After reading this Lit Hub post on cover design, I thought it would be interesting to share the the process involved in making the cover of the first Doc Vandal adventure, Against the Eldest Flame. The big thing was that I wanted a cover that really felt like it would have been perfectly at home on a newsstand in 1937. That meant no obvious CGI figures or backgrounds; the cover needed a painted look. I’ve put the journey behind the fold because there are a number of images here.
When you think about it, the entertainment scene was very different during the 1930’s. No television, No Internet, no portable media players. In a world like that it’s not surprising that people turned to reading, and the pulps were there to catch their attention.
Big, floppy, and brightly colored, the pulps were designed to draw the eye. Behind the lurid cover, each monthly issue (most were monthly magazines) contained about two hundred pages of story on cheap paper with black and white illustrations. You could find pulps on any subject; from romance, to westerns, crime, and even star-spanning adventure.
For many, they took the place that would later be occupied by everything from TV to paperbacks. At only ten cents apiece, they offered good value for money, and were a great way to escape the Depression.
While they remained popular throughout the thirties, the war really proved their death knell. On the one hand, paper became more expensive, forcing the pulps to shrink in size. On the other, the post-war era led to an explosion in paperback publishing and the newly designed mass-market paperback took much of the readership that hadn’t been lost to new forms of entertainment like television.
Only one of the 1930’s pulps survives today, Analog Magazine, originally known as Astounding, has been publishing science fiction since 1930, although it has now dropped to bi-monthly frequency as of 2017. It has also changed sizes again, so as to fit on the same presses as the current publisher’s word search and other puzzle books.