Cover Art probably had far greater importance in 1940 than it does now. Images draw us in and back in 1940, it is for certain that your average science fiction reader was not inundated with hundreds, if not thousands of SFnal images on a daily basis. Artists could not display all of their work on the web – if they were lucky they got in a couple of images per month! Not to mention the competition on the news stands. There’s a reason why pulps used such outre lettering on their titles and a reason why their covers were often bright and action packed if not garish, over-blown and titillating. That cover had to catch the eye of someone passing by at walking speed for whom spending a quarter was a serious enterprise..
The artists represented on the covers of 1940 run the gamut from the iconically familiar to the obscure:
Howard V. Brown
William JuhreJulian S Krupa & Leo Morey
H. W. McCauley
Frank R. Paul
J. W. Scott
J. Allen St John
Famous and familiar are Frank R. Paul, Margaret Brundage, Leo Morey, Howard Brown, J. Allen St. John (of Burrough’s cover fame), Hannes Bok, Virgil Finlay and Hubert Rogers. Sadly (for award purposes) the luster seems to have gone out of both Paul’s and Brundage’s work. Finlay is also not shown to great effect, though bits and pieces of his best do come through. Bok is not nearly as surrealistic as one normally associates with his work. Brown displays a wide range of subject. Rogers equally so, particularly in the area of technology.
Of the relatively unfamiliar, Juhre’s depiction of an alien being is quite striking. I am also fond of Fuqua’s Adam Link vs Tank cover. (But then robots and tanks are a thing with me.)
So here are the cover efforts of the women and men who were among the first to realize the crazed imaginations of the science fiction authors. (Clicking an image will display a larger version.)