I've come to kidnap you—for another book cover.
Above you see two covers for Robert O. Saber's thriller Too Young To Die, the first from Graphic Books, and the second from Australian publisher Phantom. The art at top, which we think is brilliant, was painted by Walter Popp, a well known paperback and men's magazine illustrator who we've talked about several times. You can see some of those examples by clicking his keywords at bottom. His cover was copied by an anonymous artist for Phantom's re-issue. So as always we come back to the question: Why were publishers able to copy original art, but not to use it outright?
Assume you're Walter Popp and you've already been paid by Graphic for the use of your art. Phantom comes along and asks you to reuse it. It's free money in the sense that you've already done the work, and it's more exposure for your talent. So why not say yes? Since there's no reason in the world to say no we can only assume he was never asked. Looking at it from the other side, if you like Walter Popp's cover work but can't obtain the right to use it, how is it that you can get away with publishing a near exact copy? We posed that question to Bob over at the authoritative website menspulpmags.com, and he said that he thinks copycat covers that were not actual reuses of the original skated under copyright laws, and generally nobody paid much attention to them.
Bob also offered these insights:
Some of the artists who worked for mid-20th century men's adventure magazines and paperbacks that I've talked to have said they sometimes got paid small reprint fees for reuses of their work, but often did not. In the case of the men's adventure magazines, I know the artists typically only sold first publication rights and the artists who were most business savvy, like Mort Kunstler, made sure to get their originals back from the company or get fees for reuses. But some artists just turned in their illustrations to the art directors and didn't bother to get them back to track whether they were reused.
Some magazines that published multiple men's adventure magazines, like those put out by Martin Goodman's Magazine Management company, often reused illustrations in several different issues and sometimes used a magazine illustration on the cover of a paperback published by their paperback subsidiary (Lion Books in the case of Magazine Management), or vice versa. I show an example of a Samson Pollen painting used on a Lion paperback and a Mag Mgt. men's adventure mag in a recent post on my blog here.
There are many other examples of men's adventure mag illos being used on both a paperback cover and in a men's adventure magazine. For example, Pyramid published both paperbacks and Man's Magazine and many Pyramid cover paintings showed up as illustrations in Man's. I don't know if artists typically only sold first use rights to paperback publishers or all rights. I suspect it varied with the publisher. I do know many paperback cover paintings were reused both on other paperbacks and in men's adventure mags.
I also know that Gil Cohen, who I recently interviewed for my blog, told me he sold only first rights to Pinnacle for the roughly two-hundred Executioner/Mack Bolan paperback cover paintings he did. I'd guess that whether an artist got paid for reuses depended on how honorable the publishers were. Mag Mgt. and Pyramid actually treated their artists pretty well, from what I have been able to glean.
However, it seems pretty clear that many low budget men's adventure mags and paperback publishers just ripped artists off by reusing their artwork without paying them. I think that practice was pretty common and there was really no way for artists to keep track of all reuses back then. They would just have to happen to run across them on newsstands. And even then, they might not think it was worth the hassle of trying to do anything about it. Pulp art was basically viewed as "disposable" artwork without a lot of resale value back in the '50s, '60s and '70s. I think most artists were more concerned about getting their next assignment than trying to get smaller reprint fees for past work.
So there you have it, from someone who has spoken to many of the creators from the period. The art was just difficult to keep track of back then. As copies go, Phantom's Walter Popp rip-off is a decent one, though we've seen much better. We have another example of the practice you can check out here. And we're now sure our longstanding suspicions about the usage of celebrity images, which we've discussed several times, fall into the same category. Thanks to Bob for his answers, and we recommend that pulp fans check out his expansive and incredibly informative men's magazine website.
I'd shoot you in the head or chest, but you're already brainless and heartless. So I think I'll make you dickless too.
It isn't just us, right? The perspective of Olivier Brabbins' art for Stuart Brock's, aka Louis Trimble's Killer's Choice makes it seem as though the woman is aiming dangerously low. At best, her male target will soon be missing his appendix; at worst, he can kiss the royal scepter goodbye. What did he do to deserve this? Well, the novel is a basic parlor murder mystery about the patriarch of a dysfunctional family who believes one of his progeny is trying to kill him. He has a pile of money, but is very stingy with it, giving nearly everyone a motive for murder. A killing eventually occurs, a body disappears, subterfuges take place, and the police are of course not to be involved. Luckily there's a detective on the premises. Everyone in the family thinks he's a secretary, but only because the patriarch hired him to play this role while trying to figure out who's planning to off daddy. Now with an actual murder on the premises, the detective has an even more urgent mystery to solve. And hopefully he can do it without being shot in the gonads. 1956 on this one, from Graphic Publishing Co.
In the end she didn't think saying it with flowers would get her true feelings across.
Tired of the rampant commercialism of Valentine's Day? So is the woman on the cover of Edward Ronns' 1955 thriller Say It with Murder. Too bad she doesn't live where we do, where there's no such holiday. This cover is from Australia's Phantom Books, a company we've been featuring often of late, and as we've mentioned, Phantom had a habit of using reconstituted art. You can see exactly what we mean by looking at the front of the 1954 Graphic Books edition, with its excellent work from Lou Marchetti. We still don't know exactly why Phantom changed its covers. A rights usage issue, we suppose. But if that's the case, why was the company able to get away with making near copies of the originals? We'll keep exploring this question until an answer presents itself.
There. I shot him. Now will you get off my back about never helping you out around here?
Above, the cover of Sucker Bait by Robert O. Saber, aka Milton K. Ozaki, 1955 from Graphic Books. Rich men pay $1,000 for entry into the Purple Door Club, where they procure the services of Chicago's most beautiful prostitutes, but also become targets for blackmailers. Hero Carl Good is accused of murdering one of the women and has to clear himself by finding the real killer. Good thing he's a detective. The cool cover art here is by Robert Maguire.
Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.
We love this Walter Popp cover art for Graphic Books' 1954 edition of Milton Ozaki's Dressed To Kill. He painted a couple of favorite covers, including A Time for Murder and New York Model, which we showed you here and here. In Dressed To Kill a private eye takes a job repossessing cars, and the first one he goes after is driven by a beautiful blonde and has a corpse in the trunk. The corpse of course leads to loot, and the loot of course attracts the villains—a bunch of Chicago mobsters. Generally well reviewed, but not Ozaki's best, according to most sources.
Hah! That was your last bullet! You’re out! You’re utterly screwed! Now what are you gonna—
On this amusing cover from Graphic Books a surprised P.I. narrowly avoids a serious beaning from a woman who definitely doesn’t want to be his valentine. 1953’s Post-Mark Homicide originally appeared as The Widow Gay in 1950 with the same art, painted by unknown on both editions, sadly. The novel is these days published with the author credited as Arthur A. Marcus. So what happens here? A crooked D.A. needs to recover a set of incriminating letters, hires a studly P.I. to do it, who in turn has to deal with a recently widowed—like, earlier that day—but not exactly grieving gangster’s moll. This pistol-slinging move never worked in the movies, and it doesn’t work here either, but we always love to see it.
Actually, I was sad for a minute. Then I remembered what a bastard he was.
Above is a Roy Lance cover for Leonard Lupton's doublecross novel Murder without Tears, from Graphic Publishing, 1957, no relation to the movie of the same title from 1953. Lupton was aka Chester Warwick. Graphic's art is often great, which is why we’ve selected this today even though it’s not hard to find around the internet. We really need to put together a collection from this company.
In the heat of the moment anything can happen.
Above, front and rear cover art for A.A. Marcus’s Make Way for Murder, 1955. This was the first of four books in a series about private eye Peter Hunter. You can get a sense of what it’s about from the rear text. As for the artist, we checked a Graphic Books catalog, and of the 127 books they published Make Way for Murder is one of only a handful for which they don’t list artist information. At which point we thought what a shame, because he/she deserves recognition for this fiery tableau. And then we saw Barye Phillips’ signature. Front cover, lower left. Hey, we never claimed to be observant. As for why Graphic Publishing seemed to have missed it, no idea.
It's easy. We have an uploader that makes it a snap. Use it to submit your art, text, header, and subhead. Your post can be funny, serious, or anything in between, as long as it's vintage pulp. You'll get a byline and experience the fleeting pride of free authorship. We'll edit your post for typos, but the rest is up to you. Click here
to give us your best shot.