Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Authors on the Cover of Weird Tales

"Child, child--come with me--come with me to your brother's grave tonight. Come with me to the places where the young men lie whose bodies have long since been buried in the earth. Come with me where they walk and move again tonight, and you shall see your brother's face again, and hear his voice, and see again, as they march toward you from their graves, the company of young men who died, as he did, in October, speaking to you their messages of flight, of triumph, and the all-exultant darkness, telling you that all will be again as it once was."
--From "October Has Come Again" in
The Face of a Nation, Poetical Passages from the
Writings of Thomas Wolfe by Thomas Wolfe (1939)
Thomas Wolfe had a special claim on October: he was born in this most nostalgic and evocative of months in 1900, and he returned to the subject of October again and again in his writings. Wolfe's brother Ben--his closest brother--died in that same month in 1918 of the Spanish Flu, a disease that killed more people worldwide than the Great War that had waged before it. Nearly one hundred Octobers have passed since then. Now summer is gone and October has come again, as Wolfe chanted in the passage from which the quote above is taken. This is the season of cut corn and apple cider, of woodsmoke and leaves aflame, of pumpkins, apples, squash, and remembrance. The world and life will come 'round again, but for now, plants retreat into seed, root, and rosette, insects into egg, pupa, and diapause, small animals into their burrows and dens, and we into sweaters, home, memory, and hope.

Edgar Allan Poe died in October. The anniversary of his death--October 7--just passed. Harry Houdini died in October, too, fittingly on Halloween 1926, ninety years ago this month. Those two men were the only authors of whom I am aware who appeared in both name and figure on the cover of Weird Tales. The faces of two artist/authors were on Weird Tales: Virgil Finlay and Hannes Bok created self-portraits in two covers respectively. The last cover shown here from the original run of Weird Tales is less certain to fall into the category of authors on the cover of the magazine. I have included it here only as a possibility. Finally, there is the cover of the Fall 1984 issue of Weird Tales, created by Ro H. Kim with Brinke Stevens as his model. So, two named authors, two self-portraits, a modeled portrait, and an uncertainty. Those make the authors on the cover of Weird Tales from 1923 to 1985.

Weird Tales, March 1924. Cover story: "The Spirit Fakers of Hermannstadt" by Harry Houdini. Cover art by R.M. Mally.

Weird Tales, February 1937. Cover story: "The Globe of Memories" by Seabury Quinn. Cover art by Virgil Finlay. The figure of the swordsman in the center is almost certainly a self-portrait of the artist.

Weird Tales, September 1939. Cover poem: "The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe. Cover art by Virgil Finlay.

Weird Tales, July 1941. Cover story: "The Robot God" by Ray Cummings. Cover art by Hannes Bok. Again, the male figure is probably a self-portrait of the artist.

Weird Tales, September 1950. Cover story: "Legal Rites" by Isaac Asimov and James MacCreagh (sic) (Frederik Pohl). Cover art by Bill Wayne. Asimov co-authored the cover story--that looks an awful lot like him on the right. The anatomy is odd. Note the oversized hand and the misplaced arm.

Weird Tales, Fall 1984. Cover story: "The Pandora Principal" by Brinke Stevens and A. E. van Vogt. Cover art by Ro H. Kim with Brinke as his model.

Text and captions copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley


  1. Your appraisal of October as "the most nostalgic and evocative of months" really resonated within me, my friend! I love October; here in New England it is the most beautiful time of year. All of the things that you mentioned hold a special place in my heart -- pumpkins, cut corn, cider, woodsmoke, and of course the rapidly changing pallet of color as the trees retreat into hibernation for the coming winter. Carving jack o'lanterns is a beloved ritual that I will never outgrow. Many evenings throughout this most magical of months my friend Walter and I meet at a two hundred year old cemetery here in Bridgewater to watch the setting sun gradually change the brilliantly colored sugar maples into muted shades of pastel. We sit on hay bales in the back of his truck, listen to soundtracks from classic films and television shows that evoke the season, enjoy a cider or two, and revel in the majestic beauty of life. I wish you could join us one evening...

    Regarding the Influenza Epidemic of 1918: my paternal grandfather's first wife died in that epidemic. He later remarried -- the woman who became the mother of my father and his eight brothers and sisters. Without the Spanish Flu, neither me nor my many cousins would be here today...

  2. Mike,

    Thanks for a very nice comment. If I can make it to Connecticut one of these days, I'll join you for an apple cider.

    My mom passed on a story to us that John Dillinger's mother (or aunt--I can't remember which) saved her father's life when he was a baby or toddler by pulling a gob of phlegm out of his throat. My grandfather was born in 1914, so in 1918, he would have been four. I can't say that the flu did that to him, but I have always thought of it as a possibility.