Friday, September 9, 2016

Hannes Bok (1914-1964)

Né Wayne Francis Woodard
Aka Hans Bok
Artist, Author, Illustrator, Poet, Astrologer/Occultist
Born July 2, 1914, Kansas City, Missouri
Died April 11, 1964, New York, New York

There has been much written about Hannes Bok. Just two weeks ago, I wrote about him myself in my posting on his friend and sometime collaborator Boris Dolgov. (You can read what I wrote by clicking here.) I won't go over too much of what has been written on Bok, but I would like to offer information specific to his contributions to Weird Tales.

Hannes Bok was born Wayne Francis Woodard on July 2, 1914, in Kansas City, Missouri. His father, Irving Ingalls Woodard (1888-1975), was an insurance salesman. That might explain the itinerant lifestyle of the Woodard family. In 1920, they were in St. Paul, Minnesota, and in 1930, in Duluth. Wayne Woodard graduated from Duluth High School in 1932 and departed for Seattle, according to Wikipedia to live with his mother, Carolyn Bantiz Woodard. According to that same source, Wayne Woodard was estranged from his father. His problems in life--sexual, personal, professional, spiritual, and otherwise--suggest an unhealthy or dysfunctional family life early on.

In 1937 or 1938, Woodard moved to Los Angeles and became associated with the science fiction scene there. He was friends with Emil Petaja, Ray Bradbury, Forrest J Ackerman, and others. In 1938, he returned to Seattle and worked for the WPA painting murals. His artist contacts in that city included Morris Graves (1910-2001) and Mark Tobey (1890-1976). Assuming the name Hans or Hannes Bok, Woodard moved to New York City in December 1939, the same month in which his first cover and interior illustrations appeared in Weird Tales. Bok would remain in that city for the rest of his too-brief life. Again, he was in contact with others engaged in writing and illustrating science fiction and fantasy. Towards the end of his life, he seems to have lost contact with many of them. If that was the case, it was probably owed in no small part to his peculiarities and his difficulties with personal relationships.

Hannes Bok created seven cover illustrations for Weird Tales. One, for the issue of July 1941, very likely includes a self-portrait. His interior illustrations for the magazine numbered in the dozens and include collaborations with Boris Dolgov, which were attributed to "Dolbokov." Bok's first interior illustrations were for "Nymph of Darkness" by C.L. Moore and Forrest J Ackerman and "Escape from Tomorrow" by Frank Belknap Long, Jr., in December 1939. The last was for "Brenda" by Margaret St. Clair in March 1954. Bok also created the headings for the interior main title and for the Weird Tales Club feature.

Bok was multitalented and wrote five stories for the original Weird Tales, plus one story published in the paperback editions of the 1980s and a poem published in July 1944 (in collaboration with an author named Nichol). Bok's contributions to Weird Tales tailed off in the mid to late 1940s, but he remained very active in fantasy and science fiction into the 1950s. Curiously, his last interior illustrations and among his last cover illustrations in those fields came in 1957, well before his death. By then, Bok was in decline, separated from former friends and acquaintances and living in poverty so extreme that his teeth had rotted, his dentures had fallen apart, and his diet consisted of the simplest of fare. Hannes Bok died alone in his apartment, either of a heart attack or starvation, on April 11, 1964, at age forty-nine. He has not been forgotten, however, for his art lives on, and he is recognized as one of the foremost illustrators of fantasy and science fiction of the twentieth century.

Hannes Bok's Stories and Poem in Weird Tales
"Poor Little Tampico" (July 1942)
"The Evil Doll" (Nov. 1942)
"Dimensional Doors" (Jan. 1944)
"Tragic Magic" (Mar. 1944)
"Weirditties" (poem, July 1944, with Nichol)
"The Ghost Punch" (Nov. 1944)
"Someone Named Guibourg" (Spring 1981)

Hannes Bok's Interior Illustrations in Weird Tales
See the Internet Speculative Fiction Database, here, for a complete list.
Editor Brian Forbes reused Bok's main title heading on the interior of his two Bellerophon Weird Tales issues of 1984-1985. He also reprinted an illustration of a rocketship around a planet, signed by Bok and dated 1949. I don't know whether that illustration originally appeared in Weird Tales or not.

Hannes Bok's Cover Illustrations for Weird Tales
See below.

Further Reading
Any number of sources and collections, including A Hannes Bok Treasury (Underwood-Miller, 1993) and A Hannes Bok Showcase (Charles F. Miller, 1995).

Weird Tales, December 1939, Hannes Bok's first cover for the magazine.

Weird Tales, March 1940. Artist Gary van der Steur refashioned this image for his cover of Weird Tales for Fall 1973. Mr. van der Steur replaced the profile on the bottom with that of Richard Nixon.

Weird Tales, May 1940.

Weird Tales, May 1941.

Weird Tales, July 1941, a rare science fiction cover for the magazine and one that includes what is almost certainly a self-portrait of the artist.

Weird Tales, July 1941, another effective war cover.

Weird Tales, March 1942, Bok's last cover for the magazine.

Text copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley


  1. I've admired the works of Hannes Bok for many yeas, but until I read your post I knew nothing about the man. The fact that he likely died of starvation at the age of only 49 is sadder than words can convey. It's amazing -- and disturbing -- just how many great artist die young. It is also fascinating to me just how many brilliant artists from all discipline have come from Kansas City.

    1. Mike,

      Too many artists die young and too many die alone. In addition to Hannes Bok, there were Hugh Rankin (also a contributor to Weird Tales), Wally Wood, Peter Arno, and Fletcher Hanks, to name a few who were young, alone, or both when they died. Robert E. Howard of course killed himself. H.P. Lovecraft more or less destroyed himself, too. It's enough to make a young artist or writer want to give it up and become an accountant or an engineer.


  2. There's more than just a grain of truth to the old adage, "You don't have to be crazy to be an artist, but it helps." Many people whose extreme sensitivity makes them socially awkward and clinically depressed turn to creative ventures as a outlet for their frustrations. One such artist, Vincent Van Gogh, was memorialized by Don McLean with the lyric, "This world was never meant for one as beautiful as you." A most sobering observation...

    1. Mike,

      Or as Popeye observed, cartoonists are just like anybody else except they're crazy in the head.


  3. If you haven't already seen it, Frederik Pohl's recollections of Bok, and might be interesting.

    1. Ron,

      Thanks for the links. I still marvel at the fact that Frederik Pohl was still writing--and BLOGGING--into his nineties.