Greetings! Every Friday, I like to turn the focus onto a work of New Pulp that I’ve really enjoyed. Sometimes they’re new books, sometimes they’ve been out for a few years. It all depends on my mood. Today, we’re taking a look at Yesteryear by Tommy Hancock. This book was published by Pro Se Press in 2011 so it’s still a relatively new work but it’s proven popular enough that it’s already spawned a roleplaying game based on upon it! Before we get too far into my own comments about this book, let’s take a look at how the publisher hyped it:
YesterYear by Tommy Hancock, Published by Pro Se Press. Cover Art by Jay Piscopo, Interior art by Peter Cooper, Format and Design by Sean Ali. A world where heroes and villains existed since the day the market crashed and the world almost collapsed. Common people granted great powers and awesome responsibility. A world where one of them knew all the secrets, good and bad, and put them down in a book. A world where that man and that manuscript disappeared. Until now. YESTERYEAR is the first book in an epic series chronicling the adventures of Heroes and Villains, both in the Heroic Age of the 1920s-1950s and in the modern day. Centered around a missing manuscript that might hold information that could literally change history and even mean the end of the world, YESTERYEAR alternates between a fast paced modern storyline about the man who ends up with the legendary book and excerpts from the mythic tome itself. Marvel to pulp like adventures of glory and adrenaline and become engrossed in the humanity and horror of being a Hero. YESTERYEAR by Tommy Hancock-Sometimes the Greatest Mystery of Tomorrow happened Yesterday!
Like Van Plexico’s Sentinels series, this is one of those books that seeks to bridge the gap between pulp and the superhero comics that in many ways helped kill the golden age of heroes like Doc Savage and The Shadow. The connections between comics and pulp have been well known for decades but it’s been a relatively recent attempt to tie them together in prose. Hancock goes a slightly different route than Plexico in doing so — he makes this a historical piece, which allows him the freedom of inserting a bit of meta-fictional commentary. Don’t worry, though — this isn’t some sort of deconstruction of golden age heroism. Quite the opposite. While Hancock definitely inserts more realism into the setting and into the characters than the old stories he’s homaging would have done, he never loses sight of the innate need we have for true heroes.
The basic plot revolves around a journal that falls into the hands of J.C. Smitherson, a former boy detective who has grown up to be a writer & publisher. This journal was the work of Ramsey Long, once part of the Golden Age of Heroes in this universe. The secrets contained in this journal are ones that could tear the mythology surrounding the period asunder, which causes multiple factions to seek its destruction and the death of anyone who might have read its contents. This facet of the story reminded a bit of the end of Watchmen, in which Rorschach’s journal ends up being sent to a magazine’s slush pile and is a great way of providing story momentum.
The book is also quite interesting from a design standpoint, as there are multiple fonts and even cursive text used to depict the different passages from the journal. While some reviewers found this to be a bit off-putting, I thought it helped set the scene very well and enabled me to clearly tell when we were jumping around in time.
The interior art varies a bit in quality — some pieces are absolutely beautiful, others look a tad rushed. Overall, they do add to the package and allow us to adequately see the heroes & villains being described.
Should you read Yesteryear? If you like the Golden Age of comics & pulp, then yes, you should. It’s a quick read, propelled by Hancock’s fine writing style. The characters are engaging and never dip into the pastiche category — even when you can recognize the influences that inspired them, you are always aware of the differences that make them stand on their own.