~ by Ivy, June 2013
Allow me to share with you my favorite three panels in the history of comics:
Hellboy has been my favorite comic since I first picked it up at the tender age of fourteen. A teenager obsessed with folktales and mythology, I gravitated toward it and was inspired by it enough to begin writing my own stories; something I continued on to get buried in student loan debt to learn how to do. I had the chance to meet and talk with Mike Mignola at last year’s New York Comic Con, and all I could manage to stammer out was a muffled “thank you.”
Hellboy is classical mythology in the style of Joseph Campbell’s Hero With A Thousand Faces. Hellboy is a hero that looks like a villain, who rises from the underworld and is trained, against his destiny, to conquer evil. While the story has certainly gotten more complicated over the years, as any comic running that long surely would, the principles remain the same: a hero carries his burden, good triumphs over evil. Oh yeah: and Hellboy fights a monkey who has been trained by evil magic Nazis to shoot a freakin’ gun!
The Nazi, or even better, the Nazi Zombie, is the perfect enemy. Not only is it undead — which is typically enough to warrant a swift beheading — it’s also a Nazi. It stands for everything you’re against! That zombie has terrible morals! Of course, the monster in question isn’t always a Nazi or Zombie or Nazi-Zombie hybrid, they can often just be general Bad Guys, non-Cullenesque vampires, Mobsters– you name it. They just need to be capital-E Evil. I just tend to fold all of these under the banner of “Nazi Punching.”
This style of writing started in the pulp magazines of the 30s and 40s such as Weird Tales, which is where writers like H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard got their start and phrases like “cosmic horror” were coined. Rumors of occult practices by the Third Reich were prevalent — these were the big bads, man! We couldn’t comprehend of anything too evil for them to do!
BPRD and its family of subtitles still publish every month, and Mignola’s occasional one shots like Lobster Johnson in Satan Smells A Rat and Sledgehammer 44 are excellent examples of the bad guys getting their butts solidly handed to them in this classical style. But the past year has seen a couple of excellent pulpy titles come out from a variety of authors and publishers. Black Beetle gives you a more sophisticated look at this type of world, where something like Six Gun Gorilla is a little more insane. Here’s my list of recommended reading for those interested in some two-fisted pulp action!
- Hellboy. Any Hellboy. All the Hellboy.
- Fatale. But you really should be reading this one anyway.
- Captain Marvel Vol. 1: In Pursuit of Flight. Carol Danvers and a time-traveling fighter plane in WWII.
- Half-Past Danger. You don’t get much pulpier than this. There’s freakin’ DINOSAURS.
- Wild Blue Yonder. Airships! Dystopia! People wearing goggles!
- Five Ghosts: The Haunting of Fabian Grey. In the classic style of Weird Tales. Great for Howard fans.
- Lobster Johnson: Satan Smells A Rat. Excellent one-shot from Mignola’s masked hero.