I spent the past couple of weeks in Japan, and while I was there I swept up great armfuls of comics ancient (well, 30’s) and modern. Japan probably has the biggest comics industry in the world, in terms of the output of actual comics (the US industry makes most of it’s money from films, videogames and pyjamas). Among the many publications I picked up was this one:
Which is a ¥760 monthly (this is a second hand copy, which is why it has a ¥100 sticker) called Lynx Novel. I was quite surprised to discover that it actually only contains a minority of comic strips – most of it is three column illustrated text stories! No doubt British fans of Japanese comics would call it a “Light novel serialization anthology”*, or some such guff. Of course we all know the correct term – it’s a STORY PAPER!
Anyway, I planned to do an article on this comic, angrily asking why we can’t have such things here. Unfortunately I can’t do that article yet, because I was buying far too much stuff and had to ship some of it home by surface mail, this among it. Of course, there’s no rush to create such an article is there? I mean, what’s going to happen? It’s not like somebody’s going to launch a new story paper in Britain while my back is turned, is it?
Yes, that is precisely what has happened! And it’s a themed story paper too. Lynx Novel is about gay romance, but Pulp Detective is about prohibition-era gangsters. I know which one I prefer to read… in text form, anyway. On first impressions some things about Pulp Detective look a bit off, namely the illustrations look far too colourful and cartoony for the hard-boiled action they depict. Also all of the stories are set in the same time and place, when I was hoping for trips to Victorian London or modern America. But these things will grow on you, honestly!
A map of Bay City, where the stories all take place.
With the stories all set in the same place, there’s plenty of potential for crossovers and characters meeting each other, or one story being pushed along by events in another. I don’t see anything like that in the first issue (and rightly so – it’s got to find it’s feet first!), but the possibility is there, and I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t happen.
It’s a good thick publication too, with about 130 pages (Lynx Novel has 4-500, but that’s Japanese comics for you) that will take a decent amount of time to read. A perfect train station / airport buy for those long trips, I’d have thought. As you can see above, the illustrations look almost like Franco-Belgian comics, and for some reason they have speech and thought bubbles (something the Starscape Storypaper also did, which I found a bit weird). A lot of them are decently atmospheric, for all that, and the exaggerated, cartoony features do at least allow characters to stand out clearly. The style of the illustrations appears to be the first thing a lot of people coming to this comic notice – but don’t let them put you off, really!
Different illustrators are used for each story
The first story features the main character, police detective John Munro, in the first part of what promises to be a long-running serial (each part of the serial is very long, though, a mini-novel in itself) as he takes down the mob piece by piece. The second story is told in the first person, by private detective Henry Reed. While the first story moves around the city, the second really focuses on one man’s experience of it. There’s plenty of fairly authentic 30’s American slang too, though a mini-glossary is provided.
Taken pictures with the camera again, it’s not too good XD
The third story in this issue follows another private detective (and has illustrations that are much better suited to this sort of tale… also the cars in it look a lot more like they’re from the early 30’s rather than the mid 40’s!). This story is complete, and in each issue the complete story will follow a different character, showing yet more aspects of both the high and low life in Bay City.
Comparisons of the cars
Most of the third story’s illustrations are like this.
Pulp Detective issue 1 is on sale now from most branches of Smith’s (even, amazingly, Ely – who don’t always bother with 2000AD or Commando). It’s also apparently being sold in several smaller newsagents, though I have seen at least two reports of them saying they sent it back to the distributors saying it “wouldn’t sell”, or even that it “wasn’t selling”, only 2 days after they’d received issue 1!
Have an ask around your the newsagents in your own area (or at least those that, according to the official website’s store finder, are supposed to be selling it), and refuse to do business with any that say the same, eh?
Issue 1 costs £3.25, which is cheap compared to ¥760! I really hope this comic is here to stay, it’s easily overtaken The Phoenix (“yet another magical fantasy” is getting old… I say, as Zara’s Crown is getting underway) and is up there among Commando and Spaceship Away as my favourite British comic.
Also, knowing what side their bread is buttered on, the publishers don’t want to have this comic running in “isolation”, like DC Thomson’s output, and are advertising the MCM Expo on the back cover!
I hope they will have a table there too. My promotion of it will be vocal!
In fact, I may even cosplay as a 30’s gangster…
Visit the Pulp Detective website here: www.pulpdetective.com
* – American spellings and all