H. J. Ward, Superman Artist

Mar 4, 2019 by

Normally, when we think of Superman’s artists, people such as Wayne Boring, John Byrne, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, Dan Jurgens, Alex Ross, Joe Schuster, and Curt Swan come to mind. Why doesn’t pulp artist, H. J. Ward pop into our heads?

Born on March 8, 1909, Ward studied at the Philadelphia School of Industrial Art. His first sale was made to Teck Publishing’s WILD WEST STORIES AND COMPLETE NOVEL MAGAZINE in 1931. According to artist and art historian David Saunders, “Sensational pulp covers by H. J. Ward were soon appearing on ACE-HIGH WESTERN, ARGOSY, DOUBLE DETECTIVE” and other rough-paper magazines. Although Ward sold freelance covers to many publishers, most of his work was done for Harry Donenfeld’s Trojan line of Spicy pulps. Ward painted covers for THE LONE RANGER MAGAZINE, PRIVATE DETECTIVE STORIES, SPICY ADVENTURE STORIES, SPICY DETECTIVE STORIES, SPICY MYSTERY STORIES, and other Trojan pulps.

By 1940, Donenfeld had assumed control of National Allied Publications, the publisher of ACTION COMICS, Superman’s home. Around that time, H. J. Ward was paid $100 to create a nearly life-size portrait of The Man of Steel. Ward’s painting was used to promote THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMANa radio show that debuted in New York City on February 12, 1940. The painting hung for many years in Harry Donenfeld’s office at DC Comics, and later, in his townhouse. According to Saunders, it was eventually donated to Lehman College, part of the City University of New York.

As we approach the 110th anniversary of the birth of Superman artist H. J. Ward, we recall that “The Man of Steel” is just one of many “Children of the Pulps.” We hope you’ll join PulpFest 2019 from August 15 – 18 at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry, just north of Pennsylvania’s “Steel City” in Mars, PA. We’ll be celebrating mystery, adventure, science fiction, and more as we focus on the pervasive influence of pulp magazines on pop culture across the globe. Click the “Register” button below our home page banner to learn more about joining “America’s Super Pulp Con!”

(Pulp historian David Saunders learned how the painting “of the guy in a red cape and blue tights came to be hanging in the Lehman College library” while researching his book, H. J. WARD, published in 2012 by The Illustrated Press.

David will be discussing “The Secret Life of Women Pulp Artists” at this year’s PulpFest. We hope you’ll be able to join us on Friday, August 16, for David Saunder’s presentation.)

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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.)

125 Years of the Major

Jan 8, 2015 by

Thrilling Adventures 32-10One of the youngest majors to serve in the United States Calvary, he saw action in Mexico and the Philippines. He also worked as an intelligence officer in the far reaches of Siberia. His experiences around the world would serve him well as he turned to adventure writing during the 1920s. He would create the first original comic book in 1934 and discover Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster and their character, Superman, the Man of Steel. The founder of the company that would become DC Comics, his family still calls him the “old man.”

Born 125 years ago on January 7, 1890 in eastern Tennessee, Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson was also one of the leading adventure fiction writers for the pulp industry. His fiction appeared for nearly twenty-five years in Adventure, Argosy, Battle Stories, Blue Book, Danger Trail, Far East Adventure Stories, The Popular Magazine, The Rio Kid Western, Short Stories, Soldiers of Fortune, Thrilling Adventures, Top-Notch, War Stories, and many other pulp magazines.

In August 2015, PulpFest will be paying tribute to Standard Magazines, also known as the “Thrilling” line of pulps, one of the “old man’s” leading markets. Launched by Ned Pines and Leo Margulies in late 1931, the Thrilling Group of magazines was one of the leaders of the pulp industry for many years. This was due in part to its writers; men such as Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson, soon to be the subject of a new book entitled Lost Hero.

Join PulpFest 2015 in mid-August for its salute to Ned Pines’ “Thrilling” line. The convention will be held at the Hyatt Regency in beautiful downtown Columbus, Ohio, beginning on Thursday, August 13th and running through Sunday, August 16th. We’ll be announcing more about the convention as we flesh out the details in the months ahead.

The artwork above is the front cover to the October 1932 issue of Thrilling Adventures, published by Standard Magazines. The illustration, by Jerry George Janes, is for Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson’s “The Scourge of Islam. You can learn more about the Major by visiting the Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson website by clicking here.”