NOW 15 CENTS!!! Which seems like an excellent deal because this is one of my all time favorite magazine covers - the kind of unusual artwork that surprised and captivated me and ensured that I would be prowling the moldy stacks looking for other beautiful vintage magazines long after I should have stopped.
This issue is Vol 4., No. 6 from November of 1932.
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways:
1. "THE MAGAZINE OF PROPHETIC FICTION": What a fantastic slogan! Much better than modern terms like "Speculative Fiction". (Speculative? You mean you are just guessing?) Prophetic fiction is so much more powerful and philosophically deep. Prophetic fiction is suggesting two things at once - that what you are about to read is false (a fiction) but that at the same time this false world is going to come into being - perhaps through biblical fiat. That immediately establishes a tension and connection with the reader that is far more interesting than the effete "speculative fiction".
3. The title of the magazine is great too. Wonder Stories. But when I look at that title, and the artwork on this cover, I can't help but be reminded of the Wonder Bread name and logo.
In all the early pictures i can find of the Wonder Bread logo (like here on flickr) Wonder Stories shares the yellow, red, and blue spots, and the "Wonder" name but not the dynamic tilt to the logo like on the cover of this magazine. However, the tilt is there in later incarnations of the Wonder Bread logo.
Wonder Bread according to Wikipedia, was established in May 1921 (pre-dating Wonder Stories by 8 years). The logo was "inspired by the red, blue, and yellow of the international balloon race held at the Indianapolis Speedway" and designed "by commercial artist Sidney Peers while he was on staff at a Chicago Ad agency...."
Was there some influence of the bread logo on this cover of the story magazine? It's possible.
4. But the "Wonder Bread" theory is directly contradicted by a long and interesting editorial in the magazine where Hugo Gersback explains exactly why and how he made the cover. In the editorial he explains how the cover is actually an innovative artistic representation of the process by which color images were printed in 1932, (i.e. it is a blow up of the three color process screen dots that make up color images). An interesting claim Mr. Gernsback makes is that this cover represents the first time that "a normal three-color process screen has been enlarged sixty times". If his claim is correct than I believe this cover artwork is an important antecedent to the art of Roy Lichtenstein who became famous for his use of enlarged Ben-day dots in his artwork.
Could Roy Lichtenstein, who was born in 1923 have come across this magazine at a newstand in New York when he was 9 years old (he lived in New York City at the time), and become as entranced as I am by it? It's definitely possible as the magazine also had offices in New York City and would have been well distributed there. I will leave the further scholarship to art historians, but I think it is definitely an interesting precedent, known or unknown, to the pop art style that Lichtenstein made so famous.
5. But it's not just the dots that make the cover so wonderful....The SPLAT shape too....Could this be another important precursor to modern art? Jackson Pollack moved to NYC in 1930. Might he also have seen and been entranced by the cover of this remarkable magazine? Only instead of being entranced by the dots, his mind was blown away by the graphic beauty and expressive simplicity of the red SPLAT....a single bold splat that his mind morphed and multiplied into the drips and splats of his action painting?
Is it possible that the creative seed planted in the minds of two great artists by this incredible cover would eventually germinate into the two most important art movements of the twentieth century - Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art?
Or is this whole description just a work of speculative fiction? Well, I will leave that for you to decide.
But these are some of the ways I love thee oh Wonder Stories magazine!