Mar 28, 2014

The Art of Interpreting Pulp Book Covers like You Have Nothing to Lose

Once upon a time, there was a little boy who read comic books, ate lots of cookies and wanted to be Dictator of the Galaxy.

Me at the age of seven.
I was precocious.

That little boy grew up, kept reading comics and eating cookies, but gave up on his childhood dreams of galactic dominance; after all, it’s 2014 and we don’t even have affordable jetpacks, let alone the interplanetary infrastructure that would give rise to a galaxy-spanning empire of absolute evil.

And you just know the first galactic empire would be founded by seriously nasty people. I mean, look at Genghis Khan or Ivan the Terrible. Look at Napoleon. Look at Ming, the Merciless!

Look at him!

Anyway, you ask, “What’s the point of all this?” 

The point, my faithful reader, is that pulp contains enormous potential when it comes to inspiration. True, potential doesn’t always lead to accomplishment, but… The freedom to create unselfconsciously, with a child’s delight in the ridiculous and unlikely, doesn’t that appeal to you?

When I was a child, “Internet” wasn’t even a word in my household, and covers provided my first encounter with a book or magazine. I don’t remember reading any book reviews between the ages of 6 and 14. So, setting aside for now the books that relatives gave me, I bought my own on the strength of a particular cover. As you may imagine, I saw little beyond the awesome.

I now see so far beyond the awesome that I’ve come full circle — well, no, not full circle. I’ve done a 359°, not a 360°. You could say I’m through the looking glass, privy to a strangeness that few can behold. 

And that strangeness is the place where stories come to life. Nothing is more personal than midwifing a story into this world; and what a messy business that can be, full of blood and guts and screaming and passing out and…

Anyway. Shall we begin our educational tour?

Clearly this illustration represents a conflict between selfish, overweight humans who have invaded an extrasolar planet and now intend to rob that gigantic, scaly green child of its treasured pet rock.

Myrna Chappaqua is a mild-mannered claims adjuster who wears a face on top of her face. She loves her job because she meets lots of interesting people. 

The Pilglodzes, from Narkhar Point in Zeta Reticuli, would like to thank the Earth Tourist Board for all the free electric spaghetti. However, there's no need to send any more of those wheeled vehicles that shoot appetizers from tubes; their noise tends to wake up baby Pilglodz.

A man who lost a bet must wear a fishbowl on his head until he can persuade Queen Carproxian of the Foliesbizarres to marry him and his pet goat, Achilles.

Mary Klempton inherits her grandfather's mansion. During her first night there, a disembodied hand attempts to pick her nose for hours, never succeeding, as Mary's nostrils are exceptionally small. However, Mary's best friend, Athena, was nosepicked to death that night. How can Mary not attempt to exorcise her dead grandfather, with his strange nose-picking ways?

Jake promised his dying pet chipmunk, Zobieski, that he would carry a fruit basket on his head, in memory of Zobieski, for at least sixty-seven years. Jake's pastor couldn't get him to lose the fruit basket. Nor could his parents. The Navy couldn't get him to lose it, either. But in Bali, he meets a bewitching girl... a girl who reminds Jake of sweet little Zobieski... and who seems to know a lot more about Jake than any normal person would. 

A nudist opera singer whose high notes shatter crystal wanders into the long-forgotten lair of woman-headed spiders and, in her panic, lets out a yelp that pulverizes all their wine glasses. A lengthy trial ensues where the singer must face the dire consequences brought about by her wanton ways.

See you next week!

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