Friday, July 13, 2007

Friday Catblogging: Queen of the LOLPANTHER World

Nice pulp illustrations from Queen of the Panther World, from Fantastic Adventures (July 1948).

Art by Rod Ruth. LOL by Sleestak.

Science has made that which "might be" into "can't possibly" but it hasn't removed all the magic. The old stories of the pulps and comic books are still enjoyable, though the modern reader does not experience them with the same naivety of eyes past. Pulps and even the comic books of a few scant decades ago have to be read through a filter of nostalgia in order to see them in the proper light or else they run the risk of being dismissed. The pulps have not vanished, though and still persist in another form to this day. Almost without exception comic books are pulps. It is rare that any comic book story can be read that doesn't have sitting on a collector's shelf somewhere a yellowed, brittle magazine that is a direct ancestor.

The old pulp stories can be considered quaint and even silly, but who wouldn't enjoy discovering an ancient tribe of Panther Women in an unexplored jungle?

Whether exploring a new continent or strange planet, the pulps were all about adventure, exploration and discovery and were thematically a direct reflection of the American and British psyche in the modern industrial era. Regardless of the risk or danger something was always learned in the pulp stories that added to the collective knowledge of mankind. No matter if the protagonist battled a tentacled god or fended off the knife of a power hungry Vizier there was always some illumination, some insight either into the nature of man or the universe to be gained.

Often the tales were simply parables of Modern Good versus Ancient Evil. New ways replacing the old. Science replacing superstition. Methodology proving to be more effective than spells.

Possibly the only drawback to increased general knowledge among the populace is that it made the suspension of disbelief that much more difficult to enjoy. It is Science that filled the vast caverns of Pellucidar with molten iron, made Mars into an arid, lifeless wasteland and transformed the lush jungles of Venus into an acidic cauldron. Force fields no longer emanate from the careless flecks of paint on a jar lid to trap a city, old gods do not perch hungrily at the edge of the atmosphere waiting impatiently for the opportunity to access our sphere, aliens no longer abduct women to repopulate their planet. Knowing that there are no lost continents left to discover or no multi-generational world-ships hidden in orbit makes some dismiss the old tales as fare for children or the intellectually challenged. I say not so. They have value beyond only the nostalgic and historical. Some 80 years after being in print the pulps are still fun, even if I know they are utterly impossible, something as a young child I was not aware of. The stories were from a time when people believed that a galaxy could be conquered with ships of steam and steel by brave men bearing iron while wearing leather and wool. The impossible was a fantasy.

Science may have destroyed more worlds than we will ever realize, but it made the ones that remain and those that are yet to be created a lot more exciting and fun. It is fictional evolution. Modern creators have to reach further, work harder to fool us into enjoying the impossible or embracing the fantastic.


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