Saturday, March 5, 2016

Surrealism on the Cover of Weird Tales

In writing about surrealism, I have realized that Weird Tales had a couple of surrealistic covers. Those two things don't necessarily go together. Surrealism was an avant-garde movement, whereas Weird Tales was generally conservative and oriented towards the past. Both originated at about the same time. Weird Tales began in March 1923. The first surrealist manifesto, Manifeste du surr√©alisme by Andr√© Breton, spilled forth in 1924. Both came in the aftermath of the Great War. Both can be seen as possible responses to war and civilizational disaster. Weird Tales was nostalgic and turned its gaze to the pre-war or even pre-industrial past. As a leftist movement, surrealism had its eyes on the golden age of the future. That orientation towards the future would have made surrealism and avant-garde art in general attractive to the science fiction artist. Richard M. Powers (1921-1996) is the most obvious example of a science fiction artist who worked in a surrealist mode.

By the time the two covers shown below were published, the European avant-garde had arrived on American shores. Here it was often stripped of its theories and ideologies and used only for its technical or pictorial possibilities. You can still see abstract, cubist, or surrealistic pictures hanging on the walls of hotels and doctors' offices. One of the reasons why Europeans think of Americans as a bunch of boobs is that we take their high ideas and make them commercial. While their artists starved, our businessmen were rolling in the dough. As Bitter Bierce once said, "Success is the one unpardonable sin against our fellows."

Weird Tales from March 1946 with cover art by Lee Brown Coye.

Weird Tales from September 1949 with cover art by Michael Labonski, an artist of Syracuse, New York, and an associate of Coye. 

Text copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley


  1. I’ve nominated you for a Liebster Award – one of those blogging publicity awards as per

  2. Dear Marzaat,

    Thanks for the nomination. I don't know what it means, but thanks.