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Two-Fisted Tales

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So a Jungle Girl, a Super-Scientist, a Masked Vigilante and an Ace Pilot walk into a bar...
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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.

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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:

As stated above, Two Fisted Tales don't often attempt to recapture the varied feel of all the old pulps; it's very rare you'll see someone trying to overlay the Doc Savage feel onto a Cthulhu story (not that it's impossible). Usually, it attempts to focus on the thrilling heroics, not that that's a bad thing.

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Related to Diesel Punk and Jungle Opera. Often the subject of a Genre Throwback. See also Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot, Twice-Told Tale which requires a specific tale. Also see Sword & Sorcery for a similiarly campy style of adventure narrative that was popular around the same time.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • A Centaur's Life's backstory includes a Lost World populated with snake-men, a modern Aztec empire, mass UFO sightings and neo-nazis: not your average Slice of Life setting (even if you ignore the centaurs).

    Comic Books 
  • 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 Reconstruction on everything that made those stories fun and noble.
  • 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 Moonstone relaunch of Airboy focuses heavily on this.

    Fanfiction 
  • The version of Daring Do in The Many Secret Origins of Scootaloo's eighth chapter is this trope. It centers around the sale of a legendary diamond in a mafia-owned cabaret, complete with gunfights and a young street urchin who helps out the heroes.

    Films — Live-Action 

    Literature 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In the Wax and Wayne series, interludes in the book parts have snippets of the in-universe "broadsheets" featuring headlines, advertisements, and bits of pulp fiction stories. The most recurring being the (heavily embellished) real life adventures of "Allomancer Jak".

    Live-Action TV 

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • The Uncharted series. 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 toll 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...
  • Pathway, a Roguelike/Turn-Based Tactics game set in North Africa and Middle-East during the 1930s, where you lead a multinational team of adventurers whose goal is to prevent Nazi occultists to gain archaeological treasures.
  • The Earnest Evans trilogy. The titular Evans is a clear Indiana Jones homage (though despite the name, Evans is only playable in one game in the trilogy,) and the series has the cast dealing with Roaring Twenties-era gangsters, ancient magic, plenty of globe-trotting to ancient ruins, and a plot to resurrect Hastur.

    Web Comics 
  • Athena Voltaire, a rare example of a female lead pulp story.
  • Girl Genius is based strongly off pulpy stories of juvenile adventurers like Tom Swift and Jonny Quest.
    • In-universe, the Heterodyne stories, (often exaggerated) tales about the adventures of heroes Bill and Barry Heterodyne, are enormously popular.
  • The currently comatose "Modern Pulp" webcomic site, especially Sprecken, about a 1930s crimefighter (who used to go by "Mr Midnight") relocated to the 2020s.

    Web Original 
  • The semiprozine Cirsova Magazine was specifically conceived as a place for good ol' pulp-style sci-fi and fantasy stories.

    Western Animation 

Alternative Title(s): Two Fisted Tale

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