The Pulps: Quick Facts

  • Story Papers, Penny Dreadfuls, Dime Novels, 19th century short-fiction magazines, and early adventure books were the direct predecessors to Pulp Magazines.  The pulps in turn strongly influenced Radio Dramas, Comic Strips, Comic Books, and Movie Serials.  As a result, there is a considerable amount of overlap between all of these types of media, with some characters crossing over between two or more of them.
  • The first pulp magazine was the all-fiction issue of The Argosy Magazine in 1896.
  • The pulps covered a very wide range of existing genres, helped to popularize others, and were responsible for the creation of several.  Some book authors published in the pulps, as well, and some (particularly the science fiction ones) got their start there.
  • Two-Fisted Talesrefer to action and adventure stories set in the 1920s and 1930s that feature larger-than-life heroes.  The main characters are generally extremely strong-willed, physically strong, tough, determined, and intelligent. 
  • May of the earliest superheroes were based on characters from the pulps.  Some that have been acknowledged as influences by later superhero writers include The Scarlet Pimpernel, Tarzan, John Carter of Mars, Zorro, and The SpiderHugo Danner from the novel Gladiator would seem to be the direct predecessor of Superman, but there is no evidence that Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster ever read the story.
  • In 1949, the last pulp magazines ceased publication.  These were The Shadow, Doc Savage, Detective Story and Western Story.
  • Since the 1950s, “pulp fiction” has been used in reference to mass market paperbacks, rather than magazines.  Some pulp magazine characters managed to stay popular by transitioning to mass market books.

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