25 years ago, the DC Universe was taken over by Pulp Fiction


Today we go back 25 years to see when the DC Universe was taken over by pulp fiction for DC’s annual Pulp Heroes event.

This is “Look Back”, where every four weeks of a month I will highlight a single issue of a comic that has appeared in the past and talk about this issue (often on a larger scale, like the series as a whole, etc.). Each spotlight will be a look at a comic from a different year that was released in the same month X years ago. The first spotlight of the month takes a look at a book released this month ten years ago. The second spotlight is on a book released this month 25 years ago. The third spotlight looks at a book that came out this month 50 years ago. The fourth spotlight looks at a book released this month 75 years ago. The occasional fifth week (we’re looking at weeks in a broad sense, so if a month has five Sundays or five Saturdays, that counts as having a fifth week) look at books from 20/30/40/60/70/ 80 years old.

Today we flash back to September 1997, which was the final month of DC’s annual Pulp Heroes event. DC at the time regularly made themed yearbooks, and the theme this time was pulp fiction, with each title fitting into one of five different common themes of pulp fiction, and the covers of the comics made in the style of an old school. pulp fiction magazine (with the five themes also approximating the name of a pulp fiction magazine with that given theme) and comic books often having a pulp fiction feel. DC at the time seemed to come up with annual themes based on what might be fun (or challenging) to write, as opposed to, you know, what would actually be popular, as a boy, the pulp theme Fiction wasn’t exactly the most commercial of themes around 1997 (even with the 1994 blockbuster Pulp Fiction). Still, the results were a lot of fun, so it was cool if you were a dedicated DC reader! I’ll detail an example of each of the five themes (four of them from September, but I had to go back to August to get an example for one of the themes that didn’t happen in September).


It was the August one, with a Doug Beekman cover…

Action Comic Annual #9 was by David Michelinie, Vince Giarrano, and Brett Breeding, and it tells the story of a lonely young woman who has occult powers, and she’s being exploited by a cult, and Superman is still learning if his new energy superpowers have the same magical vulnerability as his original powers…

This, of course, was “Tales of the Unexpected”, for magical and fantastical plots.

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Annual Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #7 had a great cover by Gary Gianni…

The story was by James Robinson, with illustrations by Steve Yeowell and Russ Heath, about an aerial circus and its mysterious connection to the DC World War I flying hero, Balloon Buster…

James Robinson had already become famous at the time for his very clever attempts to blend the various historical characters of DC with the history of Opal City, and so too, did he use this story to recall an obscure hero from DC’s war, the Balloon Buster, as someone tries to find his missing treasure, and they kill in a biplane to do so, leading Batman to investigate.

It was part of “My Greatest Adventure,” which was adventure stories, although sometimes it worked sci-fi stuff (you know, like John Carter of Mars-style stories).


Annual JLA #1 also had a Gianni cover…

In this one, by Brian Augustyn and Ariel Olivetti, J’onn J’onnz impersonates some sort of Marv from city ​​of sin guy to investigate reports of murdered aliens in a small town and uncovers some dark stuff…

It was, of course, “Suspense Detective,” which was detective stories, standard pulp fiction.

Gene Ha also drew a back-up story by Augustyn about the JLA having to stop a villain without using their superpowers.

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Glenn Orbik drew this Annual pulse Cover #2…

The main story by William Messner-Loebs, Craig Rousseau, and Barbara Kaalberg saw Bart Allen and Max Mercury get into a Wild West hijinx while visiting Mesa City to help Greg Saunders, the original Vigilante.

The second story, by Tom Peyer, Anthony Castrillo and Sam J. Glanzman revisited Max Mercury’s past as an 1800s speedster known as the Windrunner.

It was “Weird Western Tales”, that’s exactly what the name sounds like.


Tony Harris was on the cover of Annual Starman #2…

This clever story was written by James Robinson with an art team including Mitch Byrd and Drew Geraci, as well as short stories drawn by Stefano Gaudiano, Gene Ha and Steve Yeowell. It details Jack Knight’s romance with his girlfriend, Sadie…

As they fall in love, Jack recounts his past stories of romance in Opal City, featuring Scalphunter, Ted Knight and the original Black Canary, and Jack’s brother David, who broke up with his girlfriend just before to be murdered (which led to Jack being cast as Starman). At the end of the issue, Sadie reveals that she is actually Jayne Payton, the sister of Will Payton, another hero also known as Starman before his apparent death, who Sadie says was not actually dead ( after this annual, Jack agreed to go find him, which he did).

This, of course, was “Young Romance”, love stories.

If you have any suggestions for the October (or any subsequent month) 2012, 1997, 1972, and 1947 comics to spotlight, message me at brianc@cbr.com! Here’s the guide, though, to book cover dates so you can make suggestions for books that actually came out in the correct month. Generally speaking, the traditional time lag between cover date and release date of a comic for most of comic book history has been two months (sometimes it was three months, but not during the periods we discuss here). So the comics will have a cover date that is two months before the actual release date (so October for a book released in August). Obviously, it’s easier to tell when a book from 10 years ago came out, because there was internet coverage of the books at the time.


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