• Popular Skullture: The Skull Motif in Pulps, Paperbacks, and Comics

    Published by: Dark Horse Comics / Kitchen Sink Books
    Released on: Nov. 05, 2014
    Writer: Monte Beauchamp
    Artist: various
    Purchase at Amazon

    The subject of this gallery book is, as the title sort of suggests, the use of skulls on the covers of cheap books, mags, and comics, with material covered focusing mainly on printed materials from the 1930s through the 1950s. This is not an exhaustive essay about the demoralization argument used when trying to ban horror comics from the day, or how skulls on books helped saved the world with The Big One, WWII (pin-ups girls did that). Nor is it a history of the print world back then, or publisher’s wars, or rip-off kings.

    Popular Skullture is a tribute to the good old days when skulls sold books. A quick introduction by design writer Steven Heller starts things off, followed by the author’s preface, where he explains the origins of the project. The final piece of text is “A Pulp Primer: The ‘30, ‘40s, and the ‘50s”, an essay that provides a relatively brief history of the early print world, the advent of the cheapo paperback novel, and development of the comic book as a big money-maker.

    And then it’s on to the skull covers. Most of the book is taken up by full page reproductions, some complete with damage edges or tears which adds to the nostalgia. The quality of art ranges from basic and mediocre, to frame-worthy and amazing. Many artists are not credited due to being unknown, but there are a great number of fantastic painters whose works are showcased, and to name a few: Graham Ingels, George Rozen Bill Everett, Norman Saunders, and even a few Margaret Brundage “Weird Tales” eye-popping beauties.

    The 176 page hard-cover book measures 5 3/8” by 7 3/4”, which is the one disappointment about it. There are some real gems to marvel at and that size is way too small for a book designed as a visual treat. Other than that, which is in all honesty a pretty big deal to a lot of people, the book is a quick read and a fantastic visual history of some stunning skull-exploiting artwork.