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Michael Tierney

PULP COVERS

by Michael Tierney

ERB ChronolgoyWhile I was creating the Edgar Rice Burroughs 100 Year Art Chronology, there were a lot of old pulps covers that I didn't use. These were covers that featured ERB's contemporaries and imitators. Some didn't make it into the Chronology because of redundancy, while others were outside the realm of public domain. Even more still are recent discoveries. They are a fun ride into the adventure literature of a century ago.

amazing stories The second decade of the Twentieth Century was an evolutionary time in American literature, when the Munsey family of publications was under the direction of Editor Bob Davis, and with All-Story he explored every sort of fiction, including pioneering stories that he called Pseudo-Science. Amazing Stories would later redefine the genre as Scientifiction. Today we refer to fantastic fiction as science fiction.

Some of the writers and their creations that Davis cultivated are still celebrated today, like Edgar Rice Burroughs and Tarzan of the Apes.

black butterfly

Others, like J. U. Geisy and Junius B. Smith's Semi-Dual, a detective who finds both mundane and mystical solutions to every mystery he faces, was more of a cross between Sherlock Holmes and DC Comics Hellblazer. Even more popular than Tarzan at the time, Semi-Dual had 30 books published in less than a score of years, but he is largely forgotten today. Quality copies of the issue featuring the Semi-Dual adventure of the Black Butterfly are rarely offered and always draw fierce competition.

Looking through old pulps covers will reveal not only the fantasies of a generation long gone by, but also their reality of a world at war.

pulp cover pulp cover

A Man Named Jones is by Charles Stilson, whose Polaris of the Snows--a Tarzan imitator that was fatally flawed because it placed polar bears in the Antarctic--is his better remembered work. But, A Man Named Jones was Stilson's signature work, and I've never seen another copy of this issue offered for sale, except as a facsimile reprint. The only way I found my copy was within a bound collection of All-Story issues.

Pulp covers pulp cover

Fang Tung Magician was written by the incredibly prolific H. Bedford-Jones, whose historical adventures were featured in more issues than any other All-Story author.

pulp cover pulp cover pulp cover

A Daughter of Borneo is another exotic locale adventure, like A Man Named Jones. What's notable about the covers for both is artist P. J. Monahan, who at the time was the main cover illustrator for Edgar Rice Burroughs's many different genres of tales. Monahan illustrated everything from the fantastic to the mundane, and did it all well, as his cover for Mr. North of Nowhere shows.

pulp cover pulp covers pulp cover

Gunhilda's Magic is simply another picture of a pretty girl, with glamor girl covers being a very common theme on the covers of other pulps from this time. What makes this one unique is the added fantasy element. This was what separated All-Story from its competitors, who also often featured exceptional cover art, in an age when print runs ran in the millions.

pulp cover pulp cover

All-Story would eventury be incorporated into Munsey's flagship title, Argosy Magazine, and their run of fantastic covers and literature would continue throughout a series of title changes--first to Argosy All-Story Weekly, then Argosy Weekly, and finally back to the original title of Argosy..

Pulp cover Pulp cover

While I did show P. J. Monahan's cover for the first alternate reality story, The Blind Spot, in the ERB Art Chronology, because it was not yet in public domain, I couldn't show the sequel story of The Spot of Life. The tragic story of why the sequel was written by Austin Hall without the help of Homer Eon Flint is told in the Chronology.

Pulp cover Pulp cover Pulp cover

Argosy featured a stable of top notch writers. A. Merrit's Seven Footprints to Satan shows the heroine walking those steps. And while even writers like Max Brand were known to do adventure stories beyond westerns, not many realize that Perry Mason creator Erle Stanley Gardner took a crack at science fiction.

Pulp cover Pulp cover Pulp cover
Ray Cummings was another ERB imitator who, while always writing with the same style of adventures, didn't always do direct swipes like Jan of the Jungle. He was one of the more prolific writers of science fiction during this time period.

Pulp cover Pulp cover Pulp cover Pulp cover Pulp cover
Ralph Milne Farley wrote several stories exploring imaginary worlds conjured up by a new invention called Radio, and Otis Adelbert Kline is one of the better remembered ERB-imitators.

Pulp cover Pulp cover Pulp cover Pulp cover
While Argosy ran stories about adventurs on Mars by both men, when Kline tried to continue the Prince of Peril's adventures on Venus, he was declined by Argosy because they had started running a Burroughs series of novels based there. So Kline took his Venusian tales to Weird Tales, where one issue with a cover featuring his work also debuted a new character by the name of Conan the Barbarian.

pulp cover

While Argosy was evolving its masthead back to the original title of Argosy, they began slowly phasing out their emphasis on pseudo-science stories. A new competitor had arrived on the crowded newstands, and Amazing Stories editor Hugo Gernsback began to attract many top writers in the field, including Kline and newcomers like H. P. Lovecraft and "Doc" E. E. Smith, whom Munsay editor Bob Davis had rejected as being "too far out." Davis retired soon after realizing his error.

pulp cover pulp cover pulp cover

Meanwhile, one ERB creation, Tarzan of the Apes, continued to inspire imitator after imitator.

pulp cover pulp cover pulp cover

I hope you've enjoyed this spin through the world of old pulps. It barely scratched the surface of what those old magazine have to offer. If you'd like to know more about the man who inspired much of it, click this link to discover the artistic history of Edgar Rice Burroughs.

ERB Art Chronology
If you like high adventure and stories that include travel to exotic locations, then you'll probably enjoy the Wild Stars!
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