Thursday, January 20, 2011

Why-oh-Why didn't Street & Smith do team ups?

There were a lot of hero pulps in the 1930s and 1940s--fiction magazines that recounted the adventures of a specific hero. The best of these is almost certainly The Shadow, but he had a lot of strong competition.

The Shadow was published by Street and Smith, one of the best publishing houses of the era in terms of quality. In fact, the hero pulps put out by S & S included Doc Savage, the Avenger and the Whisperer. All were really cool. All had cool agents or sidekicks. And all are currently being reprinted. Snatch 'em up if you can. There's some wonderful adventure storytelling behind those awesome covers.

I've always thought it was tragic that it apparently never occurred to the otherwise talented editors at Street and Smith to put out a special issue or two in which their heroes could team up with one another. Heck, most of them were based in New York. The Shadow and most of his agents hung out there. Doc Savage had a headquarters on the 86th floor of an unnamed skyscraper (generally considered to be the Empire State Building). The Avenger and his organization (Justice, Inc) were based there.

The Whisperer was based in an unnamed city, but all the other guys traveled quite a bit. So a team-up involving him would have been easily arranged.

But it never happened. The Shadow might be battling thugs on a tenement rooftop while Doc Savage was tracing kidnappers through the streets of New York and the Avenger was investigating a bombed out building, but none of them ever crossed paths.

It would have been too much fun for words. Even a minor team up between their various agents would have been cool. Heck, Smitty from Justice Inc and Long Tom from Doc Savage's team were both skilled electrical engineers. They could have met and worked together. Monk (Doc Savage) and Mac (Justice Inc) were both chemists. And agents of the Shadow such as Rutledge Mann and Clyde Burke had reason to come into contact with all sorts of people through their respective jobs as investment broker and newspaper reporter.

Doc Savage's pretty cousin Pat ran a high-priced beauty shop that probably was frequented by both Margo Lane (the Shadow's agent) and Nellie Grey (who worked for the Avenger), so the distaff trio could have easily teamed up for an adventure.

Now that I think of it, a back-up feature in one of the hero pulps featuring team-ups of the various agents would have been the most brilliant idea ever. I really need to invent a time machine, go back to the 1930s, and sell this concept.

In 1989, DC Comics finally managed to put the Shadow and Doc Savage together into the same adventure (and had some fun with the Shadow getting annoyed at the constant bickering between Doc's men Ham and Monk), but it never happened during the pulp era. I would have loved to see what Shadow writer Walter Gibson or Savage's scribe Lester Dent might have done with the idea.

But it was never to be. Oh, well. No world---not even the world of pulp fiction--is perfect.

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