Once upon a time, there was pulp. Pulp was a style of writing that emerged onto the scene in the 1920s, featuring a variety of stories printed on cheap paper (hence "pulp"). Back in the day, pulp content ranged from the Cosmic Horror Stories of H.P. Lovecraft to the noir pieces of Raymond Chandler and from the over-the-top action of Doc Savage to the sword-and-sandals fantasy of Conan the Barbarian and even the Raygun Gothic of Hugo Gernsback's Amazing Stories. The pulp era died down by the late '50s, when the leading distributor of pulp, the American News Company, went bankrupt. Then, people started looking back on the pulp era nostalgically, and when they did, they usually locked onto the over-the-top stories of Proto-Superhero characters like The Shadow, Doc Savage, and The Phantom. Many point to Raiders of the Lost Ark and the sequel Indiana Jones movies, which took 1930s pulp adventures as an inspiration, as the keystone of the pulp resurgence, but whatever kicked it off, pulp has recaptured the heart of many a geek. Two Fisted Tales refers to stories told in a style that reflects fondly on the old pulps. This usually means the story will be set in the '20s or '30s, and focus on square-jawed, clever men (and women) of action. Other elements thrown in for flavor include:
- Proto-Superhero motifs
- Mad Science and/or Weird Science
- Lost civilizations (and often dinosaurs with them), usually including a Jungle Princess
- The Yellow Peril, usually including a Dragon Lady
- The occult
- Plenty of Nazis to be punched out. Most of them will be the source of, exploiting, or trying to exploit either Mad / Weird Science or the Occult.
- Ace Pilots
- Adventurer Outfits
- Chandler American Time: The pre-war thirties is a popular time frame.
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Anime and Manga
- Hellboy features elements of Two-Fisted Tales, with Nazis, evil monkeys, Weird Science, and the Golden Age crime-fighter Lobster Johnson. A spin-off series featuring Lobster Johnson has taken these elements and cranked them up to eleven.
- Planetary features Axel Brass, one of the universe's "Century Babies" and a Captain Ersatz of Doc Savage, who once headed up an entire secret society of Captain Ersatzes based on the pulp heroes of the era. His adventures and dealings with Elijah Snow are regularly chronicled.
- Tom Strong is Alan Moore's take on the pulp hero living into the modern era.
- Marvel's Immortal Iron Fist is mostly a kung fu book, but features strong elements of pulp as well (especially with Orson Randall, the World War I era Iron Fist).
- In 1997 DC Comics had a "Pulp Heroes" event, in which all their annuals were written in the style of the pulps. Ones that particularly fitted the Two-Fisted Tales paradigm were under the banners "My Greatest Adventure" and "Tales of the Unexpected". "Suspense Detective" also fitted to an extent, although that was more the Private Detective trope. "Young Romance" and "Weird Western Tales" were based on very different pulp genres.
- The EC Comics title Two-Fisted Tales began with stories of this genre but soon became a (much better) war comic.
- Atomic Robo:
- Much of the series is a more modern-day take on this. The titular character is a snarky robot who has fought Nazi mad scientists, Lovecraftian horrors, and an intelligent dinosaur, visited different dimensions, and encountered the ghost of Rasputin.
- In-universe, Robo is a fan of Dirk Daring, the Daring Doer of Derring-Do, a radio program that is best enjoyed at certain (i.e. loud) volumes.
- DC Comics' First Wave imprint, a Two-Fisted Tales and Diesel Punk universe that includes Doc Savage, The Avenger, The Spirit and Rima the Jungle Girl, as well as DCU characters who fit the paradigm like Batman (who in this world is The Shadow, complete with twin guns) and Black Canary.
- Dave Stevens's The Rocketeer is a celebration of all kinds of Thirties and Forties tropes including this one, and so was the 1991 film adaptation.
- Dominic Fortune, a 1930s "Brigand for Hire" in the Marvel Universe. Created by Howard Chaykin.
- Parodied in Tales Designed to Thrizzle with Two-Fisted Poe.
Quoth the raven - Lights Out!!!
- Also, The result of a confusing memo: Two-Tailed Fists! with a pair of confused gangsters attacked by giant fists with tails.
- Marvel Noir, especially the ones that involve powers like Spider-Man.
- The Deadpool mini was called Deadpool Pulp, rather than Noir.
- The Moonstone relaunch of Airboy focuses heavily on this.
- Athena Voltaire checks all the boxes.
- The Goon is sort of a cross between this and supermarket tabloids.
- The Captain America arc "The Bloodstone Hunt" is essentially this - Cap has to travel around the globe to exotic locations to get the five fragments of the Bloodstone before Baron Zemo can. Each location is essentially a pulp location in itself.
- Five Ghosts is a deliberately pulp adventure comic whose protagonist, Fabian Gray, is possessed by — and shares the abilities of — the ghosts of Miyamoto Musashi, Merlin, Sherlock Holmes, Dracula and Robin Hood. The covers often emulate EC Comics and other Golden Age titles, though the series itself is far less "meta" than Tom Strong or Planetary.
- Many Wolverine stories that aren't focused on more traditional superheroics are instead pulp-style adventures. In fact, the first 20 or so issues were almost all exclusively pulp stories, with Logan traveling around the seedier parts of the world and fighting supernatural villains. He also spent little time in his iconic costume, not even wearing it at all for the first two arcs.
- Garth Ennis's run on The Shadow is a full on Genre Deconstruction of Two-Fisted Tales. A romantic view of the pre-war Thirties is only possible by intentionally ignoring the heinous war crimes committed by the Axis Powers, especially the Nanjing Massacre. A character in the series Lampshades this, saying he expected more of "rip-roaring" adventure in the Japanese-occupied China.
- As part of Secret Wars (2015) is Where Monsters Dwell featuring the Golden Age character the Phantom Eagle, a Cool Plane, Amazons, and an Island of Mystery full of dinosaurs. It being another Garth Ennis piece, it's also a Deconstructive Parody, as the Eagle is a send up of these kinds of heroes; sexist, cowardly, and completely incompetent. It's The Not-Love Interest Clemmie who does all the heroic stuff (and who gets to have lots of sex with the Amazons.)
- DC Comics Bombshells puts the leading ladies of the DC Universe in World War II, fighting both Those Wacky Nazis and Eldritch Abominations.
Films — Live-Action
- The Indiana Jones movies, when they're not being Diesel Punk.
- The 1996 movie of The Phantom.
- The Mummy Trilogy.
- The Rocketeer
- Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
- The Shadow
- Atlantis: The Lost Empire
- This trope is what Pulp Fiction is named after.
- Cult classic The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, a purposeful homage of Doc Savage.
- The Adventures of The Librarian are a modern day pulp adventure spanning, to date, three films and a series.
- Captain America: The First Avenger, what with gung-ho hero Cap and a group of Badass Normals fighting HYDRA, a splinter group of Those Wacky Nazis with Weird Science death machines powered by Asgardian magic.
- Flash Gordon
- Amicus Productions made four Edgar Rice Burroughs-inspired movies in the mid to late 70s, staring Doug McClure and featuring big rubber monsters, lost worlds, and insanely gorgeous women.
- Jumanji is a franchise all about a sapient magical game based on a jungle setting from exactly this kind of genre. The second film takes this even further, with every player sucked into the game and given new avatars based on five stereotypical heroes from a jungle-exploring two-fisted tale.
- The work of Edgar Rice Burroughs.
- Philip Josť Farmer's long writing career is marked by his great love of the pulps and he devoted great energy to his many Two Fisted Tales. Even his works which aren't in the genre are often informed by it. Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life provides a biography of the pulp era hero and links him to other period heroes.
- The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril has the authors of Doc Savage and The Shadow looking into the murder of H.P. Lovecraft and uncovering a global conspiracy.
- The Takers is an Indiana Jones-style homage novel by Jerry Ahern, about an action-adventure novelist and his Love Interest — an Intrepid Reporter who investigates wacky UFO and occult stories — who team up to investigate the murder of a CIA agent, and the log of a 19th Century expedition searching for Atlantis. It manages to work in Pirates, Ancient Astronauts, Mysterious Antarctica, Flying Saucers, Those Wacky Nazis, a Diabolical Mastermind and his Knife Nut daughter, and a nuclear submarine!
- Kim Newman's Dr Shade ... sometimes. Some of the stories featuring him are celebrations of the pulps and others (most especially "The Original Dr Shade") are Deconstructions. Also by Newman but not featuring Dr Shade: the Diogenes Club story "Clubland Heroes" (definitely a Deconstruction).
- Zach Parsons specifically called his book My Tank is Fight! "two fisted pulp history." And describes the development and potential use of various WW2 super/strange weapons.
- The Gabriel Hunt books, although set in modern times.
- In a more lighthearted variant, the Doc Wilde series. Doc even brings his kids along on his adventures.
- Doc Sidhe
- The novel Gods of Manhattan, in the Pax Britannica series of Steampunk novels, features two-fisted adventurer Doc Thunder (Savage, with elements of Hugo Danner and Superman), and killer vigilante Blood Spider (the Spider, with elements of the Shadow), amongst others.
- Lagadin's Legacy belongs to the genre in that it features elements of the Indiana Jones-style adventure story, but also tries to subvert it by including elements of thriller, mystery, and satire.
- Glory Road is a Reconstruction of these kinds of stories.
- The Bernice Summerfield novel Down by Lawrence Miles features "Mr Misnomer, the Man of Chrome", who Benny knows for a fact is a fictional character from 24th century "pulpzines". It also features a hollow world full of dinosaurs, a Nazi villain, a mad computer and all the usual stuff. Turns out to be a deconstruction.
- "Adventure Story" by Neil Gaiman is narrated by the son of a WWII soldier who had this type of experience post-war.
- The Ciaphas Cain books follow this style, with the added twist that the narrator protaganist keeps insisting his acts of daring-do are misinterpretations or just what was necessary to survive.
- Mark Stephen Rainey's Blue Devil Island featuring the Blue Devil Squadron facing off against an Eldritch Abomination in the South Pacific during World War II.
- The Captain Riley series by Fernando Gamboa, featuring a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits on a Cool Boat fighting (who else?) Those Wacky Nazis.
- Domino Lady, who mixes a healthy dose into the formula as well.
- Biggles had a few adventures that dabbled in this genre between the wars. It looked as though he were going to end up doing the same thing again after the Second World War, but instead he got a job offer from a comrade in arms who'd gone back to his prewar career as a police inspector, and spent the next decade or so being Biggles of the Yard instead.
- The X-Files episode "Triangle" had elements of this, especially the big ballroom punch-up between British sailors and Nazi goons, not to mention Scully as a glamorous 1930s spy in a red dress.
- Tales of the Gold Monkey, a short-lived Belisarius series featuring Ace Pilot Jake Cutter and his adventures in the South Pacific in 1938.
- Bring 'Em Back Alive, which dueled with the above and ended up about as short-lived.
- Danger 5 brings more of a '60s flavour to this, pastiching the silly men's adventure magazines of the decade. Despite its very '60s aesthetic, however, it's set during World War II and features a very silly Hitler as its Big Bad.
- Doctor Who has this as one of its stock Genre Roulette settings, especially during the Classic series. Many of the William Hartnell-era stories harken back to boy's adventure stories of the 30s and 40s, from "The Daleks" (which has a heavy Dan Dare vibe) to "The Smugglers" (pirates and Swashbuckling). Season 13 and 14 (the "Gothic Horror" period) are a particularly good period to find them in - there's a Raygun Gothic detective story, a Fu Manchu Expy, and a Who Shot JFK? conspiracy thriller; a Darker and Edgier, Bloodier and Gorier, slightly Hotter and Sexier and more 'pastiche-y' tone; and the introduction of a sexy jungle-girl companion inspired by 1900s pulp. Some show up earlier and later than this - bizarrely, "City of Death" was intended to be one, but then someone got the bright idea of asking Douglas Adams to write it.
- Two-Fisted Tales from Precis Intermedia Games
- White Wolf's Adventure!.
- Spirit of the Century
- Pulp Hero for the HERO System.
- And its earlier incarnation Justice, Inc.
- GURPS Cliffhangers
- The new GURPS Age of Gold as well.
- The Eberron campaign setting for Dungeons & Dragons combines this with Dungeon Punk.
- Also Pulp Heroes in d20 Past.
- Crimson Skies, later adapted into a series of PC and Xbox games, focuses heavily on the Zeppelins and Sky Pirates aspect of pulp.
- Many adventures had by the Sons of Ether in Mage: The Ascension, whose Tradition is chock-full of people with names like "Doc Eon" and "the Crimson Claw." Taking an appropriately two-fisted nickname seems to be standard even if you don't use it often.
- Genius: The Transgression gives detailed instructions on how to create a pulp tale in the sourcebook.
- Hollow Earth Expedition is made of this.
- If Savage Worlds can be said to have a "default setting," it's this. One of the first supplements was a Pulp Toolkit, and the whole system's emphasis on "Fast Furious Fun!" leads to a very pulpy game experience.
- The supplement/source book Thrilling Tales all the way.
- Gear Krieg is very much this at heart, even with the Diesel Punk trappings.
- Rocket Age is intended to have a pulpy, heroic play-style. It even has a story point system to let you manipulate the plot and pull off almost impossible stunts and bluffs.
- Fortune and Glory, one of many Adventure Board Games by Fighting Frog Games: players take on the roles of pulp archetypes - an Ace Pilot, an Intrepid Reporter, a Mad Scientist, a Great White Hunter - in a globe-trotting adventure to recover mystical artifacts before a Nebulous Evil Organization gets them first.
- The Uncharted series, easily. Set in modern times, but all the elements are there: Indiana Jones-esque hero, lots of bad guys to fight in the middle of a war, exotic locations to visit, women to rescue (and be rescued by), betrayal, and the overall theme. It's essentially the playable form of a pulp hero story.
- The Wolfenstein series also seems to have elements of this. You're a one-man army during WWII, stopping the Nazis from taking over the world with either hi-tech weaponry or taking the supernatural to their advantage. The third game even has a final level on a zeppelin.
- The Ultima Worlds of Adventure spin-offs, Worlds of Ultima: The Savage Empire and Martian Dreams.
- Bulletstorm embraces this demeanor, down to the unlikable but heroic lead.
- Parodied in Team Fortress 2 with Saxton Hale, a pulp protagonist who owns the company that makes all of the characters' weapons.
- Valiant Hearts deconstructs this by placing it in the real-world context of World War 1. The early game focuses on the Ragtag Bunch of Misfits tracking down a Diabolical German Baron who has kidnapped The Chick's Reluctant Mad Scientist father and used his genius to engineer devastating super-weapons in the name of German Imperialism. However, even once the apparent Big Bad is defeated, the War itself continues on and the game shifts focus to the Gray and Grey Morality of the situation and the extreme personal tole of the war on the protagonists.
- An arcade game called The Cliffhanger: Edward Randy. Staring a dashing whip-wielding protagonist, you do things like fend off enemies on speeding motorboats, run away from huge demolition trucks and fight a boss on the wings of a plane.
- The Pulp Adventures mod for Freedom Force vs The Third Reich is a total conversion mod which changes the original game into a homage to pulp stories, with a brand new campaign featuring "Nazi punching! Dinosaur wrangling! Two-fisted action galore!", and a roster of 25 available heroes such as Doc Savage, Indiana Jones, the Rocketeer, Tarzan, Dick Tracy...
- Athena Voltaire, a rare example of a female lead pulp story.
- Girl Genius:
- The currently comatose "Modern Pulp" webcomic site, especially Sprecken, about a 1930s crimefighter (who used to go by "Mr Midnight") relocated to the 2020s.
- Many of The Venture Bros. stories are parodies of this.
- Jonny Quest
- Through a degree of separation (it's ostensibly based on Hanna-Barbera cartoons like Jonny Quest), The Secret Saturdays, which is what happens when the heroes of Two-Fisted Tales settle down. Weird science, exotic locations, and the patriarch of the family is even named Doc (and could pass for Savage in the right light).
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: