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.

(Now we have gone beyond a man's allotted three-score and ten since the end of the war and you would think that the world has revolved a time or two--that we're ready for something new again--except that we have a pair of superannuated Baby Boomers running for president. Will these people ever leave?)

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

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Wrap-Up of Art and Artists of the Bellerophon Weird Tales

I'd like to start today by thanking publisher and editor Brian L. Forbes for photocopies provided by him of the two issues of the Bellerophon Weird Tales. Before hearing from Mr. Forbes, I had little hope of ever seeing these two issues, let alone studying them or owning them. So, thank you, Brian.

The Bellerophon issues of Weird Tales are interesting for a number of reasons. They were preceded by Lin Carter's paperback series of Weird Tales from 1980-1983, Sam Moskowitz's revival of 1973-1984, and of course the original run of 1923-1954. Although Weird Tales had appeared in a format larger than a regular magazine size (approximately 8-1/2 x 11 inches) before, the Bellerophon issues were the first non-pulp-sized or non-digest-sized Weird Tales in decades. Brian Forbes' two issues also brought Harlan Ellison, Stephen King, J.N. Williamson, and other well-known authors into the magazine's pages for the first time.

There were new artists, too. I have to admit to a bias in singling out Dave Stevens, even if his contribution amounted to just one illustration. In addition, Ro H. Kim's covers are good, although one appears to be a swipe. The Bellerophon issues also introduced photographs and comic strips to Weird Tales. It's nice to imagine that the magazine could have continued under the Bellerophon Network.

There are two Bellerophon issues, but they don't look an awful lot alike, at least on the inside. The typefaces used in the respective interiors are different. The second issue is longer (96 pages vs. 72 pages) and has a greater cover price ($2.95 vs. $2.50) than the first. The first issue has more original art in it than the second. In fact, if I have counted right, the only original art in the second issue (other than collages) are comic strips by Bruce David. (The collages were, I believe, assembled by Brian Forbes and came from Forrest J Ackerman's vast collection of science fiction and fantasy books and magazines.)

Speaking of art, much of the art in the Bellerophon issues is reprinted from previous sources, some without any indication as to the artist's identity. Most of these pieces of unsigned art (unsigned because they are apparently snippets) are nondescript. The following piece shows a very distinct style, however, and might be identifiable as to the artist. (This sounds like a job for you, Mike Tuz.)

An illustration by an unidentified artist, reprinted in Weird Tales, Winter 1985, for the story "Vengeance by Proxy" by John Wyndham. The style is distinctive enough, I think, to identify the artist who created it. That artist could easily have drawn for comic books.

So this ends my series on the art and artists of the Bellerophon Weird Tales (even though I did not cover all of them). And what comes next? Your guess is as good as mine.

Text copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

George D. Sukara (b. ?)

Illustrator, Animator, Storyboard Artist, Art Teacher
Born ?

The Bellerophon Network seems to have employed a lot of people associated with movies, radio, and television, including Harlan Ellison, Michael P. Hodel, Brinke Stevens, Dave Stevens, Overton Loyd, and Ro H. Kim. George D. Sukara is included in that list. According to the Internet Movie Database, he began working in animation as an assistant animator on The Black Cauldron (1985). That movie was released shortly after the first Bellerophon issue of Weird Tales came out, in Fall 1984. Mr. Sukara had two illustrations in that issue, for stories by Stephen King and Larry Tritten. You can see his movie credits at the aforementioned database.

Update (Oct. 5, 2016): Mike Tuz informs me that George D. Sukara is, in addition to being an animator, an art teacher. In fact, Mr. Sukara is teaching an introduction to cartooning beginning tomorrow at the Peninsula Art Academy in Peninsula, Ohio. Follow this link for more information. Thanks to Mike Tuz.

George D. Sukara's Illustrations in Weird Tales
"Beachworld" by Stephen King (Fall 1984)
"Flecks of Gold" by Larry Tritten (Fall 1984)

Further Reading
See the Internet Movie Database, here, for a list of George Sukara's credits.

Copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley