Vortex coffin

This pre-Code comics image plays neatly with both the “coffin stuffer” and “tube girl” themes so loving explored in the pulp era less than a generation earlier. It is reblogged from this 28 September 2015 post at Infernal Wonders. The now-dead tumblr (“Malignantly Useless,” a fine Thomas Ligotti-derived name!) on which the image first appeared attributed the image to Issue #6 of Marvel’s Astonishing series (1951-1957), and a trip to this series’s entry in the Grand Comics Database does indeed turn up the cover.

Malignantly Useless attributes the cover to Norman Steinberg.

Another hungry (or horny?) octopus

This image is reblogged from this 10 May 2015 post at Infernal Wonders. A note from the source tumblr indicates that it is a detail from the cover of a 1970s Spanish comic Escorpión, issue #28. I couldn’t find too much about this publication, but its entry in the Grand Comics Database indicates that it was published in 1973 and 1974. They don’t have many covers, but those that they do have suggest that scantily-clad women being menaced by giant invertebrates was a repeat thing.

Mad science or mad entertainment?

I originally blogged this in a 26 January 2014 post at Infernal Wonders, but my source for this was this post at the aptly-named Bondage Blog. The knowledgeable proprietor over there, Rope Guy, included this commentary:

’m not sure exactly what the eerie ray the bug-eyed monsters in the tentacle-suits are pointing at this poor girl’s bottom is supposed to be doing to it. But judging by the rapt attention of the audience, it must be something rather entertaining!

Along with this attribution:

Art is a detail from the cover of an old Marvel Science Stories.

Looks like Maghella’s going to be experimented on

And she’s perhaps not going to like it. Bacchus’s explanation:

This is cover art from one of the nearly 150 Maghella fumetti comics published in Italy and France in the 1970s and 1980s. According to this Italian eBay auction it is issue #124 from 1979. On the cover is visible the text “Maghella. Vietato ai minori di seidici anni.” There is an Italian eBay auction here that offers a high quality reproduction of the cover art (without markings); the artist is identified by the seller as Renato Averardo Ciriello.

Reblogged from a 20 January 2014 post at Infernal Wonders.

C’mon baby, do the exploitation (II, or Narco Nympho)

This pulp cover was originally blogged in this 22 December 2013 post at Infernal Wonders contains the text “She rode the needle to depravity’s depths. Narco Nympho. By John Dexter. A Leisure Book.” It originally showed up at a still-extant tumblr called La La. Drugs are kinda Erotic Mad Science, right? Especially when there are tattooed naked women involved? Though probably this particular piece of pulp caught my eye because I’m currently reading — with no small pleasure — Paula Rabinowitz’s American Pulp.

Did Censorship Kill the Shudder Pulps? Time Magazine on “Smut Suppression”

Bacchus uncovers a historically-significant article, referenced in his research.

This 1934 primary source news article on censorship of pulp magazines (including the famous “Spicys”) in New York City makes several useful points:

  • The many stories of Mayor La Guardia angrily discovering a “Spicy” title on a news stand 1942 are naive to whatever extent they are intended to suggest that he was actually surprised by the existence of salacious pulps in his city. By that point he had been fighting them for at least six years, so by 1942 he was probably play-acting his surprise if not his anger.
  • The story estimates that “New York” (city or state not specified) is responsible for only 10% of the business in risque pulps in 1934, which undercuts the theory that New York City censorship could have directly or primarily have caused the demise of the shudder pulp trade.
  • Smutty trends in the pulp business were supported, the story suggests, by hungry news stand operators post depression, raising the implication that the return of prosperity might have contributed to the decline of the smuttiest part of the trade.

“Smut Suppression”
Time Magazine
March 12, 1934

Over New York City’s far-flung police teletype system one night last week clicked a strange order. Each & every New York policeman was directed to constitute himself a censor, see that 59 proscribed magazines were henceforth neither exhibited nor sold in the 2.000 licensed newsstands on the city streets.

Save for the conscientious Nudist, the forbidden publications were all smut sheets, compendiums of “art studies” bearing such titles as Wild Cherries, Cupid’s Capers, Hollywood Squawks. Heretofore the sale of questionable magazines in New York has been combated with the vague threat of criminal prosecution. But austere little Mayor La Guardiahas new ways of doing things. His commissioner of licenses simply announced that anyone in his jurisdiction who was caught selling dirty publications would be put out of business.

Promptly to the aid of the Nudist came the scrappy Civil Liberties Union. Well aware that the license comissioner’s powers to revoke were entirely discretionary, C.L.U. nevertheless wanted a test case on his powers to judge what was or was not obscene.

Merwil Publishing Co., Nuregal Publishing Co. and Culture Publications, proprietors of eleven of the barred magazines, went to court for a different reason. They asked an injunction against the commissioner’s order on the grounds that he was jeopardizing a thriving business. The smut business has boomed since the Depression because news dealers who once would not handle that sort of stuff will now sell anything which will put a few pennies in the till. it was revealed that of the average 30,000 circulation of the suspect magazines, 10% were sold in New York. Price: 25¢ a copy, of which the dealer gets 6¢, the publisher 11¢, the printer 8¢.

Indignantly declared Merwil’s Publisher Harry Donenfeld, whose line includes La Paree, Gay Parisienne, Spicy Stories, Pep: “Take books like God’s Little Acre and Ulysses. The courts have maintained that there’s nothing obscene in them. They really describe life.

“A girl just out of school — she’s the most easily ruined. But after she’s read our magazines she knows sex. She knows life. She’s better able to protect herself.”

Did Censorship Kill the Shudder Pulps? Canadian Editions

Here Bacchus sheds some light on the existence of alternative Canadian editions of U.S. pulps, a issue which has the subject of speculation on this site before.

According to The Library and Archives of Canada, the War Exchange Conservation Act of 1941 banned the importation of US pulp magazines to preserve Canada’s balance of trade with the United States. A brief but vibrant Canadian pulp magazine industry was the result:

The year 1940 was one of great change in Canada. A constitutional amendment allowed the government to introduce and adopt the Unemployment Insurance Act. Parliament passed the controversial National Resources Mobilization Act authorizing home defense conscription for 30 days, a term that over time stretched to cover the duration of the Second World War. In Quebec, women won the right to vote.

And, with the passing of the War Exchange Conservation Act, Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King became the unwitting father of the Canadian pulp magazine industry.

According to Carolyn Strange and Tina Loo, the War Exchange Conservation Act was designed to preserve Canada’s balance of trade with the United States. To preserve this balance, Canada banned the import of a broad range of nonessential items from the U.S., including such luxury items and diversions as cocoa paste, champagne and pictoral postcards. It also targeted what had become for many people not a luxury, but an essential distraction from the harsh realities of everyday life: the pulps. The language of the act specifically prohibited the import of any periodical publications featuring “detective, sex, western and alleged true or confession stories.”

Detectives. Sex. Westerns. Confession stories. These were topics that sold magazines, and Canadian publishers knew it. People would still want their weekly fix of grisly murder, winking pin-up girls, thundering hooves and vicarious heartbreak; if the Americans could no longer supply it, someone else would have to.

As the December 1940 issue of the industry magazine Canadian Printer and Publisher put it: “Certain branches of the printing industry stand to benefit as a result of the measures announced in the House of Commons on Dec. 2 by Hon. J. L. Ilsley, Minister of Finance. Included in the long list of prohibited imports from non-sterling countries, principally the United States, are certain kinds of periodical publications such as those classified as detective, sex, western and confession stories.”

There were those words again. Detectives. Sex. Westerns. Confession stories. Add a smattering of other genres (science fiction, horror and the “northerns” — adventures that transposed the action of the western to Canada’s far north and swapped cowboys for Mounties), and you had what would become the stock-in-trade for Canadian pulp publishers.

In the beginning, Canadian publishers relied on submissions from U.S. authors, or even pirated copies of stories published in U.S. magazines. After all, Canadian audiences would recognize these authors, many of whom had developed a loyal following during the period when American pulps were readily available. The readers knew which writers penned the goriest murders, the most risqué love affairs and the most bloodcurdling horror stories.

But the pace of publishing demanded more and more stories. In English Canada, most titles were published monthly or bimonthly, and could contain as many as ten stories apiece. To keep up with the need for content, pulp publishers increasingly solicited stories from Canadian writers and accepted stories set in Canada. Suddenly, in a medium once dominated by American stories, characters and settings, reader became enthralled by such tales as “The Strange Story of Vancouver Cult” or “Trapping Winnipeg’s Pock-Marked Frankenstein.”

In Quebec, where many titles were published weekly, a pattern of publishers relying almost entirely on homegrown talent emerged, in addition to reprints or serializations of older stories by European authors. Sources of French-language writing were limited. Few American writers would have had a sufficient command of either the French language or Quebec culture to create a story for Les exploits fantastiques de Monsieur Mystère, or Les exploits policiers du Domino Noir.

Canadians were writing. Canadians were publishing. Canadians were reading. The Canadian pulp publishing industry was in its golden age.