Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Hannes Bok's Uncategorizable Cover, Then Politics on the Cover of Weird Tales

Hannes Bok is known for his strange and fantastic people, monsters, aliens, and other creatures. In March 1940, this design by Bok appeared on the front of Weird Tales:


The image above could go in other places in my categories of covers for Weird Tales: with woman and monster (maybe); with devils and demons (maybe); with vampires and bats (maybe); or with winged creatures (maybe). That's a lot of maybes, and that's because this cover isn't easily categorizable, for the woman isn't a woman, the demon isn't a demon, and the bat isn't exactly a bat. Heck, even the sloth is part bird. That's why I have put this cover alone . . .

Except that it isn't alone, because thirty-three years after "The Unique Magazine" printed that cover, it printed this one (albeit under different ownership and editorship):


The artist was Gary Van Der Steur, and his illustration was clearly meant as an homage to Bok's cover from so many years before. The bat is now a bird (it could be a dove). The demon now looks like a demon and carries a knife with a bloody point. The fetal cyclops remains. So does the face in the lower part of the picture, only instead of a fantasy animal, it looks like (and is) a depiction of Richard Nixon. Times had changed.

By personal correspondence, Mr. Van Der Steur let me know that he had included Richard Nixon in his illustration. As I write this (on Nov. 10, 2016), election week is ending and we now have a president-elect. It seems safe to say that this has been the weirdest election year in American history. I'll close the month in which the election occurred with the only political cover (as far as I can tell) for Weird Tales.

Text copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley

Monday, November 28, 2016

Coye's Uncategorizable Covers

Lee Brown Coye was a singular artist possessed of a singular vision. His cover designs for Weird Tales sometimes approached the conventional, but they were more often strange and hard to categorize. I have fit some of the following covers in other categories, but the fit isn't perfect. Some are so strange as to stand alone, the January 1949 and March 1950 covers for instance. Notice that all show a single figure in the middle of the composition, a man in a cloak or a robe or wearing threadbare clothing. Notice, too, that all all of these men are in a state of advanced age, decrepitude, or decay. One of them has in fact died, leaving only his bones and the bones of his horse. None of these men looks like Lee Brown Coye, but I can't help but think that they could be self-portraits of a soul.

Weird Tales, July 1945. Cover story: None. Coye's first cover for Weird Tales and an illustration for "Count Magnus" by M.R. James from the hardbound anthology Sleep No More (1944), edited by August Derleth. I included this image with haunted houses and graveyards, but it seems to me now that this is not a scene in a graveyard.

Weird Tales, March 1946. Cover story: "Twice Cursed" by Manly Wade Wellman. (I'm not convinced this is an illustration for a story.) You have seen this image before in the categories of surrealism, and haunted houses and graveyards. 

Weird Tales, March 1948. Cover story: None. Coye received the plum assignment of illustrating the twenty-fifth anniversary cover of Weird Tales. I think this is one of his best for the magazine.

Weird Tales, January 1949. Cover story: "Four from Jehlam" by Allison V. Harding. I created this category of "Coye's Uncategorizable Covers" mostly because of this cover. I don't know where else it might go if not here. Note the stick motif and the giant plant motif in Coye's art.

Weird Tales, March 1950. Cover story: "Home to Mother" by Manly Wade Wellman. This is another of Coye's very strange covers, and here is another motif: the crescent moon, a stylized version of the first letter of his last name.

Text and captions copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Strange People on the Cover of Weird Tales

The title of this entry is misleading, for I'm not going to show a lot of covers with a lot of different kinds of strange people on them. Instead I'm going to show just one cover, which illustrates a story called "The Strange People." You have seen this cover before in the category of "Man, Woman, and Man." It doesn't fit very well in that category, though. Although there is a man with a knife in the picture, he doesn't seem to be threatening the woman. He seems to have cut her loose in fact. Maybe the other man gets to play rescuer, at least in his own mind. But I'm not sure about her, and because I'm not sure about her, I'm not sure about the man in the window. Are they in on something together? Is this all a scheme of some kind? And should the young man watch out?

Weird Tales, March 1928. Cover story: "The Strange People" by Murray Leinster. Cover art by C.C. Senf.

Today we will gather around the dinner table, some of us with people we consider strange. So maybe this cover is fitting for the occasion . . .

Happy Thanksgiving from Tellers of Weird Tales!

Text copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Weird Forces on the Cover of Weird Tales

Some Weird Tales covers are hard to classify. That's why I have come up with this category. You could break them down further if you wanted to: electromagnetic phenomena (four covers); blobs or flumes of smoke, shadow, or slime (three covers); fire (one cover); and ice (one cover). Two more involve furniture, believe it or not. That still leaves the cover for August 1923 illustrating "Sunfire" by Francis Stevens. I have read this story and kept in mind while I was reading it the image on the cover of the magazine in which it appeared. I still don't know what's going on there. It may be the most inexplicable image ever to appear on the front of "The Unique Magazine." In any case, here are the weird forces.

Weird Tales, April 1923. Cover story: "The Whispering Thing" by Laurie McClintock and Culpeper Chunn. Cover art by R.M. Mally. I don't know what the Whispering Thing is, but being able to shoot ray beams out of the bridge of its nose qualifies it as a weird force. 

Weird Tales, July-August 1923. Cover story: "Sunfire" by Francis Stevens. Cover art by R.M. Mally. Is he possessed? Is he crazy? Is he swatting at bees?

Weird Tales, February 1926. Cover story: "Red Ether" by Pettersen Marzoni. Cover art by C. Barker Petrie, Jr. Here the weird force is a lightning bolt that seems to be guided or cast by some unseen malevolence.

Weird Tales, January 1928. Cover story: "The Gods of East and West" by Seabury Quinn. Cover art by C.C. Senf. Another lightning bolt. I know it was called Weird Tales and that you should expect to see weird things in it and on it, but this cover is bizarre. What could have come over the editorial staff to commission it? And what about that woman? If Crocodile Dundee were there, he might check her, just to be sure.

Weird Tales, March 1932. Cover story: "The Vengeance of Ixmal" by Kirk Mashburn. Cover art by C.C. Senf. The man in the headdress is about to strike with his knife. Less obvious is the beam of light falling upon the man lying on the table. Is it a weird force? It seems to be, like the photoelectric beam in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Weird Tales, August 1937. Cover story: "Thing of Darkness" by G.G. Pendarves. Cover art by Margaret Brundage. Notice the recurrence of the eyes in the dark from the first cover shown here. Notice, too, the recurring word in the title: "thing." That was a very popular word among writers in Weird Tales. I could write a blog entry about all the "things" in "The Unique Magazine."

Weird Tales, March 1938. Cover story: "Incense of Abomination" by Seabury Quinn. Cover art by Margaret Brundage. I just noticed that the smoke issuing from the mouth of the skull is turning into hands that touch and caress the woman's naked skin. I should add this cover to the category of reaching hands. Anyway, the skull and the smoke remind me of a smoking monkey from the Fourth of July.

Weird Tales, May 1939. Cover story: "The Hollow Moon" by Everil Worrell. Cover art by Harold S. De Lay, his first for the magazine. Like I said, "Weird Forces on the Cover of Weird Tales" might be translated as "I Don't Know Where Else to Put These Covers." Being frozen inside an iceberg while still being conscious is kind of weird though.

Weird Tales, March 1941. Cover story: "The Man Who Loved Planks" by Macolm Jameson. Cover art by Margaret Brundage. Not only do I not know what is going on in this picture, I also don't know what that title can possibly mean. Are these women spirits trapped inside the wood used to make this chair? I don't know. All I know is that this, too, is kind of weird. 

Weird Tales, February 1928. Cover story: "Ghost Table" by Elliott O'Donnell. Cover art C.C. Senf. I know, it's a ghost table and should go with the ghost covers, but I figure if I'm going to show a chair possessed by spirits, I should show a haunted table as well. By the way, this is the issue in which "The Call of Cthulhu" ran. So the editors chose "The Haunted Table" as their cover story. Nice. Smart.

Weird Tales, March 1953. Cover story: "Slime" by Joseph Payne Brennan. Cover art by Virgil Finlay. I have written about this cover before. It reminds me of The Blob (1958) and the Dr. Seuss book Bartholomew and the Oobleck (1949). It reminds me also of Margaret Brundage's cover from August 1937, shown above.

Text and captions copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley

Monday, November 21, 2016

Vampires and Corpuscles

I finished reading Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith (2010) last night (Nov. 19, 2016). If I were to start writing book reviews here there would be no end to it, but I would like to make some observations and then move on.

Mr. Grahame-Smith's novel is a weird tale and so descended from Weird Tales and from the gothic and romantic stories of the 18th and 19th centuries. It's called a "mashup," a word that contemporary readers find cute but is really just revolting. (Whatever else it might be, "mashup" is way overused.) In addition to being a "mashup" between real historical figures (including Edgar Allan Poe) and those that exist only in fantasy, Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter is a combination of realism and romanticism or gothicism. There is even a navel-gazing writer at the beginning of the book, and, as we know, contemporary fiction in America is mostly fiction by, about, and for navel-gazing writers, preferably writers living and working and agonizing and suffering through their existential crises somewhere on the East Coast. I was waiting for that writer to reappear in the book, as his appearance at the beginning seemed to be the first part of a framing device, but there is no finished frame.

Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter received good reviews, and I can say that it's not a bad book. I have to admit, though, that it's a pretty dreary chronicle of violence and gore. Although the book deals with the problem of evil in the world, it doesn't carry any great moral force or reach any great depth. In fact it trivializes the anguish and suffering of millions of people in general--slaves, Civil War soldiers, and their loved ones--and of Abraham Lincoln and his family in particular. It also offers a hatch through which we can escape from our culpability for the evil that exists in this world by laying blame on vampires. Perhaps its worst offenses are that it makes American history less interesting by introducing vampires into the story, and ultimately remakes Abraham Lincoln into a force for evil rather than for good.

Some miscellaneous thoughts: First, Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, ostensibly a story of good and evil, is reduced to a mere adventure story--and pretty colorless at that--by what I sense to be a prevailing twenty-first century style of writing. A story of this kind demands treatment by a stylist like William Faulkner or Cormac McCarthy. Instead we get what is essentially a screenplay in book form. Second, in terms of classification, Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter might fall into the category of alternate history, more specifically, of secret history, in other words, a kind of conspiracy theory, alternatively, a cult history, like Theosophy or Scientology. Third, in the book, Abraham Lincoln is used and manipulated by a vampire. Rather than being a self-actuated agent of radical change, he is more nearly a pawn of a greater personality, that of his vampire handler. Fourth, in that way, Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter isn't very much different from Mission: Impossible or Charlie's Angels. It's Abraham Lincoln as Sabrina, Jill, or Kelly.

* * *

We went to see Arrival last night (Nov. 19, 2016), and we saw it in a movie theater full of deplorables. Yes, they can read and write and do simple math problems like this: (538 x 0.5) + 1 = the presidency. It's a beautifully made movie--intelligent, sensitive, well written, adult. At first I wondered about the cruelty of moviemakers: this is the second science fiction movie I have seen in recent years in which a child is killed off. (The other was Gravity [2013], ultimately a spiritually empty film.) Here, though, the death of the child proves to be a different matter. The arrival in Arrival is, at first glance, the arrival on Earth of aliens from space. They come here in great asphalt-black ships shaped like giant red corpuscles. (When they turn on their sides, they look like flying saucers.) There are minor offenses in the movie against two of Hollywood's favorite villains, but those are beside the point. This is more the point: Last year, I wrote about circles and spirals on the cover of Weird Tales. Circles and cycles are a theme and a motif in this movie. The alien ships are circular. The aliens themselves have radial symmetry. Their writing, which looks like a cross between a Rorschach blot and a coffee cup stain, is circular. Their closest connection is to a woman, a representative of that half of our species which lives more by cycles than by linearity. (Enforcing that theme is an image of birth and of an after-death experience--or rebirth--in the walk through a long, dark tunnel into a place full of light.) I won't give too much away here, but an escape from the linear into the cyclic is how the death of the child is ameliorated and how Arrival attains a spiritual dimension, something so lacking in the art and popular culture of today.

Copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Robots and Men in Iron on the Cover of Weird Tales

I have found five covers showing robots and men in iron on the cover of Weird Tales. Two show robots, the other three show men in iron. Note that the first robot cover, from 1926, refers to "metal giants," while the second, from 1941, calls a metal monster a "robot." I think that difference can be explained by the origin of the word robot in Karel Čapek's play R.U.R., first staged in 1920. R.U.R. was not translated into or performed in English until a couple of years later. That left not enough time, I suspect, for the word to enter into common usage or for a popular readership in 1926 to know its meaning. Anyway, here are all of the clinking, clanking, clattering collections of caliginous junk on the cover of Weird Tales

Weird Tales, December 1926. Cover story: "The Metal Giants." Cover art by Joseph Doolin. This looks like it could easily be a comic book cover from the 1940s or '50s. I'm thinking in particular of a typical Basil Wolverton scene of destruction.

Weird Tales, June 1929. Cover story: "The House of Golden Masks" by Seabury Quinn. Cover art by Hugh Rankin. I showed this cover not very long ago, but Hugh Rankin is always worth a second look.

Weird Tales, July 1941. Cover story: "The Robot God" by Ray Cummings. Cover art by Hannes Bok. There were only two robot covers in the old Weird Tales. This one is not very much different from Doolin's cover from fifteen years before.

Weird Tales, May 1944. Cover story: "Iron Mask" by Robert Bloch. Cover art by Margaret Brundage. See what I mean about Margaret Brundage's covers from the 1940s being so much different from those of the 1930s?

Weird Tales Canada, September 1944. Cover story: "Iron Mask" by Robert Bloch. Cover art by an unknown artist. If you really want to show a woman in peril, take away her male protector. By the way, the guy in the picture reminds me of . . . 

This guy, Doctor Doom, from the cover of Fantastic Four #57, from December 1966, nearly half a century ago. How time flies.

Text and captions copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley

Friday, November 18, 2016

Spiders on the Cover of Weird Tales

I can't say that this is a complete list of spiders on the cover of Weird Tales, but these are the most prominent, I think. There are three of them. About thirty years separate one from the next. The first is a monstrous spider like the spider in The Hobbit (1937) or The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957). The others appear to be decorations or to establish the mood or to let you know that this is a fantasy.

Weird Tales, June 1925. Cover story: "Monsters of the Pit" by Paul S. Powers. Cover art by Andrew Brosnatch.

Weird Tales, March 1954. Cover story: None. Cover art by Evan Singer.

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

Text copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Gorillas on the Cover of Weird Tales

There were gorillas in my recent posting, "Conan on the Cover of Weird Tales," and there are gorillas here, on two covers of Weird Tales. I expected more before beginning my search, but then Weird Tales didn't survive very long into what one website calls "The Gorilla Age of Comics," when images of simians proliferated on the covers of the nation's comic magazines. I'm not sure why gorillas were so popular in those days, especially in DC comics. In any case, Weird Tales beat them all to the punch with the images shown here.

Weird Tales, June 1923. Cover story: "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" by Edgar Allan Poe. Cover art by William F. Heitman. That's not actually supposed to be a gorilla but an orangutan. Oh, well, at least it's a passable drawing of a simian. The figure of the woman on the other hand is pretty poorly handled, no pun intended. The only thing I can think is that the artist was in a hurry on the day he drew this picture.

Weird Tales, September 1929. Cover story: "The White Wizard" by Sophie Wenzel Ellis. Cover art by Curtis C. Senf. Before there was King Kong, there was this cover for Weird Tales.


Here are two gorilla covers out of millions. Above, Strange Adventures #45 from June 1954 with cover art by Murphy Anderson. I wanted to show this one because the concept of civilized apes--from a place called "Gorilla World" no less--is so much like that in Planet of the Apes. Everybody remembers the movie from 1968. What is less well known is that the movie was based on a French novel, Pierre Boulle's La Planète des Singes, from 1963, nearly a decade, I might add, after this comic book came out. Below, Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #10 from January 1956 with cover art by Curt Swan and Ray Burnley.

You never want to pass up on a chance to show Dave Stevens' art. Here is his cover for King Kong #1 from 1991, evidence that the age of gorilla covers extended into later decades . . .

Even as recently as 2013 when I drew this picture for the back cover of our self-published comic book Five Star Comics. So gorillas were popular on the covers of comic books from the 1950s and '60s. Well, so were atomic bomb explosions and infinity covers. What you're seeing here is--I think--the world's first and only gorilla/A-bomb/infinity cover. (There is also an element of time travel.) It illustrates my story "A-Bombs into Infinity." The only thing it's missing is a flying saucer. Image copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley.

Text and captions copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley

Monday, November 14, 2016

Who Do They Root For?

Tonight I watched Tremors (1990) again for the first time in a long time. I really liked it the first time around, but seeing it now is like seeing it in a new light. The cast is good. I especially like Fred Ward, and he plays his part perfectly. He reminds me of guys I have known in real life, in the military or doing other kinds of physical work. Michael Gross and Reba McEntire are great as the heavily armed survivalist couple. The scene in the basement of their bunker is hilarious in its excess, and the punchline is priceless.

I realized something as I was watching Tremors this time around, though. The movie takes place out in the middle of nowhere, or in B.F.E., as people in the military put it. There isn't a city, a suburb, or even an exurb in sight. There are no coffee bars, no microbreweries, no artisanal this or handcrafted that. Nobody works in media, or entertainment, or government, or higher education. They all work with their hands, making ends meet as they can. There aren't any elites to save them from anything or to instruct them on how they must live. In Perfection, Nevada, the cluster of buildings in which Tremors takes place, college degrees are scarce, but everybody has a gun. In short, almost everybody in the movie is a deplorable, or what used to be called a bitter clinger. Towards the end they even get into the back of an old semi-trailer, as close as there is to a basket in the film. My realization--more a question--is this: Who do leftists, or liberals, or progressives, or whatever they call themselves, root for in a movie? They can't possibly bring themselves to root for a bunch of high school graduates living with guns and knowhow out in some horrifyingly remote, backwards place. So who do they root for?

Copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Conan on the Cover of Weird Tales

On November 11, 2016, Mike Tuz wrote a comment on my article "Winged Creatures on the Cover of Weird Tales." I started to write a reply but it got to be too long and involved for the comments section of this blog. I also wanted to add some images as illustrations. In addition, I had planned to write a series on recurring characters on the cover of Weird Tales. This is the perfect opportunity to begin. So I'll start with Mike's comment and continue with my reply:

Michael Tuz on November 11, 2016 at 7:40 AM

Happy Veterans Day, you happy veteran!

One of the things that I find fascinating when looking at art from days gone by is noting the changes in people's perception of what made a man or woman physically attractive. On the cover of the May '34 issue, Margaret Brundage gives us a version of Conan who looks much like Francis X. Bushman in the silent Ben-Hur; quite different from the now familiar muscleman interpretation that Frank Frazetta created three decades later (and which, in turn, helped launch Arnold Schwarzenneger to movie stardom.)

Hi, Mike,

Thanks for remembering. I served eight years and eight months in the U.S. Air Force and the Air National Guard and in two war zones. People thank me for my service, but I should thank this country and the people of this country for everything that it and they--you--have given me.

I noticed the same thing about the appearance of Conan in Margaret Brundage's illustration. Part of that might be explained by the artist. Her men tend to look civilized, even over-civilized, and somewhat feminine. Margaret was an artist (in pastel!), a woman, and a lifelong city-dweller. So maybe the facts of her sex, biography, and technique have something to do with the way she drew men.

Hugh Rankin's interior illustrations of Conan are closer to our image of the character, despite the fact that Rankin was an urbanite. He was an only child and reared by a single mother (she was an artist, too), but Rankin had a more masculine take on Conan. Over all, though, I don't think that the popular culture of the 1920s and '30s was, in the main, up to the task of adequately portraying a barbarian or savage, at least as a protagonist or a sympathetic character.

Robert E. Howard was able to imagine and identify with the barbarian because he projected himself into the historical past to a time when such people existed. He was also not very much removed from the Wild West. And he thought of himself, I think, as an atavism, as a primitive man living in the wrong century. That may have been a conceit for him, but it appears to have been the foundation of his art: that civilization is merely a veneer laid over the heart of a savage humanity. (Lovecraft thought of himself as a man living in the wrong century as well, but he imagined himself as one of the Augustan Age, a time of high civilization. Lovecraft and Howard, despite everything that separated them, were friends.)

Frank Frazetta, younger by a generation, may have been a city-dweller, but he came up in an almost savage environment in Brooklyn. Though an artist, Frazetta was also physically active (like Howard). He was hard, muscular, an excellent athlete, and good-looking enough to have been a movie star. He was heavily influenced by Hal Foster and Prince Valiant, but he wasn't constrained by those influences. Prince Valiant, though son of Norsemen, is a civilized character. He was also somewhat feminine in Foster's treatment. (Just look at those red lips!) Frazetta turned things around by depicting Conan as a savage and an outsider. Frazetta may have seen something like that in himself. More likely, he saw it in the working men of Brooklyn and maybe the men around him living on the fringes: criminals, gangsters, mafiosi, thugs. Contrast that with Boris Vallejo's posed and wooden bodybuilders with their smooth, precisely chiseled, and depilated bodies. I think that the Arnold Schwarzenegger Conan, with his big and largely useless muscles, is closer to Boris than to Frazetta.

Frazetta was also influenced by the romances of Edgar Rice Burroughs, who, like Margaret Brundage and Hugh Rankin, was a Chicagoan. (Hal Foster was a Chicagoan, too, but not by birth.) Burroughs was a man of action, but his two most well known characters, Tarzan and John Carter, are civilized men thrust into savage worlds. They themselves are not savages. Here is the same pattern: a man who is essentially an urbanite and thoroughly civilized creates a character who reflects his world. Robert E. Howard was different, and though Frank Frazetta was not in his youth a reader or fan of Howard's stories, I don't think there was a better or more appropriate artist to depict the world he created. And maybe it took the savagery of the Second World War to lay low the Victorian or nineteenth-century idea of an inevitable progression towards a peaceful and civilized world, one without barbarians. Maybe only after the war could Conan have been shown to be what he really is.

* * *

Robert E. Howard wrote seventeen Conan stories published in Weird Tales. The first was "The Phoenix on the Sword," from December 1932. The last was "Red Nails," a three-part serial from July, August/September, and October 1936. Nine of Howard's seventeen tales of Conan were cover stories, but Conan himself was only on the cover three times. You would be right in pointing out that the title of this article isn't quite accurate.

All nine of the Conan covers for Weird Tales covers were drawn by Margaret Brundage. The 1930s were, after all, not only the golden age of Conan but also the golden age of Brundage covers. You might think she was the wrong artist to have drawn Conan. But she was an artist of the feminine, and women--small, dainty, feminine women--were throughout Howard's stories. There were things beyond that in Howard's stories as well, things I think to be in very poor taste if not indicative of psychosexual problems in the author's life and mind. Margaret Brundage depicted those things, too, in two covers, in the process softening them and making them a little less pathological.

So there are nine Conan covers. Three show Conan himself. Significantly, all three show him in peril. Two out of those three show a female character intervening between Conan and that which threatens him, and one out of those two shows her actually rescuing him. This is not our image of Conan, but it's how Margaret Brundage first depicted him, and her interpretation is worth consideration and thought. (She was probably the first artist to depict Conan in color, at least for publication.)

Five out of the nine Conan covers show women only. Women were, after all, the cover artist's specialty and main subject of interest. Two show scenes from Conan stories that can only be described as lesbian/sadomasochistic/fetishistic. (These are the kind of scenes that have often turned me off of Howard's stories.) One more is marginally in that category. Two show a woman being threatened by something other than another woman. Only one--the first--shows a woman who is not obviously threatened.

As Mike Tuz pointed out, Conan here looks like a Hollywood movie actor. He has some muscles, but he is not heavily muscled. In two out of his three covers, Conan is somewhat passive. He is also pretty well groomed and not what we think of as a barbarian. (He doesn't have a beard, as Conan doesn't have a beard. Ironically, the word barbarian refers to men with beards, i.e., men who are uncivilized. In Boris Vallejo's paintings, barbarians don't even have body hair.) But these images are part of the history of Conan the Barbarian, and they deserve a look and no careless dismissal.

Weird Tales, June 1933. Cover story: "Black Colossus" by Robert E. Howard. Cover art by Margaret Brundage. This was the fourth Conan story in Weird Tales and the first Conan cover story. I have shown this image before in "Woman and God or Idol." 

Weird Tales, September 1933. Cover story: "The Slithering Shadow" by Robert E. Howard. Cover art by Margaret Brundage. The second Conan cover story and still no sign of Conan.

Weird Tales, May 1934. Cover story: "Queen of the Black Coast" by Robert E. Howard. Cover art by Margaret Brundage. Finally, Conan, but not as we imagine him: civilized, subordinate to a woman, somewhat passive, and practically shrinking from peril.

Weird Tales, August 1934. Cover story: "The Devil in Iron" by Robert E. Howard. Cover art by Margaret Brundage. This is more like it, at least for real fans of Conan. He still looks like a movie actor, but at least he is active, combative, and superior in position to the woman.

Weird Tales, September 1934. Cover story: "The People of the Black Circle" by Robert E. Howard. Cover art by Margaret Brundage. We're back to no Conan here, but the image is effective.

Weird Tales, December 1934. Cover story: "A Witch Shall Be Born" by Robert E. Howard. Cover art by Margaret Brundage. Another cover showing a woman whipping another woman. This might as well be the same cover as in September 1933.

Weird Tales, November 1935. Cover story: "Shadows in Zamboula" by Robert E. Howard. Cover art by Margaret Brundage. Some people loved Conan. Others hated him. I think Robert Bloch (an urbanite, a Chicagoan, and an heir to one of the oldest and highest civilizations on earth) hated him. Does that explain the absence of Conan on the cover of the magazine? I doubt it. Margaret Brundage liked to draw women and that was that.

Weird Tales, December 1935. Cover story: "The Hour of the Dragon" by Robert E. Howard. Cover art by Margaret Brundage. This was the last Conan on the cover of Weird Tales, and just look at him in his abject state. Locked up, chained, pretty unhappy, and so weak or despairing that he can barely reach out to get the key to his cell from his distaff rescuer. Margaret Brundage's husband was in and out of her life and didn't always provide very well for himself and his family. Eventually the two were divorced. It doesn't surprise me that she depicted men as she did. I wonder now if she ever showed a male figure in a good light, other than the Conan cover of August 1934.

Weird Tales, July 1936. Cover story: "Red Nails" by Robert E. Howard. Cover art by Margaret Brundage. Compare this human sacrifice cover to the painting by Frank Frazetta shown below. It's almost like something out of a Busby Berkeley movie.

In strong contrast to Margaret Brundage's covers, here is an interior illustration by Hugh Rankin for "Shadows in the Moonlight" (Apr. 1934). The figure of the woman is in no way like a Frazetta woman, but the ape and the man could easily have been an influence upon the artist who created images like those that follow . . .

Cover art for Conan (Lancer, 1967), illustrating "Rogues in the House."

Cover art for Conan the Conqueror (Lancer, 1967).

Cover art for Conan the Avenger (Lancer, 1968).

Again, in strong contrast:

A painting of Conan by Boris Vallejo, technically very well done but lacking in the fury, violence, action, and mystery of Frazetta's best work.

I don't think anyone has come closer to Howard's vision than Frank Frazetta, and I don't think anyone ever will. We can be happy that there was once this artist named Frazetta yet sad that no one will ever again be able to do what he did.

Revised Nov. 15, 2016. Thanks to RedFury (comment below) for his correction.
Text and captions copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley

Friday, November 11, 2016

Winged Creatures on the Cover of Weird Tales

I have written before about monsters, aliens, bats, devils, and demons. We have already seen most of these covers. The exceptions are the second and third shown here. The second is of two winged people, the third of what looks like a god or idol and one that I should add to my listing in that category. All others shown here are of monsters or aliens, a couple of which appear to be benevolent or helpful.

Weird Tales, January 1927. Cover story: "Drome" by John Martin Leahy. Cover art by C. Barker Petrie, Jr. This is one of my favorite Weird Tales covers, for its poster-like simplicity, the great flying monkey kind of monster, and the pose and costume of the female figure. This story can be added to a polar fiction database of "The Unique Magazine."

Weird Tales, November 1927. Cover story: "The Invading Horde" by Arthur J. Banks. Cover art by C.C. Senf. This is an odd image, I think. With their helmets, goggles, and dress, the two figures here look like aviators except that they seem to have flown in by their own power. The setting is almost surrealistic, and if there is any threat, it is offstage. Putting aviators on the cover of your magazine makes sense if you remember that Charles Lindbergh made his famous transatlantic flight in May 1927, half a year before this issue of Weird Tales was published. I don't know the story, but it seems likely to me that it and this illustration were designed to capitalize on the popularity of Charles Lindbergh or the general popularity of aviation in the 1920s. 

Edward Hopper's "Rooms by the Sea," from 1951. In a moment, Senf's two winged figures will fly through the doorway and alight.

Weird Tales, September 1932. Cover story: "The Altar of Melek Taos" by G.G. Pendarves. Cover art by Margaret Brundage. The winged creature here looks like a god or idol of an eastern persuasion, fitting for the Orientalist 1930s.

Weird Tales, May 1934. Cover story: "Queen of the Black Coast" by Robert E. Howard. Cover art by Margaret Brundage. This is a simple and somewhat awkward composition. One of the things that stands out for me is that the man--Conan--is in an inferior position and the woman intervenes between him and the winged creature that threatens him. That seems to be a recurring theme in Margaret Brundage's art. You might imagine that she was one of her dainty little women. In fact she was tall, strong, and tough.

Weird Tales, March 1940. Cover story: None. Cover art by Hannes Bok. Here the winged creature is in the background and not obviously the focus of the picture. 

Weird Tales, May 1940. Cover story: "The City from the Sea" by Edmond Hamilton. Cover art by Hannes Bok.

The figure on the far left of Bok's painting makes me think of a figure in the same position in this work by Frank Frazetta. That doesn't look like a swipe to me. Instead it looks like two artists separated by time and space but solving the same kind of problem in the same way.

Weird Tales, September 1940. Cover story: "Seven Seconds of Eternity" by Robert H. Leitfred. Cover art by Ray Quigley.

Weird Tales, July 1942. Cover story: "Coven" by Manly Wade Wellman. Cover art by Margaret Brundage, a different kind of work by the artist, characteristic of her covers from the 1940s.

Weird Tales Canada, November 1942. Cover story: "Coven" by Manly Wade Wellman. Cover art by an unknown artist. This is one of at least three Canadian issues with the same cover story and subject as their American counterparts.

Weird Tales, March 1944. Cover story: "The Trail of Cthulhu" by August Derleth. Cover art by John Giunta.

Weird Tales Canada, July 1944. Cover story: "The Trail of Cthulhu" by August Derleth. Cover art by an unknown artist. Each of these two images has its merits. Although the Canadian artist here had a greater talent for verisimilitude, Giunta's painting is filled with the spirit of adventure and has a childlike sense of the fantastic.

I have written before that both images remind me of this painting by Frank Frazetta. Again, this isn't a swipe. However, it seems likely to me that Frazetta knew of Giunta's original work, for Giunta was his mentor when Frazetta broke into comic books in the mid 1940s. 

Weird Tales, May 1945. Cover story: "The Shining Land" by Edmond Hamilton. Cover art by Peter Kuhlhoff.

Weird Tales, July 1948. Cover story: None. Cover art by Matt Fox.

Weird Tales, November 1948. Cover story: None. Cover art by John Giunta.

Weird Tales, March 1949. Cover story: None. Cover art by Matt Fox.

Weird Tales, Winter 1985. Cover story: None. Cover art by Ro H. Kim. This must be the most bizarre of all the winged creatures shown here.

Text and captions copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley