Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Whips, Chains, Bondage, and Torture-1936-1943

The following covers are not very much different from those before them. There are two more showing people wielding a cat-o'-nine-tails. In the first, the red-robed cultist is showing his victim the whip or caressing her with it in what seems to me a sexual way. A knife or sword can be used to represent a phallus. Maybe a whip can be, too. Anyway, there are two covers here showing women wielding whips in self-defense, a change in theme over previous covers. Then, finally, there is a man bound to a wheel, like in Margaret Brundage's cover of June 1938.

Weird Tales, March 1936. Cover story: "The Albino Deaths" by Ronal Kayser. Cover art by Margaret Brundage. Three years into the weird menace fad, Weird Tales gave its readers this cover promising "weird tortures in a ghastly abode of horrors." I assume those tortures were carried out by the albinos of the title, who might have been thrown with dwarves and hunchbacks into the pot of weird menace villains.

Weird Tales, January 1937. Cover story: "Children of the Bat" by Seabury Quinn. Cover art by Margaret Brundage.

Weird Tales, May 1937. Cover story: "The Mark of the Monster" by Jack Williamson. Cover art by Margaret Brundage. The weird menace fad continues in this cover illustrating "a powerful tale of weird horror."

Weird Tales, October 1937. Cover story: "Tiger Cat" by David H. Keller. Cover art by Margaret Brundage.

Weird Tales, November 1937. Cover story: "Living Buddhess" by Seabury Quinn. Cover art by Margaret Brundage.

Weird Tales, May 1938. Cover story: "Goetterdaemmerung" by Seabury Quinn, called "A Strange Tale of the Future" on the cover. Cover art by Margaret Brundage. Finally, the cat-o'-nine-tails have worn out and we're back to bondage.

Weird Tales, June 1938. Cover story: "Suicide Chapel" by Seabury Quinn. Cover art by Margaret Brundage. The last weird menace type cover in Weird Tales.

Weird Tales, September 1942, Canadian edition. Cover story [?]: "Masquerade" by Henry Kuttner. Cover art by an unknown artist.

Weird Tales, November 1943. Cover story: "The Valley of the Assassins" by Edmond Hamilton. Cover art by A.R. Tilburne. In this last cover in the category of whips, chains, bondage, and torture, the bondage is not the focus of the illustration but only a detail. In other words, the kind of cruelty and depravity so common in the covers of the 1920s and '30s effectively came to an end in June 1938. Weird Tales was sold to Short Stories, Inc., later that year. I wonder if those two events were just coincidental. More likely, the weird menace fad was coming to an end. Evidence of that: probably around the time Weird Tales had its last weird menace cover, Dime Mystery Magazine announced that it would change its format beginning with its September 1938 issue. The emphasis would be less on weird menace and more on mystery and detective stories. Not long after that, Mayor Fiorello La Guardia of New York City launched a crusade against obscenity in magazines. Weird menace was in the spotlight in a way you don't want to be. The fad finally came to an end in the 1940s, although it likely just migrated to paperback books and larger format magazines, especially confessional magazines of the kind that were still on the newsstand in the 1970s and '80s.

Text and captions copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley

5 comments:

  1. Had I been alive in the 1930s, any of these covers by Margaret Brundage would have been reason enough for me to buy the first seven issues pictured here. The center three are especially effective in that they are rather ambiguous, thus making me curious about the stories which they represent.
    The May '37 cover clearly shows a woman in peril. She is lying bound with flames surrounding her. But is the man with the knife another threat, or is he a rescuer?
    The October "37 cover is one that I think you were referring to as an image of a woman defending herself with a whip. Perhaps. But my impression is that she also could be a dominant figure whipping manacled slaves.
    The Living Budhess title would seem to indicate that the woman on the November '37 cover is an object of worship. But the fact that she is bound and has a rather distressed countenance infuses the scene with a delicious air of mystery.

    Fiorello La Guardia's campaign against obscenity brings to mind another NYC mayor who tried the same thing three decades later. In 1972 Mayor John Lindsay launched a crusade against pornography in downtown Manhattan's 42nd Street, which at the time was indeed the nation's smut capitol, with prostitutes, strip clubs, massage parlors and "adult" movie theaters crammed together one after another for block after block.
    During this campaign Lindsay specifically mentioned the film Deep Throat as the type of movie, the sort of inexcusably immoral smut, that he wanted to drive out of New York.
    Not surprisingly, this had just the opposite of his intended effect.
    Most people had never heard of this film, but suddenly the populace was very curious. Soon theaters in New York were filled to capacity, had lines around the block, as throngs poured in to see what all the hubbub was about.
    The fascination with this cheap, minor porn film spread across the country. If not for Mayor Lindsay, Deep Throat would have come and gone largely un noticed. Instead, it became on of the most famous cultural icons of the seventies. Linda Lovelace became the first -- and thus far only -- porn star to achieve superstardom in this country.
    Many controversial artists and voices owe a great debt of gratitude to their loudest critics.

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  2. October 1937 - This woman in Keller's Story has not a whip for self defence! She is a maniac sadistical opera singer and tortured her male victims in her cellar. Matthias

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    1. Matthias,

      I read Keller's story after posting this article. You're right, the woman in the picture is the Tiger Cat of the title. You wouldn't know it to look at Margaret Brundage's illustration, but she is actually the villain in the story, and the men are her victims.

      Thanks for writing.

      TH

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  3. Terence,
    thank you for this great site! I'm a german WT-Fan, your blog is very usefull! Matthias

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    1. Matthias,

      I'm glad to be of service. Thanks for reading and thanks for writing.

      TH

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