Comic Rack: Pulp Stories, Image Sells You Sex, and Hellboy Is In Hell!

Welcome to Comic Rack! My pick of the top five comic news stories in no particular order…

Out With The Old, In With The New (52?)

Left to right: The Spirit, Doc Savage, The Avenger.
Left to right: The Spirit, Doc Savage, The Avenger.

In a move that should really surprise no one, it was confirmed by DC Publisher Dan DiDio that they’ll be letting their rights to three major pulp heroes franchises expire. The three let go were The Spirit, who was made famous by Will Eisner (who most recently had his own terrible movie directed by Frank Miller), Doc Savage, who was created by Henry W. Ralston, and lastly The Avenger, who was created by Paul Ernst. All of these, with the exception of Will Eisner, are names that have mostly been forgotten by the mainstream comics fan, and almost entirely forgotten by the average movie going populace. That’s not to say these heroes don’t have a future at all, or that pulp is dead. I remember in the mid-nineties there was a bit of a pulp resurgence, what with The Shadow, The Rocketeer and The Phantom all being made into big budget action films. None were particularly successful however, which lends some credence and an accepted sense of fortuitousness to DC’s decision.

It’s hard to summarize if the decision was made in and of itself, or in contrast to the phenomenal success of the New 52 that DC is having. While I’m sure they’ll say it’s something they’ve had in mind for a long time, the New 52 definitely had to play a part. It would be impossible as a publisher to ignore the sheer numbers alone, when all of your new titles are selling hundreds of thousands, and any or all of your older pulp properties continue to sell a few thousand at best. It makes sense as a business decision, and I think you’d be hard pressed to find anybody who would really think DC has been dropping the ball, or rather more accurately, refusing to pick it up. Arguably you could say they haven’t tried to really push the characters heavily, or incorporate them into the New 52 in some way, but I think that wouldn’t work. The world of a pulp hero is starkly different from the world of the New 52, and that level of story wouldn’t compare and contrast as well without making one or the other seem silly.

The best thing to come out of this I think, is that somebody will pick up the rights to these characters and use them again. Personally I’m hoping for some fun and exciting Doc Savage stories, as he’s always been a character I’ve enjoyed. His “cameos” in Warren Ellis’ Planetary gave us a glimpse of what a creative writer could do with his character, and I’m positive the same could be done for any of the pulp heroes that aren’t around today. If I were a daring publisher, I’d release an experiment similar to DC’s Wednesday Comics line, but with pulp heroes. The rumor is that Dynamite will probably snatch up the properties to start making books about them, and to be honest, that sounds entirely accurate, and entirely boring. I’m not trying to knock Dynamite directly here, because I think what they do works for them and their small audience. Which is the problem, as pulps heroes already have a pretty small audience. I think the best thing would be to have them debut from a bigger publisher, and have their own universe to interact in. Imagine if Marvel opened up a side publishing line like Icon, called it Pulp Now! or something, and released competing pulp stories against Dynamite’s current lineup of The Shadow and The Phantom? I know I’d be pretty thrilled, and I think pulp fans, and comics fans would be too.

Learn more here.

DC Keeps the Publishing Rights To The Spirit Archives!

Comic Rack- 1:2:13- Spirit-Archives

In a related story, a move that absolutely doesn’t surprise anyone, DC decides that while they have no interest in making NEW Spirit stories, they don’t want to give up the right to publish and make money off of all the old ones. This reeks of the classic adage, “have your cake and eat it too” if you ask me. I guess it makes sense, since they’re probably going to be two totally different properties once Dynamite (or whoever) picks up The Spirit and starts modernizing him for contemporary audiences. Let’s just hope it’ll end up better then that awful movie.

Find out more here.

In Other Pulp News…

Comic Rack 1:2:13- Five Ghosts

Since the inadvertent theme today is pulp comics, it’s of important note to recognize that the genre itself is very much still alive. Case in point, Five Ghosts. A comic which was at first funded by Kickstarter, enough so as to fund the entire first run of the mini-series consisting of 5 issues.  The book itself is about a 1930’s treasure hunter, who is “haunted” by the titular five ghosts. However they all resemble classic figures of pulp and literary history. The five in question are Robin Hood, Dracula, Sherlock Holmes, Musashi and Merlin. Even if you didn’t have their collective powers & knowledge, just their spirits assisting you would be enough. Put them all together and you’ve got a recipe for a superhero who is potentially an unkillable super-genius magical man-god. The series is being reprinted by Image, and I can’t wait to read the whole thing.

Find out more here.

Hellboy In Hell Sells Out!

Comic Rack- 1:2:13- Hellboy In Hell

I have a terrible confession to make, and that’s that I’ve never read an issue of Hellboy. I know, it’s awful, but there’s a lot of stuff I read and it’s just one of those things I’ve never gotten around to. I’ve always been a fan of the character however, and I’ve enjoyed the two movies immensely. I’m a fan of the world, the concepts and really it’s a book I should have read by now. It may seem now that I finally have an incentive to take those books off the back burners of my reading list, and that reason is the incredibly acclaimed first issue of Hellboy In Hell. Having died by sacrificing himself to save the world, Hellboy naturally ends up in Hell, with a throne awaiting his arrival. It’s a fascinating concept and idea, and I can’t say I’m surprised it’s sold out. Everyone I’ve spoken to about Hellboy raves about how good it is, and the praise for Hellboy In Hell is no different. Perhaps with the renewed acclaim and interest in the character we can get another movie, but until then I’ve got some reading to do.

Find out more here.

Image Comics Will Soon be Selling ‘Sex’

Comic Rack- 1:2:13- Sex- Image

I really enjoy stories about superheroes when they’re not flying around, being superheroes. It’s one of the things that made the first couple of arcs of Invincible so appealing to me, and it’s a theme I’ve seen explored really well by The Luna Bros in Ultra as well. If superheroes are our reflections of idealized figures, morally, physically, and emotionally, why not sexually as well? It’s this idea that what happens when superheroes stop fighting, and start living their lives, that encompasses the main idea of Sex. When the superheroes and super villains decide enough is enough how do they live with themselves? Besides, who here hasn’t wondered how the sex lives of their favorite superheroes works? I know I certainly have, but that may or may not be because I’m an insane pervert. Regardless, Sex sounds like a fascinating book that’s sure to gain attention, and not only because of its scandalous sounding name.

Find out more here.

That’s all for this week’s edition! We’ll see you next time at the Comic Rack!

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