A lot has been made over the cover art of vintage pulp magazines - and rightly so. For decades, pulp cover art was considered tra-..... (ahem), correction: it wasn't considered at all. Thankfully, due in no small part to the Internet, there's been a renewed appreciation of pulp and paperback artwork.
Recently, while perusing through a brilliant Flickr set of vintage men's mag interior illustrations, I was stricken with how amazing the INTERIOR art was. It's unfair to compare it to the cover art: the high cost of color printing on glossy paper meant the interior artwork was limited to black & white, and maybe one extra color - usually brown, red or yellow. Plus, it's on low quality paper, so there's very few surviving copies that aren't faded like an old newspaper.
As much as I'd like to just reprint every image in the above mentioned Flickr set, I just can't. Instead, I started looking through some of my own vintage men's mags for some good interior artwork. My pictures aren't near as good - I'm not going to take the time to fully restore the illustrations to their former glory. That sounds too much like work.
In addition to the problem of low quality paper, there's also the fact that 99% of the quality illustrations are spread across two pages. Thus you have the problem of "gutter shadow" and a noticeable misalignment of the two halves. Again, this could be corrected, but that would take time. When they start paying me to blog, I'll think about tackling that job.
As you can see from the detail above, the images really deserve a nice full sized treatment. These are images to pore over and admire. They weren't trying to paint something to hang in a museum, these artists were trying to capture a mood, create excitement, get your blood pumping.... and they achieved it in spades! You can tell these artists were really having fun with it.
My apologies: You can't enlarge the 2 images above to view them full size
Half the fun of these magazines is the outrageous titles - the images shouldn't be viewed out of context. You need the title to go with it in order to get the full effect. For instance, the illustration below is from a story titled "Blood Orgy for the Swastika". Now, doesn't that make the picture a little more exciting?
This one's from an article called "Crushed by Eight Giant Arms of Hell"
"Bloody Teeth of Doom"
Together, the sensational titles and the lurid illustration paint a picture of testosterone gone wild. When you stop and think about it, it would be really hard to live up to these sort of titles. Imagine being given the task of illustrating the title page of "Secret Nude Weapons of St. Belvedere"!
These artists were underpayed and often not even credited for their work. However, their low-brow masterpieces lives on fifty years later, due, not only to their surprising level of artistry, but also the fun and excitement they injected into their work. Hats off to those prolific unknown illustrators of yesterday's pulps!