PULP HEROES – More Than Mortal
By Wayne Reinagel
I’m not a big fan of pastiches; writing a thinly disguised character based on another popular figure. People have been doing it for years when frustrated at not being able to obtain the rights to one iconic hero or another. There have been pastiches of every famous fictional hero from Sherlock Holmes to Tarzan and Flash Gordon. It is clear that there is an obsessive need that compels these writers and it won’t be denied. Such is the case with Wayne Reinagel’s massive tome that pays homage to great classic pulp heroes of the 1930s and throws in a few Victorian figures for good measure. In doing so he has written the Gone With The Wind of all pulp pastiches, an monumental achievement envisioned in the mind of a truly devoted fan.
What if Doc Savage, the Shadow, the Spider and the Avenger, arguably the most popular pulp heroes ever created, were to team up for one epic adventure that would test all their amazing powers and skills? It was this pulp fanboy dream that Reinagel bravely set out to write and make a reality. From page one of this gargantuan saga we meet Doc Titan, the Darkness, the Scorpion and the Guardian, and their myriads aids and colleagues as they find themselves under attack from mysterious and lethal forces. Within hours, all of them are set upon by gun wielding armies of gangsters in the employ of foreign agents. Using their honed fighting skills, our heroes defeat their enemies but not without suffering personal loses amongst their ranks.
The year is 1945 and World War II is quickly reaching a climax that will determine the fate of mankind. It comes as no great surprise to our band of heroes that the source of the villainy they are combating leads to a megalomaniac Nazis agent known as the Black Skull and his Russian ally, one Victor Kaine, whom Doc Titan believes to be his illegitimate son. Where this book works so marvelously is how the characters interact with each other throughout the story. Where Doc and the Guardian are adverse to violence and believe in the possibilities of criminal rehabilitation, not so the blood thirsty Scorpion and his gun-toting pal, the Darkness. Their brand of justice is the final kind dispensed from the barrels of smoking .45 automatics. With such different modus operandi you’d except some clash of personalities and that’s what we get. But it is laced with a sarcastic dark humor that allows each hero to compromise his position and work with his peers towards one common objective, the salvation of democracy and the destruction of the Third Reich.
Now the only critique here is the same that applies to all pastiches. If you aren’t familiar with the originals upon which these clones are based, you are simply not going to have a clue as to what is going on here and or who the hell all these folks are. That’s a big Achilles to any book and it’s unavoidable. So, if you aren’t familiar with the Shadow, Doc Savage or the others, I would strongly recommend you find some decent reprints and discover the fun of pulps. You’ll be happy you did. Then come back to this truly amazing book and buckle up for the ride of your life. This book is a roller-coaster of action adventure that packs more thrills than any other five modern thrillers combined. It’s a grand literary achievement and I tip my fedora to Mr. Reinagle for pulling it off so magnificently. Pulp enthusiasts are going to adore this book.