I touched on Frank R. Paul earlier, the dean of Science Fiction illustration and the first major illustrator within the genre. Now, I’d like to focus specifically on his colorful visions in the ’40s on what life on other worlds would be like. Paul illustrated a series of back covers to Fantastic Adventures (life on other planets) and Amazing Stories (cities on other planets), amongst other back-cover visions. His illustrations show 1940s semi-scientific predictions of how our galaxy could be populated by “men” from our celestial neighbors, along with the surreal cities they lived in. Colorful, fanciful, and pulpy, but also arresting in their grandiosity. And they’ve been making the rounds lately, since IDW is coming out with a new book about Paul’s life and work.
I’m missing a few—“Crystallis, Glass City on Io,” “Magnetic City on Ganymede,” and “Crater City on Saturn,” for instance; I’ve seen thumbnails of them and they’re pretty interesting. “Life on Titan,” as well as the full pictures for life on Callisto and Europa (the images I have are missing the text blurbs). And Paul did some fascinating images with the same “As Mars Sees Us” title, a series titled “Stories of the Stars” about different stellar bodies, and a series of mythological monsters and heroes for Fantastic Adventures, all of which I couldn’t manage to track down.
Alas, scientific fact has left our neighboring planets barren wastelands and gas giants devoid of sentient life; no alien men there to discover. But while Paul’s visions are quaintly obsolete, they’re a fascinating look back to a world of what-ifs and what-could-have-beens.