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

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 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