Saturday, April 16, 2011

Windy City Pulp and Paper

The Windy City Pulp and Paper Show is an annual convention devoted to the pulp magazine, what organizers call a "uniquely American form of popular literature" that had its heyday between World Wars I and II. Every year a large gather of people who share a common interest – the enjoyment of collecting and reading old pulp magazines – gather to discuss their favorite reads. There's also a showroom of art and collectibles, auctions of rare items, a pulp art show, and screenings of films adapted from pulp magazines.

Sadly – and this might come as a surprise to some of you -- there are only two conventions held across the country with a primary focus on old pulp magazines. The PulpFest Convention in Columbus, Ohio, and the Windy City Pulp and Paper Show. (There is a small, one-day event like Rich Harvey’s AdventureCon where you can find a number of vendors selling pulp magazines, but after asking the opinion of a few, it’s not generally considered a “convention.”) But fans and attendees feel so strongly about these conventions that their enthusiasm often gives one the opinion that the pulp magazine market is HUGE. It isn’t. In fact, it’s a small niche market.

One of the vendor displays at Windy City.

Vendor Room as the vendors were starting to set up.

The name pulp, incidentally, comes from the cheap wood pulp paper on which the magazines were printed. Magazines printed on better paper were called "glossies" or "slicks." In their first decades, they were most often priced at ten cents per magazine, while competing slicks were 25 cents apiece. Pulps were the successor to the penny dreadfuls, dime novels, and short fiction magazines of the 19th century. Although many respected writers wrote for pulps, such as Ray Bradbury, Robert Bloch and Edgar Rice Burroughs, the magazines are best remembered for their lurid and exploitative stories and sensational cover art. Modern superhero comic books are sometimes considered descendants of "hero pulps"; and pulp magazines often featured illustrated novel-length stories of heroic characters, such as The Shadow (a favorite of mine), Doc Savage and The Phantom Detective.

Check out the prices for these pulps!

Here at Chicago, Doug Ellis and his wife put on a good event. A “fantastic event” if you happen to collect pulps. Since I’m spending the weekend here signing copies of my latest book, The Shadow: The History and Mystery of the Radio Program, 1930-54, I am taking digital photos for you to get an idea of the dime novels, pulp magazines and even Big Little Books that are available for sale.
The convention lacks a number of presentations that are highly needed, but what the convention lacks, it makes up for with the highlight of the weekend – an auction where high-priced pulps can be purchased if you have the money. This year, a collection from the estate of Jerry Weist was auctioned off. Jerry was a regular attendee of Windy City, and he very much hoped to be here to see his friends and fellow collectors. Unfortunately, that was not meant to be, as Jerry’s long and hard-fought battle with cancer ended earlier this year.

Auction items are displayed on a big screen so people are reminded about what they were bidding on.

Among the items that went up for auction (and their final bids, sans buyer’s premiums, Paypal surcharge and other fees) included three issues of Headquarters Detective from 1936 to 1937 (sold for $300), the first issue of Detective Book from April 1930 ($140), five western/adventure pulps such as Western Adventures and Frontier Stories ($633), and the cover and spine for the premiere issue of Weird Tales (just the cover and spine, not the entire magazine) which went for $286. Issue number eight of The Lone Ranger (there were 12 issues printed from 1937 to 1938) was in such good quality that it sold for more than $800. A first edition of Tarzan and the Apes, without the original dust jacket, sold for $413. And a first edition of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ The Eternal Lover in very good condition sold for $525.

Canceled checks with legit autographs from Cornell Woolrich and Zane Grey.

If you don’t have this kind of money to buy first editions, you can also buy “reprints” of the pulp magazines. A number of companies have taken the effort to track down the literary rights and acquire licensing and permission to reprint the pulp magazines. So for $10 or $12 bucks, you can buy a reprint of an original magazine or novel just as they were graphically laid out in the originals.

Steering off the side for a moment, I met a number of people who are friends of mine on Facebook, including Patrick Cranford (a Facebook buddy of mine) and Roy Bright, who I see only two or three times a year. Meeting and chatting with friends is one of the main reasons I enjoy going to the conventions.

If you happen to live in or near Chicago, Illinois, I recommend you check out the 2012 Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention by clicking on the link. The dates will be April 27 to 29. The highlight is a celebration of Tarzan’s 100th Anniversary.

If you happen to live in or near Columbus, Ohio, check out the other event at Pulp Fest in late July at Stop by and say hello and we’ll share a photo on Facebook.

Personal note: This happens to be my very first blog post. Feel free to share any ideas or suggestions, especially what to add to my blog that will attract a bunch of people to the site. In the future, I plan to post about some cool, overlooked old time movies, a few book reviews, and commentary (such as why commercial release DVDs are often not as good as you think – bet you didn’t know that the second season of Hawaii Five-O is missing an episode?) Stay tuned! Martin


Booksteve said...

Welcome to the wonderful world of blogs. Just something to fill all that spare time you have?

Barry Traylor said...

Nice blog Martin, glad I found it. That was an enjoyable con. For once I could just enjoy myself and not have to do any work. Doug and John put on an excellent pulp convention.

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