Julie Nick is currently working on the second volume of her Pulp Stories so we chatted about her pulp influences and how the second volume will differ from the first. I tried a different technique with this interview. It was a lot more back and forth so hopefully it flows better.
Are there any pulp books that you are reading right now?
I’m up against a few deadlines at the moment so not reading any novels. I would usually read when I’m in the research and writing stages. The last pulp novel I read was Black Amazon of Mars by Leigh Brackett, which was really good! There’s something pure about the pulps that really appeals to me. They were so outlandish and creative that I can’t help but love them. There are some truly terrible ones, which treat women and especially people of color terribly, but there also a fair few gems. I mostly try and read novels written by women, as some had feminist undertones, even way back then.
For me there’s two kinds of pulp: the kind that delves into science fiction like Warren Ellis hit on in Planetary and the straight up action adventure. Maybe the detective one would be a third. I don’t know how you’d categorize it.
I’d say there are a couple of big genres within what we call “the pulps”, fiction magazines published on cheap wood pulp paper most popular between the 1920s-50s and seen as low-quality, disposable entertainment.
The hard-boiled Detective or Mystery, the Horror and Weird ones, straight-up Action Adventure (my favorite!), the Love and Spicy pulps, the Hero pulps, Science Fiction and Fantasy, War and Westerns etc. And most of those intersected with one another, like you have Doc Savage which was a Hero pulp but also falls under the Action Adventure genre and sometimes the Weird Menace.
I’d probably be more into science fiction. Do you have a particular favourite?
Action Adventure will always be dear to me because I grew up watching Indiana Jones movies so I’m a big fan of Two-Fisted Tales. Science Fiction is a close second.
I can see the action adventure preference in the first volume of Pulp Stories. Are you going for the same kind of feel for volume 2?
Definitely the same kind of feel, but for Volume 2 I’m trying to step it up a bit. In Volume 1 I was mostly focused on playing with visual storytelling, so doing crazy layouts and keeping the plots very simple. It was also my first time as a writer. This year, having gained a bit more experience, I want the stories to actually have meaning, while still playing around visually and keeping it fun.
I’m also trying to (consciously) approach the stories as different pulp genres, so I’ll have one that feels more like a spy story, a few that are war stories and another action adventure one. There are 4 short stories in Volume 2, twice as many as last year’s book. I’m very excited about them and I’ll be making an announcement regarding Volume 2 in early summer so stay tuned!
I really noticed how you were playing with the visual aspect of the stories. David Aja’s influence shows through (I think you mentioned that Hawkeye was one of the books that affected your work on the book). I also saw some Will Eisner in there. Particularly his Spirit work.
Definitely! They’re both masters of the craft and do such interesting things on a page. Was really looking at David Aja’s work on Hawkeye to try and understand how he choreographs a fight scene, since I’d never drawn them. And he’s a creator who I respect and admire so I constantly try to learn from him.
It’s interesting that you mentioned Eisner, who was more of a subconscious influence on me on this project. I adore his work, The Spirit is amazing and fun but his New York shorts in particular I think are fantastic! I didn’t directly reference him, but I guess what we love always shows in our own work.
Since we’re talking about influences, I want to mention two others whose work strikes a chord with me. Roy Crane, an amazing cartoonist who pioneered the adventure comic strip and brought a lot of innovations to comics, and Bernie Krigstein, who only really did comics for about a decade in the 50s, but whose work just blew my mind when I discovered it. My love of many panels on a page is a direct result of Krigstein who was always limited to a set number of page and constantly asked for more space to work with.
I think they both thought about comics differently. Crane’s compositions are still fantastic to this day and Krigstein’s immersion in the story and control of pacing is something I aspire to. Krigstein regarded comics as a serious art, which is another reason to love him.
And also Alex Toth and Chris Samnee and Wes Craig and I could go on talking about artists I love forever! I like artists who try and simplify, strip it down to what serves the story and fully utilise the space they have.
You mentioned the Spirit, is there one particular book that you would point to people as an example of a great pulp book? I’ve a few myself including Punisher: Noir, the Marvels Project and Incognito. Punisher: Noir was far better than it needed to be.
I’d definitely say the recent run on Flash Gordon by Jeff Parker, Doc Shaner and Jordie Bellaire. It’s glorious pulpy fun. If I ever make it to mainstream, that’s the sort of book I’d love to be a part of!
I’ll have to check that out. Going back to what you said about your stories having more meaning in volume 2. You’ve been talking on social media about some real life (and often overlooked) female heroes. Do you think they’ll have some effect on your plots?
Volume 2 is very much influenced by the stories I’ve been reading about these amazing women. The central theme is courage, in all its forms, and these ladies had it in spades.
Beyond Rosie the Riveter, women were also couriers, smugglers and spies. Like the singer and dancer Josephine Baker, who played dumb around the Nazis while smuggling information to the French resistance. Or like Irena Sendler who helped over 2,500 Jewish children escape the Warsaw ghetto and certain death. Imagine how much courage and ironclad will that took, surrounded by your enemies every day. Reading about these women gives me strength. They didn’t let sexism or racism stop them from fighting however they could. They persisted.
I’ll be talking about the inspiration behind each short story on my website, after publication.
You can read the first volume of Pulp Stories for free here.
Irish/Depression sufferer/Geek/gaytheist/Whovian/Follower of Dylan. The Boss.