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‘Pulp Power: The Shadow, Doc Savage, and the Art of the Street & Smith Universe’ (review)

By Neil McGinness
Foreword by Frank Miller
Contribution by Dan DiDio
 Published by Abrams Books


Pulp Power—the Shadow, Doc Savage, and the Art of the Street & Smith Universe is a new book from Abrams that lives up to its title. Neil McGinness is the author, with a nice Foreword by Frank Miller.

I was not familiar with McGinness but the important thing here is that McGinness is clearly familiar with his subject and he clearly loves to share.

Like what I’d venture to guess would be most people my age, I discovered pulp magazines and their often amazing covers via their extensive coverage in Volume 1 of Steranko’s History of Comics.

Soon afterward, I discovered the already successful reprint series of Doc Savage paperbacks and then the reprinted Shadow paperbacks with covers by, of all people, Steranko!

As this book serves as two books in one, the colorful, showy part is an art book, loaded down with pulp, paperback, and comic book covers and other illustrations of the classic Street & Smith characters. From the earliest extant drawings to big, full-color reproductions of 1930s and ‘40s covers, James Bama paintings from the ‘60s and ‘70s, and comic book and strip art from Vernon Greene to Bill Sienkiewicz.

But don’t just presume that Pulp Power is meant to be just an art book and gloss over McGinness’s text as if it were the space-filling fluff art books sometimes contain. No, the text in this book is the real deal—a complete history of all the characters, magazines, and their backgrounds over the past 100+ years, written in a somewhat informal, sometimes digressing style, as if he were just sitting around relating all of it to you.

And I mean all of it!

The Shadow gets the bulk of the book and Doc gets his fair share, but between Martin Grams, Anthony Tollin, and Will Murray, I already knew a lot about both of them.

For me, the real fun here was reading about the rest of the gang! The Skipper, The Whisperer, The Avenger, and the ever-popular Nick Carter, who dates back to the 1800s! And Supersnipe! I first read about Supersnipe in All in Color for a Dime.

Of course, The Shadow was recently “revived” in a novel by James Patterson and Brian Sitts and I was not a fan. We’re told McGinness helped develop that book and the series that’s expected to come from it, as well as Patterson’s upcoming take on Doc Savage. Sigh…

Still, although Pulp Power plugs the potential future for some of the S&S properties, it’s really all about their past, and serves as a fun book as far as both visuals and informative history.

Booksteve recommends.


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