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Saturday Night’s Alright For Commenting: 5.16.2020

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Saturday Night’s Alright For Commenting

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Conan: The Frost Giants Daughter
Frank Frazetta

It’s funny how capitalistic culture can easily co-opt a term that once held solid ground with its original definition. Let’s take “pulp fiction” for instance. Most people think that’s a movie by Quentin Tarantino that came out about 25 years ago. While that flick left a lasting mark on the collective minds of most first world folks, Tarantino borrowed the term from something with far more reach than even a Hollywood blockbuster could hope to achieve.

The term ‘pulp fiction’ was originally coined as a reference to the types of stories that appeared in “pulp magazines” published for the entire first half of the 20th century. They were dubbed “pulps” due to the cheap pulp paper used to print them, but the stories were rich with imagination, adventure, and the very sort of fast-paced storytelling most modern Hollywood blockbuster fans know and love.

The pulp fiction movement gave rise to iconic characters such as Zorro, Conan the Barbarian, Tarzan, Doc Savage, Flash Gordon, John Carter of Mars and many, many more.

The reach of pulp heroes infiltrates modern culture to this day in a variety of entertainment outlets, both direct and indirect. Characters such as The Black Bat and Gladiator were direct precursors to Batman and Superman. George Lucas openly admits to the influence Flash Gordon and Captain Future had on his space opera epic that’s now transcended movies and become a brand all its own.

A Princess of Mars
John Carter of Mars, art by Michael Whalen based on characters created by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Stan Lee, the mind behind the majority of the Marvel Comics Universe (which you may know as ““The MCU” a/k/a “Marvel Cinematic Universe”) made no bones about his “heavy borrowing” from pulp characters to create Spider-Man, the Avengers, Daredevil, the X-Men and many other staples of the Marvel line of properties. Lost, Stranger Things, the X-Files and many more modern TV shows have been so heavily influenced by pulp fiction it’s a wonder the original pulp writers didn’t get co-writing credits on these shows.

J.J. Abrams, the new phenom in Hollywood who has brought us many hit movies and TV shows, has also openly confessed to mining original pulp fiction for story ideas. Odds are, if you read enough of the old pulps, you’re bound to find plots of the TV show Fringe, Lost, the new Star Wars movies and more have all been told before.

So the next time someone brings up “pulp fiction” (that happens to you daily, right?), you can tell them the real story behind the term. That it’s not some movie with a plot teetering between brilliance and madness, but an entire foundation upon which the world of heroes we know today was built.

Or you can tell them about another phrase that’s been co-opted these days... like snot.

The choice is yours, as is tonight’s topic.