December 5, 2017


A stunning new book has just been published by the leading experts on Pulp fiction, which Jim Steranko (Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD) says is "the volume we’ve been awaiting for decades! If there’s only space for one pulpmania book on your crowded shelves, The Art of the Pulps is it—an irresistible entry to pop-culture sorcery!" Pulp cover art has always ignited my imagination. One cannot deny the thrill of looking at the bold colors, dynamic action scenes, often spooky villains, and especially for Spy Vibers, those many titles that offered an exciting cocktail of mystery, suspense, mystical powers, sci-fi tech, and well-dressed action- the very elements we often celebrate in our spy stories like The Avengers, The Prisoner, Wild Wild West, and James Bond! One of the experts behind the publication of The Art of the Pulps stopped by the Spy Vibe lair recently to chat about the book and about the exciting world of the Pulps! Please welcome Mr. Ed Hulse.

Congratulations on the new book, Ed. It looks beautiful! For readers who are unfamiliar with this genre, how would describe of the world of the Pulps?

Most people alive today have no idea how influential pulp fiction has been on American popular culture.  For roughly 50 years — from 1896 through the World War II years — millions of Americans bought pulp magazines because they provided escapism at a price affordable to everybody, even kids, shop girls, and factory workers. Hardcover books in that period cost anywhere from 75 cents up to two dollars, but pulps offered an equivalent amount of reading matter for between a dime and a quarter.  The fiction was driven by plot, action and incident, rather than by character and atmosphere, which was the case in “serious” mainstream literature. And most people don’t realize how many famous characters were created for pulp stories: Tarzan, Zorro, Doc Savage, Buck Rogers, Sam Spade, Conan the Barbarian, John Carter of Mars, and so on.

Can you tell us a bit about some of the great Pulp espionage and detective stories?

One of the first great tales of espionage, John Buchan’s “The 39 Steps,” saw its first American publication in the pages of Munsey’s ALL-STORY WEEKLY, the most famous of early pulps. E. Phillips Oppenheim, who specialized in spy stories and detective yarns, was a regular in THE POPULAR MAGAZINE, a twice-monthly pulp which during the Teens boasted a per-issue readership of more than one million. Detective stories were popular in both pulps and “slick” magazines like COLLIER’S and THE SATURDAY EVENING POST, but the first periodical devoted entirely to crime and mystery fiction was the Street & Smith pulp DETECTIVE STORY MAGAZINE, launched in 1915.  And of course the “hard-boiled” style of detective fiction was born in BLACK MASK, another famous and highly collectable pulp, which published the early works of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler.  They set the standard for tough private eyes. “The Maltese Falcon,” arguably the most famous hard-boiled detective novel of them all, was serialized in BLACK MASK before becoming a best seller in hard covers. 

I know there have been some interesting links made between Pulp stories and some of the sensational elements in James Bond. As a Pulp historian, do you often recognize elements in major films as having roots in familiar Pulp territory? 

I’m a film historian as well as a pulp historian, and in both capacities I’ve spent years researching the pulp-film nexus.  Next year I’ll be publishing the first of a two-volume encyclopedia covering pulp stories adapted to film.  There were hundreds and hundreds of them, going back as far as 1912!  In addition to the famous characters I mention above, there were dozens of less well-known pulp heroes who made it to Hollywood.  Movie producers bought the screen rights to pulp stories of every type: Western, detective, romance, horror, science fiction, general adventure — you name it!

Were there Pulps based on true-life espionage tales? 

There weren’t any pulps based ENTIRELY on true-life espionage tales, but some occasionally ran articles about real spies.  One of the WWI titles had a Mata Hari cover and article.  There were a few all-fiction titles like SPY STORIES and THRILLING SPY STORIES, and during WWII there were occasional espionage stories in G-MEN DETECTIVE, obviously involving FBI agents versus Axis spies and saboteurs.

Who are some of the great heroes you cover in the book? 

Well, in addition to those named in my first answer, we have an entire chapter devoted to the heroes who rated their own magazines: The Shadow, Doc Savage, The Spider, The Phantom Detective, The Black Bat, Secret Agent X. Operator #5, and many others.

What kinds of visual materials were you able to gather for the book?  Does it include unpublished work, sketches, etc? 

Each chapter opens with a full-page reproduction of an original pulp-cover painting.  My co-editors Doug Ellis and the late Bob Weinberg, who actually got this project underway (I came on board late last year after Bob passed away suddenly), both owned world-class collections of pulp art in addition to thousands of the actual magazines.  They also arranged to have other art collectors provide scans of iconic paintings, such as the 1933 SHADOW cover painting that begins the chapter on hero pulps. And many of the magazine covers we reproduced are almost as rare as the paintings!  Some of them came from the only copies known to exist on those particular issues.

I know Spy Vibers are fans of Norman Saunders (His Batman cards were so amazing!). Did you include much of his work?

Yes, we have a lot of Saunders covers in the book, along with one of his original cover paintings.  And of course, one of our contributing essayists is Norm’s son David, who is not only the preeminent pulp-art historian but also an artist himself.

I remember meeting David at PulpFest. Does the book also include the later period of pulp paperback books?

No, although it easily could have. With a limited number of pages at our disposal we stuck pretty closely to the pulp-magazine era, which ended in the 1950s. But the subject has been discussed. Who knows, perhaps if ART OF THE PULPS sells really well, the publisher might decide to have us do a follow-up volume on paperbacks.  Anything’s possible if we get enough support from fans and collectors.

One of my favorite things about PulpFest is walking into the vender room and seeing walls of pulp covers. The images and graphics are so thrilling! Ed, what were your first introductions to Pulp magazines? What do you remember about that experience? 

Well, I’m a baby boomer, and therefore just a little too young to have experienced pulps when they were still being published.  Of course, I was a fan of pulp fiction long before saw I saw a pulp magazine: growing up in the early and mid 1960s I was a voracious reader of Tarzan, Doc Savage, and Conan stories then being reprinted in paperback.  As a big science-fiction fan I remember being delighted to read the Buck Rogers stories, reprinted in a 1962 Ace paperback titled “Armageddon 2419 A.D.”  I saw my first pulp magazine, a waterlogged copy of a 1936 issue of G-8 AND HIS BATTLE ACES, at a flea market in 1966.  At the time I was interested in World War I aviation, and the dogfight on that cover jumped out at me.  I paid a quarter for the magazine.  My father, who’d bought pulps as a kid during the Great Depression, explained to me what they were all about.

Did you then start collecting as a kid? What were your favorite titles?

As a kid I feverishly collected comic books and, a little later when my allowance was increased, paperbacks too.  I’ve always been a collector.  Later on, when I made more money, I quit comics and graduated to hardcover first editions and 16mm films.  But I always had a few pulps kicking around, a SHADOW here, a BLACK MASK there, a TERROR TALES hidden in the closet.  I’ve only been collecting pulps seriously since 1995.

Can you describe your collection? What are some of your prized treasures? 

I have some of everything except sports and romance pulps.  For a number of years — the 1990s and early 2000s — I was obsessed with the hero pulps like SHADOW, SPIDER, and DOC SAVAGE.  But I’ve since gravitated to the general-adventure pulps such as ARGOSY, ADVENTURE, and BLUE BOOK, which were considered prestige magazines in the pulp field.  I’ve got about 520 of the 600 issues of ADVENTURE published between 1918 and 1948, and that’s the run I’m happiest with.  I also have complete files of several science-fiction pulps, which are plentiful, generally inexpensive, and relatively easy to find in high grade.  I often advise beginning collectors to go after SF titles.

Did you also follow the cliffhanger serials? I sure wish Crimson Ghost would get a restoration and release. 

I’m a yuuuuge fan of serials and have been since the early ‘60s, when I saw a bunch of the best on New York TV.  I’ve been researching them seriously for more than 40 years and was fortunate to have met and interviewed a good number of the actors, writers, directors, and stuntmen who worked on them.  My fanzine BLOOD ’N’ THUNDER had a department called “Cliffhanger Classics” in which I covered the making of famous serials and used much of the info I’d gleaned from those interviews.  Under my Murania Press imprint I’ve reprinted two compilations of “Cliffhanger Classics” installments, and I’ve also written and published a two-volume history of silent-era serials. The first book is titled DISTRESSED DAMSELS AND MASKED MARAUDERS, the second is HANDSOME HEROES AND VICIOUS VILLAINS.

Please tell us a bit about your other Pulp-related projects and endeavors.

I terminated BLOOD ’N’ THUNDER last year after 50 quarterly issues because the pressure of trying to maintain that schedule — not only producing the magazine but also attending to the tedious business of distribution and subscriber database maintenance — finally became too much for me.  Now I’m publishing standalone books at irregular intervals under the generic title BLOOD ’N’ THUNDER PRESENTS.  So far I’ve released three of these.  I’m also preparing a (slightly) revised and updated version of THE BLOOD ’N’ THUNDER GUIDE TO PULP FICTION, which has been my best-selling title ever since it came out in 2013.  Believe it or not, I’ve sold copies of it in 23 countries!  All my books are available for purchase at my web site,  When our first copies of ART OF THE PULPS were delivered I briefly offered it too on my site, but after three days I’d sold them out and had to remove the title.

For readers interested in going to events, when are the various upcoming Pulp conventions?

The two major conventions catering to pulp hobbyists are the Windy City Pulp and PaperConvention, held in a suburb of Chicago every April, and the late-summer PulpFest, which last year moved to Pennsylvania after eight years in Columbus, Ohio.  The Windy City con, now going into its 18th year, is chaired by my ART OF THE PULPS co-editor Doug Ellis.  I’m proud and honored to have been a committee member since 2002.  Every year I put on the Windy’s film program, running movies adapted from pulp stories.

One last important questions for you , Ed. If you were a diabolical mastermind or vigilante playboy, what would your secret lair look like? 

Pretty much the way it looks now. But then, if I described it for you, it wouldn’t be secret anymore.  ;)

So true! Spy Vibers, how would you design your Inner Sanctum? Check out the new book. Distributed by IDW, you can also get copies from Amazon and your local shops. Related posts: Interview: William Patrick Maynard FU MANCHUThe Phantom at 80Robert Hack CoversThe Shadow Blu-rayThomas Allen: Pulp ArtistPulp Paperback Fiction ExaminedRichard Sala's ViolenziaInterview: Richard Sala: Super EnigmatixInterview: The Adventures of Richard SalaInterview: Trina RobbinsThe Phantom Novels Return, Spy Vibe's image archives on Pinterst: DiabolikalThe ShadowThe PhantomCliffhanger SerialsIn other news, check out my episodes of the Cocktail Nation radio show, where I introduce classic spy films/TV series and play soundtracks and rare cuts: Episode #1 (Danger Man) and Episode #2 (The 10th Victim), Epsiode #3 (On Her Majesty's Secret Service), Episode #4 (Roger Moore/The Saint), and Episode #5 (The Avengers). Episode #6 (The Prisoner), and Episode #7 (The Ipcress File). Enjoy!

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1 comment:

  1. An excellent interview, if I did not already have a copy I would run out and get one.