22 Amazing Pulp Covers: Sex-Crazed Pirates, TV Tramps and Hot Dames on Cold Slabs!
For the past 70 years, comic books have often been considered one of the lower forms of popular art, so it's not really a surprise that my love of comics would lead me to an appreciation of the more over-the-top side of commercial illustration. I've mentioned my pure, undying love of the ridiculous art of the VHS box before, but there's one area that combines technical brilliance and lurid subject matter better than any other: The Pulp Cover!
Over the past few days, I've been going through the archives of PulpCovers.com, a site that boasts over three thousand covers from pulp magazines, dime novels, and other fantastic examples of the racy side of illustration. That's why today, I've picked out 23 of my all-time favorites (the safe-for-work ones, anyway) in a gallery of The Most Amazing Pulp Covers Ever!First up, we have AC-DC Sex, which may just be my absolute favorite pulp cover ever. Not just because of its hilarious title and amazing cover blurb promise of "a sizzling charge of hot and heady lust," and not even because of the sexy naked lady on the cover. No, I love this one because those two dolls the sexy naked lady is cradling to her bosom are Ernie Bushmiller's Nancy and Sluggo:
In this istallment of Startling Stories, we finally find out why there are so many sci-fi yarns where someone talks about how his first love is the stars, because as it turns out, the stars are a sexy lady in a sparkly strapless gown, holding a martini. It also helps explain the shape of all those rockets.
Despite what you may read in Lusty Wind For Carolina, let me assure you that I've lived in South Carolina for 24 years, and busty, whip-wielding, perfectly coiffed pirates are only a problem two, maybe three times a year:
Ladies In Hades is already pretty fantastic right from the title, but even with the eponymous gals hanging out on the cover -- almost literally in Delilah's case -- the best thing here is the single classiest version of Satan I have ever seen:
Don't get me wrong, I get why skeletons are supposed to be scary, but the thing is, they always look like they're smiling and having a good time. I mean, just check out that dude in the foreground of this Doc Savage mag. I don't know about the others, but I'm pretty sure that in his case, the answer to "What makes them run is?" is "IT'S CRAZY FUN YOU GUYS C'MON LET'S GOOOOO!":
For more fun activities for skeletons (a section sadly left out of the latest edition of the Monster Manual), let's check in with Dime Detective Magazine. And honestly, the best thing here isn't the grumpy look from the dude who just had his necromantic tic-tac-toe game interrupted, but the fact that they still called it Dime Detective when it was fifteen cents. C'mon, son.
Back when this issue of All-Story Weekly was published, either "romance" meant something completely different than it does today, or man-on-polar-bear grudge sex was way more socially acceptable:
If only the Discovery Channel didn't disapprove of referring to sharks as "dreaded scavengers, hungry for human flesh," Killer Shark would be an easy choice for the official dime novel of Shark Week. Still, it deserves some credit for raising awareness of the shark's natural hatred for tiny, tiny shorts:
I'm not going to lie, folks: As expressive as the faces are in the art and as much as it's a downright archetypical example of pulp covers, I picked this issue of Spicy Detective Stories just for the title:
Speaking of amazing titles, this issue of Astounding Science Fiction features what would reign as the best title for a fictional story until The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Theodore Sturgeon's Killdozer. As you might expect, it is about a bulldozer that kills people, but even more awesome is the fact that looking it up on Wikipedia will lead you to a real-life event:
And one more that I picked purely for the title: The Case of the Musical Cow:
I'll admit that when I first saw this one, I was a little let down by the fact that it's not about lovable small-screen hobos. Then I hit the tagline, and TV Tramps was suddenly my favorite book:
Sin Street (original title: Scarlet Patrol)! The inside story of the vice racket as told by a call girl who apparently had the misfortune to get the Incredible Hulk as a client:
If you're a regular ComicsAlliance reader, you may already be aware that I'm the site's Senior Batmanologist. In that capacity, I'd like to assure you that despite what Spicy Mystery Stories might tell you, I am reasonably certain that neither one of these people is Batman:
The fact that the tagline for The Girl In the Red Jaguar wasn't used to promote Conan O'Brien's new show after he moved to California is basically proof that we are not living in the best of all possible worlds:
If, however, every single paragraph of Loves of a Girl Wrestler begins with "Let me tell ya somethin' Mean Gene," the world might be a better place than I thought:
There's a lot to love about Naughty Virgin. There's the ridiculously lurid title, the two insane, completely unrelated taglines, its salacious '50s era depiction of the strapless bra (which at the time was the latest development in the world of bosom sciences), and the guy in the background who is displaying, at most, mild interest. My favorite part, though, is the cover blurb by the writer of this book. Blurbing yourself? That is straight up Kanye West level.
I would like to start an online petition that we all start referring to attractive people as "Hot Canaries."
Since saying that a lot of pulp covers feature women in bondage is like saying that the Sahara Desert is going through a bit of a dry spell, I thought it might be nice to show one from the other side of the equation. Thus, Arrest the Saint, in which Leslie Charteris's world-traveling thief/detective is menaced by a lovely blonde who looks like she could not be happier to lay down her pimp hand. Or in her case, Madame hand:
And while we're at it, another grand example of bikini-domination, from the pages of Rage For Men. This one's significant not just because it involves "lusty tarts" and "sex-crazed pirate women," but because it's one of only two covers I've seen for magazines with names like Man, Men's Adventure, New Man, and so on that did not involve Nazi bondage. Seriously, what was going on with all that?
The other of the two? This issue of MEN, which features a story that probably doesn't sound quite as tough as they thought it would. I mean, even the dude on the right is kind of smirking his way through his pal's otter-induced flipout, and "giant" might be overselling things just a bit.
And finally, I'm sure he does:
For more amazing art from the lurid world of the pulps -- including posts that feature the original paintings alongside their lettered and creased counterparts -- check out PulpCovers.com!