Thursday, March 10, 2016

Weird Tales Features-Weirdisms

"Weirdisms" was a regular feature in Weird Tales for four years, from July 1947 to July 1951. Lee Brown Coye (1907-1981) was the artist on all seventeen installments (assuming there was not more than one installment per issue). Evelyn Crosby Michel was the writer for the first seven "Weirdisms," from July 1947 to September 1948. Coye wrote the last ten, from November 1948 to July 1951.

"Weirdisms" is a compilation of occult lore, mostly to do with vampires, ghosts, witches, wizards, and witch-hunting. I thought that I might be able to put together a complete catalogue of the series, but that doesn't seem likely without access to the original issues in which it appeared. The Internet isn't up to the task, although the Internet Speculative Fiction Database has very nearly complete information on dates and subjects. Most of what I have here comes from that source.

According to Luis Ortiz in his biography of the artist, Lee Brown Coye's main source for "Weirdisms" was Isis Unveiled by Madame Blavatsky (1831-1891) of Theosophic fame. Originally published in 1877, Isis Unbound is itself a compilation of information from other sources. (Some people call it a work of plagiary.) Mr. Ortiz doesn't tell where Coye got his copy of the book, but the artist had it firmly in hand by the 1940s, when he drew "Weirdisms." In 1974, Coye lent David Drake his copy of Isis Unbound with the idea that Mr. Drake might use it for story ideas. Later that year, Stuart David Schiff, publisher of Whispers, asked Coye if he would draw a new series of "Weirdisms" for Mr. Schiff's magazine. David Drake returned Isis Unbound to Coye, and the artist went to work, completing six more installments published from June 1975 (Whispers #6-7) to August 1977 (Whispers #10).

Lee Brown Coye died in 1981. Three years later, Steven Ward created one "Weirdisms" for the Fall 1984 issue of Weird Tales published by The Bellerophon Network. In 1989, Jason Van Hollander picked up the feature in the new Weird Tales, edited by George H. Scithers, Darrell Schweitzer, and John Gregory Betancourt. If I count right, Mr. Van Hollander drew eight "Weirdisms" in Weird Tales, from Winter 1989/1990 to Fall 1998. Weirdbook (combined with Whispers) dug up four more "Weirdisms" by Lee Brown Coye and printed them in 1997. Finally, artist Randy Broecker drew one "Weirdisms" for Windy City Pulp Stories #7 in April 2007, close to the sixtieth anniversary of the first "Weirdisms" in July 1947. For the complete list, see the Internet Speculative Fiction Database, here.

"Weirdisms" in Weird Tales, 1947-1951
By E. Crosby Michel (writer) and Lee Brown Coye (artist):
Vampires (July 1947)
Vampirism (Sept. 1947)
Vampires (Nov. 1947)
Witches (Jan. 1948)
Sabbat Witches (May 1948)
July 1948
Witches (Sept. 1948)
By Lee Brown Coye (writer and artist):
Witch or Wizard (Nov. 1948)
Imp (Jan. 1949)
Wizards and Witches (Mar. 1949)
Wizards (Sept. 1949)
Edinburgh, Scotland (Nov. 1949)
Witch-finder Matthew Hopkins (Mar. 1950)
Fiddler's Ghost (July 1950)
About Ghosts (Nov. 1950)
Buried Alive (Mar. 1951)
July 1951

The first "Weirdisms" appeared in Weird Tales in July 1947. The featured subject was vampires. Lee Brown Coye was of course the artist. He was also the cover artist for that July issue, and his subject was the same, a vampire. In short, the cover story for the July 1947 issue of Weird Tales was not a story at all, but the first installment of a new feature series. That may have been the only time in the history of the magazine that a feature series was so honored. Score another coup for Lee Brown Coye.

Text copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley


  1. Lee Brown Coye's art has always been unsettlingly fascinating to me. Along with Finlay, Dolgov and a handful of others, WT had a stable of instantly recognizable and talented illustrators. The influence of the "Weirdisms" one-page feature was copied in a number of the horror comics from the 1950s. Perhaps the most notable use of the one-page "Loathsome Lore" regularly seen in Warren's CREEPY.

    1. John,

      Thanks for pointing out the influence of "Weirdisms" on later horror comics. I wasn't aware of "Loathsome Lore," but a quick search for images on the Internet turned up artwork by Frank Frazetta, Roy G. Krenkel, Gray Morrow, Al Williamson, and Jack Davis, among others. A compilation in book form would be nice.

      Do you know of any other titles of non-fiction pictorial features in horror comics?