A Century Ago in a Galaxy Called California

Dec 14, 2015 by

Pardon the play on words in the title, but it was hard to resist with the seventh STAR WARS movie, THE FORCE AWAKENS, premiering in theaters across the world at the end of this week. But why write about STAR WARS on a website devoted to PulpFest, Summer’s AMAZING Pulp Con?

Two words: Leigh Brackett. Four more words: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. Considered by many to be the best of the STAR WARS films, the original treatment for the fifth episode of George Lucas’ series was written by Leigh Brackett. Shortly after delivering her untitled screenplay to Twentieth Century Fox, the so-called “Queen of the Space Opera” passed away. THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK went on to become one of the highest grossing films of all time, and in 1981, received a Hugo Award for best dramatic presentation.

Born one-hundred years ago on December 7, 1915, Leigh Brackett was the wife of author Edmond Hamilton. Together, they were two of the many writers who helped to popularize the so-called “space operas” of the pulp magazines. Ed started first as the leading contributor of science fiction to WEIRD TALES during the 1920s. With stories about alien invasions, space police, and evolution gone wild, the author became known as “world-wrecker” Hamilton. In later years, he was asked by Standard Magazines’ Leo Margulies to work up something involving a “Mr. Future, Wizard of Science.” Eventually, the character evolved into Captain Future, a super-scientist headquartered on the Moon. In each issue of the pulp, Hamilton’s hero and his faithful assistants — known as the Futuremen — would save the solar system and, in later issues, the universe. When Mort Weisinger began working for DC Comics in 1941, he turned to Standard’s leading writers of science fiction — including Hamilton — to write the adventures of Superman and other comic book heroes.

Leigh Brackett came later to the pulps, selling her first story to ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION in late 1939. The bulk of her science fiction appeared in Fiction House’s PLANET STORIES and Standard’s THRILLING WONDER STORIES and STARTLING STORIES. A native of southern California, she began collaborating on screenplays during the middle forties. Supposedly, Hollywood film director Howard Hawks was so impressed by her crime novel NO GOOD FROM A CORPSE that he had his secretary call in “this guy Brackett” to help William Faulkner write the script for THE BIG SLEEP. Released in 1946 and starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, it is considered a classic of film noir. During the fifties and sixties, Brackett, Hawks, and actor John Wayne collaborated on several motion pictures, included RIO BRAVO, HATARI, EL DORADO, and RIO LOBO. Leigh Brackett died in 1978.

In 1972, Brackett and Hamilton served as the guests of honor at the first Pulpcon, the forerunner to PulpFest. Years later in 2009, the town of Kinsman, Ohio — where Brackett and Hamilton lived after they had married — began celebrating this famed couple of pulp history. The celebration evolved into KinCon, a convention exploring the worlds of Edmond Hamilton and Leigh Brackett. Although the event is currently on hiatus, KinCon continues to celebrate these two exceptional pulp fictioneers through its website on Facebook.

Like KinCon, PulpFest seeks to draw attention to the profound effect that the pulps had on American popular culture, reverberating through a wide variety of media — comic books, movies, paperbacks and genre fiction, television, men’s adventure magazines, radio drama, and even video and role-playing games. Planned as the summertime destination for fans and collectors of vintage popular fiction and related materials, PulpFest honors pulp fiction and pulp art by drawing attention to the many ways the magazines and their creators — people like Leigh Brackett and Edmond Hamilton — have inspired writers, artists, film directors, software developers, game designers, and other creators over the decades.

Join PulpFest 2016 to be part of this great celebration of American popular culture. Start making your plans right now to join the 45th convening of “Summer’s AMAZING Pulp Con” in 2016. It will take place July 21st through July 24th at the Hyatt Regency Columbus and the Greater Columbus Convention Center in the beautiful downtown of Columbus, Ohio.

(After studying art by correspondence, Allen Anderson worked as a staff artist for Fawcett Publications in Minneapolis from 1929 to 1939. He moved to New York City in 1940 and began painting covers for pulp magazines published by Ace Magazines, Fiction House, Harry Donenfeld, and Martin Goodman. He also painted comic book covers for Ziff-Davis from 1949 to 1953. From 1947 through 1953, he contributed about thirty front cover paintings to PLANET STORIES — including the Winter 1948 issue — a Fiction House pulp magazine best remembered for the many entertaining space operas that appeared in its rough paper pages. In later years, Anderson opened a small advertising agency and worked as a sign painter. )

Thrilling Comic Book Heroes

Jun 21, 2015 by

Thrilling Comics 1939-1Since late May, we’ve primarily been exploring the pulp magazines of the Thrilling Group on the PulpFest home page. We’ve discussed the Standard sports pulps, western hero pulps, thrilling detectives, and the pulp heroes of the thirties and the forties. We’ve even found time to explore the lives and careers of Standard’s managing editor Leo Margulies and his assistant Mort Weisinger, prolific author Norman Daniels, equally prolific cover artist Rudolph Belarski, and more. Today, we will turn our attention to the Standard Comics line.

Ned Pines was primarily a pulp publisher with nearly four-thousand issues produced from 1931-1958, along with RANCH ROMANCES through 1971. However, Standard was also a second-tier comics firm from 1940 through 1959, with the circulation of the company’s comic books being somewhat limited on the West Coast. When they started hunting for them, comic book collectors found the Standard Comics to be much scarcer than pulps from Standard, especially given the firm’s prolific publication of science fiction and western pulps.

The firm’s costumed heroes were published only from 1940 through 1949, then made no appearances anywhere–except in fanzines–until a few AC reprints began popping up in the 1980s. Not counting westerns, science-fiction, magicians and jungle characters, Standard/Better/Nedor/Four Star/Pines/Visual Editions published only seventeen strips with costumed characters, most of them beginning during the first half of the 1940s. The only two names commonly recognized today are The Black Terror and The Fighting Yank. Therefore, as colorful as they were, the Standard heroes were far less known among Golden Age comic book collectors than were the super heroes from the likes of top-tier publishers DC, Timely, Fawcett, and Quality.

The company’s flagship character was ostensibly Doc Strange, who appeared in 88 stories beginning with THRILLING COMICS #1, dated February 1940, and running through #64, dated February 1948, and in the anthology title AMERICA’S BEST COMICS #1-23 and #27. Created by writer Richard Hughes, later the editor of the American Comics Group, and artist Alexander Kostuke, Doc Strange gained his powers from a magic elixir and was basically a super-powered Doc Savage. He soon began to resemble a weight-lifter in t-shirt and khaki pants. Doc never had his own title, but he was popular enough to hang around longer than most superheroes of the early forties, lasting almost to the end of the decade.

Exciting Comics #9The real flagship, of course, became the colorful Black Terror, who debuted in EXCITING COMICS #9, dated May 1941, running through the last issue, #69, dated September 1949. Along with Tim, the teen partner he acquired, he was essentially a Batman knockoff and gained his powers through drugs — fitting because he was a pharmacist in civilian life. Unlike other publishers, Standard almost never used recurring villains, instead presenting the most generic of all generic super-hero stories. Also created by Hughes, as well as artist Don Gabrielson, The Black Terror was one of two Standard super heroes with his own title, running in #1-27 from 1942 through 1949. He also appeared in all 31 issues of AMERICA’S BEST COMICS, concurrent with his own title, for a total of 174 stories. All three of the comics that ran The Black Terror were canceled in 1949, and a few years later, the company largely departed the comic book market.

The other Standard character with his own title, The Fighting Yank, first appeared in STARTLING COMICS #10, dated September 1941. His adventures ran through STARTLING #49, dated Jan. 1948, along with FIGHTING YANK #1-29 and AMERICA’S BEST COMICS # 9, 11 and #13-25, for a total of 141 stories. A supernaturally created character, he was Standard’s answer to Timely’s Captain America and the many other mainstream Golden Age patriotic heroes. Likewise created by Hughes, along with artist Jon Blummer, the Yank was in “real life” Bruce Carter III, who had an identical ancestor — also named Bruce Carter — in the War for Independence. In times of crisis, the earlier Bruce would manifest himself in spirit form, and help out. It was the Revolutionary War Bruce who showed the World War II Bruce where to find a magic cloak able to protect him from harm and impart super strength. In addition to this green cloak, Bruce III’s Fighting Yank outfit included several 18th century fashion motifs, such as a tri-corner hat and square buckles, and a modern-style American flag on his chest. The series ended in 1949.

Startling Comics #1Standard’s other primary super heroes were Captain Future and Pyroman. Even though he had the same name as an existing Standard pulp hero, Captain Future resembled Superman and Captain Marvel. The character’s adventures ran from STARTLING COMICS #1, dated June 1940, through #40, dated July 1946. He also appeared in AMERICA’S BEST COMICS #1-3, 5 and 22, for 45 stories. The Captain was created by Pines editor Mort Weisinger, whose contribution seems to have been suggesting a hero who would have adventures under that name. Although the author is not known, the original Captain Future story was drawn by Kin Platt, who later co-created Supermouse, the first ongoing funny-animal superhero in comics.

After scientist Andrew Bryant bathes himself in a mixture of gamma and infrared radiation, he can fly, emit bolts of energy from his hands, and perform prodigious feats of strength. Calling himself Captain Future, he wasn’t invulnerable and needed to be recharged from time to time. So he usually kept his radiation machine relatively handy. Although featured on the covers of the first nine issues of STARTLING COMICS, Captain Future was demoted to the back pages of the comic book following the introduction of The Fighting Yank in the tenth issue of the comic magazine.

Pyroman, a quasi-Human Torch with electrical powers, ran in STARTLING COMICS #18-26, 28-43 and in most issues of AMERICA’S BEST COMICS for a total of 43 stories. Created by an unknown writer and artist Jack Binder, Pyroman never had his own title, but did take the cover away from Fighting Yank in December, 1942, when his origin story appeared in STARTLING #18. Dick Martin had been a student of electrical engineering before being framed for arson. Sentenced to die in the electric chair, he got super-powered instead. Pyroman’s powers weren’t exactly flame-based, like The Human Torch’s. Instead, he was crackling with electricity, which he could hurl at his foes in the form of lightning bolts or form into a sort of force field. The character stuck around in STARTLING COMICS until 1947 when he was replaced by Lance Lewis, Space Detective.

Wonder Comics #1There were five other patriotic strips — Standard rivaled Timely for the most involvement in World War II by its super heroes. These were The American Eagle (34 stories, mostly in EXCITING), The American Crusader (22 stories, mostly in THRILLING), The Liberator (22 stories, mostly in EXCITING), The Four Comrades (a kid group who appeared only in World War II era issues of STARTLING) and The Grim Reaper (19 stories, all but two in WONDER COMICS #1-17).

Standard had two early non-powered costume heroes — The Mask (only in EXCITING #1-20) and The Woman in Red (primarily in THRILLING). The Mask was the comic book version of The Black Bat, a pulp hero created by writer Norman Daniels for Standard’s BLACK BOOK DETECTIVE. Due to the resemblance of the character to Batman, Standard decided not to do a Black Bat comic series; instead it introduce The Mask, a series based on The Black Bat, but with the names changed. Later, a version of The Phantom Detective from the pulps appeared in most issues of THRILLING #53-70. The other noteworthy non-powered costume hero was Miss Masque, who appeared in sixteen stories in four titles, beginning with EXCITING #51 (Sept. 1946). The Scarab and The Cavalier also made a handful of appearances, but were strictly back-of-the-book characters.

Wonderman, a science-fictional super-powered character, debuted in the short-lived MYSTERY COMICS #1-4 (all 1944) and continued in WONDER COMICS #9-20, along with two stories in the giant COMPLETE BOOK OF COMICS AND FUNNIES (a 1944 one-shot). William F. Wise sub-published several comics for Standard during the era of wartime paper restrictions, including MYSTERY COMICS and two giant square bound one-shot titles in 1944.

Not counting the William F. Wise issues, Standard published only seven titles with costumed heroes. All were at least reasonably successful, including the twenty issues of WONDER COMICS from 1944-1948. The cover art, almost entirely by Alex Schomburg, doubtless had much to do with selling the comics, as most of the interior art was unremarkable. All titles ran bi-monthly or quarterly during most of the 1940s, with a short run of monthly issues for THRILLING, STARTLING, and EXCITING until paper rationing took hold.

Supermouse #1The only super heroes Standard published in the 1950s were mighty mice — the original World War II creation Supermouse, who ran through 1958, and Paul Terry’s Mighty Mouse. Standard acquired the license from St. John in the mid-1950s.

As part of its celebration of the Thrilling Group, PulpFest 2015 is proud to welcome Altus Press publisher and 2012 Munsey Award winner Matt Moring; 1979 Lamont Award winner and author of “The Wild Adventures of Doc Savage and Tarzan” Will Murray; pop culture expert and 2014 Inkpot Award winner Michelle Nolan; and popular culture Professor Garyn G. Roberts, who was awarded the Munsey in 2013, for a presentation entitled “Thrilling Heroes of Standard’s Pulps and Comics.” Scheduled for Friday evening, August 14th, at 10:40 PM, it will examine the evolution of the Standard hero in both pulp magazines and comic books. Thrilling’s heroes of the detective and western genres will be dissected on Thursday, August 13th.

Our discussion of Standard’s heroes began on Friday, June 19th, to call attention to this “Thrilling Presentation!!!” You can read our previous posts about the Thrilling pulp heroes of the thirties and forties by visiting  www.pulpfest.com.

(Doc Strange, a super-powered Doc Savage, headlined the first issue of THRILLING COMICS, dated February 1940, and featuring cover artwork drawn by Alexander Kostuk.

The Black Terror was introduced in the ninth issue of EXCITING COMICS, dated May 1941. The front cover was drawn by Elmer Wexler. The character was created by writer Richard Hughes and artist Alexander Kostuke. The Black Terror was one of two Standard super heroes with his own title. The other was The Fighting Yank, likewise created by Hughes, along with artist Jon Blummer.

That’s the comic book Captain Future on the cover of STARTLING COMICS #1, dated June 1940. The cover artist was Kin Platt, who also drew the first Captain Future comic book story. A character who resembled Superman and Captain Marvel, the comic book version of Captain Future was nothing like the character found in the pulps, created by Edmond Hamilton.

Created by writer Richard Hughes and artist Al Camy, The Grim Reaper was one of a seeming army of non-superpowered masked mystery men who fought crime and the Axis during the forties using only their wits, fists, and, in the case of The Grim Reaper, two .45 automatic pistols, knives, swords, and occasionally machine-guns. Alex Schomburg was the cover artist featured on the first issue of WONDER COMICS, illustrating The Grim Reaper story that headed the issue. Debuting in FIGHTING YANK #7, dated February 1944, The Grim Reaper had to wait until the second issue of WONDER COMICS to have his origin story told.

Ned Pines was one of many pulp magazine publishers who got into comic books the minute he saw what success DC Comics was having with Superman. Like most, he entered the field with a bunch of anthology titles anchored by super heroes. He started diversifying the minute it began to look like the public might be getting tired of that genre. In 1942 and 1943, he introduced a couple of humor titles for kids, HAPPY COMICS and COO COO COMICS. It was in the first issue of the latter, dated October, 1942, that Supermouse made his debut. Supermouse went on to become one of the most successful funny animal superheroes to come out of comic books. Although COO COO fell by the wayside in 1952, Supermouse had gotten his own comic in 1948 and kept at it until Fall 1958, about a year before Pines completely dropped his line of comic books. Among the writers and artists to work on the character were Dan Gordon (creator of The Flintstones), Richard Hughes (creator of Herbie), Gene Fawcette (who worked for Quality Comics, Dell and many other publishers), and Milton Stein (who worked as an assistant animator for Fleischer in the 1940s). The cover art for SUPERMOUSE #1, dated December 1948, was drawn by Carl Wessler.

Many thanks to Michelle Nolan, Don Markstein’s TOONOPEDIA, Comic Book +, and Comic Vine for their help with this article.)

 

Thrilling Pulp Heroes of the Forties

Jun 20, 2015 by

Shadow33-08-01In the spring of 1931, THE SHADOW MAGAZINE was introduced to readers by Street & Smith Publications and proved an instant hit. Within a few short years, all of the leading pulp magazine publishers hoped to emulate its success by introducing their own hero pulps. The first to the starting gate would be Ned Pines’ Standard Magazines, the pulp chain that will be feted at this year’s PulpFest in Columbus, Ohio.

The first of the so-called hero pulps inspired by Walter Gibson’s “Dark Avenger” was THE PHANTOM DETECTIVE, launched in early 1933. Later that same year, Standard followed with the first air war hero magazine, THE LONE EAGLE. Next came G-MEN, the first pulp magazine to capitalize on growing popularity of J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI agents. Thrilling closed the thirties by introducing the heroic adventures of the Black Bat to readers of BLACK BOOK DETECTIVE MAGAZINE, a pulp that had been around nearly as long as the company’s first hero pulp, D. L. Champion’s THE PHANTOM DETECTIVE.

In 1939, while attending the first World Science Fiction Convention in New York City, Standard Magazines’ editor-in-chief, Leo Margulies, “was so overcome by the sincerity of the fans,” that he and editor Mort Weisinger immediately began to work up an idea for a new kind of fantasy magazine. The result of those discussions was CAPTAIN FUTURE, a hero pulp that premiered at the beginning of 1940.

40-01 Captain FutureOr so the story goes. In actuality, the Thrilling Group’s editorial staff had been batting around ideas for a science-fictional single-character magazine for about a year, even asking long-time Standard author Edmond Hamilton to work something up involving a “Mr. Future, Wizard of Science.” Eventually, this character evolved into Captain Future, a super-scientist with laboratories and a residence on the Moon. In each issue of the pulp, Hamilton’s Captain and his faithful assistants pretty much would save the solar system from desolation at the hands of this villain or that. The novels were fairly juvenile space-opera. CAPTAIN FUTURE ran until the spring of 1944, surviving for seventeen issues with Edmond Hamilton at the helm for all but one. In 1945-46, three additional Captain Future novels ran in STARTLING STORIES, with Hamilton writing two of them and Manly Wade Wellman one. Seven shorter works followed in 1950, all written by Hamilton. Popular Library reprinted thirteen of the Captain’s adventures in paperback in the late sixties. Today, specialty publisher Haffner Press is collecting the entire series into quality hardbound volumes.

40-01 Ghost Super-DetectivePremiering around the same time as the good captain, THE GHOST, SUPER-DETECTIVE was a short-lived hero pulp that ran for just seven issues, even though, during its abbreviated life, it went through two title changes. It became THE GHOST DETECTIVE in the summer of 1940 and THE GREEN GHOST DETECTIVE in the winter of 1941. Whatever the name, this pulp hero was actually George Chance, a professional magician who decided to use his skills of prestidigitation to fight crime. As The Ghost, Green Ghost, or whatever, Chance took on the guise of a ghoul. As the late Robert Sampson wrote: “His face is bloodless white, the eyes sunk deep in blotched hollows. The nostrils gape wide. Yellow teeth fill a distended mouth. In short, he looks like a dead man, a staring corpse. These features appear by night, glowing with dim luminescence, to the confusion of the underworld.” After the pulp was cancelled in 1941, the character returned in a series of a six short stories that ran in THRILLING MYSTERY from 1942 through 1944. The entire series, both novels and short stories, was written by G. T. Fleming-Roberts. It has been reprinted by The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box as part of its LOST TREASURES FROM THE PULPS library. A prolific author, Fleming-Roberts wrote other single-character adventures including Secret Agent “X,” The Black Hood, Dan Fowler, and Captain Zero. He also penned two other magician-detective series—the Diamondstone tales for POPULAR DETECTIVE and the Jeffery Wren yarns for DIME DETECTIVE.

Air War 1940-FallThe adventures of Captain Danger were told in AIR WAR, a companion to SKY FIGHTERS, THE LONE EAGLE, and other Thrilling aviation pulps. The magazine debuted during the fall of 1940 and ran for a total of nineteen issues. Credited to Lieutenant Scott Morgan, a house name, the tales of Allen Danger, a soldier of fortune who dedicated his life to helping the downtrodden, appeared in the first fifteen issues of the Standard pulp magazine. Described as a demon of the skies, his missions took him across the globe, delivering aerial justice against the Axis powers. According to pulp historian Don Hutchison, the series was created by Robert Sidney Bowen. However, at least seven of the stories–including the last yarn in the Spring 1944 issue–are known to be the work of Norman Daniels.

40-10 Masked DetectiveThe last of Standard Magazines’ line of non-western single-character pulps, THE MASKED DETECTIVE, also reached newsstands in the fall of 1940. The title character was the alter ego of crime reporter Rex Parker, a laid-back newshawk who worked for a New York newspaper. When not tracking down news for his paper, he battled crime as The Masked Detective. A student of kick-boxing, the detective “wore a neat black suit, gray shirt, dark bow tie, black hat, and a black mask covering his eyes, forehead, and nose. He wore specially built shoes with square, hard toes. He was also a master of ju-jitsu, a good shot, a trained boxer, a makeup artist, and a ventriloquist.” Author credit went to C. K. M. Scanlon, a house name. Norman Daniels is known to have written at least five of the stories. THE MASKED DETECTIVE ran for twelve issues, lasting into the spring of 1943.

Scattered throughout Standard’s anthology titles are other so-called pulp heroes including The Crimson Mask. Attributed to Frank Johnson, the series was largely written by the prolific Daniels. The Mask was the alter ego of pharmacist Robert Clarke, a man seeking revenge against the criminals who had murdered his father. Aided by a small group of friends, the Crimson Mask battled gangsters, kidnappers, and Nazi spy rings through sixteen stories. The series ran in Thrilling’s DETECTIVE NOVELS MAGAZINE, debuting in the August 1940 issue and running through the April 1944 number. The Mask’s stories usually alternated with Daniels’ own Candid Camera Kid yarns, introduced in the June 1939 issue. The first five Crimson Mask stories have been reprinted by Altus Press.

Exciting Detective 41-FallEXCITING DETECTIVE premiered during the fall of 1940, promising “fast-moving, dynamite-packed, up-to-the-minute novels, novelettes, and stories that carry a high-powered punch!” It ran for a total of fifteen issues, ending with its Summer 1943 number, a victim of wartime paper rationing. Appearing in four of its issues–beginning with the Fall 1941 number–was Miles Murdock, a plastic surgeon also known as The Purple Scar. Attributed to John S. Endicott, the stories are thought to be the work of pulp writer George A. McDonald. A “grim nemesis of evil,” The Purple Scar was a master of disguise who spoke in a “hoarse whispering, rather chilling, tomb-like voice.” He wore a purple mask to imitate his murdered brother’s features, scarred by acid and submerged in water. “Purple becomes black at night, which makes my face invisible instead of betraying it as a pale glow in the darkness.” All four of The Scar’s stories have been reprinted by Altus Press.

Debuting in the May 1941 issue of THRILLING ADVENTURES, Henry Kuttner’s Thunder Jim Wade was a short-lived character who is usually written off as a Doc Savage clone. Published under the house name of Charles Stoddard, Wade was raised in a lost colony of Crete where he developed various mental and physical abilities. A roving troubleshooter operating off of a secret island in the South Pacific, Jim is alerted to problems through agents scattered across the globe. Helped by two assistants–Red Argyle and Dirk Marat–Thunder Jim starred in five adventures published in consecutive issues of the Standard pulp magazine. All have been reprinted in a single volume published by Altus Press, entitled THUNDER JIM WADE: THE COMPLETE SERIES.

Thrilling Mystery 41-11Although the bulk of the Dr. Zeng Tse-Lin stories were co-written by W. T. Ballard and Robert Leslie Bellem and published in POPULAR DETECTIVE, the first story of the series–“Fangs of Doom”–ran in the November 1941 issue of THRILLING MYSTERY. An allegedly Chinese crimefighter who is actually the son of white missionary parents, Zeng was assisted by Lai Hu Chow, a Chinese man who wears an artificial leg in which he can carry weapons and other useful items. The entire series has been reprinted by Altus Press. Dr. Zeng will also be explored during our PulpFest presentation, “Thrilling Detectives,” taking place on Thursday, August 13th, at 8:40 PM.

As part of its celebration of the Thrilling Group, PulpFest 2015 is proud to welcome Altus Press publisher and 2012 Munsey Award winner Matt Moring; 1979 Lamont Award winner and author of “The Wild Adventures of Doc Savage and Tarzan” Will Murray; pop culture expert and 2014 Inkpot Award winner Michelle Nolan; and popular culture Professor Garyn G. Roberts, who was awarded the Munsey in 2013, for a presentation entitled “Thrilling Heroes of Standard’s Pulps and Comics.” Scheduled for Friday evening, August 14th, at 10:40 PM, it will examine the evolution of the Standard hero in both pulp magazines and comic books. Thrilling’s heroes of the detective and western genres will be dissected on Thursday, August 13th.

Our discussion of Standard’s heroes began on Friday, June 19th, to call attention to this “Thrilling Presentation!!!” You can read our previous post about the Thrilling pulp heroes of the thirties by visiting  www.pulpfest.com. On Sunday, we’ll turn our attention to the comic book heroes of Standard, Better, Nedor, and Visual Editions.

(George Rozen’s painting for the August 1, 1933 issue of THE SHADOW MAGAZINE is perhaps one of the artist’s most iconic images of Walter Gibson’s “Dark Avenger.” Born 110 years ago in October 1895, Rozen and his twin brother, Jerome, were both pulp artists. George’s first published assignments were covers and interior pen-and-ink story illustrations for Fawcett magazines. In 1931, he replaced his brother as the cover artist for Street & Smith’s THE SHADOW MAGAZINE. George Rozen became the pulp’s most renowned cover artist, while his brother branched out into the more prestigious fields of advertising and slick magazines.

As time passed, George Rozen continued to work for the pulp industry, selling cover art to all of the major publishers including Popular and the Thrilling Group. For Ned Pines, Rozen painted adventure, detective (such as the first issue of THE MASKED DETECTIVE, dated Fall 1940), western, war, and even science-fiction covers, including the first issue of CAPTAIN FUTURE, dated January 1940. As the pulp market began to contract, his work was increasingly found on paperbacks from Popular Library and Ace.

While training for the priesthood in his native Puerto Rico, Rafael de Soto began taking private art lessons with a local artist. He emigrated to the United States in 1923 and soon found work at an advertising company. He began to draw interior story illustrations for Street & Smith’s western pulp magazines in 1930. Two years later, he started to sell freelance cover paintings to all the major pulp magazine publishers including Clayton, Dell, Fiction House, Popular, Street & Smith, and the Thrilling Group. It was de Soto who created the cover art for the first issue of THE GHOST SUPER-DETECTIVE, dated January 1940. He continued to produce pulp covers up until the demise of the industry during the 1950s. He also sold freelance illustrations to slick magazines, many paperback book covers, and covers and interior story illustrations for men’s adventure magazines. Rafael de Soto retired from freelance illustration in 1964 and began teaching art at the State University of New York, Farmingdale. He taught art for the rest of his life and embarked on a very successful career as a portrait artist.

Although some have attributed the front cover art for the first issue of AIR WAR, dated Fall 1940, to Harold William McCauley, who primarily worked as a staff artist for the Chicago-based Ziff-Davis publishing house, the painting does not resemble the artist’s usual work. It seems hard to imagine that Standard Publications would launch a new title with an untried free-lance cover artist living in Chicago, who they had never worked with before. Unless proven otherwise, the cover artist for this particular issue of AIR WAR is not known.

Ernest Chiriacka provided the cover illustrations for both the Fall 1940 issue of EXCITING DETECTIVE (featuring the premier of The Purple Scar series) and the November 1941 issue of THRILLING MYSTERY (which featured E. Hoffmann Price’s “Fangs of Doom,” the start of the Dr. Zeng series). Chiriacka’s first published story illustrations appeared in 1939 in Street & Smith’s LOVE STORY MAGAZINE. During the 1940s, he began selling freelance pulp covers to a variety of magazines including ADVENTURE, BLACK BOOK DETECTIVE, DETECTIVE FICTION WEEKLY, DIME WESTERN, G-MEN DETECTIVE, THE PHANTOM DETECTIVE, STAR WESTERN, SWEETHEART STORIES, TEXAS RANGERS, and WESTERN ACES. In 1950, he joined the American Artists Agency and began a successful career as a slick magazine illustrator. He also painted many paperback covers up until 1965. Afterward, he retired from commerical illustration to concentrate on painting visionary landscapes of the Old West.)

 

Up, Up, and Away! Mort Weisinger at 100!

Apr 25, 2015 by

Thrilling Wonder 36-08Some time in 1936, Hugo Gernsback sold the last magazine of his so-called “Wonder Group” to Ned Pines’ Standard Magazines. Following its disappearance from newsstands for a few months, the rechristened THRILLING WONDER STORIES returned to the racks in the summer of 1936 with its first issue dated August.

Whereas Gernsback’s WONDER STORIES had strived to publish scientifically plausible stories, the new Standard pulp was aimed at the youth market, emphasizing action and adventure. It featured stories about mad scientists, alien invasions, and space operas. The first eight issues of the new magazine even included a comic strip chronicling the adventures of Zarnak, drawn by Jack Binder.

The editor of the new THRILLING WONDER STORIES was Mort Weisinger, a former literary agent and young science-fiction fan who had co-edited SCIENCE FICTION DIGEST/FANTASY MAGAZINE, one of the leading fanzines of its day. Employing authors such as Arthur K. Barnes, John W. Campbell, Ray Cummings, Paul Ernst, Edmond Hamilton, Otis Adelbert Kline, Henry Kuttner, Jack Williamson, and Arthur Leo Zagat to create blood-and-thunder stories similar to those found in WEIRD TALES and the Clayton ASTOUNDING STORIES, Weisinger was able to increase Standard’s market share of the science-fiction pulp market. Within a few years, he had added CAPTAIN FUTURE, STARTLING STORIES, and STRANGE STORIES to the “Thrilling” line of pulp magazines.

Mortimer Weisinger, who would have been one-hundred years old today, left Standard in 1941 to become editor of the SUPERMAN comic book and, eventually, other titles for National Periodical Publications. He soon recruited pulp authors Alfred Bester, Otto Binder , H. L. Gold, Edmond Hamilton, and Manly Wade Wellman to write for his magazines.

Although far from universally admired, Mort Weisinger was an important part of the history of Standard Magazines. This summer, PulpFest 2015 will salute Ned Pines’ “Thrilling Group” of pulp magazines and comic books. Also known as Beacon Magazines, Best Books, Better Publications, Nedor Publishing, and others, we hope that you’ll be part of our celebration from August 13 – August 16 at the Hyatt Regency in beautiful, downtown Columbus, Ohio. Click here to learn how to register for “Summer’s Great Pulp Con” and join your friends at the “pop culture center of the universe” for a salute to Ned Pines and the “Thrilling Group!”

(The August 1936, the first issue of THRILLING WONDER STORIES to be edited by Mort Weisinger, featured stories by Eando Binder, Ray Cummings, Paul Ernst, Otis Adelbert Kline, A. Merritt, Stanley G. Weinbaum, Weisinger, and Arthur Leo Zagat. There was also a comic strip by Jack Binder, credited to “Max Plaisted.” The magazine’s emphasis on action and adventure, often represented on the cover by creatures with a bizarre appearance, gave rise to the term “bug-eyed-monster,” generally abbreviated as “BEM.” The artist who painted this particular BEM is not known.)

Captain Future, Man of Tomorrow

Jun 9, 2014 by

Captain Future 40-WIn addition to the explosive growth of the science-fiction pulp market, 1939 was also the year of the first World Science Fiction Convention. According to a story related by science-fiction scholar Sam Moskowitz, Standard Magazines’ editor-in-chief, Leo Margulies and Mort Weisinger came up with “a new idea in fantasy magazines” at the convention. It was Captain Future, a science-fiction hero pulp that premiered at year’s end.

In actuality, Standard’s editorial staff had been batting around ideas for a science-fictional single-character magazine for months, even asking long-time pulpster Edmond Hamilton to work up something involving a “Mr. Future, Wizard of Science.”  Eventually, the character evolved into Captain Future, a super-scientist headquartered on the Moon. In each issue of the pulp, Hamilton’s hero and his faithful assistants—known as the Futuremen—would save the solar system and, in later issues, the universe. Although action-packed and entertaining, the novels were juvenile space operas.

Startling Stories 50-01Captain Future ran until the spring of 1944, surviving for seventeen issues with Edmond Hamilton writing fifteen of the lead novels. In 1945-46, three more Captain Future adventures appeared in Startling Stories. Hamilton wrote two of them and Manly Wade Wellman one. Seven shorter works followed in 1950, all of them written by Hamilton for Startling Stories. In the late sixties, Popular Library reprinted thirteen of the Captain’s adventures in paperback. Specialty publisher Haffner Press is currently collecting the entire series in hardcover.

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

Captain Future has proved very popular throughout the world with an animated television series being produced in Japan and exported to other nations. Additionally, there have been hundreds of comic books featuring the characters published in both French and German. Captain Future figurines, models, board games, drinking glasses, and other merchandise have also appeared.