Monday, October 24, 2016

Devils and Demons on the Cover of Weird Tales

This is the last week before Halloween and it's time for some subjects suited to the season. I'll start with devils and demons, the spirits that we are supposed to ward off with our wearing of costumes. I count nearly two dozen Weird Tales covers showing devils and demons, including a few from Canada (covers, not devils and demons). I have a feeling I have missed some. If I have, they will turn up eventually and I will place them here. Three--possibly four or five--of these covers show a man dressed as a devil. The others appear to be depictions of supernatural beings. The first, showing a demon lunging at two men, is genuinely frightening. Two more show Oriental-style demons. Five show a pretty conventional figure in a devil costume. One of the least conventional and one of my favorites is Virgil Finlay's devil on the cover of the April 1937 issue. That's not to take away anything from Matt Fox, a one-man demon factory, who was responsible for six of the twenty-two covers here. And I see by the cover of May 1945 that I have an addition to make to my list of Weird Tales covers featuring circles and spirals. In any case, here are the devils and demons on the cover of Weird Tales.

Weird Tales, February 1925. Cover story: "Whispering Tunnels" by Stephen Bagby. Cover art by Andrew Brosnatch. This is a somewhat poor image. It looks like whoever scanned it did not descreen the image. Below is a larger but less clear version.

Weird Tales, April 1929. Cover story: "The Devil's Rosary" by Seabury Quinn. Cover art by Hugh Rankin. Hugh Rankin was no spring chicken when he created this cover. Born in 1878, he was already half a century old when it was published. C.C. Senf, another Weird Tales cover artist of the 1920s, was only five years his senior, but what a difference those five years (and Senf's European birth and education) made. While Senf was an old-fashioned artist suited in many ways to the backward-looking tendency in weird fiction, Rankin was up-to-date, capturing in his art the look of the 1920s. There is without a doubt an art nouveau influence: the flowing grace of that art movement shows through here. But there is also a distinct art deco look to Rankin's work. Witness the geometric forms and, more to the point, the art deco/1920s female figure, small in the bust, somewhat long in the waist, with rouged cheeks and bobbed hair. There ought to be a collection of Hugh Rankin's work in book form, for he was an artist too-neglected in his time and ours.

Weird Tales, February 1931. Cover story: "Siva the Destroyer" by J.-J. des Ormeaux. Cover art by C. Barker Petrie, Jr., the second of two Oriental-style demons on the cover of the magazine.

Weird Tales, June 1935. Cover story: "The Horror in the Studio" by Dorothy Quick. Cover art by Margaret Brundage. Not an especially scary devil.

Weird Tales, August 1935. Cover story: "Doctor Satan" by Paul Ernst. Cover art by Margaret Brundage. This was the first appearance of Paul Ernst's series character Doctor Satan, who is, as I understand it, not a supernatural being but a normal person, albeit in the weird hero category.

Weird Tales, May 1936. Cover story: "The Devil's Double" by Paul Ernst. Cover art by Margaret Brundage. This was the seventh Dr. Satan story.

Weird Tales, April 1937. Cover story: "Symphony of the Damned" by John R. Speer. Cover art by Virgil Finlay. One of Virgil Finlay's weaknesses as an artist was his repetitiveness: he tended to draw the same monster or demon again and again. (See the cover for May 1952, below, for an example of that.) In this cover, however, he created an original and arresting image of a devil, despite the conventions of pointed beard, mustache, ears, and horns (at least I think they're horns).

Weird Tales, September 1937. Cover story: "Satan's Palimpsest" by Seabury Quinn. Cover art by Margaret Brundage. Margaret Brundage created works of great delicacy, grace, and beauty. She was especially good at depicting women. But she may not have had what it takes to create truly frightening and horrifying demons, monsters, or creatures. Here again, she drew a conventional and not very scary devil.

Weird Tales, Canada, July 1942. Cover story: "Hell on Earth" by Robert Bloch. Cover art by an unknown artist. The Canadian edition of Weird Tales has been neglected by people who study the magazine. I aim to correct that as best I can in a later series. For now, we'll have to settle for what we know about the series' cover artists, which isn't much and does not include the name of the creator of this devil cover of July 1942.

Weird Tales, July 1942. Cover story: "Coven" by Manly Wade Wellman. Cover art by Margaret Brundage. The American edition of Weird Tales for July 1942 came first but I have put it after the Canadian edition here because of the cover story it shared with the Canadian edition of November 1945, shown below. The cover artist was Margaret Brundage. Her approach with this cover was very much different than with her pre-war covers for Weird Tales: less Busby Berkeley, more Val Lewton.

Weird Tales, Canada, November 1942. Cover story: "Coven" by Manly Wade Wellman. Cover art by an unknown artist.

Weird Tales, Canada, January 1945. Cover story: "The Shadow Folk" by Edmond Hamilton. Cover art by an unknown artist.

Weird Tales, May 1945. Cover story: "The Shining Land" by Edmond Hamilton. Cover art by Peter Kuhlhoff. I wrote awhile back about the return to the conventions of horror and fantasy as World War II came to an end, and in the years after. This seldom-seen cover by Peter Kuhlhoff, as well executed as it is, is another example of that. It came out in the month in which the war in Europe ended. If I had to show a bunch of people flying through Hell in May 1945, more than few Nazis would come to mind.

Weird Tales, July 1946. Cover story: None. Cover art by Matt Fox.

Weird Tales, May 1947. Cover story: None. Cover art by Matt Fox.

Weird Tales, November 1947. Cover story: "The Cheaters" by Robert Bloch. Cover art by Matt Fox.

Weird Tales, March 1949. Cover story: None. Cover art by Matt Fox. In regards to the postwar artists for Weird Tales, many depicted the conventions of horror and fantasy again and again, even as the world had changed and the magazine published a lot more science fiction under editor Dorothy McIlwraith. I don't know what to make of that exactly except that weird fiction is more interested in the past than in the present or future.

Matt Fox's cover reminds me of this cover, by Wesso, for Strange Tales, March 1932.

Weird Tales, January 1950. Cover story: "The Ormolu Clock" by August Derleth. Cover art by Matt Fox.

Weird Tales, July 1950. Cover story: None. Cover art by Matt Fox.

Weird Tales, May 1952. Cover story: "The Lamia in the Penthouse" by Thorp McClusky. Cover art by Virgil Finlay.

Weird Tales, September 1953. Cover story: None. Cover art by Jon Arfstrom. I guess I could add this cover to the lists of skull covers and covers with circles and spirals.

Weird Tales, Winter 1973. Cover story: None. Cover art by Bill Edwards. 

Text and captions copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Robert Weinberg (1946-2016)

Robert Weinberg has died. As a writer, editor, publisher, fan, and collector, Mr. Weinberg did more than anyone, I think, to carry Weird Tales from the defunct era of the pulps into the 1970s and beyond. He acquired the Weird Tales property from Leo Margulies in the mid 1970s and immediately set about reviving the title and the franchise with WT 50: A Tribute to Weird Tales (1974), a self-published paperback that included material both old and new. Mr. Weinberg followed up that effort with the hardbound volume The Weird Tales Story in 1977 and a six-part serial, The Weird Tales Collector, published from 1977 to 1980. If I understand my history of the property correctly, Robert Weinberg was owner when various revivals of the magazine came about, in 1980-1983 under Lin Carter; 1984-1985 under Gordon M.D. Garb; and 1988-2010 under George H. Scithers, Darrell Schweitzer, John Gregory Betancourt, Ann VanderMeer, and Stephen H. Segal. As his health declined, Mr. Weinberg sold the Weird Tales property to Viacom, while the license to publish a magazine passed to Marvin Kaye in 2012. That is how I understand the situation anyway. Unfortunately, Weird Tales is, at this point, moribund and in need once again of revival. It is unfortunate as well that no one of Robert Weinberg's caliber as an editor, publisher, and--perhaps most importantly--fan and devotee seems to be standing ready to do what he did with Weird Tales. No one can speak for the departed, but I feel certain that Robert Weinberg would not have wanted this to happen.

As for biographical facts on Robert Weinberg: He was born on August 29, 1946, in Newark, New Jersey, in the first year of the Baby Boom and in the last decade of Weird Tales in its original run. According to the Internet Speculative Fiction Database, his first published work in a genre magazine was a letter in Robert A.W. Lowndes' Magazine of Horror in November 1965. Mr. Weinberg's first credits as magazine editor (Deeper Than You Think . . . , Jan. 1968); reviewer ("Skull-Face and Others" in Deeper Than You Think . . . , Jan. 1968); fictioneer ("Destroyer," in If, May 1969); essayist ("Some Notes on Robert E. Howard," in Return to Wonder #7, Nov./Dec. 1969); author of non-fiction (The Robert E. Howard Fantasy Biblio, 1969); and poet ("Heaven, Hell," in Return to Wonder #8, Jan./Feb./Mar. 1970) followed in rapid order. Those works began a career that lasted half a century and ended only with Robert Weinberg's death on September 25, 2016, in Oak Forest, Illinois.

I would like to thank Randal A. Everts for bringing Robert Weinberg's passing to my attention. I would also like to offer to the Weinberg family my sympathies and, on their behalf, the sympathies of everyone who dreams, writes, reads, and enjoys works of fantasy, horror, and science fiction, a field to which Robert Weinberg gave so much.

Weird Tales, July 1946, published in the month before Robert Weinberg's birth, a happy event of August 29, 1946. The cover art, perfect for this Halloween season, was by the inimitable Matt Fox.

Text copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Authors on the Cover of Weird Tales

"Child, child--come with me--come with me to your brother's grave tonight. Come with me to the places where the young men lie whose bodies have long since been buried in the earth. Come with me where they walk and move again tonight, and you shall see your brother's face again, and hear his voice, and see again, as they march toward you from their graves, the company of young men who died, as he did, in October, speaking to you their messages of flight, of triumph, and the all-exultant darkness, telling you that all will be again as it once was."
--From "October Has Come Again" in
The Face of a Nation, Poetical Passages from the
Writings of Thomas Wolfe by Thomas Wolfe (1939)
Thomas Wolfe had a special claim on October: he was born in this most nostalgic and evocative of months in 1900, and he returned to the subject of October again and again in his writings. Wolfe's brother Ben--his closest brother--died in that same month in 1918 of the Spanish Flu, a disease that killed more people worldwide than the Great War that had waged before it. Nearly one hundred Octobers have passed since then. Now summer is gone and October has come again, as Wolfe chanted in the passage from which the quote above is taken. This is the season of cut corn and apple cider, of woodsmoke and leaves aflame, of pumpkins, apples, squash, and remembrance. The world and life will come 'round again, but for now, plants retreat into seed, root, and rosette, insects into egg, pupa, and diapause, small animals into their burrows and dens, and we into sweaters, home, memory, and hope.

Edgar Allan Poe died in October. The anniversary of his death--October 7--just passed. Harry Houdini died in October, too, fittingly on Halloween 1926, ninety years ago this month. Those two men were the only authors of whom I am aware who appeared in both name and figure on the cover of Weird Tales. The faces of two artist/authors were on Weird Tales: Virgil Finlay and Hannes Bok created self-portraits in two covers respectively. The last cover shown here from the original run of Weird Tales is less certain to fall into the category of authors on the cover of the magazine. I have included it here only as a possibility. Finally, there is the cover of the Fall 1984 issue of Weird Tales, created by Ro H. Kim with Brinke Stevens as his model. So, two named authors, two self-portraits, a modeled portrait, and an uncertainty. Those make the authors on the cover of Weird Tales from 1923 to 1985.

Weird Tales, March 1924. Cover story: "The Spirit Fakers of Hermannstadt" by Harry Houdini. Cover art by R.M. Mally.

Weird Tales, February 1937. Cover story: "The Globe of Memories" by Seabury Quinn. Cover art by Virgil Finlay. The figure of the swordsman in the center is almost certainly a self-portrait of the artist.

Weird Tales, September 1939. Cover poem: "The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe. Cover art by Virgil Finlay.

Weird Tales, July 1941. Cover story: "The Robot God" by Ray Cummings. Cover art by Hannes Bok. Again, the male figure is probably a self-portrait of the artist.

Weird Tales, September 1950. Cover story: "Legal Rites" by Isaac Asimov and James MacCreagh (sic) (Frederik Pohl). Cover art by Bill Wayne. Asimov co-authored the cover story--that looks an awful lot like him on the right. The anatomy is odd. Note the oversized hand and the misplaced arm.

Weird Tales, Fall 1984. Cover story: "The Pandora Principal" by Brinke Stevens and A. E. van Vogt. Cover art by Ro H. Kim with Brinke as his model.

Text and captions copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Egypt on the Cover of Weird Tales

Egypt and subjects related to Egypt have been on the cover of Weird Tales seven times by my count. The first was the triple-issue first anniversary number of May/June/July 1924 and shows a generic Egyptian scene of Sphinx and pyramids. The next three show women being menaced by one thing or another. The last three are a little more complicated and not easily categorized.

There were Orientalists among the first generation of writers for Weird Tales, Otis Adelbert Kline and E. Hoffman Price chief among them. Farnsworth Wright must have been one of them, too, as he eventually saw a pet project, Oriental Stories/The Magic Carpet Magazine, into print. In any case, the mysterious East held the imagination of writers, artists, and readers alike for decades before Weird Tales came along, but an event of the 1920s brought Egypt to the fore, namely, the opening, on February 16, 1923, of King Tut's tomb. The first issue of Weird Tales, dated March 1923, was probably on the newsstand by then. A year later, as investigations at the tomb continued, Weird Tales capitalized on the interest in Egypt, pyramids, tombs, and mummies with its cover, by R.M. Mally, for Harry Houdini's story "Imprisoned with the Pharaohs." Universal Pictures got in on the action eight years later with what I think was the first mummy movie, called, appropriately enough, The Mummy. Like the covers of Weird Tales from the 1920s, that movie also featured a woman menaced by a villain, in this case, the mummy himself, come to life. And like the last two Weird Tales covers on the subject of Egypt, it had that woman in ancient Egyptian dress.

Finally, as a friend calls it, some hypostulatin': I wrote last time about World War II and noted that the last Weird Tales cover on that subject came only midway through the war. It seems to me that after the war, American popular culture had some new things to deal with and responded accordingly with some new or rapidly evolving genres: film noire, science fiction, the Cold War thriller. But it also retrenched (to use a military metaphor) into horror, fantasy, and monster movies, stories, and comic books. As we have seen, stories of monsters, being stories of the supernatural, have had a hard time surviving in a world in which all things are scientified (my neologism, not my friend's). Almost every monster movie made these days is actually a science fiction movie, as all the monsters have a science fiction explanation. Even the recent Mummy series, overloaded as it is with computerized effects, has the look of a science fiction extravaganza. Anyway, it's strange to see an Egypt cover on the Weird Tales issue of March 1945, the month in which the Allies broke into Germany on the Western Front and the war in the Pacific was finally nearing the Japanese homeland. What was in people's minds at the time? Did they think that we would just go back to the way things were before the war? Was there a kind of nostalgia for the prewar world? Even if there was such a thing, the people of the time must have known that the world had changed beyond measure and that there would be no going back.

Weird Tales, May/June/July 1924. Cover story: "Imprisoned with the Pharaohs" by Harry Houdini. Cover art by R. M. Mally.

Weird Tales,  August 1927. Cover story: "The Bride of Osiris" by Otis Adelbert Kline. Cover art by the underrated Hugh Rankin. 

Weird Tales, April 1928. Cover story: "The Jewel of Seven Stones" by Seabury Quinn. Cover art by C.C. Senf.

Weird Tales, June 1929. Cover story: "The House of Golden Masks" by Seabury Quinn. Cover art by Hugh Rankin.

Weird Tales, April 1930. Cover story: "The Dust of Egypt" by Seabury Quinn. Cover art by Hugh Rankin.

Weird Tales, November 1938. Cover story: "I Found Cleopatra" by Thomas P. Kelley. Cover art A.R. Tilburne.

Weird Tales, March 1945. Cover story: "Lords of the Ghostlands" by Seabury Quinn. Cover art by A.R. Tilburne.

Text copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley

Monday, October 10, 2016

War on the Cover of Weird Tales

The beasts of this world show that they are about to be unpent, and though the traditional seasons for the commencement of war have passed, those beasts must see opportunities now that may slip from them soon.

One hundred and two years ago at this time, British, French, and German forces had already begun digging the first trenches on the Western Front and were only weeks away from battles that would effectively freeze the action there for the remainder of the Great War. Next year, 2017, will mark the centennial of the American entry into the war. Among the millions of men under arms were future writers and artists for Weird Tales. Among them, too, were the magazine's future publisher, Jacob Clark Henneberger, and future editor, Farnsworth Wright.

Seventy-seven years ago at this time, the last Polish military forces surrendered to the Nazis, and the beginning of the Sitzkrieg was on the horizon. Two years and two months later, the United States was attacked, Nazi Germany declared war upon our country, and World War II began living up to its name as a truly global conflict. Weird Tales survived the war by only nine years (nine years on the dot, in fact), but there were writers and artists for the magazine who served in that war as well. Moreover, the war was the subject of a good deal of art and fiction of that time. "The Dreams of Albert Moreland" by Fritz Leiber, Jr. (The Acolyte #10, Spring 1945) is one very good example.

I count six covers of Weird Tales on the subject of war beginning with the December 1939 issue and ending with the July 1943 issue. The first and last showed dead soldiers in the form of a skeleton or ghost. In between were three covers in which machines have come to life or seem to be guided by a spirit of some kind. In the exact middle is the best of the bunch, I think, Hannes Bok's cover from November 1941, published a month before the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Weird Tales, December 1939. Cover story: "Lords of the Ice" by David H. Keller. Cover art by Hannes Bok, his first for the magazine. The artists and writers for Weird Tales may have wanted to put the Great War behind them, but the sequel to that war would have invaded their consciousness. There was no avoiding it, and so, as soon as Weird Tales was able, I think, it had a war cover in this illustration by newcomer Hannes Bok, from December 1939.

Weird Tales, September 1940. Cover story: "Seven Seconds of Eternity" by Robert H. Leitfred. Cover art by Ray Quigley. This is surely one of the most bizarre images to appear on the cover of the magazine.

Weird Tales, November 1941. Cover story: "The Book of the Dead" by Frank Gruber. Cover art by Hannes Bok, one of his finest and one of the most iconic covers for Weird Tales and perhaps for any pulp magazine. 

Weird Tales, May 1942. Cover story: "The Rogue Ship" by Malcolm Jameson. Cover art by Ray Quigley, another of his bizarre machine-monsters.

Weird Tales, January 1943. Cover story: "Quest of a Noble Tiger" by Frank Owen. Cover art by A.R. Tilburne. The artist Tilburne specialized in depictions of animals and in general drew organic forms. It's no surprise that his treatment of an amalgam of a machine and an organism or spirit would include a soft and flowing woman. Ray Quigley on the other hand is most well known as an artist for Popular Science and handled machines, especially cars, very well. His covers for Weird Tales emphasized machines and, strangely enough, monstrous machines.

Weird Tales, July 1943. Cover art: "His Last Appearance" by H. Bedford-Jones. Cover art by Edgar Franklin Wittmack. The story was called "His Last Appearance," and by my estimate this was the last war cover in Weird Tales. I have not read this story, but the ghost looks like a soldier from the Great War (although British and American troops wore the same type of helmet at the outset of World War II). If that's the case, then the war covers had come full circle.

As to why there were no more war covers after July 1943, I can't say. I would hazard a guess that an Allied victory--though not the particulars--was pretty well assured by then. Maybe people had already tired of war and had begun to think about a postwar world.

I would like to take this opportunity to observe the suffering and sacrifices of Poland, its military, and its people during World War II. Invaded on both sides by two totalitarian regimes, the Poles stood little chance in the war. However, Poland which had previously saved Europe at least three times, lent its forces-in-exile to the victorious Allied cause and now stands on the bulwarks of the continent, resisting aggression from the East and extraordinary decadence and demographic collapse from the West. By no coincidence, I think, Poland is one of the last Christian nations in Europe and a predominantly Catholic one. Again, if Christendom stands against invasion and decrepitude, it will be perhaps because of Poland and its people.

Text and captions copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley

Sunday, October 9, 2016

A New Page-Weird Tales Covers

Since January 2014, I have been working on a catalogue of themes and subjects that appeared on the cover of Weird Tales. That series has been a little disjointed, so I figured I had better add an index so that you and I can keep it all straight. Here is the link to the newest page on my blog, Weird Tales Covers:

You can always click on the page on the right as well.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Clowns on the Cover of Weird Tales

Our country is being overrun by clowns. You will see them skulking along the edges of town or down the street from your house, in the shadows and away from the streetlight. They stalk your children at school and look in your windows at night. There is no telling what they might do next.

It has been awhile since we had some nice mass hysteria. You could call the growing clown invasion a hoax, but maybe these clowns aren't real at all. Maybe our seeing of clowns is merely an expression of our fear and anxiety at what's going on in the world. Or maybe by seeing and fearing clowns, we can somehow comfort ourselves in the face of a far greater fear and threat. Perhaps we can distract ourselves from what we are about to do as a nation.

I am reading The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov right now. The story is of a visit by the devil to Moscow in the 1930s. The devil, who goes by various titles, including consultant, professor, and expert on black magic, is accompanied by a retinue. One in his retinue, Korovyov the choirmaster, is a man who wears checked pants, broken glasses, and a funny hat. He is obviously a clown figure and is even called a buffoon. He is not so innocent, however. In fact, he represents in one of his aspects the arbitrary and relative nature of the all-powerful State, which, as the twentieth and now the twenty-first century have shown, is a potent force on the side of evil. Whether we elect next month the Buffoon or the Mother of Lies, we are without a doubt about to choose a president from among the devil's retinue. A creepy clown in your neighborhood is pretty harmless by comparison.

So I found a clown on one cover of Weird Tales--or maybe he just kind of looks like a clown. That doesn't make "clowns" a category or a recurring theme. I admit this is a stretch. On the other hand, I don't have all the covers of the magazine catalogued yet, so there might be a clown or another clown hiding in there somewhere, which is, after all, what clowns do these days.

Weird Tales, May 1950, with cover art by Boris Dolgov. Jaffery and Cook's index of Weird Tales does not give a cover story, but the title "Tell Your Fortune" by Robert Bloch is shown on the cover. That ties in nicely with The Master and Margarita, in which the devil, upon his arrival in Moscow, gets the ball--or I should say the head--rolling by foretelling a man's (very brief) future.

A final note: I should mention that Mikhail Bulgakov also wrote science fiction and is in the Internet Speculative Fiction Database: I am now keeping my eyes peeled for his books.
Text copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley