Saturday, December 24, 2016

I'm Dreaming of a Weird Christmas . . .

Or
Scenes of Winter, Snow, and Ice on the Cover of Weird Tales

Tonight is Christmas Eve, and for the occasion I would like to show the covers of Weird Tales in which there are scenes of winter, snow, and ice. There are five of them, and they're a mixed bag to be sure. The first, by R.M. Mally, isn't bad. I'm actually intrigued and would like to read about Joe Scranton and his amazing adventure. The second, by Andrew Brosnatch is also intriguing. C. Barker Petrie's cover from January 1927 is my favorite. In fact it's one of my favorite of all Weird Tales covers. And from there it's downhill again to the last cover, from May 1939. So here they are, and . . .

Merry Christmas to Readers of Weird Tales!

Weird Tales, October 1923. Cover story: "The Amazing Adventure of Joe Scranton" by Effie W. Fifield. Cover art by R.M. Mally. An icebound ship makes me think of "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" by Samuel Taylor Coleridge . . .

Here illustrated by Gustave Doré. This episode from the poem is set in the South Atlantic, so there shouldn't be any polar bears. Oh, well.

Weird Tales, July 1925. Cover story: "The Werewolf of Ponkert" by H. Warner Munn. Cover art by Andrew Brosnatch.

Weird Tales, January 1927. Cover story: "Drome" by John Martin Leahy. Cover art by C. Barker Petrie, Jr.

Weird Tales, March 1933. Cover story: "The Thing in the Fog" by Seabury Quinn. Cover art by Margaret Brundage.

Weird Tales, May 1939. "The Hollow Moon" by Everil Worrell. Cover art by Harold S. De Lay.

Text and captions copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Dwarves on the Cover of Weird Tales

In his book Danger Is My Business: An Illustrated History of the Fabulous Pulp Magazines: 1896-1953 (1993), Lee Server recounted the story of the weird menace magazines of the 1930s, titles that included Dime Mystery Magazine, Terror Tales, and Horror Stories. Despite the shared word "weird" (and despite some overlap between the two), weird menace and weird fiction were separate genres. Mr. Server explains:
The "terror" or "Weird Menace" stories, as they came to be known, had many of the trappings of the horror genre, but there were distinct differences. Unlike the traditional scary story, the new form eschewed the supernatural. . . . No ghosts or vampires or black magicians, but equally creepy types out of real life, the mutilated and the psychotic, renegade scientists and crackpot cult leaders. (p. 106)
Weird menace was inspired by a trip that pulp publisher Henry Steeger made to Paris, more specifically to the le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol, where he saw theatrical violence, cruelty, and gore in abundance. "We could do a magazine like that," Steeger realized, "with the same sort of emphasis." (Quoted on page 106.) Lee Server sees other possible influences, writing:
Steeger may also have had an eye on such contemporaneous movies as Island of Lost Souls, Mystery of the Wax Museum, and Freaks, each offering similar modern-dress horrors--vivisectionists, deformed maniacs, denizens of the carnival sideshow, all staples of the Weird Menace world. (p. 106)
He continues:
Villains, when they did materialize, were a mix of scheming psychopaths--mad scientists, religious cultists, vengeful old crones--and their repellent assistants--gnarled dwarves, brainless mutants, horny hunchbacks. They invariably came equipped with a panoply of elaborate devices for torture and slow death, bubbling vats, buzz saws, iron maidens, branding irons, or flame throwers. (p. 109)
Note the phrases "gnarled dwarves" and "horny hunchbacks."

Now, I can't say that Weird Tales was influenced by the weird menace magazines in its depiction of dwarves. After all, four of the eight covers shown here predate the arrival of Dime Mystery Magazine, the first of that type, in 1933. Instead, it seems to me that weird fiction and weird menace both drew from popular culture, folklore, fairy tales, and other sources in how they treated dwarves, hunchbacks, and other people not deemed of normal stature, build, or appearance. I suppose the idea was that sin or moral failings are expressed in the physical appearance of sinners. Even Tolkien's dwarves, heroes that they are, are sometimes lacking in moral fiber. Writers and artists of the pulp era fell too easily into stereotyping not only black people (as seen in a previous posting) but also dwarves. One difference is that black stereotypes in art are often about appearance, whereas stereotypes of dwarves seem to be about their moral character or about their role in the human drama. Either way, the pulps were not always kind to little people.

I count eight covers of Weird Tales showing dwarves or other little people. Six of the eight show dwarves as bad guys, or suggest that they are. One is neutral. And only one, the last, is positive. Note that the first dwarf cover following the advent of the weird menace magazines, from May 1937, could easily pass as one among that genre. The blurb on the cover--"a powerful tale of weird horror"--should remove any doubt that Weird Tales, usually "The Unique Magazine," was in this case imitating rather than standing alone.

Weird Tales, March 1926. Cover story: "Lochinvar Lodge" by Clyde Burt Clason. Cover art by Andrew Brosnatch. You could call this the classic image of the dwarf in fantasy. He could easily have been one of J.R.R. Tolkien's inhabitants of Middle Earth. Unfortunately, it looks like the dwarf here is a villain. On top of that, he is about to be walloped.

Weird Tales, April 1926. Cover story: "Wolfshead" by Robert E. Howard. Cover art by E.M. Stevenson. I'm not sure that this is a depiction of a dwarf, but he looks pretty small in stature. Whatever he is, the man here is a villain, and he appears to be animated by the spirit of a wolf.

Weird Tales, March 1927. Cover story: "The City of Glass" by Joel Martin Nichols, Jr. Cover art by C.C. Senf, another bizarre cover by the artist. The dwarf's bodily distortions make it almost like something from a hallucination or a dream. I still can't figure out what is that thing on his foot. Update (Dec. 21, 2016): Now I've got it. That's not a thing on his foot. It's a stool. Apparently the woman has been sitting. Upon getting up, she has upset the stool and his foot is behind it. I'm an artist and even I had a hard time reading that picture.

Weird Tales, July 1929. Cover story: "The Corpse-Master" by Seabury Quinn. Cover art by C.C. Senf. Update (Jan. 9, 2017): Again, here's a threatening dwarf and again he's green. 

Weird Tales, July 1930. Cover story: "The Bride of Dewer" by Seabury Quinn. Cover art by C.C. Senf. The dwarf here is not obviously a bad guy. The depiction here appears to be neutral at worst.

Weird Tales, May 1937. Cover story: "The Mark of the Monster" by Jack Williamson. Cover art by Margaret Brundage. I'm not sure that the male figure here is a dwarf, either, but again, he looks small in stature. Even if he is a normal-sized man, he has physical deformities, making him a suitable weird menace villain. Margaret Brundage drew a lot of pictures of women being tormented by men. She was no shrinking violet, and maybe the reading public demanded it, but I wonder if she felt that way herself sometimes.

Weird Tales, July 1938. Cover story: "Spawn of Dagon" by Henry Kuttner. Cover art by Virgil Finlay. Here is the typical Virgil Finlay Tor Johnson-like muscleman or eunuch and the typical moping face on the dwarf in front of him. Note that his skin is green, like that of two of the preceding dwarves. I take the color green to be a signifier of alienness. Plants are green. So are snakes and frogs. So, too, are many monsters, like Cthulhu.

Weird Tales, May 1940. Cover story: "The City from the Sea" by Edmond Hamilton. Cover art by Hannes Bok, who created the only obviously positive image of a dwarf on the cover of Weird Tales. It looks to me that the image of dwarves, like that of black people, softened as Weird Tales matured in the late 1930s and 1940s.

Revised January 9, 2017.
Text and captions copyright 2016, 2017 Terence E. Hanley

Monday, December 19, 2016

Cavemen and Jungle Women on the Cover of Weird Tales

Cavemen and jungle women or jungle girls are and were everywhere in popular culture. That popularity isn't really reflected in the illustrations that appeared on the cover of Weird Tales, for only two showed characters of that type. It strikes me now (the way a stone axe strikes a caveman's skull) how old-fashioned--and static--was the artwork on the cover of Weird Tales. Even J. Allen St. John, who created some very dynamic compositions, was an artist from another time. Despite the innovation of being the first fantasy magazine in America, Weird Tales seems to have been stuck in the nineteenth century, at least by its covers.

Weird Tales, March 1925. Cover story: "The Last of the Teeheemen" by Arthur Thatcher. Cover art by Andrew Brosnatch. I showed this cover the other day. I still don't know anything about the story. That could be a cavewoman on the right, but I'll call her a jungle woman instead, one of the earliest of a type that became very popular in the 1930s through the 1950s.

Weird Tales, April 1932. Cover story: "The Red Witch" by Nictzin Dyalhis. Cover art by C.C. Senf. 

Weird Tales, August 1938. Cover story: "The Wolf-Girl of Josselin" by Arlton Eadie. Cover art by Margaret Brundage. Mike Tuz pointed out that this cover from 1938 shows what is essentially a jungle girl. (See his comment below.) Thanks for the addition, Mike. I should point out that a jungle guy, Tam, Son of Tiger, appeared on the cover of four issues of Weird Tales. I'll cover Tam in a later entry on series characters on the cover of the magazine.

Text and captions copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Black People and Africa on the Cover of Weird Tales

Now comes a not very pleasant part of categorizing the covers of Weird Tales. Black people are on the cover of ten issues of the magazine. Few if any of these covers show a black person in a positive light. Most depictions here are either neutral or negative. The first, from December 1924, shows a white guy pummeling a black man in the back of the head. Some would say that things haven't changed very much since then.

It might be worth noting that the first three covers shown here were published while Weird Tales had its offices in Indiana and that the 1920s were a high point in the power of the Ku Klux Klan in the state. I wouldn't make too much of that, though, for official or semi-official attitudes towards black people were pretty bad pretty much everywhere in the first few decades of the twentieth century. When I say official or semi-official, I mean within the offices of government, academia, magazine publishing, and Hollywood moviemaking, among other places. Few writers, artists, screenwriters, or movie directors demonstrated the imagination and courage necessary to depict black people truthfully and honestly as human beings. Popular culture was especially bad in that way. In other words, these covers for Weird Tales were not out of the ordinary for the time. I wish it could have been different.

Weird Tales, December 1924. Cover story: "Death-Waters" by Frank Belknap Long, Jr. Cover art by Andrew Brosnatch. I don't know the story behind the illustration, but the implication is that the white men are the sympathetic characters and the black man is not. The complication here is that the depiction of the black man is naturalistic and does not rely on racial stereotypes. In other words, the artist Brosnatch did not dehumanize his subject in any way, even if he showed him being beaten up and abused.

Weird Tales, March 1925. Cover story: "The Last of the Teeheemen" by Arthur Thatcher. Cover art by Andrew Brosnatch. I don't know who the Teeheemen are. I'm not sure they are Africans. But I have included this cover here just in case. Anyway, here is more violence against the dusky races, this time perhaps justified by the need for self-defense and for the protection of the woman.

Weird Tales, August 1925. Cover story: "Black Medicine" by Arthur J. Burks. Cover art by Andrew Brosnatch. Black medicine is presumably the same as black magic, in which case the wizard (or is it a witch?) here is presumably a villain. I can't say that these are egregiously racialist depictions of black men (or women), but I can't say that they're especially favorable, either.

Weird Tales, February 1930. Cover story: "Thirsty Blades" by Otis Adelbert Kline and E. Hoffman Price. Cover art by Hugh Rankin. I can't tell who or what that is on the left. Is it a black man? Or a demon of some kind? Either way, he is standing over the woman, presumably protecting her. Or is the man in Arab dress protecting her? I don't know. Note that the figure of the woman is deemphasized by coloring her a neutral purple hue. Comic book artists of later years used the same approach for objects in the foreground or background.

Weird Tales, March 1930. Cover story: "Drums of Damballah" by Seabury Quinn. Cover art by C.C. Senf. Despite the fact that he was European by birth, C.C. Senf more easily fell back on racial stereotypes than did his American-born counterparts Brosnatch and Rankin. Here, the black man is not much more than a minstrel-show type. The phallic imagery of the snake--which is the same color as the man and his loincloth and originates from near his groin--is almost certainly unintentional but nonetheless too obvious to ignore.

Weird Tales, June 1930. Cover story: "The Moon of Skulls" by Robert E. Howard. Cover art by Hugh Rankin. Here is the first (obviously) black woman on the cover of Weird Tales. The image here is pretty small and hard to see, but she looks okay in my opinion. Hugh Rankin seems to have been more interested in her as an element of design or as a decorative element than as a racial stereotype.

Weird Tales, December 1931. Cover story: "The Dark Man" by Robert E. Howard. Cover art by C.C. Senf. I'm not sure that the figure on the left actually represents a black man, but he is very dark. Maybe the title should be "The Very Dark Man." This cover also is in the category of reaching hands.

Weird Tales, July 1932. Cover story: "The Phantom Hand" by Victor Rousseau. Cover art by C.C. Senf. Here is the second (or third) black female figure in this category of covers. Although the depiction is not an extreme racial stereotype, the type of character shown here--the black witch-woman--is somewhat stereotypical. (Other, more recent examples: Gloria Foster as Oracle in The Matrix [1999] and Carmen Ejogo as Seraphina Picquery in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them [2016].) If she were a man, we could say that the snake once again represents something more than a snake.

Weird Tales, March 1934. Cover story: "The Black Gargoyle" by Hugh B. Cave. Cover art by Margaret Brundage. The theme of a creature ogling a woman is a common one. Again, I can't say that this is an egregious racial stereotype. The black character here looks more like a puppet, almost like a character from an animated cartoon. The whole effect is somewhat comical.

Weird Tales, April 1934. Cover art: "Satan's Garden" by E. Hoffman Price. Cover art by Margaret Brundage. The whipping covers get to be pretty tiresome. I just don't understand the fascination with whipping and torturing women in popular culture, but that's another thing that has changed little in the eighty years since this cover was published, for moviemakers love to kill, maim, mutilate, dismember, torture, rape, and otherwise torment members of the female sex. Why? I suppose it reveals a deep-seated hatred, dread, or resentment of women. In any case, I should point out that Margaret Brundage was a friend and associate of black people in her native Chicago. Strangely, she was part of the crowd that gave us our current (though rapidly diminishing) president. Her depiction here of a black man, though somewhat poorly handled, is not what I would call racist or racialist, even if he is using violence against a white woman.

Updated April 12, 2017.
Text and captions copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley

Thursday, December 15, 2016

American Indians and the American West on the Cover of Weird Tales

American Indians and the American West appeared on four covers of Weird Tales. There is also one cover showing a scene from Old Mexico. Each of the four Western covers has a supernatural or weird element, signifying that they are part of what is now considered a distinct sub-genre, the weird Western. So what are the origins of the weird Western story? Well, if you look at the Wikipedia article "Weird West," you will see several lists of weird Westerns in different forms. The first chronologically on those lists is "The Horror from the Mound" by Robert E. Howard, published in Weird Tales, May 1932. It's clear by the following covers that there were Westerns with weird or supernatural elements before Howard's tale, but is a ghost story also a weird tale? I'm not sure that it is, if in fact weird fiction is a separate genre from the ghost story. That would bring up a question, then: What was the first weird Western story in the history of literature?

Weird Tales, January 1924. Cover story: None. Cover art by R.M. Mally. Like I said, a ghost story isn't necessarily a weird story. If an illustration doesn't have a story or poem as its subject--if it stands alone and tells its own story--then Mally's cover may be interpreted as a ghost story and may not be a weird tale. Or maybe it doesn't matter. Maybe this cover goes into the category of weird Western anyway.

Weird Tales, February 1924. Cover story: None. Cover art by R.M. Mally. Two successive months, two successive Western covers by R.M. Mally. First the cowboy, then the Indian. In fact, this is the first cover for Weird Tales showing what is now called a minority. I have written about it before in my entry on Ralph Allen Lang, here.

Weird Tales, January 1928. Cover story: "The Gods of East and West" by Seabury Quinn. Cover art by C.C. Senf. I wrote about this cover recently. I find it bizarre, ugly, and poorly executed. I can't imagine what the editorial staff was thinking when they commissioned it.

Weird Tales, November 1928. Cover story: "The Mystery of Acatlan" by Rachael Marshall and Maverick Terrell. Cover art by C.C. Senf. This is a much better cover by Senf that the previous one, but I don't get the weird (meaning perverted) obsession pulp writers, artists, and readers had with whips, chains, bondage, and overall sadomasochism. You'll see more covers like this one soon. Too many in fact.

Weird Tales, September 1942. Cover story: "Satan's Bondage" by Manly Banister. Cover art by A.R. Tilburne. I have written about this cover before, too. It's partly a swipe. You can read more about it by clicking here.

Text and captions copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Weird Tales in Indiana

Today, December 11, 2016, is the two-hundredth birthday of the State of Indiana. I would like to say Happy Birthday to my home state and to point out that Weird Tales was born here, in Indianapolis in fact. The founder of the magazine, Jacob Clark Henneberger (1890-1969), arrived in Indianapolis in 1919 to work for a weekly newspaper. He alternated between that city and Chicago for a number of years. For example, he was married in Chicago on June 18, 1919. (His bride was Alma K. Schneidewind.) The city directory of Indianapolis, on the other hand, had him living downtown, at 320 North Meridian Street, in 1920. Henneberger published his first magazine, Collegiate World, in Indianapolis beginning in 1920. In 1922, Henneberger and John M. Lansinger founded Rural Publishing Corporation and went about publishing two genre magazines. The first issue of Detective Tales had a cover date of October 1, 1922. The first issue of Weird Tales followed in March 1923.

Henneberger and Lansinger's joint venture went aground in 1924. In an effort to save Weird Tales, Henneberger gave up Detective Tales and more or less ceded financial ownership of his preferred title to Cornelius Printing Company of Indianapolis. Weird Tales returned to print in November 1924 with Farnsworth Wright at the helm. Like Henneberger before him, Wright lived in Indianapolis and had his offices at the old Baldwin Building (not to be confused with the old Baldwin Piano Building on the Circle). In 1926, Weird Tales moved its offices to Chicago. The Indianapolis era presumably did not end until Weird Tales was purchased by Short Stories, Inc., in 1938, at which point the magazine presumably ceased being printed by Cornelius Printing Company.

Weird Tales relied heavily on artists from Indiana in its first couple of years, especially William F. Heitman (1878-1945), a German-born sketch artist for the Indianapolis Star. Heitman created covers for two issues of "The Unique Magazine" in its first year. Known for his speed with a pen, Heitman illustrated whole issues by himself until the triple, first-anniversary issue of May-June-July 1924. Harry Harrison Kroll (1886-1967) and George Olinick were among the other Hoosier artists to contribute to Weird Tales.

Much is made of "The Big Three"--H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, and Clark Ashton Smith--in Weird Tales. If we were to create a category of "The Big Six" or "The Big Ten," we might include at least one Hoosier on that list, C.L. Moore (1911-1987) of Indianapolis. (She grew up only a few blocks from our childhood home.) H. Bedford-Jones (1887-1949) and E. Hoffmann Price (1898-1988), though not native to Indiana, lived there for a time as well. Another prominent Hoosier contributor to Weird Tales was writer Wallace West (1900-1980). There were of course others, but for now I'll let this brief list stand on its own.

The Coke bottle and Clabber Girl Baking Powder were created in Indiana. So, too, was Weird Tales. With that, I would like to say Happy Birthday to my home state, the Hoosier State of Indiana!

Weird Tales, born in Indianapolis in 1923, a little more than one hundred years after the state (1816) and the city (1821) came into being.

Text copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley

Monday, December 5, 2016

Middle American Indians on the Cover of Weird Tales

Orientalists such as E. Hoffman Price and Otis Adelbert Kline were prominent in their contributions to Weird Tales. Less well known are the anthropologists and ethnologists who wrote for the magazine. Two of these writers were in fact father and son, Mark R. Harrington (1882-1971), aka Ramon de las Cuevas, and Johns Harrington (1918-1992). H.P. Lovecraft's friend, collaborator, and literary executor Robert H. Barlow (1918-1951) was also an anthropologist and specialized in the study of early Mexico. Barlow contributed to Weird Tales posthumously, in 1981.

Although depictions of the native people of Middle America were not as common on the cover of Weird Tales as people from the Far East, they were still the subject of three illustrations, all from the early days of the magazine. Still more stories and poems of Aztecs, Mayas, and other peoples were on the inside of the magazine.

Weird Tales, November 1924. Cover story: "Teoquitla the Golden" by Ramon de las Cuevas (Mark R. Harrington). Cover art by Andrew Brosnatch, his first for the magazine.

Weird Tales, August 1930. Cover story: "The Curse of Ximu-Tal" by Harry Noyes Pratt. Cover art by Hugh Rankin, an uncharacteristically muddy picture by the artist.

Weird Tales, March 1932. Cover story: "The Vengeance of Ixmal" by Kirk Mashburn. Cover art by C.C. Senf. This is a seldom-seen cover. The reproduction here is very poor, but it's the best image I could find of this cover.

Revised Dec. 15, 2016.
Text and captions copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley

Friday, December 2, 2016

Pirates on the Cover of Weird Tales

There were two pirate covers for Weird Tales, one near the beginning of its run, the other near its end. The first doesn't have any obviously weird elements. It's one of few covers for the magazine that could just as easily have been the cover for a general story magazine. The second cover is obviously for a weird story and misses my article "Coye's Uncategorizable Covers" by only this much.

Weird Tales, October 1923. Cover story: "The Amazing Adventures of Joe Scranton" by Effie W. Fifield. Cover art by R.M. Mally.

Weird Tales, Sept. 1951. Cover story: "Gimlet Eye Gunn" by H. Bedford Jones. Cover art by Lee Brown Coye. Both story and cover were in Short Stories six and a half years before.

Short Stories, March 25, 1945. This image reminds me of one of my favorite Aurora models . . .

The Forgotten Prisoner of Castelmaré, with cover art by Mort Künstler, whose name, oddly enough, translates as "Death Artist" in French and German.

Text and captions copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley