Thursday, April 16, 2009

"Girly" Pulps and Censorship in Magazines

I just received this rare first issue pulp magazine that I recently won on an eBay auction. It is the 841st first issue pulp in my collection. The universe of pulp magazines is a little over 1000 titles, including digests, one-shots and girly magazines.
There are two comprehensive checklists of pulps. The first, The Adventure House Guide, got me started on all this craziness. John Gunnison, Doug Ellis and John Locke, with the help of a few other advanced collectors put it out in 2000, creating a checklist with a lot of boxes to check off. This self-admitted fanatic, being tired of stamp and coin albums, took it upon himself to try to get the first issue of each and every one. Nine years later I'm 165 titles short and still trying. So far this year I've reduced the number by a grand total of one, so at this rate, if I live the biblical 120 years I'll get the number under 100!
To makes things worse, Tim Cottrill of Bookery Fantasy published his own guide a few years later that included additional titles, mostly of the "girly", semi-pornographic ilk that I just obtained. The first edition is long out of print but the second is readily available and quite valuable for the bibliographic information and prices it contains.

Pulp magazines pushed the envelope of sex and gore in the 1930's. Things calmed down a little in the early 40's when the victorians got involved. The "spicy" titles were changed to "speed" and the overt sado-masochism and racy sexual content got toned down considerably.
One interesting aspect of this that I've never seen discussed are the "star" issues. Many of the spicy titles were actually issued in two versions, one for the newstand and the other, more lurid version for "under the counter" distribution. Pulp collectors are quitw aware of these but the price guides don't reflect which issue have two versions, nor do they address any difference in price (I suspect the racy versions are rarer and, thus, more expensive).

It's not just the cover that's different. All the art inside is as well. So here, for the first time that I can tell, is two versions of a pulp magazine to illustrate my point. They are the first issue, of course, of Spicy Western from 1936:

See what I mean? Amazing stuff.
The issue of censorship in American magazines requires a more comprehensive entry that I will attempt at a later date. It's a beautiful spring day in New Jersey so I'm off to try to hit a little white ball into a four-inch hole. Fore!!

No comments: