A typical 'old look' Blue Book cover; this one by Herbert Morton Stoops.
A 'new look' cover by John McDermott, from May 1952 - 4 months into the redesign...
By the time this issue hit the stands Blue Book had received hundreds of letters which "ranged from outraged indignation to almost lyrical ecstasy," according to that month's editorial column.
"There seems to be just one thing that a few veteran Bluebook subscribers tend to overlook," wrote the editor, "namely, that a magazine that doesn't change with the times, that isn't - like a prizefighter - constantly forward on its toes, soon will find itself lost in the parade of progress."
Spearheading that change, Bluebook's new AD, Len Romagna, immediately began assigning stories to modern stylists like Dave Stone...
... Howard Willard...
... and W. David Shaw.
Literal realism was not abandoned -- but the illustrators we've looked at all week disappeared. Replacing them were artists adept at rendering a more contemporary version of realism, artists like Bill Baker...
... and Frank Lacano (remember this post?)
Notice also that Romagna seems to have looked to the "Seven Sisters" and other more mainstream magazines for the new Bluebook's page design.
Typographic elements, framing devices and illustration were now being blended together to form a complete visual in a manner typically seen in Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping and so on. Rather than have the visual be strictly a 'storytelling picture', Lacano was allowed to use the shape of the jacket as a graphic design element in a way you would never have seen in the old Blue Book.
Another new development: fewer historical and period piece stories. A greater emphasis on crime and detective fiction...
... and a distinctly more prurient bent.
Not everyone was thrilled with the new Bluebook:
"To the Editor: Today I received my favorite magazine, Bluebook, in its familiar wrapping. With favorable anticipation I opened it, only to be startled, discouraged and disgusted to find someone had changed the old faithful Bluebook, with its sketches, pictures, line drawings and simple pleasant colors, and made it into something I wouldn't read in a dentist's office."
Please let's go back to the layout that has been so popular for so many years."
"To the Editor: You have gone berserk! It was nice knowing you..."
"To the Editor: You've lost a reader..."
"To the Editor: I am outraged..."
"To the Editor: I was shocked..."
"To the Editor: You have stabbed Bluebook in the back..."
"To the Editor: Change it back, please!"
"To the Editor: If the next issue doesn't improve, I shall cancel my subscription..."
"To the Editor: If the March issue is the same, you can crawl back under your damp rock..."
I can't help but wonder if John Fulton, Maurice Bower, Benton Clark and all the rest who had toiled in Blue Book's pages for all those years ever read those letters, and perhaps took solace in the sentiment expressed by those loyal readers...
In the 20's and 30's these artists had graced the covers and pages of some of America's most popular magazines. In the 40's they had had to lower their expectations, as younger artists and changing trends had pushed them aside. Blue Book had at least given them a place to continue doing fine work. Their somewhat dated styles still suited the nature of the stories told in "The Magazine of Adventure for MEN, by MEN".
But now even that door had been shut.
"Bluebook has no intention of eliminating the great writers who have made Bluebook famous, " reassured the May '52 editorial.
No such luck for the illustrators.