By Tim Stacey
A lot of industries in Canada tend to pale in comparison to their counterparts south of the border. While we’d rather not admit it, we choose to outsource a lot of what we consume, whether it be football, TV dramas or even novelty junk food. That isn’t to say that the CFL, Orphan Black and ketchup chips aren’t worthy parts of a Canadian diet, it’s just that they aren’t always as prolific as their competition south of the border.
This is also true of the comics industry and journalism. Lifelong comic readers and bandwagon Marvel Cinematic Universe fans alike flock to sites like Newsarama, Latino Review and Bleeding Cool for the latest casting rumours and teaser trailer analyses. Never mind that Bleeding Cool is actually U.K.-based, the point remains: comics journalism isn’t all that notable in the Great White North. Luckily, Niagara’s own Pulp Nation is working to change that.
“Our big goal is to try to provide the same news as the other sites, but with a Canadian perspective. There aren’t many sites that are doing that right now,” said Drew Comerford, one of the founding members of Pulp Nation.
What is now the core of Pulp Nation began as Nerd Play, a weekly hour-long nerd news talk show and podcast that Comerford and co-host Chris Biggs began at their day jobs with Niagara’s 610 CKTB local News Talk radio. Biggs hosted another CKTB show already, but found that his audience wasn’t interested in the nerd culture commentary that he had to offer, and so after connecting with Drew through a mutual interest in comics, they put Nerd Play on the air.
The show was soon sponsored by Niagara’s (now defunct) Pulp Comics shop, and regularly featured the comic shop’s owner Paul Tappay as a contributor to discussions on the latest news in the comics industry. When Pulp Comics closed its doors for good in December 2014, Nerd Play made the best of a bad situation by continuing the shop’s online presence with fans who wanted their nerd news from a local source. Just like that, Pulp Nation was born.
“We had this idea: why don’t we combine Pulp Comics with Nerd Play and make this Pulp Nation thing, with original content instead of just sharing from IGN or Nerdist,” said Comerford. “We started doing all the content ourselves, writing reviews and news and sharing trailers, plus it was a place to host the podcast”.
Since assuming responsibility for Pulp Comics’ following, Pulp Nation has expanded their group of contributors and launched an undeniably appealing website. The layout is inviting and the content grows by the day, with just the right amount of personality injected into each piece. The “About Us” section even features original art (by Oliver Castañeda) of each main Pulp Nation member’s ludicrous alter-ego. Comerford himself appears as “Frankendrew”, a genius that replaced him limbs with animal appendages.
“It started out as an idea for a comic book. Essentially, it’s a team of misfits, a bunch of unexpected superheroes coming together who aren’t really good at their jobs, and their personalities are based on us in real life,” said Comerford. “Oliver did amazing work with it, now we’re just trying to find an artist to do the main comic which we’ll probably host as a web comic”.
Nerd Play is still going strong, offering a comprehensive nerd news hour with varied segments and opinions. Each episode starts with straight news from the week, followed by individual segments for movies, TV and comics, and then closes with an open topical discussion.
“There’s more of a personal aspect to the show because you’re hearing different opinions in a real discussion on what’s happening,” said Comerford.
This year’s Niagara Falls Comic Con was their first appearance as Pulp Nation, but they’ve been regular fixtures at the event as Nerd Play in the past. Despite the disappointing closure of Pulp Comics after six years in business, Pulp Nation is confident in the region’s interest in comics and other nerd culture.
“It’s difficult, in an era when everybody’s reading digital comics it’s not easy to keep a brick and mortar store afloat,” said Comerford. “I do think though that this region has something special with the Niagara Falls Comic Con. It’s been growing exponentially every year, we had big guests this year and the attendance was crazy, so there’s definitely an interest in the area”.
Pulp Nation plans to foster that interest. By offering distinctly Canadian and thoroughly consumable journalism on all things nerdy, the site proves that you don’t have to outsource everything to the south.
“It’s not hired writers; it’s passionate writers that are doing this for free because they love to do it. We have a bunch of Canadians talking about what they know and what they love, and there’s passion behind it all that you don’t see at other sites”.
Even in light of Pulp Comics’ fate and others like it, growing institutions like Pulp Nation, the Niagara Falls Comic Cons and other local talents and shops help to keep our particularly Canadian comics culture alive.
“I want to see it grow and continue to grow, and hopefully Pulp Nation has something to do with that”.
Visit Pulp Nation online at pulpnation.ca, and on Facebook (facebook.com/thepulpnation) and Twitter (@PulpComics) to stay up to date on nerd news and upcoming events. Nerd Play airs on 610 CKTB Saturdays at 5:00 p.m. and is available in Podcast format.