Riffing On the Classics

dillon-piratesOccasionally, I’ll see fans of classic pulp dismiss New Pulp as being nothing more than a bunch of pastiches (or, less kindly, “rip-offs”) of the original heroes. “Oh, all they’re doing is changing the names — Doc this-or-that. How come they can’t do anything NEW?”

Well, pardon my French, but if that’s what you think of New Pulp, then you’re a freakin’ idiot.

Are there are pastiches out there? Of course! Many people grew up wanting to write Doc Savage, The Shadow, Tarzan, etc. Those heroes made them pulp fans to begin with — and, with the exception of Doc Savage and a few of the heroes who have fallen into public domain, most of the classic heroes are not getting new prose stories right now. So if you want to see new adventures of, say, The Shadow, in prose… then you’ve got to create your own version. Some people adhere to the original template more than others. I don’t begrudge anyone for doing a pastiche — I’ve done more than a few myself. If I have a kick-ass Doc Savage story and I know I’ll never get the chance to write that character for real, why not make a few changes and go from there? Hell, Brendan Fraser’s character in The Mummy is only a few degrees from being Indiana Jones — but both sets of movies are great in their own right.

Sometimes a pastiche can be mighty fine reading.

And if you don’t care for pastiches, don’t read them. There’s plenty of NEW, ORIGINAL concepts in New Pulp.

How about The Black Centipede? You can’t possibly tell me that there was anything like that character in the original days of pulp. It’s a heady brew of PJ Farmer and HP Lovecraft, along with a dash of pure inventiveness.

Derrick Ferguson’s Dillon may have its feet planted in classic pulp roots but it’s also so different and unique from those that it’s light years away from being a pastiche.

To me, it’s like saying “I don’t read comics anymore because when you get down to it, all superheroes are variations of Superman, Batman or Spider-Man.” Well, most of them sure — they’re archetypes for a reason, moron. Those characters are primal and speak to us on a basic human level — that’s why people go back to them. Also, it’s writer shorthand… if you see a Superman analogue, you automatically have a set of expectations that I either want to reinforce or turn on their head. But you need to READ it to find out which. I get the feeling that a lot of these guys don’t do that. They see “Doc Daye” and go “Oh, another Doc Savage clone. How boring.” They never bother to read the actual stories and see that, name aside, he doesn’t have much to do with Doc Savage.

Look, if you’re one of those who refuse to try New Pulp because “I haven’t finished collecting all these stories from 100 years ago!” then I can’t help you. You’ve chosen your fandom and you’re just plain going to miss out on new stories that you’d probably enjoy.

But if you’re going to call New Pulp as a whole derivative and a rip-off, then you look like a fool. Are there derivative and rip-off concepts out there? Sure. But I would say that number gets less and less every year.

Why people who should be embracing the things we all love and share try to put up barriers between each other is beyond me. Celebrate what you love! If you really dig urban avengers, try some of the new guys… if you think nobody could possibly ever top Walter Gibson, stick to the classics. But if you’re not going to read Lazarus Gray, don’t call it a rip-off of The Avenger. Because all you’re doing is showing your own ignorance.

Our accompanying artwork today is from Dillon and the Pirates of Xonira, one of those rip-off books that some folks are too snooty to have read.

5 Comments on “Riffing On the Classics

  1. You’ve hit on the #1 excuse I’ve heard from Classic Pulp fans as to why they don’t give New Pulp a try: “There’s so much of the old stuff still around that I haven’t read yet.” Sounds like a buncha BS to me.

    • I’m with you, Derrick. Sounds like total BS to me as well. By that logic, they shouldn’t read anything that wasn’t pulp and wasn’t published after the 1950s.

  2. I read “both” but for the life of me I don’t understand why “new pulp” authors seem to have so much vitriol for “classic pulp” fans who choose not to read their work.

    • I don’t have any vitriol for anyone who chooses not to read New Pulp. I have vitriol for people who say negative things about New Pulp but haven’t read it. 🙂 If someone says “I’ve read a few ‘New Pulp’ releases and, I’m sorry, but they were awful so I’m not going to read anymore” I 100% support them. There are things I’ve read that I didn’t care for and I’m not going to read anymore — period. But I also know a lot of “classic pulp” fans who say that New Pulp is poorly written, looks amateurish, is nothing but fanfic and so forth — and then when I press them on the subject, they admit they haven’t read any of it but are just going on what they’ve been told or what they think from the covers & press releases.

    • It’s the why that’s the problem. They dismiss New Pulp based on their own (often incorrect) assumptions and look down their nose at it. It’s no different than literary snobs who do the same thing with the old pulps.

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