The essay below was done as a promotion for the short story collection BLACK PULP edited by Gary Phillips and Tommy Hancock. Enjoy!
On B-Boys and Pulp
Black Pulp edited by Gary Phillips and Tommy Hancock
Planet Hip-Hop has always
overflowed with folks into various forms of pulp culture. Over the years,
I’ve interviewed many rap artists and producers who shared their love for
Star Wars, crime movies, karate flicks and the novels of Iceberg Slim and
Donald Goines. Still, I was surprised when Queensbridge legend Nas told me in
1999 that he had once created a Black Pulp hero when he was a kid.
used to used to draw my own character called Sea God,” Nas told me. “I copied
the body of Conan the Barbarian, but had him standing on the corner instead
of in the forest.” Without a doubt, I’m sure Nas isn’t the only one with a
stash of drawings and/or writings detailing the bugged adventures of urban
Last year, when respected crime novelist/comic book writer
Phillips invited me to contribute a short story to his latest
project BLACK PULP (Pro Se, 2013), co-edited with Tommy Hancock, I
immediately thought of that long ago conversation with Nas and decided I
too wanted to create a hood hero.
Leaning back in my office chair, I
closed my eyes and thought of my own pulp filled childhood growing-up in
Harlem: of listening to old Shadow radio programs that were released on
records, watching blaxploitation and kung-fu flicks every weekend, devouring
the Marshall Rodgers/Steve Englehart’s version of Batman, discovering
the weird worlds of Edgar Rice Burroughs and Robert E. Howard,
watching Buck Rogers/Flash Gordon serials on PBS and falling in love with
the work of pulp artist supreme Howard Chaykin, the dude George
Lucas requested to illustrate the first Star Wars comic book.
hour of drifting on those dusty memories, quicker than I could say, “Batman
and Robin, Green Hornet and Kato or Easy Rawlinsand Mouse,” my own pulp
heroes Jaguar and Shep were born. The lead character Coltrane (Jaguar) Jones
owns a Harlem rap club called the Bassment and drives through Harlem cool as
Super Fly in a fly sports car. His murderous friend Shep, who just got out of
prison, becomes his badass sidekick as the two self-appointed crime fighters
go in search of a music minded kidnapper.
Although I’ve never been big
on constructing strict outlines for fiction, I knew that I wanted the period
to be 1988, the last year Mayor Koch was in office. Crack was at its height,
Public Enemy’s brilliant It Takes a Nation of Millions was rockin’ the
boulevards, Dapper Dan was creating his bugged designer fashions and New York
Citywas still on the verge exploding.
Recalling Fab 5 Freddy, who
also appears in the story, telling me about the jazz/hip-hop shows he did
with Max Roach at the Mudd Club in the 1980s, the finished story told the
tale of a be-bop lover trying to rid b-boys and their music from the streets
of Sugar Hill. While working on the story, I consulted with my good friend
Robert (Bob) Morales, himself an accomplished comic book writer,
co-creator of the black Captain America graphic novel "The Truth" and a
pulp culture aficionado. Although he was working on a graphic novel
Orson Welles at the time, he always found the time to talk. Once,
when I thought the Paul Pope/John Carpenter-Escape from New York
inspired climax might be too crazy, Bob reminded me, “It’s a pulp
story…there’s no such thing as too wild.”
So, after several weeks of
calling Bob, sometimes a few times a day,and writing, “Jaguar and the
Jungleland Boogie” was finally finished. Sadly, Bob Morales died suddenly on
April 17, so I’d like to dedicate the story to him.
In addition to my
b-boy/be-bop tale, Black Pulp has a cool line-up of creators of color that
include famed novelist Walter Mosley, who penned the introduction, Gar
Anthony Heywood, Christopher Chambers, Kimberly Richardson, Mel Odom and
WALTER MOSLEY INTRODUCTION
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