Pulp artists needed cephalopod anatomy lessons

I am OFFENDED. There’s this collection of pulp magazine covers featuring cephalopods, and they’re terrible.

Look at this one: I have a thousand questions. Why are they exploring an alien planet in skimpy clothes? Why is the man wearing a space helmet, but the woman apparently doesn’t need one? Why does the cephalopod have its mouth in the wrong place, and why does it have teeth?

Nice headlights, octopus-man. Also, why is his human face a couple of stories tall? Does the artist know nothing of perspective?

This is the worst one of them all. It’s asymmetric, with some arms on the left improbably long, while the ones on the right looking different. It’s got this hunchbacked, bug-like look with appendages coming off the mantle. This was drawn by a person who apparently never saw a cephalopod.

I swear, I’m going to stop this time-machine and turn it back 70 years just so I can slap a couple of bad artists.


  1. jstackpo says

    Planet Stories can be forgiven their anatomical gaffs because they published a Ray Bradbury story. Bracket and Wellman are names I remember from olden days, but not the other cover authors.

  2. PaulBC says

    The first one is an ET that evolved convergently to look a little like an octopus with teeth. It does not even have cups on its tentacles. Maybe the second one is a giant robot. The third one is just badly drawn by any measure. The submarine is also weird.

  3. says

    At least those guys have an excuse, never having encountered octopus aliens before. How do you explain Rob Liefeld, who thinks some people can have 57 dozen teeth in their mouths, despite having seen people all his life?

  4. says

    I’m honestly shocked that man in the first one is also mostly naked. I suspect the two of them were on their way to a party when the creature attacked because it’s the only explanation for the woman’s shoes.

    As for the helmet, I think it’s pretty progressive for the guy to wear a device that allows him to keep his vaping to himself.

  5. davidnangle says

    There’s something sinister going on in that second one. The mask makes me wonder about the central character’s motivations. Perhaps he is intent on evil and wishing to disguise his appearance.

    Also, why does a doctor have a pistol, and why is he firing it off into the sky?

    Oh, and suckers on the dorsal aspect of the tentacles? I guess that’s a minor quibble compared to EVERYTHING ELSE.

  6. says

    Why are they on a yellow brick road? That doesn’t look like the Emerald City behind them. On the other hand, maybe it’s a yellow flagstone road. Or yellow macadam?

  7. methuseus says

    I would be a horrible comic or pulp artist. I didn’t notice the shoes on the woman, and I assumed they would be sensible ones. That’s what I would think of.

  8. says

    well actually the first one is an alien and therefore impossible to be “wrong.” It may be unbelievable or implausible but it cannot be wrong.

  9. stroppy says

    #10 Don’t feel bad, I’m pretty sure most of this ephemeral stuff was cranked out by the yard. Given tight deadlines and low pay, I can see artists relying heavily on their morgue files and slapping together covers on a Lucigraph. These cats weren’t painting the Sistine Chapel…

  10. komarov says

    For the first one, the lack of a helmet may seem odd, but really it’s fine. Given a breathable atmosphere it might just boil down to encumberance versus protection from space coconuts, and that’s a decision everyone has to make for themselves.
    What absolutely isn’t fine is the footwear. The intrepid explorer, or possibly exploreress, if there ever were such a word, should wear sensible, robust shoes when venturing out into the alien world. When first setting foot on an unknown planet, always make sure it’s not a high-heeled one. Mind you, the man seems to be wearing roman-style sandals so, heels or no heels, it’s not that much of an improvement.

    As for the creature in the picture, evolutionary differences have already been pointed out but, based on a very persuasive gut feeling, I believe that what we’re seeing is actually an aardvark.

  11. ridana says

    Pistol? I was wondering why he was wielding a glue gun.

    I like how the women in the sub don’t seem to be all that terrified. The one on the left looks like she’s posing for a 19th century cameo.

    The road in the first one looks like a cheese pizza. What surprised me was how small the explorer woman’s boobs and butt were, compared to how she’d be drawn today. I’m sort of willing to forgive her shoes (perhaps she’s a local he’s rescuing, which would also explain her lack of helmet (I have no explanation for the suspenders for his skirt)) because at least she’s not suffering from brokeback or other spinal issues from running with breasts larger than her head with no support.

  12. jack16 says

    How fondly I remember. I had a folding aluminum stool and I”d sit in a corner of the local newsstand while waiting for the bus. Bought all the zines I was sneaking. The dealer loved me.

    What are the publication dates and present-day price estimates?


  13. Pierce R. Butler says

    I had thought pulp magazines non-existent in 1944, what with The War consuming all their necessary raw material (pulp).

    And an Evil Menace not adorned with a swastika or rising sun? That’s either a fake or an extremely rare collector’s item!

  14. wzrd1 says

    Just be careful, Doc. Remember, every doctor of that entertainment era mysteriously had a pistol to ineffectively blaze away at some monstrous threat.
    I heartily recommend any fastener gun from Hilti, they’re worth the additional expense.

    Monster comes into the room, out comes my gun, bang, bang, bang! “There, nothing getting through that door, it’s solidly nailed shut!”
    “Sir, you sealed the monster in the room – with us!”
    “Everyone’s a critic. How else are we going to communicate without incessant interruptions of idiots with firearms?”
    Pulls out hand unit, showing the creature my pressing the CC button, while explaining my actions and all notice text appearing in the bottom field of view, which varies upon button press, then hands it to the creature, who feverishly presses the CC button while making noises until it’s satisfied.
    “Close captioning, for the linguistically impaired.”

  15. Jazzlet says

    I’m squicked by the guy on the first pulp having the helment bolted straight into the tender skin around his neck.

    And it is odd that some of the tentacles of the being on the second pulp appear to be bifurcated.

  16. PaulBC says

    The complete text of that issue of Planet Stories is available in garbled OCR form.

    TERROR OUT OF SPACE . . . Leigh Brackett
    An eerie tale of a silver land beneath ebony Venusian seas, of Lundy whose duty was to capture the menace which had come from nowhere— and of “It” whose shadowed eyes held the secret for which men fought and died.

    It begins:

    Lundy was flying the aero-space convertible by himself. He’d been doing it for a long time. So long that the bottom half of him was dead to the toes and the top half even deader, except for two separate aches like ulcerated teeth ; one in his back, one in his head.

    Thick pearly-grey Venusian sky went past the speeding flier in streamers of torn cloud. The rockets throbbed and pounded. Instruments jerked erratically under the swirl of magnetic currents that makes the Venusian atmosphere such a swell place for pilots to go nuts in.

    There is also a print edition at https://books.google.com/books?id=PYME_Jaira4C&printsec=frontcover&dq=%22terror+out+of+space%22+leigh+brackett&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi1vfG8ha3jAhWLKs0KHZR4BgUQ6AEIKjAA#v=onepage&q=%22terror%20out%20of%20space%22%20leigh%20brackett&f=false with extremely poor typography.

    I didn’t have the patience to find out if the Venusians look like cephalopods. Should I have heard of Leigh Brackett?

    Clearly written in the style recounted fondly by Ursula K LeGuin. “back to the Saurian ooze from whence it sprung” (I hate the fact that I can’t copy-paste from Google books, but here’s a link https://books.google.com/books?id=ksOjjuy3issC&pg=PA27&lpg=PA27#v=onepage&q&f=false)

  17. PaulBC says

    Interesting. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leigh_Brackett
    “[Leigh Brackett] was the first woman shortlisted for the Hugo Award.”

    I wonder if “Leigh” seemed just ambiguous enough that she didn’t feel compelled to use initials or a pseudonym the way many women did at the time. I was starting to wonder if Lewis Padgett, referenced by LeGuin was a pseudonym for the same author but

    Lewis Padgett was the joint pseudonym of the science fiction authors and spouses Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore,[1][2][3] taken from their mothers’ maiden names. They also used the pseudonyms Lawrence O’Donnell and C. H. Liddell, as well as collaborating under their own names.


  18. anxionnat says

    Exploring an alien planet. In high heels. Trying to escape a monster. In high heels. In the 1970s we used to refer to these types of shoes as “legal footbinding.” (eye roll. Give me strength.)