125 Years of Chris Schaare

Jul 5, 2018 by

Born on July 5, 1893, Christian Schaare was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. After moving with his family to West Hoboken, New Jersey, Schaare trained as an engraver’s assistant and a graphic designer. According to pulp scholar and art historian David Saunders, Schaare began selling freelance cover art to a variety of pulp magazines in 1925. His work was used by ACE-HIGH, AIR STORIES, AIRPLANE STORIES, ALL-AMERICAN SPORTS, COMPLETE SKY NOVEL, GUN MOLLS, LARIAT STORY, MASKED RIDER, NAVY STORIES, SKY RIDERS, WAR BIRDS, WAR STORIES, and others. He continued to work for the pulps until 1940.

Beginning in 1932, Schaare began a long series of covers for THE RING, a boxing magazine. He continued to work for the title into the 1950s. During this period, the artist also started working as a penciler and inker for comic books. His work appeared in Fawcett’s WOW COMICS, Holyoke’s BLUE BEETLE, Continental’s CAT-MAN COMICS, and other titles. From 1945 until 1960, Schaare worked as packaging design artist for The American Can Company. He produced several iconic advertising images, including the logos for Maxwell House Coffee and Sunoco.

(PulpFest 2018 will honor the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended the First World War. The convention will focus on the so-called “war pulps” of the early twentieth century and the depiction of war in popular culture. As part of our WWI programming, David Saunders will discuss the artists of the war pulps, including Chris Schaare.

From early 1928 through late 1930, C. R. Schaare painted at least fifteen covers for Dell Publishing’s WAR STORIES and its companions, WAR BIRDS and NAVY STORIES. He also contributed at least seven covers for Dell’s aviation title, SKY RIDERS. Although his covers sometimes had a humorous bent — such as the “Sausages” cover for the July 5, 1928 WAR STORIES — they often depicted soldiers in hand-to-hand combat. Chris Schaare died in 1980, at the age of eighty-six.)

Happy 125th George Delacorte!

Jun 20, 2018 by

PulpFest 2018 will honor the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended the First World War. The convention will focus on the so-called “war pulps” of the early twentieth century and the depiction of war in popular culture. The first of these pulps — WAR STORIES — was published by today’s birthday boy, George Thomas Delacorte. Born on June 20, 1893 in Brooklyn, New York, Delacorte was the founder of the Dell Publishing Company.

Following his dismissal from William Clayton’s SNAPPY STORIES MAGAZINE in 1920, Delacorte began his publishing company. His first periodical was I, CONFESS, a confession pulp modeled after Bernarr Macfadden’s TRUE STORY MAGAZINE. Debuting in early 1922, it has been called “the most prominent of the confession pulps.” It lasted for over 200 issues.

Seeking to duplicate the success of I CONFESS, Dell continued to issue love-themed confessional titles over the next three years: CUPID’S DIARY in 1923, MARRIAGE STORIES in 1924and SWEETHEART STORIES in 1925. WESTERN ROMANCES came a few years later, debuting in late 1929. Over half of Dell’s total pulp output was in the love and confessional field.

In 1926, Dell swung to the other side of the spectrum with WAR STORIES, the first of the “war pulps.” Featuring authors such as Larry Barretto, Robert Sidney Bowen, Harold F. Cruickshank, George Fielding Eliot, Steuart Emery, Arthur Guy Empey, Robert H. Leitfred, Ralph Oppenheim, Alexis Rossoff, and Raoul Whitfield, WAR STORIES demonstrated that tales about soldiers in battle could sell magazines.

Fawcett Publications was next to the trough when it launched BATTLE STORIES in the fall of 1927. Although Fiction House’s WINGS came next, it was a general aviation fiction magazine along the lines of AIR STORIES, the pulp that had introduced the air genre. In the spring of 1931, WINGS would gain a new subtitle: “Fighting Aces of War Skies.” Only then would it follow ACES — another Fiction House title, introduced in late 1928 — into the skies over the Western Front.

Dell copied itself in early 1928 with two new titles: WAR NOVELS and WAR BIRDS, the first magazine in the “air war pulps” field. It was soon joined by A. A. Wyn’s FLYING ACES — published by Ace — and the previously mentioned ACES. Street & Smith would join the fray with OVER THE TOP, while Harold Hersey came on board with UNDER FIRE MAGAZINE. The field became a bit more specialized in the early months of 1929 when Dell introduced NAVY STORIES, while Ramer issued ZEPPELIN STORIES. Later that same year, Dell began offering SUBMARINE STORIES. In the spring 0f 1930, Delacorte would debut the last of his war pulps, WAR ACES.

The new kids on the block — Popular Publications and Standard Magazines — would enter the battlefield in the early thirties. Popular’s BATTLE ACES — the forerunner of the hero pulp, G-8 AND HIS BATTLE ACES — was launched during the fall of 1930. It was followed by DARE-DEVIL ACES in early 1932 and BATTLE BIRDS at the end of the same year. The Thrilling Group took off in mid-1932 with SKY FIGHTERS. About a year later, it beat Popular to the first air war hero pulp when it debuted THE LONE EAGLE with its September 1933 issue.

Most of Dell’s war titles shut down during the early years of the Great Depression. Only WAR BIRDS lasted beyond 1932. Although one can blame the rise of fascism in Europe and the early glimpses of the coming war, their demise was largely due to the increasing success of Delacorte’s non-pulp titles — BALLYHOO, INSIDE DETECTIVE, MODERN ROMANCES, MODERN SCREEN, and SCREEN STORIES — and his puzzle and activity books such as DELL CROSSWORD PUZZLES. Delacorte was also experimenting with the new comics medium, publishing a tabloid called THE FUNNIES in 1929. In 1938, Dell formed a very successful partnership with Western Publishing to finance and distribute their comic books. “Best known for its licensed material, most notably the animated characters from Walt Disney Productions, Warner Bros., Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and Walter Lantz Studio,” the Dell/Western partnership controlled about one-third of the total comic book market at its peak during the 1950s.

In early 1942, Dell and Western also launched a paperback line. Once again, Dell provided the financing and distribution and Western offered the paper and printing. Largely consisting of genre fiction — particularly mysteries — about 25 million Dell paperbacks were sold annually by the end of the forties. Its reprinting of PEYTON PLACE in September 1957, “put Dell on the map.” In 1963, Delacorte Press was created to assure a steady stream of material for Dell paperbacks. Robert B. Parker, Irwin Shaw, Danielle Steel, and Kurt Vonnegut were some of the authors who signed with the company.

In 1971, George Delacorte sold Dell Publishing to Doubleday and retired from publishing. He died in 1991 at the age of ninety-seven.

(George Delacorte, founder of the Dell Publishing Company, was the first to demonstrate that tales of soldiers and battle could sell magazines. His WAR STORIES — introduced in 1926 — was the first of the war pulps. The magazine used some of the pulp field’s leading writers for its fiction and some of its best artists — including Julius “Jules” Erbit, who painted the cover for the March 1, 1928 issue — for its cover art. PulpFest will explore the war pulps and the depiction of war in popular culture at this year’s convention.

Although never a major player in the pulp industry, Dell would become a leading force in publishing. Its humor, crime, and movie magazines, puzzle and activity books, and comic books and paperbacks — such as Philip Ketchum’s DEATH IN THE LIBRARY (Dell Book #1) with cover art by William Strohmer — would turn Dell into a powerhouse in publishing. In later years, it became the publisher of bestselling authors Robert B. Parker, Irwin Shaw, Danielle Steel, and Kurt Vonnegut, among others.)


Life and Death on the Front Lines: The War Comics

May 11, 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.

Although the pulps played a very important role in the evolution of American popular culture, they had essentially disappeared by the early fifties. While some continued in the smaller digest format, the rough paper magazines were killed by competition from paperback books, radio, television, movies, and comic books.

Just as the pulps had hesitated to revisit the battlefields of World War I, the comics medium at first shied away from the theme. Once again, it was Dell Publishing that tried its hand at the war genre. It launched WAR COMICS in 1940. The book ran for just eight issues.

The fight against the Axis powers and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor led more publishers to the war genre. With comic book superheroes such as Captain America and Daredevil slugging it out with the Führer and Hirohito, publishers launched four-color comics with military themes. AIR FIGHTERS COMICS, BOY COMMANDOS, DEVIL DOG COMICS, MILITARY COMICS, RANGERS COMICS, WAR HEROES, WINGS COMICS, and others were soon battling for newsstand space. The Korean War created a similar uptick as Atlas, Avon, Charlton, DC, Dell, Fawcett, Quality, St. John, and others entered the fray during the 1950s. The best of all was EC Comics. Although it published only a trio of titles, ACES HIGH, FRONTLINE COMBAT, and TWO-FISTED TALES towered above the competition.

Join PulpFest 2018 on Thursday, July 26, at 10 PM as Michelle Nolan explores the depiction of war in the four-color format at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry. Using images selected by her friend Bob Carter, Michelle will discuss the many costumed and military heroes who battled fascism during World War II. She’ll examine the “true” type of comics, the humor books such as DEVIL DOG DUGAN and SGT. BILKO, and how war comics exploded during the Korean War. She’ll compare and contrast DC and Marvel — the leading publishers of war comics during the 1950s, talk about the explosion of Charlton war comics in the 1960s, and dissect the artistic success of Harvey Kurtzman’s war titles for EC.

You’ll get all of this, plus a ten-dollar discount off the daily admission at Confluence, Pittsburgh’s long-running science fiction, fantasy and horror conference if you choose to attend both conventions. You can join PulpFest by clicking the Register for 2018 button on our home page. And while you’re at our site, you can book a room at the DoubleTree. They’re going fast!

(Although tales of war have been with us since ancient times, the comic book industry only began to explore the war genre during the early years of World War II. Hence, four-color stories of the Great War were few and far between. Some of the best appeared in EC Comics’ ACES HIGH. Launched in 1955 and lasting five issues, the book featured the work of Jack Davis, Bernard Krigstein, Wally Wood, and air war pulp enthusiast George Evans. The latter drew all of the covers — including the September/October 1955 issue — and the lead stories of each issue of the comic.

A mainstream journalist for more than fifty years, Michelle Nolan has also covered the history of genre fiction in pulps, comics, books and films in more than 1,000 magazine, newspaper and book articles. She is the author of the definitive “LOVE ON THE RACKS: A HISTORY OF AMERICAN ROMANCE COMICS and BALL TALES: A STUDY OF BASEBALL, BASKETBALL AND FOOTBALL FICTION OF THE 1930s THROUGH 1960s. In 2014, Michelle received an Inkpot Award from Comic-Con International: San Diego for her contributions to the worlds of comics, science fiction and fantasy, film, television, and animation.)