The Summer of Pulp: From Cap to Conan and Back Again

It struck me that two of the major summer flicks had their roots in the pulp era. Captain America was born in 1941 to fight the Nazi menace (two years after the Second World War started!) , and the mighty Cimmerian Conan is even older, appearing in 1932.

And here, as we launch into the second decade of the 21st century, they’re more popular than ever, getting new life in different mediums. Makes a neo-pulp writer happy, even if the results were uneven or, in the case of Conan, giggly.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER was pretty solid. Loved little Steve Rogers, loved the traveling USO show, loved his struggle to be a hero . . . although the drama between him and the Red Skull, and the ethics of engineering heroes is left wanting (plus, no training sequence! I wanted to see Cap learn how to fight, after the first dangerous mission. Montage me, baby!).

CONAN THE BARBARIAN was less solid. More like a bunch of TV episodes stitched into a movie. There was a semblance of a solid script there, with themes of heroics and the nature of warrior life buried under too many script doctor demands for cool fights, cool sights, and more cool fights. Again, loved little Conan being feral and awesome. And the big actor who played adult Conan certainly moved like Conan would (like a starved panther), and wasn’t as bad at dialog as I was expecting. Rose McGowan was great. Ron Perlman cool. But too many plot problems on the dance floor! And why so few monsters? Why such little magic? Whatever you want to say about the first Conan flick with Arnold, it had a theme that ran from start to finish. The theme in this one was dropped after he grew up, and appeared at the climax as a surprise, and thus lost all momentum. Oh well, those sand critters were pretty awesome.


Well, in case you need more pulp in your diet, why not try a new variety, from someone inspired by both Jack Kirby and Robert E. Howard. Here’s a hint: punk rock meets wrestling in one explosive novel that “the man” doens’t think you can handle. I dare you to read it. DARE YOU!


About ridlerville

Jason S. Ridler is a historian, writer, and improv actor. He is the author of A TRIUMPH FOR SAKURA, BLOOD AND SAWDUST, the Spar Battersea thrillers and has published over sixty stories in such magazines and anthologies as The Big Click, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Out of the Gutter, and more. He also writes the column FXXK WRITING! for Flash Fiction Online. A former punk rock musician and cemetery groundskeeper, Mr. Ridler holds a Ph.D. in War Studies from the Royal Military College of Canada. He lives in Richmond, CA. Visit him on Facebook at
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