Comics on the Brain has been a fan of pulp magazines for quite a while. We love the action, adventure and crazy plots that unfold in their yellowing pages.
In a book series published in 2010, the pulp ideals were stretched into something else — real-life history itself.
One of those was titled “Pulp History: Devil Dog.” The book is written by David Talbot and illustrated by indy comic legend Spain Rodriguez and shines a spotlight on the life of Smedley Butler, a U.S. Marine who served America through the early part of the 20th Century.
In that time, Butler led campaigns in China, Central America, Cuba and on American soil. Through it all Butler displayed some of the innate qualities of a pulp protaganist namely his unwavering sense of duty and justice. It’s those ideals, which were tested in every way possible that make Butler one of America’s true heroes.
In particular, the climax of the story was particularly powerful since Butler stood up against some truly powerful adversaries and basically foiled a plot to overthrow America and convert it into a plutocracy-based fascist state.
“Devil Dog” isn’t written like a standard history book, and that’s part of the “Pulp History” appeal. It’s written with action in mind. It’s written in a jingoistic way that makes the reader say “Yeah!” with each of his triumphs. It’s a book that takes sides, and has already decided who’s the good guy and who is the bad guy.
Along with Talbot’s efforts to mold Butler’s history into a positive and powerful story, Rodriguez offers illustrations to help tell the story. His art isn’t what most people think of a modern comic-book art, but instead it’s rough and simplistic. Still, its rawness makes it a statement about the rawness of war and conflict.
The story is further fleshed out with a variety of sidebars that offer context on what the world was like in the time period, which especially helps those without deeper knowledge of the culture back then.
In all, the “Pulp History” book offers a great way for people who don’t find history all that interesting to read something that comes across more like an action-adventure story than a string of dry facts.
And that is saying a lot when your hero is a guy named Smedley.