They featured tough heroes like The Shadow and Doc Savage. They came emblazoned with sensational titles like "True Gang Life" and "Spicy Adventure." And they leapt off the racks with vivid (and occasionally lurid) cover art.
The 12th annual Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention took place over the weekend in Lombard, bringing together dozens of dealers and hundreds of fans who love classic pulp-fiction magazines and paperbacks.
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The convention took place inside the Westin Lombard Yorktown Center Hotel. In addition to the buying, selling and trading of classic pulps, fans got a chance to purchase original cover artwork, listen to a panel discussion about pulp-fiction writer (and former suburban resident) Edgar Rice Burroughs and screen early films featuring Burroughs' popular character, Tarzan, who debuted 100 years ago.
Barrington resident Doug Ellis, co-founder of the show, said roughly 475 people attended this year's convention.
"It's a smaller type of show, but the fans are very passionate," Ellis said. "We tend to see people come out year after year."
Most of the pulp magazines and books that dealers offered at the show dated back to the first half of the 20th century, when pulps were at their height of popularity. The magazines were known for publishing trashy, exploitative stories, but they also provided an early home for writers who would go on to become giants in their fields, like crime writer Jim Thompson and science-fiction writer Isaac Asimov.
"That kind of material couldn't get published in paperback form very often," said John Hutchins of Fantasy Illustrated, a Washington-based dealer that set up shop at the convention. "The pulps were an important outlet for many good writers early on."
The pulps also introduced readers to characters who would endure for decades, like the aforementioned Tarzan and Burroughs' John Carter of Mars, as well as Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian.
Hutchins said the collectors' market for early pulps remains strong, with some paying hundreds of dollars for a magazine that features a particular cover painting or a story from a well-known author. Some of the pulps on the Fantasy Illustrated table were priced over $600.
Ellis said the show has built momentum steadily over the years.
"I'm glad because I know Chicago is a good market for this kind of material, and so there really should be a show here that focuses primarily on pulps," he said. "I look forward to bringing in more fans in the future."
For information about future shows, visit windycitypulpandpaper.com.