Sunday, January 14, 2018

MODERN WONDER (1937 to 1941)

Issue Vol.1 No.10 July 24th 1937.

As mentioned here in November, the latest issue of Spaceship Away includes an excellent article by Andrew Darlington on the innovative 1930s weekly Modern Wonder. Inspired by the feature I decided to seek out some issues myself and was impressed by the results. 

Modern Wonder was a weekly publication that ran from 1937 to 1941 (changing its title along the way in 1940 to Modern World). It was a large sized glossy magazine providing articles of speculative science, current technology, and prose text stories. Initially, its page size was huge; 41cm high by 27cm wide, then it reduced to the standard tabloid size later used by Eagle and TV21. Although it featured no comic strips (apart from reprints of Flash Gordon from American Sunday papers later in its run) it was pretty much a template for what followed years later with Eagle, even down to full colour cutaway illustrations. 

Modern Wonder was a fabulous publication that conveyed the 1930s hopes for a brighter tomorrow where fantastic technology would be a boon to mankind. Sadly, World War 2 scuppered those hopes, and, I'd venture, made Modern Wonder suddenly seem increasingly naive in places. That, plus paper rationing forcing a cut back from 16 to 8 pages, was probably the death knoll for the publication as it limped to its grave in 1941. 

That national optimism returned in the 1950s, but it was too late for Modern Wonder by then. However, let's take a look back at parts of the few issues I have to see what a great mag it was, and how it envisioned a future that might have been, had war not sent the world tumbling off into another direction...

Is it just me, or does this train look like Judge Dredd's helmet? Coincidence of course. Modern Wonder Vol.2 No.24, October 30th 1937...

Yes, they did indeed speculate that a train would run on giant ball-bearings and reach a speed up to 250mph....

From the same issue, a back page feature on then-current telephone technology...

Modern Wonder relished in its visions of motorways and high speed trains. We're not quite there with streamlined cars like this yet, and even Pendolino trains don't quite tip sideways that far! No.42, March 5th 1938...

From the same 1938 issue, an early prediction of widescreen cinema, which would later develop in some ways (but with different technology) as the IMAX cinema...

Television was just starting to take off in the late 1930s, until war postponed that too. Modern Wonder Vol.3 No.67 August 27th 1938...

As mentioned above, Modern Wonder also featured prose stories, illustrated with high quality artwork. If anyone knows the identity of these artists I'd be obliged...



I've only scratched the surface of what a fantastic magazine Modern Wonder was. I hope you enjoy seeing the amazing covers in large format. (In case you don't already know, click on the images, and click again to see them full size. Best viewed on a computer, not a phone.) To reiterate, the current Spaceship Away (No.43) has a much more detailed history of Modern Wonder so I urge everyone to buy it. http://spaceshipaway.org



3 comments:

Standby4action said...

The last piece appears to the signature 'Chester' and of course Beynon the author is John Wyndham

Peter Gray said...

Thanks Lew enjoyed seeing this...

Robert Carnegie said...

I realised after falling for it several times that computer magazine business Future Publishing liked to launch a new magazine with a feature about an exciting new computer model which, I finally noticed, they's made up. Is it possible that someone grew up reading "Modern Wonder"? I... conjecture.

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