Wyatt Doyle & Bob Deis answer the question “Why PulpFest?”

The 2022 PulpFest poster and postcard, adapted by William Lampkin from George Gross’s cover of WINGS, Fall 1946

If you’re close enough to Pittsburgh to attend the 2022 PulpFest Convention scheduled for August 4-7, my Men’s Adventure Library series co-editor Wyatt Doyle and I will see you there.

PulpFest 2022 will be held at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh–Cranberry in Mars, PA. You can find out all the details on the PulpFest website.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of PulpFest and I expect it will be an especially interesting and fun affair.

Wyatt and I are among the long list of writers, editors, publishers, book, magazine and pulp art sellers who will have tables there.

We’ll also be doing a special presentation about artist George Gross on Friday, August 5th, at 7:00 PM.

As you can see from the Programming notes at this link, there will be roundtable discussions and presentations featuring many notable pulp fiction and pulp art mavens, writers and publishers.

George Gross (1909-2003) was one of the greatest of the many great illustration artists who created cover and interior illustrations for the men’s adventure magazines Wyatt and I focus on in our Men’s Adventure Library books.

A slide from our 2019 PulpFest presentation about how top pulp magazines morphed into men’s adventure magazines in the 1950s

Before working for MAMs, Gross was a top cover artists for the pulp magazines that were ancestors of MAMs, a connection we talked about in presentations we gave at previous PulpFests.

In the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, Gross was also a top cover artist for paperbacks.

In addition to our presentation, Wyatt and I will be debuting our book GEORGE GROSS: COVERED at this year’s PulpFest.

This new 8 1/2″ x 11″ art book showcases full-page, full color reproductions of MAM covers that feature artwork by Gross, along with an exclusive interview Wyatt did with Mort Künstler about Gross, a family friend and mentor of Mort who he called “Uncle George.”

I’ll post a preview of GEORGE GROSS: COVERED in an upcoming post after PulpFest, when it’s officially available worldwide via Amazon, the Book Depository and other booksellers that carry our books.

Of course, I’ll also be selling copies via the MensPulpMags.com Bookstore. Like many of our books it will come in trade paperback or deluxe hardcover editions.

The cover of the hardcover edition of GEORGE GROSS: COVERED
The cover of the paperback edition of GEORGE GROSS: COVERED

We were honored that the PulpFest organizers asked us to do a presentation about Gross. We were also honored that they asked us to do a Q&A for the PulpFest website about why we love PulpFest. Titled “Why PulpFest?” it’s on their site at this link.

Below is a version of it with some additional scans of George Gross covers.

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“Why PulpFest?”

WYATT: Thanks to my dad, I grew up listening to LPs and tapes of vintage radio shows. We were big fans of The Shadow, and my introduction to actual pulp fiction came with the mid-’70s Dover reprint pairing THE CRIME ORACLE and THE TEETH OF THE DRAGON, with its startling George Rozen cover art depicting The Shadow — .45 in his right fist and a goggle-eyed severed head clenched in his left. It made quite an impression! Not long after, I stumbled across Tony Goodstone’s Chelsea House anthology THE PULPS: 50 YEARS OF AMERICAN POP CULTURE, and I soon began snapping up what then seemed an inexhaustible supply of previously read Bantam Doc Savage paperbacks at library sales and thrift shops.

BOB: I was also a fan of the Doc Savage paperbacks and later had the honor of doing an interview with the artist James Bama about his career, focusing on the artwork he did for men’s adventure magazines, the Doc Savage series and other paperbacks. (I recently reposted my Bama interview on this blog when Jim passed away on April 24, 2022, a few days short of his 96th birthday.) But I actually got interested in pulp magazines after I started collecting and studying MAMs, after I learned that many artists and writers who worked for MAMs had previously worked for pulps. I became increasingly interested in the links between those two related realms, and in how some of the top pulps morphed into MAMs in the early 1950s.

WYATT: Bob and I met online via Harlan Ellison’s website, where he’d shared his discoveries of Harlan’s early work for MAMs. Bob was uncovering Ellison stories in his vast collection that even Harlan didn’t have copies of! Bob asked if I would be interested in co-editing and publishing a MAM project, and we welcomed collaboration with Josh Alan Friedman, who I was already publishing. The project would be the first installment of the Men’s Adventure Library, our anthology WEASELS RIPPED MY FLESH!

Josh Alan Friedman was an ideal collaborator, with an impressive blood link to the MAM era. In the years before his success as a novelist, playwright, and screenwriter, Josh Alan’s father, Bruce Jay Friedman, had been an editor for Martin Goodman’s Magazine Management Company, the birthplace of Marvel Comics. Goodman’s Atlas/Diamond line of MAMs are today recognized as among the very best in their class. Josh Alan opened his archives to share his vintage interviews with MAM talent that he’d conducted years earlier.

As our series progressed, we began appearing at events, where we enjoyed warm responses, both to our books and panel appearances. PulpFest appeared to be a natural fit. However, we had long heard rumblings via social media, etc. that die-hard fans of classic pulps actually disliked MAMs, and resented any association. Now our own interests are broad, with room on our plates for all kinds of fiction in all kinds of formats, from just about any era. This narrow view we’d been cautioned about was at odds with our feelings, as well as the attitudes of readers we were meeting. But what did we know about pulp purists? We figured the larger pulp community must be real hardliners and probably not all that interested in what we had to offer, and we more or less left it at that.

BOB: This is why for me, the first answer to the question “Why PulpFest?” that comes to my mind is Mike Chomko. In addition to being the longtime marketing and programming director for PulpFest, Mike is the proprietor of Mike Chomko Books. Back in 2016, when the Men’s Adventure Library was only four books in, Wyatt and I became acquainted with Mike via Facebook groups where people interested in pulps, MAMs, and vintage paperbacks compared collections, shared information, and hang out. Many posts showed those realms share many things in common, including writers, artists, and publishers involved in all three, as well as common story topics, including action, adventure, crime, and war.

Mike Chomko

Mike liked our books and asked if we’d be open to his selling them at PulpFest 2016. We took him up on his kind offer, and they sold well. He represented us again in 2017. The next year, Mike asked if we’d be interested in making a presentation at PulpFest about MAMs and having a table. We said yes.

In 2018, PulpFest was saluting the centennial of the armistice that ended the First World War. We developed a slide presentation and talk that showed the clear links between the pre-WWII war pulps and the post-WWII MAMs. Our presentation was well attended and well received. (You can read an online version of it on my blog here.)

The poster for PulpFest 2018

We also sold some books, bought a bunch, and enjoyed the other presentations at the convention. Perhaps most importantly, we made a lot of new friends. They included other book creators with whom we compared tips on marketing and selling books, amazingly knowledgeable collectors and sellers of vintage magazines, paperbacks, and illustration art, and PulpFest visitors who we enjoyed talking with.

WYATT: We experienced none of the anti-MAM sentiment we’d been cautioned to expect. The exact opposite, in fact. We met attendees who turned out to be quite versed in MAM titles, writers, and artists, as well as many interested newcomers with interests as broad as ours who were very open to what we had to offer. The PulpFest crowd proved to be knowledgeable, curious, and supportive. We saw it in the questions and comments following our presentation, on the convention floor, and in post-event bull sessions in the hotel lounge that lasted into the night.

And believe it or not, that first PulpFest marked the first occasion Bob and I met in person! Though we already had a hefty shelf of books we’d created together and our friendship had been established, our collaborations had been entirely online and by telephone. To finally share a handshake after years of working together was another memorable PulpFest first for us.

BOB: We did notice that there were many fans of pulp magazines who knew little about MAMs, and were unaware of the links between them and pulps. So we looked for ways to increase awareness of those links.

WYATT: We’ve presented at every PulpFest since, and each year’s PulpFest experience seems to top the previous one. We look forward to meeting new readers and reconnecting with what’s become the old gang. Now it feels as if like it wouldn’t be summer without chatting with Mike, enjoying Jack Cullers’ bone-dry sense of humor, and savoring Bill Lampkin’s fantastic work on each new issue of The Pulpster. What these guys manage to pull off every year for all of us is just incredible. The kind of support and assistance they’ve provided to us specifically is, in my experience, unique. And very much appreciated.

Wyatt and me at out vendor’s table at a previous PulpFest. Come see us at PulpFest 2022 and say “hi.’

BOB: That initial visit to PulpFest was the first time I experienced the warm, enjoyable camaraderie that exists among people who attend pulp conventions. Wyatt and I both loved it, and we now look forward to going every year. And, that, of course, is our answer to “Why PulpFest?” We hope you’ll join us at PulpFest 50 to celebrate “A Half-Century of Pulp Cons.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: The 2022 PulpFest poster and postcard was adapted by PulpFest advertising director William Lampkin from George Gross’s cover for the Fall 1946 issue of the pulp magazine WINGS. That Fiction House pulp debuted in January 1928 and originally featured general aviation fiction. It became an air-war title during the summer of 1931. Its pilots would fight in both World Wars as well as the Korean War and in a variety of settings during the early days of the Cold War. WINGS ran for 133 issues. Its final number was dated Summer 1953. To learn more about the magazine and Fiction House’s other aviation pulps, read Leslie Silberberg’s post “Happy Memorial Day from PulpFest!” on the PulpFest website.