tarzan (Marvel took over the reins in the late 70s), Justice, Inc. (the Avenger--couldn't confuse the original with Marvel's super-team, y'know), and the Shadow. (There's another future column for ya!) So, I had a few issues of each of the above-mentioned heroes in my comicbook collection before I discovered their original pulp stories reprinted in paperback form via great publishers like Pyramid (The Shadow), Bantam (Doc Savage and The Avenger), Ace (Conan), and Ballantine (Tarzan).

I know, many of them started publishing their books well before the Groovy Age, but I'm not cheatin'! Nope, 'cause as I said in the first paragraph, by the time the Groovy Age was in full swing, the book racks were filled with pulpy goodness. Not only that, but the aforementioned companies kept most of the pulp heroes in print all throughout the 70s.

The Groovy Age of pulp reprints sported the most dynamic and eye-catching covers you could imagine! Jim Steranko (former comics savant) provided haunting covers for the Shadow. Neal Adams (him again!) grabbed your eyeballs with his Tarzan covers. Ace was smart enough to continue using the tried-and-truly astounding covers by Frank Frazetta on their Conan reprints. By the mid-70s, the awe-inspiring James Bama handed the Doc Savage covers over to a variety of lesser-known artists until Bantam tapped emerging superstar Boris Vallejo (Vallejo also took over the Tarzan covers after Adams stopped doing them). What a visual feast! You could buy the books for their covers alone and feel like you were getting a deal!

Ah, but then you'd be cheating yourself from some great reading! Action, adventure, and intrigue flew from the pages of these pulsating paperbacks! No one could write an action scene like Lester Dent (aka Kenneth Robeson). No one could set up a mystery like Walter Gibson (better known as Maxwell Grant). For sheer savagery, nobody beats Robert E. Howard. And for grand adventure, Edgar Rice Burroughs has no peer. These authors proved that pulp nostalgia during the Groovy Age wasn't just a fad, but a way to keep the work of great authors (and, of course, their signature characters) alive. Ah, I know what you're thinking. "Doc Savage, Tarzan, the Shadow, the Avenger, Conan--is that it? Is that the whole 'pulp nostalgia' gamut?" Nope. Those were just Ol' Groove's favorites (and still are!). Burroughs' Martian series (another fave--another column!), Captain Future, Kull, and Solomon Kane were also dusted off and given new life in paperback. There were lots of others, too, but Ol' Groove couldn't keep up with everything back then (a buck a week allowance only went so far)! But hey, Google is your friend if you want more info.

For those of you who remember the Groovy Age of pulp paperbacks, I hope I've taken you for a short and sweet walk down memory lane. For those of you who've never had the pleasure of perusing those pulp paperback pleasures, eBay is filled with 'em, so try a few! (But you'd better not be the one outbidding Ol' Groove when I go after a copy myself!)

--Agent Out!

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