Crime! Horror! Adventure! Pulp Rides Again at Comic Con

Day Two. The Javits Center, midtown Manhattan’s loving tribute to the Thunderdome, continues to intrigue me. Running from panel to panel, I keep expecting to see strange tentacles slithering around darkened corners—and not in a sexy, hentai kind of way. Unless, that is, you find Unnameable Horror sexy, in which case you may enjoy my favorite moment from yesterday’s Pulp discussion, when Weird Tales editor Stephen Segal remarked, “Cthulhu has entered the public domain,” and someone behind me muttered, “May the gods help us all…”

Segal was on hand with an array of experts representing various areas of pulp fiction publishing and fandom for a panel on the future of “the art form that started it all.” Weird Tales, which celebrated its 85th anniversary last year, has managed to keep the spirit of the Pulps alive and well over the course of several revivals; its current incarnation is now seeking to maintain and extend that legacy in print while increasing its online presence through features like “365 Days of Blasphemous Horrors,” showcasing a new Lovecraft-inspired painting by artist Steven Archer for every day of the year.

While a large part of the panel discussion centered on the current and upcoming revivals of The Whisperer and Doc Savage (by panelist Anthony Tollin’s Sanctum Books), the Green Hornet and Kato (just announced by panelist Joe Gentile’s Moonstone Books), and the script for a new Hollywood adaptation of classic pulp hero The Shadow, I found that some of the most exciting contributions to the topic came from writer and publisher Charles Ardai, founder and editor of the excellent Hard Case Crime series.

Ardai’s current project, the Gabriel Hunt novels set to launch in May 2009, evokes the hard-boiled glamor of classic Adventure pulp in an accessible, inexpensive, mass market format: “a fun, popcorn thrill,” as he puts it. Ardai points out the while noirish crime-related pulp has been undergoing a renaissance for some time now, the globe-trotting exploits of “the two-fisted American Adventurer” have perpetually served as a successful template for Hollywood films while virtually disappearing from bookstores. The Hunt books, with their fabulous retro covers by Glen Orbik, will hopefully bring the genre back into mainstream public consciousness, proving once again that the chills and thrills and enjoyable escapism of the Pulps never really go out of style.

So to sum up, it seems the Crime business is good, Adventure is on the rise, and Horror and Weirdness abide. And of course, as always, C’thulhu fhtagn…most likely somewhere in the sinister bowels of the Javits Center.


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