Sunday, January 26, 2014

Woman and Animal

A pattern started to emerge in the previous category, which I called man, woman, and animal. The pattern is more evident in the category for today. With the man removed from the picture, it becomes clear that the relationship of woman to animal is either: a) the animal as a threat to the woman (in the same way a monster is a threat); or b) the animal as a pet, companion, or helper to the woman. The animal may even go so far as being an alternate identity for the woman or a kind of witch's familiar. We'll see more of that in the next category, woman and wolf.

Weird Tales, June 1923. Cover story: "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" by Edgar Allan Poe. Cover art by William F. Heitman. I have commented on this cover before. William F. Heitman was a good draftsman (he was employed by the Indianapolis Star as a sketch artist), but this cover is not very well executed. The ape isn't bad, but the figure of the woman is poorly done. I'll assign the poor drawing to two things: it was done in a hurry, and it was done without use of a model. However, Heitman deserves credit for drawing the first gorilla cover for Weird Tales. In the 1950s, DC Comics discovered that gorilla covers sell. I wonder if that was true in the 1920s as well.

Weird Tales, September 1923. Cover story: "People of the Comet" by Austin Hall. Cover art by R.M. Mally. I know there's a man in the picture, but he might as well not be there at all for all the good he's doing. Essentially this is an image of woman and animal, and the animal is a threat. I would say that the woman's goose is cooked.

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. Senf did a good job on the gorilla's face. I'm not so sure about the legs. And the woman is pretty stiff for being hauled around by a big ape. The animal is still a threat, but things are about to change.

Weird Tales, January 1935. Cover story: "Black Bagheela" by Bassett Morgan. Cover art by Margaret Brundage. Here the animal is depicted as a companion or defender of the woman, in strong contrast to the previous three images. Bassett Morgan's story should not be confused with Val Lewton's earlier tale, "The Bagheeta," which appeared in July 1930. Both titles presumably go back to Rudyard Kipling's Bagheera, the black panther character from The Jungle Book (1894).

Weird Tales, November 1935. Cover story: "Shadows in Zamboula" by Robert E. Howard. Cover art by Margaret Brundage. A Conan cover without Conan. Instead we have snakes, and the threat of the animal is back.

Weird Tales, March 1939. Cover story: "The Swine of Aeaea" by Clifford Ball. Cover art by Virgil Finlay. Clifford Ball sure bought a lot of vowels for his title. The idea and the image are odd, but Virgil Finlay's cover works for me. It is, as always with Finlay, beautifully done. Again, it looks like the animal is a pet or companion and no threat at all. 

Weird Tales, May 1943. Cover story: "John Cawder's Wife" by P. Schuyler Miller. Cover art by Margaret Brundage. This was very nearly Margaret Brundage's last cover for Weird Tales, and it's a far cry from her fantasies of the 1930s. Instead of nymphs, we have a mature woman and the work of a more mature artist. Weird Tales was based in New York City by 1943. Margaret Brundage's delicate chalk pastel drawings would not have survived very well in the mail from Chicago (her home) to New York. I believe this is a watercolor, a more durable medium that would have easily been shipped halfway across the country. Someone please correct me if I'm wrong.
Margaret Brundage's drawing of a woman with an ermine reminds me of Leonardo's well known and beautifully done painting "Lady with an Ermine" from about 1489-1490. 

Weird Tales, March 1945. Cover story: "Lords of the Ghostlands" by Seabury Quinn. Cover art by A.R. Tilburne. This cover just barely fits into the category of woman and animal inasmuch as the animal is more an element of design than a part of the action. But the cat is there acting as a companion, familiar, or even alternate identity for the woman. (I haven't read the story, so I can't say.) You will see this cover again in the category of Egypt.

Text and captions copyright 2014 Terence E. Hanley

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