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 ńĆapek'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

2 comments:

  1. Terence,
    The first thing that I thought when I looked at that cover from the December 1926 issue pictured here was that it looked very much like a Basil Wolverton image that I had once seen. And then I read your copy. I've heard that great minds think alike; apparently so do you and I.
    The similarities between this cover and the kind of stuff Wolverton would be doing two decades later are striking; so much so that I wonder if he was influenced by by Joseph Doolin's art, or at least by this particular cover. In the sixties and seventies, Robert Crumb forged a career imitating Wolverton's style. Perhaps Doolin is an earlier part of that lineage...

    Always happy to revisit the Fantastic Four comics of the sixties. It was, in fact, the Stan Lee/Jack Kirby work on the FF that made me a life-long comic book addict...

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    1. Mike,

      The more I look into Weird Tales, its stories, and its art, the more I think that it was a powerful influence on the budding artists and writers of the 1920 through the 1940s. We don't know whether some of these people read Weird Tales (Frank Frazetta for example), but it seems very likely that they did by their later work.

      As for Doctor Doom: it doesn't seem very likely at all that Jack Kirby had seen a twenty-year-old copy of a Canadian edition of Weird Tales when he drew Doctor Doom, but that's Doctor Doom on that cover. Or maybe it's Darth Vader.

      TH

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