Confessions of a Comic Book Guy–Where the Action Is
Confessions of a Comic Book Guy is a weekly column by Steve Bennett of Super-Fly Comics and Games in Yellow Springs, Ohio. This week, Bennett talks about PulpFest, Batman, and the Defenders.
I frequently lament how I never seem to make it to San Diego a.k.a. Comic-Con but that’s OK because I regularly get to attend PulpFest in Columbus, Ohio. Which is a little strange on the face of it, seeing as how I’m not the world’s biggest pulp fan. OK, sure, I read the paperback reprints of Doc Savage, The Shadow and The Avenger voraciously in my youth but it’s been years since I’ve been a regular pulp reader. Yet every August I still attend PulpFest. Because it’s an opportunity to visit with old friends who live out of state, sure, but I think I’d attend even if that weren’t the case. True there wasn’t any cosplay, celebrity red carpet crawl and a remarkable lack of geektastic action, but it was an enormous amount of fun.
Calling it “old fashioned” probably isn’t doing it any favors for people in certain demographic circles but that’s exactly what PulpFest is; a good old fashioned con. Which I define as a lot of people enjoying themselves, each other and the thing they passionately appreciate without a lot of extraneous distractions getting in the way. And when I say a “lot,” while well attended thanks to this year’s spacious new venue, there was considerably more elbow room than in previous years where the theme seemed to be “let’s see how many people we can cram into a basement.” Happily I never encountered a crowd or a line there.
Being a genuine child of the 60s the Captain Action figure has a special place in my personal pantheon of playthings, even if he did charge into battle wearing a yachting cap (what the hell were his designers thinking?). So this year’s PulpFest highlight was not just getting a signed copy of the novel Captain Action–Riddle of the Glowing Men (which Ed Catto of Captain Action Enterprises calls “What if Ian Fleming wrote a Doc Savage novel”) but having dinner with its author Jim Beard.
Also in attendance were Ron Fortier and Rob Davis, the men behind Airship 27 Productions, the book’s publisher. Airship 27 specializes in publishing new pulp novels featuring classic pulp heroes and it was definitely interesting hearing how a different sort of heroic fiction is being written and marketed (for the most part) outside of the direct sales market. But given the current renaissance in pulp characters (The Shadow, The Spider, etc.) and the explosion of interest in Captain Action (everything from an upcoming comic from Dynamite Entertainment to a possible animated series) now probably wouldn’t be a bad time for shop owners to take a look at these new pulps as a possible revenue stream.
The current Batman series, with its game-changing “Court of Owls” epic, has been very good (though as my friend Andrew Kaplan pointed out, there must have been a lot of criminals getting away with stuff in Gotham while he was exclusively dealing with Owl guys; Batman used to be much better at multi-tasking), but it really hasn’t been about what Batman is supposed to be about. Then I read Batman #12 by writer Scott Snyder and artist Becky Cloonan. Having never read either read Demo or Channel Zero I had never seen Cloonan’s work before and it came as something of a revelation. While technically an epilogue to “Court of Owls,” it’s also the rarest of beasts, a lovely little done-in-one story about “ordinary” people that also gets to the heart of the character. It even has a single page you could show anyone that demonstrates (as I once said about Superman), This Is Who He Is, This Is What He Does, This Is What He’s For.
Well, Marvel is cancelling the latest version of Defenders with #12, which is fairly predictable seeing as how I was enjoying the heck out of it. How could I not, with Matt Fraction, a writer who appreciates the potential of break-out characters like Prester John, at the helm. He even makes the painfully overused “we’re lost in a series of alternative dimensions” trope actually seem wild and weird again. And, talking about obscure characters, in Defenders #9 he brings into the Marvel Universe perhaps the most obscure Marvel character of them all… Pussycat, Agent of S.C.O.R.E. She was a goofy sexpot super spy whose theoretically humorous adventures appeared in various issues of Martin Goodman’s men’s magazines in the 1960′s. OK, sure, there she doesn’t look much like the Pussycat from the 60s but otherwise the story does a grand job of capturing the special joys of 60s super-spies. Now all Marvel has to do is green-light a miniseries set in the 60s called Pussycat, Agent of SHIELD.
The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.