In the 1930s–even in an alternative universe such as the one Johnny Graphic lives in–there wasn’t as much for a kid to read as there is today. Every library, of course, stocked its shelves with classic literature that appealed to young people–authors such as Jules Verne, Louisa May Alcott, and Robert Louis Stevenson. There were boys’ and girls’ adventure novels and mysteries, as well. Think Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. Comic books had just gotten started. And there were pulp magazines–chapter stories with dauntless heroes and colorful action covers.
“Pulp” got its name from the cheap paper all those adventure and mystery magazines were printed on. They came out every month (sometimes more often) and cost a dime or fifteen cents. Keep in mind, back in the 1930s that would be big money for the average kid. A lot of pulp fiction was aimed at adult readers, but some of it was popular with young readers. A few of the major pulp heroes included Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, the Shadow, Doc Savage, and the Phantom.
Johnny, for example, loves pulps such as Captain Justice Adventures and Astounding Stories with Duke Donegan. He’s as fanatic about keeping up to date on the Captain’s campaigns as any modern kid is about his or her video games or TV shows. Johnny imagines himself a kindred spirit of Captain Justice, the fearless hero in the red cape and streamlined helmet. As Johnny is flying across the Greater Ocean with Mel and Nina and the others, he passes the time by reading these kinds of stories.
Johnny doesn’t have a pocket radio or smartphone or an iPod. These things don’t exist in 1935. But when he wants some ripping-good entertainment, he can always escape into his pulp magazine adventures.