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 PD might = Pretty Disappointing...

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GoldenBard

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PostSubject: PD might = Pretty Disappointing...   Thu Jan 12, 2012 2:16 am

So, anyone ever hear about a PD character that sounded really great and you wanted to learn more about him/her, but when you did the character turned out to be nowhere near as cool as you'd originally thought?

Everyone knows Johnston McCulley as the creator of Zorro, but I'd read about a bunch of other early pulp creations of his, including the Black Star. The Black Star was a masked master criminal who terrorized the city for months before he was finally challenged by Roger Verbeck, one of those amateur criminologist wealthy playboys who are so numerous in the pulps and have nothing better to do than solve crimes for the police. I was expecting a battle like that of Fu Manchu and Nayland-Smith as these two adversaries clashed, with the future of the city and its inhabitants in the balance. Then I finally got to listen to the audio book on Librivox.org.

Know what I found out? Black Star and Roger Verbeck are MORONS! In the real world, Black Star couldn't knock over a piggy bank, and Roger couldn't detect his way out of a paper bag. The only reason they seem to been involved in an epic battle of brains is because although they are both half-wits, everyone around them is utterly witless. I have to admit that there is a charm to the stories and I don't regret hearing them, but they sure were disappointing when compared to what I expected.

So, anyone else learn that a character that sounded great in theory turned out to be a bit of dud in reality?
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sd2416



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PostSubject: Re: PD might = Pretty Disappointing...   Sat May 26, 2012 8:24 am

a lot of the characters seem rushed or forced.
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argosail

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PostSubject: Re: PD might = Pretty Disappointing...   Sat May 26, 2012 9:24 am

Well, you have to remember, these older characters were created long before the story telling conventions that exist today. In fact, their stories are the foundations of the genre conventions that we take for granted now. Since these stories were published, other writers have improved upon them, by keeping what was cool and what worked, but moving past the things that maybe didn't make sense, or were slow and boring. But I have to credit McCully (creator of Zorro and Black Star) as one of the most significant influences on the genre of masked hero adventures. I think he crafted some of the best early prototypes for the superhero, the supervillain and the anti-hero. I believe it is well known that Zorro influenced Batman. Black Star clearly had an influence on many of the early supervillains. And "The Mucker" is kinda like Wolverine, without the powers.

It's like watching the first Star Wars and saying, "well, this is kinda lame compared to [[latest summer blockbuster]]." Of course it isn't the same. Star Wars was revolutionary, but of course people are going to take what worked in it and then "improve" upon it. Same with the characters and stories written at the turn of the century. They were written for an audience with simpler or more humble expectations, by authors who had no precedent for the kind of story they were trying to tell. But even long running characters who are still under copyright suffer from this. Early Batman, Superman, Shadow and Doc Savage stories aren't THAT good compared to what came later.

I enjoy learning about the old characters, because I like seeing how the whole genre of heroic fiction evolved over time...and where that evolution took its big jumps. McCully represents a big jump. And as a creator, I find it very enticing to pay homage to the past by "updating" the early characters and their stories with more modern conventions...demonstrating that there is still a lot that is cool about them, if you can get past what didn't make sense or what was boring or whatever. If modern Lex Luthor or Dr. Doom was partially inspired by the oft-imitated legacy of Black Star, why not make the new Black Star partially inspired by them? Keep the parts that work.
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GoldenBard

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PostSubject: Re: PD might = Pretty Disappointing...   Sat May 26, 2012 10:47 am

Yeah, I hear what you're saying, Argosail, and for the most part I agree. I think that what surprise me with the Black Star stories was that they not only weren't as good as modern tales, but they also weren't as good as "The Curse of Capistrano," the first Zorro story. But I guess that when a writer is as prolific as McCulley was, he's going to have a few duds in with all the gems.

And this certainly isn't limited to McCulley. When I listened to "Lieutenant Gullivar Jones: His Vacation," rather than the John Carter-esque adventure I expected, the hero just kind of wanders around Mars, alternately watching things happen and having things happen to him. But ERB did exactly what you described, took the cool concept and tweaked it enough to make it work.

I guess I just like to see what DOESN'T work as much as I like to see what DOES. You can learn a lot from both!
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