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DID YOU READ THE
The Superheros in those adventure magazines thrilled many a kid during the drab days of the Depression.
By Wooda Carr, Fort Wayne, Indiana
DOC SAVAGE....The Shadow.... The Spider.... some of those early "superheroes" are still around today. But do you recall their humble beginnings? Those characters---and many more---first came to life during the 1930s in 10¢ adventure magazines called "pulps". Through the Depression era, they dominated magazine racks everywhere. Pulps (named for the cheap paper on which they were printed) entertained millions of youngsters back then...and served as a launching pad for many a famous author. Loaded with mystery and charged with action, the pulps were nothing short of pure escapism during the drab years of the Great Depression.Set in exotic locales, stories had eerie, dramatic titles like "The Master of Murder River"."The Army of the Dead", and "The City That Dared Not Eat".They weren't exactly great literature...but as a kid, I loved them! Back before television, all you needed was a pulp and a good imagination to share the adventures of Doc Savage, "The Man of Bronze"...or ride along the Western trail with saddle buddies like The Lone Ranger, The Masked Rider, Pete Rice and The Pecos Kid. Just one magazine was good for a whole afternoon's entertainment! We fought crime alongside The Phantom Detective, The Ghost and The Whisperer....or roamed the jungle with royalty, escorted by Sheena. Queen of the Jungle, and Ki--Gor, King of the Jungle. We walked the dark and dangerous streets of Chinatown with The Mysterious Wu Fang and Doctor Yen Sin---and enjoyed every gripping, suspenseful second we spent there!
The very act of reading the pulps was often an adventure. Since many parents didn't approve of those lurid books, kids had to smuggle them home and read them at night, under the bed covers with a flashlight,( I know I did!) I vividly recall carrying a copy of The Spider home from school in my violin case.It was the March 1936 issue, and was titled "The Green Globes of Death". Mother would have been horrified had she known! In 1936, one schoolteacher wrote:"The pulp magazines constitute a menace to pupils' morals, their English and their minds." I didn't believe it then, and I still don't today! My friends and I were avid readers of pulp magazines, and we all grew up happy, healthy and well-adjusted. fact is, we just loved the suspense and action the magazines provided.
DOOM WAS IMMINENT
By today's standards, stories in the pulps may seem tame. The common theme running through them all was of good triumphing over evil.The story lines were rather similar, and they all seemed to run (and sound) something like this:Threatened by a mad genius, the forces of law and order have collapsed! This threat is too gigantic to be handled by ordinary means. Against the weak resistance of good men, criminal hordes are striding ever forward and..... At the climax of the story , the pulp hero would enter with fists flying and guns blazing and somehow save the day. Next month, he'd have to do it all over again. Where are these great old magazines today? Most remaining copies are in the hands of collectors, who believe pulps are a part of America's literary heritage and should be preserved for future generations. If you should be so lucky as to find an old pulp magazine in your attic. hang on to it--pulps are highly collectible. But, please, don't just store that wonderful old magazine away. Instead, open its pages and let it give you a chuckle or two as you read your way back into the past. And, just for fun, why not do your reading at night, under the covers, by flashlight?