Saturday, October 19, 2013

My Favorite Pulp Heroes

Over at his blog Barry Reese put together a list of his 10 Favorite Pulp Heroes. Never being one to resist a good game of “monkey see, monkey do” I decided to throw together my own list of favorite heroes. So here we go, counting down from 10-1. And playing by Barry’s rules, I kept it to Classic Pulp Heroes.
Here we go:

10. John Carter
9. Secret Agent X
8. Tarzan
7. Eric John Stark
6. Solomon Kane
5. Conan
4. The Avenger
3.The Spider
2. The Shadow
1. Doc Savage

Anybody who knows me well enough isn’t surprised at Doc Savage being #1. I got hooked on Doc when I was around 14 or 15 which is just about the perfect age for a red-blooded All-American boy to get hooked on Doc Savage.

In times past my first three slots would automatically be taken by Doc Savage, The Shadow and The Avenger, The Holy Trinity of Pulp Heroes. But that was before I discovered The Spider. Good googlymoogly, his adventures are so barking mad and he’s such an hysterically epic character that he’s replaced The Avenger in The Holy Trinity. I had heard about The Spider for years but it’s only been in the past two or three years that I’ve actually read his adventures and they’re terrific.

Bit of explanation about Eric John Stark. Leigh Brackett created him back in the fifties for a series of space opera stories taking place on various worlds in our Solar System. Stark himself is an orphan raised by a tribe of aborigines on Mercury but I didn’t read any of those earlier adventures until much, much later. I read “The Skaith Trilogy” back in the mid-70’s which took Stark out of our Solar System to have adventures on a far distant world. I immediately fell in love with Stark because the way Leigh Brackett described him, it was obvious to me that Stark was a black man and I was thrilled to be reading about a black hero having exotic, thrilling adventures on strange and distant worlds. 

On the cover of the first book of the trilogy, Jim Steranko drew an Eric John Stark that looked to me like Steranko was attempting to stay true to the character’s ethnic background by hiding him in shadow so that if the art director said anything, he could claim it was the shadows that made him look dark:



I don’t think he was able to get away with it because the next two covers were bright enough so that there was no doubt whatsoever to potential readers thinking about picking up the book that the hero was a white guy:




In any case, do yourself a favor and get hold of any Eric John Stark stories you can. Leigh Brackett was a fantastically gifted writer and she knew how to tell a ripping good yarn. She wrote western movie screenplays for John Ford and she worked on the screenplay of what is in my opinion (and many others) the best of the Star Wars movies; "The Empire Strikes Back" There's a reason she was known as The Queen of Space Opera.  if you don't know the work of Leigh Brackett, I suggest you educate yourself.

So what’s Your 10 Favorite Pulp Heroes?



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