Monday 13 November 2017

Review: Art of the pulps

Beautiful art - a retro blast from the past

This book takes readers back to an era without television or radio, when magazine covers featured original art designed to lure readers into picking up and buying them. From the early 1900s to the early 1950s, pulp magazines were the popular entertainment media of choice for millions of readers across the English speaking world.They were published in America and to a lesser extent, in Canada and the United Kingdom and read across the world, reaching as far as Australia and South Africa. Some were even translated into French and Spanish.

The pulp magazines were the medium through which a variety of genres established themselves - science fiction, fantasy and hardboiled detective among them. They brought a range of authors and memorable characters from Edgar Rice Burroughs (Tarzan), Johnston McCulley (Zorro), Lester Dent (Doc Savage), H. P. Lovecraft (Cthulu), Robert E. Howard (Conan, Solomon Kane, Kull) and Dashiell Hammett (The Continental Op, Sam Spade) to readers. And they sold this with covers that made you want to pick them up, and interior illustrations that drew the reader deeper into the stories, till you bought and took them home.

This book surveys the pulp magazine field, taking us on a journey from the early days of the field in the 1900s when there a few general fiction magazines, to the end in the 1950s, when paperbacks and television replaced the pulps. All the major genres - adventure, detective/mystery, westerns, aviation, sports, love/romance, horror, science fiction, hero pulps (predecessors of the comics) and spicys - are covered. It's rounded off with a couple of essays on two great artists and authors. Each section's essay comes from an expert in the field, and all are published writers, so they know how to tell the tale. 

But you're not buying this book for the essays - excellent though they are - the art is the reason to buy this book.The book is printed on glossy paper, and the scans are from original issues in the personal collections of the authors. Each chapter is about 20% text and 80% art; with 12 chapters and about 240 pages it's almost 200 pages of gorgeous art for your money. A few sample pages below (some pages are cropped because my scanner isn't big enough):







Science Fiction/Fantasy



Weird Menace

If you like illustration art, you have to pick this up. Link here: 


  1. I agree with Sai. An excellent book on the art of the pulps. has it at a nice discount.

  2. Just about the best one done so far. Pretty sure I have all of them.