- Arts and Design
Norman Saunders - Legends of Pulp Magazine Art vol.1
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.
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 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.