I have such a sweet spot for retro-style art, especially advertising and illustrations from the 1950s and 60s. It’s not surprising that when I saw the covers for these ABC books illustrated by Greg Paprocki, they caught my eye.
Starting in the 1950s, World Editions (an Italian publishing company) decided they wanted to break into the US market with a new sci-fi magazine. They create Galaxy Science Fiction which became a leading SF magazine of the time. The magazine was published monthly from October 1950 until its end in 1980. (You can read more about the history of the magazine on Wikipedia.)
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Cartoonist Dan DeCarlo is most famous for his beloved characters created under the Archie Comics name, like Josie & the Pussycats or Betty and Veronica. Less known is the short-lived retro-futuristic comic book Jetta of the 21st Century. Released over three issues in 1952-1953, this comedic teen comic followed the exploits of teen girl Jetta Raye as she attended Neutron High School. Unfortunately, most of her problems revolved around her boyfriend Arky’s infidelity, with occasional bouts of technology gone awry.
Set 100 years in the future in 2052, the comic focuses on new gadgets and “a new kind of teenage talk.” Reading it now, this futuristic slang feels completely dated but deliciously fun if you love this kind of retro stuff.
I was so excited when I found out this weekend that the classic science fiction book The Runaway Robot by Lester Del Ray is back in print. This is one of the first scifi novels I read as a kid, and may explain my general obsession with robots, especially the idea of a sentient robotic companion. This book has been out of print for years and I’m thrilled to see it’s available again for young scifi fans to enjoy.
Original cover from 1965 by Wayne Blickenstaff. Source.
The story is about a boy named Paul who has been raised with a robotic companion called Rex. Rex’s main role is to be a protector for Paul on the moon of Ganymede, but they become inseparable friends. When Paul and his family are called back to Earth they have to leave Rex behind. The robot’s bond with Paul is so strong that Rex decides to stowaway on the ship, and that’s when the adventure begins.
I actually have an original copy from 1968 that was a hand-me-down from my father (same cover as above). This story influenced me so much as a young reader that I took the book with me when I moved away to college, and it’s still displayed proudly on my bookshelf. I prefer the original cover art by Wayne Blickenstaff to the new edition. Many of the chapters also have some lovely vintage black and white art.
If you can find a copy of the original printing, I highly recommend it for the beautiful vintage art.
A fun factoid: the novel was actually written by Paul W. Fairman, based on an outline by del Rey.
We already know I’m a huge retro-scifi fan, but one of the things that irks me the most about vintage magazine and book covers is how often the women on them are portrayed as “damsels in distress”. They’re often falling victim to evil robots, scary space monsters, or clothing that just won’t stay on their busty bodies.
Although those sexist images are the ones that most often come to mind when you think of pulp stories of yesteryear, there are some glorious vintage covers that feature ladies as more than a trope.
The Conquest of the Moon Pool
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From “Fantastic Novels” September 1948, we get this interesting cover illustration by Lawrence Sterne Stevens for the story “The Conquest of the Moon Pool” by Abraham Merritt. Who the blonde woman in the Marylin Monroe-style dress on the cover is I don’t know, but it’s evident she’s in charge with her laser-gun and her army of toad-like creatures from the center of the earth. [Source]
Continue reading “14 Vintage Scifi & Fantasy Covers Where Women Aren’t “Damseled””