Norman Saunders - Legends of Pulp Magazine Art vol.1

Detective Tales (1952)
Detective Tales (1952)
Skypilot (April - May 1951)
Skypilot (April - May 1951)

A tribute to one of the greatest pulp magazine artists of the 20th century. Norman Saunders produced artwork for paperbacks, pulp magazines, comic books, trading cards and Men’s adventure magazines.

Saunders was born in Minnesota, USA in 1907. After leaving school Saunders trained in art by correspondence courses with The Federal Schools Inc. of Minneapolis. Receiving a diploma in 1927 Saunders also received a scholarship to the Chicago Art Institute, he than worked full time at Fawcett Publications for six years before moving to New York City in 1934 where he studied night classes at the Grand Central School of Art.

He was drafted by the Army during World War II where he served one year in the military police before being trained in camouflage and sent to paint gasoline storage tanks along the Burma Road in China for the duration. Saunders returned to NYC in November 1945. After two years creating artwork for post-war slick magazines, he left the slicks and returned to working for pulp magazines, where he was in constant demand for the remaining years of that industry.

The Ones, Marvel Science (May 1951)
The Ones, Marvel Science (May 1951)
Space Busters #1 (Ziff-Davis, 1952)
Space Busters #1 (Ziff-Davis, 1952)

Norman Saunders was a prolific artist, producing about 100 covers a year from 1935 to 1942. He worked for all the major publishers and in various genres – westerns, science fiction, war, sports, detective and spicy pulps. His art was a still frame of fast action usually involving a beautiful woman. Saunders would sometimes sign his work with his middle name, Blaine.

In 1962 Saunders worked on the notorious Topps Mars Attacks trading card series. Product developer Len Brown was inspired by Wally Wood's cover for EC Comics' Weird Science #16, and he pitched the idea to Woody Gelman who helped create the story with Brown. They enlisted Wood himself to flesh out the rough sketches they created and Bob Powell to finish them. Norman Saunders painted the 55-card set.

The Time Machine - art by Norman Saunders
The Time Machine - art by Norman Saunders
Black Book Detective (April 1937)
Black Book Detective (April 1937)
Throwing the Gun, Western Story (April 1939)
Throwing the Gun, Western Story (April 1939)

The trading cards caused outrage because of their graphic violence and implied sexuality. At first Topps responded by repainting 13 of the cards to reduce some of the gore and sexuality, but than after inquiries from a Connecticut district attorney, agreed to halt production of the series.

Norman Saunders painted his last pulp magazine cover in 1960. He had painted a total of 867 pulp covers in his lifetime, the highest ever for an artist in his field. Norman Saunders died of emphysema at age 82 in Columbus Nebraska on March 7, 1989.

His daughter, Zina Saunders, is also an illustrator for magazines, books and trading cards. His son David is a pulp historian and is the author of a book titled “Norman Saunders” published in 2009 by the Illustrated Press Inc. The lavishly illustrated book contains hundreds of paintings by his father.

* The term pulp is derived from the cheap wood pulp paper on which the pulp magazines were printed. Magazines printed on quality paper were called "glossies" or "slicks." Although many well-known and respected writers wrote stories for the pulps, the magazines are probably best remembered now for their sensational cover art and lurid exploitative storylines and are highly collectible.

Saucy Movie Tales (Jan 1936)
Saucy Movie Tales (Jan 1936)
Saucy Movie Tales (May 1936)
Saucy Movie Tales (May 1936)
Adventure (Dec 1962)
Adventure (Dec 1962)
New Man (Sept 1964)
New Man (Sept 1964)
New Detective (August 1952)
New Detective (August 1952)

More by this Author


Comments 4 comments

Mentalist acer profile image

Mentalist acer 5 years ago from A Voice in your Mind!

Your unique hubs are always a learning curve,for me,and a treat Steve.;)


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 5 years ago from London, England Author

Why thank you Mentalist. :)

I was thinking about writing a hub on the history of pulp magazine cover art and got sidetracked, decided this artist deserved his own hub. Maybe next time.


Cogerson profile image

Cogerson 5 years ago from Virginia

I must admit I had never heard of him before, but Norman Saunders work looks pretty impressive....from what I have read about the censors of the time I am surprised some of the covers were produced at all...especially the Saucy Movie Tales from 1936....another interesting and informative hub Steve....good job.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 5 years ago from London, England Author

Thnaks Cogerson. There are so many good artists out there, many who don't get any recognition at all. I've got a few more lined up for future hubs.

It does make a change writing about someone who didn't have a Martian crater named after him. [wink]

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working