1906s

The best of the Encyclopedia of Pulp Heroes: Bel. 

Bel. Bel was created by “Tyman Currio,” the pseudonym of John Russell Coryell (Nick Carter (I), Helen), and appeared in “The Weird and Wonderful Story of Another World” (Physical Culture, Oct. 1905-Sept. 1906). Tyman Currio, a Planetary Romance Hero, discovers anti-gravity “etheric waves” and builds a rocket to capitalize on it. He flies to Jupiter and discovers that it is not only Earth-like in atmosphere but that it is also inhabited by a race of humanoids who are physically and mentally superior to humans. Currio befriends one of them, Bel, and she tells him of their civilization. In the distant past they had mastered advanced technology, but they are believers in vegetarianism, nudity, physical exercise, returning to nature, and political anarchism. Currio, a meat-eating human, comes off rather badly in comparison to them, and when he falls in love with Bel and tries to impress her by shooting a bird, she knocks him out with a punch and tears apart his rifle with her bare hands. She returns to Earth with Currio to act as a missionary and then abandons him, telling him that she can do her work better without him.

Physical Culture was a movement of the late 19th and early 20th century that emphasized cultivating the self in mind and body, both to become a better Christian and to reverse the trend toward racial decay. Recommended methods for these goals were regular exercise, vegetarianism, sun-bathing, temperance, and personal cleanliness. The movement was aimed at both men and women, and was surprisingly progressive (for its time) when it came to the treatment of women. (I wrote about Physical Culture and transhumanism at some length here). Physical Culture Magazine was the movement’s journal, which included both non-fiction (which would promote the movement and provide guidance to followers) and fiction (which gave fictional examples of what the followers of Physical Culture might look like or become). “The Weird and Wonderful Story of Another World” is an example of one of these stories; Bel is a member of a race which practices Physical Culture, which is why she is a superhuman capable of feats like tearing apart his rifle.

Physical Culture was mostly discredited by the time the pulp era rolled around, but for about twenty years it promoted images of superhuman men and superhuman women, both in non-fiction and fiction.

Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

""At the beginning of this war megalomania was the only form of sanity."

Sir Winston Churchill held the position of First Lord of the Admiralty at the outbreak of the First World War.  From the get-go this ambitious and energetic politician inserted himself into the center of affairs as much as possible.  Though only a sprightly (for a politician) 41 years old, Churchill’s record already stretched back.  Born at Blenheim Palace to an English father and an American mother, Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill had done his studies at Sandhurst, the British military academy.  As an officer and war correspondent he took part in combat in the Sudan, India, and South Africa, benefiting from a natural bellicosity that lasted his whole life. 

After his adventures abroad, Churchill entered politics in England, first as a Conservative in 1900.  A lifelong flip-flopper, he crossed the floor to join Labour in 1906 to serve in the cabinet as undersecretary at the Colonial Office , subsequently becoming president of the Board of Trade in 1908, home secretary in 1910, and first lord of the Admiralty by September 1911.  He took his naval duties seriously, spearheading the initial efforts to switch the Royal Navy from a coal-burning fleet to a petrol-burning one.

Britian’s entry into the war in August 1914 put Churchill in a central role.  He played a leading part in forming British naval strategy, including the decision to keep the Home Fleet at its battle stations in July when war looked imminent, and placed Admiral John Jellicoe in command.  Churchill led the effort to save Antwerp by deploying the Naval Division to besieged Belgian port, and dearly wanted to take part in the action himself, though the siege ended in German victory before he could make his mark. This and a number of other naval setbacks created political pressure on the young politico, forcing Churchill to shake the naval administration and replace the First Sea Lord Prince Louis Battenberg with aging veteran Sir John Fisher.  Though Fisher’s more English-sounding name pleased critics, the septuagenarian admiral’s disagreements with Churchill would lead to a political nightmare in the Dardanelles.

In early 1915, Churchill proposed a wholly-naval operation to break through the Dardanelles Straights and capture Constantinople.  The first lord of the admiralty was convinced that the Western Front had become nothing more than a botched-up abattoir for the generals - better to concentrate on Germany’s weak allies, and to use Britain’s greatest asset, the Royal Navy.  Churchill and Fisher agreed to use many of Britain’s aging vessels to spearhead the operation, obsolete battleships and cruisers that would not be missed if they were lost.  However, though Fisher was on board initially, the old sailor steadily grew more pessimistic about the chances of victory.

Unfortunately for Churchill, the Straights operation turned into a disaster. Turkish defenses were stronger than anticipated, and the naval officers unwilling to expend their ships as freely as Churchill wanted them to.  In May he was forced to authorize the use of ground troops to take the Turkish forts guarding the Straights.  The land operations bogged down as surely as any attack on the Western Front.  Fisher resigned in a huff on the 15th of May, signalling the end of any confidence in the head of the Admirality.  Churchill resigned from the post by the end of the month.

However, the political animal that was Winston Churchill could not tolerate being out of the center stage.  He volunteered for service in France and ended up in command of an infantry regiment for a year.  He returned to Parliament in May 1916, while the Liberal government of Prime Minister Asquith ailed.  In late 1916 Asquith was replaced as head of the government by Churchill’s Labour colleague David Lloyd George, and by July Churchill returned to the cabinet as Minister of Munitions, a position he served in til the end of the conflict.

In the postwar period, Churchill went on to play a leading role in British policy.  As Minister of War from 1919 to 1922, he advocated fiercely for support of the White Russian governments against the Bolsheviks in the Russian Civil War, and did his utmost to further the interests of the British Empire in the formerly Ottoman Middle East.  After a further period out of the limelight in the 30s, he returned to a post as First Lord of the Admiralty in 1939, finally becoming Prime Minister in 1940.  Churchill headed the Allied war effort against the Axis in the Second World War, and returned as prime minister from 1951 to 1955.  He died in January 1965, and received a public funeral fitting for one of the most towering figures of the 20th century.