John Fleming Gould, Pulp Illustrator

Jun 6, 2018 by

At this year’s convention, PulpFest 2018 will honor the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended the First World War. Our programming will focus on the so-called “war pulps” of the early twentieth century and the depiction of war in popular culture.

The war pulps would become a substantial category in the rough-paper industry — particularly those specializing in stories about the air war. These ranged from realistic tales “about men suffering real emotions flying real planes in real situations” to humorous “howlers” and fantasy versions of The Great War. Regardless of the story type, one of the leading artists of the air war field was interior illustrator John Fleming Gould.

Working as a free-lance artist in the rough paper field, Gould created over 15,000 published illustrations for such pulp magazines as ADVENTURE, ASTOUNDING STORIES, BLUE BOOK, CLUES DETECTIVE, COWBOY STORIES, DANGER TRAILS, and 10-STORY WESTERN.  Although best remembered for his interior illustrations for THE SPIDER, OPERATOR #5, and DIME DETECTIVE, John Fleming Gould was also an accomplished aviation artist. He sold interior illustrations to Dell’s WAR BIRDS, Fiction House’s ACES, AIR STORIES, and WINGS, and to Harry Steeger’s BATTLE ACES. When Popular Publications converted the latter to G-8 AND HIS BATTLE ACES in late 1933, Gould was ready. He created every interior illustration for the magazine through 1941, when he left the pulp field.

Although John Gould destroyed most of his original art when he left New York City in 1950, he saved over 3000 magazine tear sheets and many sketches that were used in preliminary compositions. Additionally, he kept notebooks that contained story titles, their publishers, and how much he was paid for each illustration. Gould also saved correspondence that complimented the depth and clarity of his story illustrations, revealing a great deal about how the artist expressed himself in his work.

Join PulpFest on Friday, July 27, at 9:10 PM as Robert Gould — son of the artist — shares the life and legacy of his father in “John Fleming Gould, Pulp Artist.”

A retired high school and college math instructor, Robert Gould continues to be active in the promotion of his father’s art work. In growing up in the art business, Robert and his brothers were models for their father’s work and saw how the finished art work was developed. Robert and his wife, Loretta, reside in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He is an active volunteer in the American Red Cross and serves on the Board of the Eastern Tennessee American Red Cross.

PulpFest 2018 will also be celebrating the 100th birthday of Philip José Farmer with FarmerCon 100. We’ll be welcoming  Joe Lansdale — the author of over forty novels, numerous short stories, and more — as our Guest of Honor and hosting a rare gallery showing of original art by acclaimed writer-illustrator Mark Wheatley. Additionally, there will be author readings, a great programming line-up, two auctions featuring unique collectibles, and a dealers’ room filled with pulps, digests, and men’s adventure magazines, collectible paintings and illustrations, rare first editions, vintage paperbacks and comic books, unique films and more. PulpFest 2018 begins on Thursday, July 26, and runs through Sunday, July 29 at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry.

You can join both PulpFest and FarmerCon by clicking the Register for 2018 button on the PulpFest home page. And don’t forget to book a room at the DoubleTree while you’re visiting the PulpFest site. They’re going fast!

(In 1930, John Fleming Gould began a long and fruitful relationship with Popular Publications, drawing interior story illustrations for many of their pulp magazines, including this illustration of Robert J. Hogan’s “flying spy,” originally published in G-8 AND HIS BATTLE ACES.)

Fighting Aces of War Skies

May 23, 2018 by

At this year’s convention, PulpFest 2018 will honor the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended the First World War. Our programming will focus on the so-called “war pulps” of the early twentieth century and the depiction of war in popular culture. From the war pulps would sprout an even more specialized category — the air war magazine.

Prior to the introduction of the air war pulp, stories about fighter pilots appeared irregularly in the general fiction magazines. The majority of aviation stories prior to 1930 were unrelated to the Great War. Most air fiction of the period involved daredevil aces and barnstormers, airmail pilots and governments agents, or bootleggers and rum runners. Leading aviation author Thomson Burtis primarily wrote about the Army Air Service guarding America’s borders or tangling with criminals.

Although Fiction House would introduce the first air-oriented pulp magazine — AIR STORIES — it was Dell Publishing that melded the air with the war. The first issue of Dell’s WAR BIRDS hit the stands with its March 1928 number. It was joined about a year later by Fiction House’s ACES. Later came another Dell magazine called WAR ACES, Popular’s BATTLE ACES, BATTLE BIRDS, and DARE-DEVIL ACES, Standard’s SKY FIGHTERS and THE LONE EAGLE, and a variety of George Bruce magazines from Fiction House. The latter would also rebrand WINGS, adding “Fighting Aces of War Skies” to its title bar during the summer of 1931.

The stories in the air war magazines ranged from realistic tales “about men suffering real emotions flying real planes in real situations” to the humorous “howlers” of Phineas Pinkham and Elmer & Pokey to the science fiction versions of the First World War found in Robert J. Hogan’s G-8 AND HIS BATTLE ACES and Donald Keyhoe’s Philip Strange stories for FLYING ACES.

“The air pulps meant different things to different people. They filled the heads of all sorts with Arthurian type heroes. We needed those during the dark days of the Great Depression.”

Join PulpFest on Friday, July 27, at 8:30 PM as award-winning writer and author Don Hutchison moderates a panel on the air war magazines of the pulps. He’ll be joined by graphic designer, illustrator, and pulp premium enthusiast Chris Kalb. Aviation fiction expert Bill Mann will also be along for the flight. With Chris and David Kalb, Bill founded Age of Aces BooksMunsey Award winner and PulpFest marketing and programming director Mike Chomko will round out the panel. With Steve Young, Mike authored a portrait of WINGS for WINDY CITY PULP STORIES #18.

PulpFest 2018 will also be celebrating the 100th birthday of Philip José Farmer with FarmerCon 100. We’ll be welcoming  Joe Lansdale — the author of over forty novels, numerous short stories, and more — as our Guest of Honor and hosting a rare gallery showing of original art by acclaimed writer-illustrator Mark Wheatley. Additionally, there will be author readings, a great programming line-up, two auctions featuring unique collectibles, and a dealers’ room filled with pulps, digests, and men’s adventure magazines, collectible paintings and illustrations, rare first editions, vintage paperbacks and comic books, unique films and more. PulpFest 2018 begins on Thursday, July 26, and runs through Sunday, July 29 at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry.

You can join both PulpFest and FarmerCon by clicking the Register for 2018 button on the PulpFest home page. And don’t forget to book a room at the DoubleTree while you’re visiting the PulpFest site. They’re going fast!

(Fiction House was one of the leading publishers of both aviation pulps and air war magazines. The first of their titles to specialize in stories about the war in the air was ACES. Its first issue was dated January 1929. It ran for fifty-five issues, including the February 1929 number with cover art by F. R. Glass. The Spring 1940 issue was the final number of ACES.

One of the more successful air war magazines was WINGS, also published by Fiction House. Debuting with its January 1928 number, it was originally subtitled “The Magazine of Air-Adventure Stories.” It became an air war title during the summer of 1931. WINGS would run for 133 issues. Its pilots fought in both World Wars as well as the Korean War and in a variety of settings during the early days of the Cold War. The final number of WINGS was dated Summer 1953.)

120 Years of Frederick Blakeslee

Dec 4, 2017 by

Beginning on Thursday evening, July 26, and running through Sunday, July 29, PulpFest 2018 will honor the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War. On November 11, 1918, an armistice was signed that brought more than four years of hostilities to a close. The convention’s focus will be the so-called “war pulps” of the early twentieth century. It will also explore the depiction of war in popular fiction and art.

One of the leading artists who brought The Great War alive for pulp readers was Frederick Blakeslee. Born on December 4, 1898, next year will mark the 120th anniversary of his birth.

Trained in mechanical drafting, Blakeslee began to study art at the Pratt Institute while working for the Curtiss Aeroplane Factory. Among his classmates were Walter Baumhofer, John Fleming Gould, and Rudolph Belarski. The latter helped Frederick Blakeslee to get his first cover assignments for the pulp magazines.

According to pulp art historian David Saunders, “Blakeslee became a leader in the field of aviation pulps, as well as a top cover artist for railroad pulps. He was also a top pen & ink man, who drew over one thousand interior black and white story illustrations for Popular Publications, his primary publisher. Blakeslee painted 423 pulp covers — 306 of those appeared on every issue of BATTLE BIRDS, CAPTAIN COMBAT, DARE-DEVIL ACES, DUSTY AYRES AND HIS BATTLE BIRDS, and G-8 AND HIS BATTLE ACES . . . an amazing feat that no other pulp artist can claim.”

After serving in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve during the Second World War, freelance work became harder to find. Frederick Blakeslee returned to industrial drafting, where he finished his professional career. On March 5, 1973, the artist passed at age 74.

Make your plans to celebrate “The Armistice that Ended The Great War” and “120 Years of Frederick Blakeslee.” We’ll also be celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth of science fiction Grand Master Philip Jose Farmer and welcoming award-winning author Joe Lansdale as our guest of honor.

Please join us July 26 – 29 for PulpFest 2018 at the beautiful DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry, just outside Pennsylvania’s Steel City. We hope to see you there.

(G-8 AND HIS BATTLE ACES debuted with its October 1933 issue. It ran for 110 issues through its June 1944 number. Published by Popular Publications, the magazine featured a lead novel — written by Robert J. Hogan — and cover art by Frederick Blakeslee. John Fleming Gould — a pen-and-ink artist who will also be celebrated at PulpFest 2018 — contributed the interior art.

Blakeslee’s cover for the January 1935 number of G-8 illustrated Hogan’s lead novel, “The X-Ray Eye.” The author’s and artist’s version of World War I took a rather fantastic bent, an idea that will likewise be explored at PulpFest 2018.)