Ray Palmer’s Fantastic Adventure

May 30, 2014 by

Fantastic Adventures 39-05The blossoming of the science-fiction and fantasy genres gathered more steam when Ziff-Davis premiered Fantastic Adventures in March 1939 with Ray Palmer editing. “Fantastic Adventures gives you the best in fantasy and off-trail science fiction . . . . Everyone likes to think and ponder and wonder at times. But these stories must necessarily be in the minority, because it is a basic requirement that we entertain you.”

Fantastic Adventures 40-10Within a year of its introduction, Fantastic Adventures seemed to be living on borrowed time. However, the combination of a strong story—Robert Moore Williams’ “Jongor of Lost Land,” a Tarzan-inspired adventure yarn—coupled with powerful front cover art by J. Allen St. John saved the pulp from oblivion in the fall of 1940. Within a few months, Palmer had inked a contract with Edgar Rice Burroughs for a quartet of novelettes featuring Carson of Venus. He would turn again to St. John for cover art to illustrate the stories and Fantastic Adventures was off and running.

While Burroughs, Williams, and others were thrilling readers with fantastic adventures of action and adventure, other writers began to contribute humorous tales. Stories by Nelson Bond and Ziff-Davis regulars William P. McGivern and David Wright O’Brien helped create the Fantastic Adventures school of screwball comedy. Robert Bloch, with his “Lefty Feep” stories, was the leading practitioner of this form of writing.

For most of the fiction that would appear in Fantastic Adventures during his years as editor, Palmer largely relied on a stable of writers based in Chicago. In addition to those mentioned previously, Howard Browne, Paul W. Fairman, Chester S. Geier, Roger P. Graham, Berkeley Livingston, Rog Phillips, Geoff St. Reynard, Don Wilcox, and Leroy Yerxa all contributed significantly to the magazine.

Following Palmer’s departure from Ziff-Davis in late 1949, Howard Browne became the publisher’s editor-in-chief. Given an increased budget, Browne worked to improve the quality of Fantastic Adventures, but the change came too late. With the pulps in their death throes, the magazine’s end was near. In the spring of 1953, it was merged into Fantastic, a successful digest magazine featuring science fiction and fantasy that Browne had started for Ziff-Davis in the previous year.

Fantastic 52 Summer

To learn more about the images used in this post, click on the illustrations. Click here for references consulted for this article.

Although Fantastic would run into the early eighties, Fantastic Adventures would be no more following the combined May-June 1953 number.