Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Western Pulp Covers

Western Pulp Covers

I was at a friend's home the other day, and I noticed he had a couple reprint Western Pulp magazine covers framed on the wall. That artwork, by Norman Saunders, really got me motivated to find some more great pulp covers from 1915 to 1960, and share them. I did find some, thousands actually. I picked 200 of them. Enjoy.

Glenn Buttkus

The American West of the 19th and early 20th century was a rich setting for many action and adventure pulp fiction stories. Some of the most popular and longest running of all the pulp fiction magazines were dedicated to the western tale. From this western genre, giants like Max Brand and Louis L'amour began their careers. Plus, the internationally famous hero Zorro first appeared in the pages of the pulp magazine.

Pulp magazines (or pulp fiction; often referred to as "the pulps") were inexpensive fiction magazines. They were widely published from the 1920s through the 1950s. The term pulp fiction can also refer to mass market paperbacks since the 1950s.

Pulp covers, printed in color on higher-quality (slick) paper, were famous for their half-dressed damsels in distress, usually awaiting a rescuing hero. Cover art played a major part in the marketing of pulp magazines, and a number of the most successful cover artists became as popular as the authors featured on the interior pages. Among the most famous pulp artists were Frank R. Paul, Virgil Finlay, Edd Cartier, Margaret Brundage and Norman Saunders. Covers were important enough to sales that sometimes they would be designed first; authors would then be shown the cover art and asked to write a story to match.

Pulp magazines often contained a wide variety of genre fiction, including, but not limited to, fantasy/sword and sorcery, gangster, detective/mystery, science fiction, adventure, westerns (also see Dime Western), war, sports, railroad, romance, horror/occult (including "weird menace"), "spicy/saucy" (soft porn), and Série Noire (French crime mystery). The American Old West was a mainstay genre of early turn of the century novels as well as later pulp magazines, and lasted longest of all the traditional pulps. In many ways, the later men's adventure ("the sweats") was the replacement of pulps.

The "Pulps," so called because they were printed on cheap high-acid-content paper, served as popular reading material, similar to today's paperback; cheap, portable, disposable, and often sensational. This genre flourished from the 1920's to the 1950's. Titles focused on specific literary types: romance, sports, western, detective, science fiction, horror, or military (during World War II). Writers were frequently paid by the word, and to meet daily living expenses, well-known authors sometimes wrote for these magazines under pseudonyms, putting only their "literary" work under their real name.

Authors who got their start by writing for pulp fiction magazines include: Raymond Chandler, Cornell Woolrich, Dashiell Hammett, H.P. Lovecraft, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, and L. Ron Hubbard.

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