Pensacola Pulps and Comics

I came “home” to the Gulf Coast for a few months this winter and for the first time my two lives intersected. Thanks to Danny Fingeroth I attended Wizard World Comic Con in New Orleans and this past weekend I presented at Pensacon in Pensacola thanks to Mike Ensley, the organizer. In between I attended an exhibit of Pulp Covers and a lecture by Dr. David Earle, a pulpster pal at the University of West Florida.

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I love the pulps especially as grandfather Nick aka “the Major” wrote some wonderful stories for these popular magazines. John Locke of Off-Trail Publications has just published a collection of some of the Major’s best stories. The Texas-Siberia Trail traces the Major’s real life experiences as imagined in his fiction. I’m on the trail now to make sure everyone knows about the book. It’s been fun to hang out with comics and pulpster guys right in my very own back yard.

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I’ve known David Earle for a while and I’m always impressed at the amount of creative energy he manifests but I’d never heard him give a talk. I was quite impressed after hearing his lecture and slide show on Pulps. He led us through the history and importance of pulps in an erudite and witty commentary to the beautiful accompaniment of covers. The little known story of the Pulps is a missing piece of the history of literature and popular culture in America. The audience—students and general public—was very enthusiastic and asked great questions afterwards. That’s always a good way to tell if your message got across.

Patrick Belk and Dr. David Earle.

Patrick Belk and Dr. David Earle.

I coerced my adult nephew Will Lomers into accompanying his aunt Nicky and we went to the exhibit, which was stunning. Nick Croghan, the Gallery Director at UWF organized the exhibit and David Earle contributed magazines from his extensive collection. Students from the Art Department and English Department participated as well as Patrick Belk’s Pulp Magazines Project. I was particularly impressed by a timeline of the pulps and the intersection of comics created by grad student Rachel Johnson. It’s amazing to see the timeline in such a beautiful graphic format covering an entire wall. Someone needs to give this girl a grant because it definitely should be accessible and online!

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The next week when we were at Pensacon quite a few fans stopped by our table and remarked on the exhibit—how great it was and how much they learned from it. I was also impressed chatting with David’s students and discovering the depth of knowledge they all had about the pulps. Our plan to take over the world with pulps is working! Kudos to everyone involved.

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Beginning on Friday, February 21st I spent 3 days at Pensacon. This first time comic con in Pensacola was a huge hit with the crowds much larger than expected. The venue was at the Bay Convention Center in downtown Pensacola and things went fairly smoothly and for a first time event was truly amazing. Mike Ensley has done an outstanding job and the staff and volunteers were exceptionally helpful and anxious to make things work well. There were some incredible guests including Walter Koenig of Star Trek, Billy Dee Williams of Star Wars, the legendary comics artist Neal Adams and many, many more. Congratulations to Mike and his team.

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Jeffrey Shanks, David Earle and I presented on a panel—From Pulps to the Comics. Jeff is a pulp and early comics scholar and it was great to have his input on comics history. He is a Robert E. Howard award winner and has published a number of popular and scholarly articles on pulp writers like Robert E. Howard, H. P. Lovecraft, and Edgar Rice Burroughs. He’s also a totally nice guy with a terrific family and he has a new book about Zombies!

And don't you forget it!

And don’t you forget it!

David Earle, an associate professor in the Department of English at UWF is a pulp historian and lectures frequently on pulp history. He has written two books on the subject: All Man! Hemingway, 1950’s Men’s Magazines, and the Masculine Persona and Re-covering Modernism: Pulps, Paperbacks and The Prejudice of Form. You can tell he’s no slouch in the intellectual department.

Yes, David I said that...

Yes, David I said that…

We had a very lively and fun panel so much so that at times I had to channel my inner Steel Magnolia to get in a word over Jeff’s and David’s rampant enthusiasm! Not to worry, I can take care of myself. We all enjoyed it so much we plan to do it again whenever and however. The panel sparked a lot of discussion about the intersection of comics and pulps afterwards between us and the following two days we spent hanging out talking to fans and explaining how pulps contributed to the comics.

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The Major is the human face of that contribution since he brought pulps to the comics literally in the form of the magazines to the office on Madison Avenue to inspire everyone and figuratively in the titles of the new comics magazines—Action, Adventure and Detective Comics.  You can see so many concepts from the pulps in the early comics of New Fun through the various genres and the types of heroes created.

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William Lampkin of Pulp.net joined us on Friday. What a wonderful guy. I’ve been using his website as a resource since day one fifteen years ago so it was great to meet him in person and hang out and have big fun. If you don’t know the site you must, must check it out. It is one of the best sources of all things pulp related.

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The events in New Orleans and Pensacola are the first time I’ve had so much personal interaction with the fans. I really enjoyed talking to people. Everyone seemed fascinated by our stories and by the second day Jeff, David and I had a good spiel going that was a direct line from our panel.

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I loved seeing so many families with small children. There were some adorable kids in costume including the world’s tiniest Wonder Woman! I don’t like to take pictures of small children for obvious reasons but she was our very favorite. There were the usual costumes from comics and movies that you expect so one of our other favorites was this amusing fan dressed in 1950’s over the top golfing attire with oversized bag. That’s Mr. Shanks participating in the fun.

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I finally had a chance to see a little of the show on Sunday and got to talk to Neal Adams. That was a very special treat as you can imagine. Bob Wettemann, my military guru sent young Lieutenant Alex Jack to find me. Alex is the real deal so it was fun to talk about the Major’s military exploits with him.

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I also discovered this creative crew from Inverse Press of Mobile, Alabama, my home town and the original home of Mardi Gras, I might add. This is one of the best parts of being at comic cons– meeting emerging artists and writers. Inverse is a talented group producing independent comics and I was impressed. It was great to meet them and see that the spirit of my grandfather’s vision of creating original comics lives on.

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I had a super good time with much thanks to one and all. My favorite moment was meeting the incredibly talented, energetic and prolific Joe Lansdale. I’m the one in the tiara! It’s off to the next events and shows getting the word out about the Major’s adventure stories and the beginning of modern comics!

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Don’t forget to buy a book!

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About Nicky Wheeler-Nicholson

Writer/Editor and Publisher for over 20 years with a Master's Degree in Classical Greek Mythology and Theatre. Perfect for writing about Comics!
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2 Responses to Pensacola Pulps and Comics

  1. Bill says:

    Thanks for the kind comments, Nicky! It was a blast meeting you and David at Pensacon. Can’t wait for another opportunity for the southern pulp community to get together again.

    And, “The Texas-Siberia Trail” is next up on my reading stack. Can’t wait to jump in!

    - Bill

  2. I do mean it Bill. I used the Pulp.net constantly for research and don’t know what I would have done without it. So the thanks go to you!

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