Galaxy Babes: The Gaudy, Brazen Cover Art Of Planet Stories

Galaxy Babes: The Gaudy, Brazen Cover Art Of Planet Stories
Planet Stories Vol. 1, No. 10 (Spring 1942). Cover by Alexander Leydenfrost

In the 1930s, there were no video games, no pen-and-paper RPGs and no Star Wars. If you wanted to experience interplanetary adventure and romance, your only option was pulp sci-fi. For libidinous gentleman, the magazine of choice was Planet Stories; a salaciously illustrated anthology filled with strange worlds, gung-ho heroes and scantily-clad alien babes. It was prurient space trash from a more innocent era, and it was awesome.

Planet Stories was published between 1939 and 1955 by the comic book/pulp fiction outfit Fiction House. Alongside its fabulously lurid covers, the magazine is best known for giving Philip K. Dick his first story sale in 1952 (for the telepathic Martian pig tale Beyond Lies the Wub). It also published works by Isaac Asimov, Clifford Simak and Ray Bradbury. But by and large, it attracted less prestigious contributors whose derivative stories rarely lived up to the sumptuous exterior artwork.

The covers tended to emphasis sex, with pinup-style astrobabes and space princesses embroiled in scenes of derring-do and peril. Covers were painted by a rotating roster of artists including Allen Anderson, Kelly Freas and Alexander Leydenfrost.

At the time of publication, the sexual content contained in Planet Stories was considered risque and explicit. By today’s standards, it is almost comically tame. Planet Stories seems antiquated now, but it helped to kickstart a science-fiction boom that is still going strong today. Without it and its contemporaries, we may never have got a Mass Effect. Here are some of the newstand covers that caught working Joes in their tractor beams through the ’40s and ’50s.

[Via Cover Browser]


  • There was a burger place near college that was covered in comic covers and stuff like this. It was pretty great.

  • There was a fair amount of minor fiction in PLANET…but when Ms. Leigh Brackett wrote for the magazine (and helped along her young friend Bradbury), the level of even those early issues was elevated considerably…and after Jerome Bixby began editing the magazine at the turn of the ’50s (before writing his own most famous stories such as “It’s a Good Life-” or “Trace”), he greatly improved the average quality of the magazine, drawing such younger writers as Philip Dick, Poul Anderson, Charles Harness and others who at least came within shouting distance of Brackett…who, of course, even by the end of her life was sought out for such projects as writing the first script for The Empire Strikes Back (alas, she died not long after finishing it, and others took it from there), while her novel The Long Tomorrow was recently reprinted by the Library of America. 1950s PLANET issues tended to be more impressive.

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