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The Resurgence of Pulp in Comics

Pulp comics have been making a come back in a big way in recent years: here's why we think you should read them.

When people think of comic books their first thought usually goes to the superhero genre. They think of Batman or Superman, or the X-Men and Iron-Man. And although the superhero genre can be a ton of fun, it is only one type of comic; it is not the end-all, be-all of comics. In fact, there are many other types of comic books and genres: fantasy, sci-fi, horror. Yet there is (debatably) only one genre that is truly seamlessly told through the comics medium: pulp. This might be because pulp, as a genre, was first born in the early 20th century in Pulp magazines. Those early magazines gave way for many of the popular characters we see today like Doc Savage and The Shadow and their stories are often best told through the use of a comic strip, art and dialogue bubbles.

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Was pulp in comics ever really dead, or has it always been there and we have just recently begun to notice it as being more prevalent in the comics we read? "Pulp" in comics (or more specifically, "pulp noir,") was never something that had ever disappeared from comics completely. It is recently, however, that the genre is seeping into more and more of the comics we read. What can we attribute to that, though? Could it be the art? In a sense, the art has a lot to do with it. Artists like Francesco Francavilla, for example, have really embraced "pulp" in comics and have helped bring it back to the mainstream. One look at Francavilla's blog and it's hugely inspired by pulp noir and noir concepts. Even his blog, which is updated every Sunday is titled appropriately "Pulp Sunday." Francavilla's THE BLACK BEETLE series for Dark Horse is also heavily influenced an inspired by "pulp" as a genre, and it seems he is not the only one.

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Whether it is because comics are like history in that they repeat what has already been published, or perhaps it is because publishers are looking to something that worked really well in the early days of comics and simply want to relive that era, it seems that in recent years the "pulp" genre has experienced a sort of resurgence.

We spoke to Nick Barrucci, the CEO and publisher at Dynamite Entertainment about the importance of pulp influence in comics and he had plenty to say about the resurgence of many of these classic characters into the mainstream.

The characters that influenced Marvel and DC are still here, still around. They just needed someone to shine them in the right light.

We have a great love for these characters, and there are many creators who also have a great love for the characters. And that keeps them around. And that keeps some of the greatest comics writers and artists coming to them. Matt Wagner, John Cassaday, Alex Ross, David Liss, Brian Buccellato, Jae Lee, Chris Roberson, and so many others. The pureness of the characters, the influence that they have for other existing characters, keeps their flame alive.

At Dynamite, we do publish many of these characters, and hope to announce more soon. Why? Because they're great characters. Our job is to remind the fans.

Dynamite is one company that has been at the forefront of acquiring the rights to many pulp characters and printing them in all-new adventures, particularly recently.

Since we already mentioned him in the previous paragraph, we'll take Doc Savage, for example. The character was first created in the early 1930's by writer Lester Dent and he starred in nearly 40 pulp magazines, most of which were published in a span of twenty or so years. In the mid-1970's a film was issued based on the character, but for nearly thirty years Doc Savage failed to make an appearance in any medium, that is of course until the launch of DC's New 52 where the character was issued his very own series written by Paul Malmont and the art of Howard Porter. The series did well at first, but unfortunately only made it to issue #17. The series' 18th issue was published digitally following its cancelation.

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And although things did not necessarily bode well for Doc Savage in the last couple of years, he is far from being the only example of a classic pulp character that has sashayed his way into modern comics. Dynamite Entertainment, for example, has taken the liberty of bringing many of these classic pulp characters back by purchasing the rights to publish new stories of which they get to star. The Shadow, for example, was a character that was widely popular from the early 1930's to the mid 1940's. The character was first introduced via a dramatized radio program. The character went on to become the central character in THE LIVING SHADOW which was first published in 1931. The character went on to star in his own series through various publishers: DC Comics during the 1980's, Dark Horse in the 1990's until the rights to the character were finally acquired in 2011 by Dynamite Entertainment. The character's very own series was launched in April of 2012 and was written by Garth Ennis featuring pencils by Aaron Campbell. The series seems to be a success, and The Shadow frequently crosses over into other Dynamite Entertainment series like THE SPIDER, another pulp character.

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Dynamite Entertainment has made huge strides in acquiring the rights to publish stories featuring many popular pulp characters like The Shadow, Black Bat, The Spider, Zorro and The Lone Ranger -- but they aren't the only ones. In 2009 Dark Horse comics decided to released CREEPY, a comic anthology series featuring horror-pulp. The series, which was first published by Warren Publishing from 1964 to 1983 hadn't been in print for nearly 26 years and it has made its return to the mainstream.

Although we would like to think that pulp in comics never really went away, something tells us that it has been making its way back in recent years with a vengeance -- and we couldn't be happier for it. The introduction of these classic characters and concepts is a welcome change and addition to many of the superhero and independent titles that we read each month, but what do you think? Are there any pulp comics that you enjoy reading? What are some of your favorites? Is it a genre and type of comic that you are interested in?