Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Reaching Hands

Reaching hands are something of a cliché‎, especially in movies. Artists and moviemakers use reaching hands to create a sense of mystery and suspense. But using reaching hands on a magazine cover serves another purpose: it allows the artist to pack a lot of stuff into his or her tableau, and whoever can't fit can at least get his hand into the picture. That's not always the case, but it happens often enough, and when it does, the composition suffers, as in Rankin's cover and Senf's cover from January 1931. Even Margaret Brundage was guilty in an otherwise fine cover from March 1937. In any case, the artists who contributed to Weird Tales relied on reaching hands for twelve covers in all. 

Weird Tales, April 1930. Cover story: "The Dust of Egypt" by Seabury Quinn. Cover art by Hugh Rankin. The first reaching hand cover doesn't quite fit the pattern, for the hand isn't obviously a threat, even if seems to be controlling the creature in the background.

Weird Tales, May 1930. Cover story: "The Brain Thief" by Seabury Quinn. Cover art by C.C. Senf. You almost get three for one in this picture: the guy in the turban has not one but two reaching hands. In the background is another reaching hand holding a sword. As you can see, sometimes the reaching hand is the hand of a good guy, but most of the time, it's the hand of a bad guy.

Weird Tales, January 1931. Cover story: "The Lost Lady" by Seabury Quinn. Cover art by C.C. Senf, whose weird menace cover has a little bit of everything: a beautiful and scantily clad woman, a green monster, a bald villain with a cat-o'-nine-tails, a reaching hand holding a pistol, and some bondage for those who favor that kind of thing. There's so much squeezed into the picture in fact that the hero is squeezed out. As always, Senf handled the female form, face, and hair very nicely and with good taste. It's pretty plain to me that Senf liked and respected women, even if he did tie them to a post on occasion. There are entirely too many artists who don't like or respect women, and they show it in their art.

Weird Tales, November 1931. Cover story: "Placide's Wife" by Kirk Mashburn. Cover art by C.C. Senf. From here on out, the reaching hands are bad hands, or at least they appear to be.

Weird Tales, December 1931. Cover story: "The Dark Man" by Robert E. Howard. Cover art by C.C. Senf. This may be the most well composed of all the reaching hand covers.

Weird Tales, July 1932. Cover story: "The Phantom Hand" by Victor Rousseau. Cover art by C.C. Senf. At last, the reaching hand has found its way into the title of a cover story!

Weird Tales, March 1935. Cover story: "Clutching Hands of Death" by Harold Ward. Cover art by Margaret Brundage. Here the reaching hands have become "clutching hands," and not just any clutching hands, but "clutching hands of death." 

Weird Tales, May 1935. Cover story: "The Death Cry" by Craig Kennedy. Cover art by Margaret Brundage. Finally, a man rather than a woman is in peril from the reaching hands.

Weird Tales, March 1937. Cover story: "Strange Orchids" by Dorothy Quick. Cover art by Margaret Brundage. Here the reaching hand is actually a shadow of a reaching hand. The shadow on the cover of Weird Tales is a theme for another day. The woman coated in gold showed up later in James Bond's bed in Goldfinger. Margaret Brundage made nice use of the three primary colors here.

Weird Tales, March 1938. Cover story: "Incense of Abomination" by Seabury Quinn. Cover art by Margaret Brundage. Look carefully for the reaching hand.

Weird Tales, May 1941. I believe the cover story is "There Are Such Things" by Seabury Quinn. The cover artist was Hannes Bok. Here the reaching hand imperils an effigy of the heroine instead of her real self. Bok's cover may fit into the reaching hand category only just barely.

Weird Tales, January 1951. Cover story: "The Hand of Saint Ury" by Gordon MacCreagh. Cover art by Charles A. Kennedy. Ten years went by before the reaching hand showed up again. I think it's a bad hand. Just look at those nails. Plus, it's green. But I'm not sure. Note the skulls in the woman's eyes.

Updated December 3, 2018.
Text and captions copyright 2014, 2018 Terence E. Hanley

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