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, 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.|
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