Thursday, November 20, 2014

Aliens on the Cover of Weird Tales

Weird Tales was a magazine of fantasy, horror, weird fiction, and the supernatural, but it also published science fiction, especially after World War II, when that genre took over our popular culture and aliens seemed to be watching us. I count eight covers in this category, but only three that came after the war. I assume that all the creatures on these covers are aliens. If anyone knows different, please let me know, too. It's worth noting that neither Margaret Brundage nor Virgil Finlay drew any aliens on the cover of Weird Tales. Note also that six of the eight aliens shown here are green.

Weird Tales, April 1925. Cover story: "When the Green Star Waned" by Nictzin Dyalhis. Cover art by Andrew Brosnatch. If I remember right (not that I was there), in the 1920s there was a discussion among the readers of Weird Tales on whether the magazine should print science fiction. The April 1925 cover seems to have provided an answer, but readers should not have forgotten that the first cover story in Weird Tales, "Ooze" by Anthony M. Rud (Mar. 1923), was also science fiction, before that genre even had the name by which we know it today. (The term science fiction didn't show up in print until 1929.) The "Green Star" in the title is Earth. A year after the publication of Dyalhis' story, in April 1926, Amazing Stories, the first American science fiction magazine, made its debut.  

Weird Tales, May 1928. Cover story: "The Bat-Men of Thorium" by Bertram Russell. Cover art by C.C. Senf.

Weird Tales, Feb. 1929. Cover story: "The Star Stealers" by Edmond Hamilton. Cover art by Hugh Rankin.

Weird Tales, Jan. 1932. Cover story: "The Monster of the Prophecy" by Clark Ashton Smith. Cover art by C.C. Senf, one of his best covers, I think.

Weird Tales, November 1944. Cover story: "The Dweller in Darkness" by August Derleth. Cover art by Matt Fox. This was Matt Fox's first cover for Weird Tales. I'm not sure that these creatures are aliens. They may actually be demons or supernatural monsters. I have put them in this category because the imagery is science-fictional rather than fantastical: beams of light are coming from the sky, like from a flying saucer, illuminating strange creatures who have pointed ears, green skin, multiple limbs, and tentacles, all of which later characterized different species of space aliens.

Weird Tales, November 1948. Cover story: "The Perfect Host" by Theodore Sturgeon (?). Cover art by John Giunta. Now we're into the science fiction era and the imagery and technique are those of the science fiction artist. John Giunta was one of the first science fiction artists to come out of fandom and to see his work in print nationally. This could have been the cover of a science fiction novel from the 1960s.

Weird Tales, November 1951. Cover story: None. Cover art by Frank Kelly Freas. Weird Tales may have had a tight budget for most of its run, but it landed some very fine artists, including a young Frank Kelly Freas. This was the second of his three covers for the magazine.

Weird Tales, July 1953. Cover story: None. Cover art by W.H. Silvey. This is among my least favorite covers for Weird Tales. For decades, the magazine had pretty well avoided cheap, exploitative, or cruel imagery on its covers. The exploitation and cruelty here aren't overt, but when a man or a male character is holding something in his hand, that object can be taken as an extension of his hand or of his body in general. In other words, the spoon in this picture is more than just a spoon.

Text and captions copyright 2014 Terence E. Hanley

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