Monday, October 24, 2016

Devils and Demons on the Cover of Weird Tales

This is the last week before Halloween and it's time for some subjects suited to the season. I'll start with devils and demons, the spirits that we are supposed to ward off with our wearing of costumes. I count nearly two dozen Weird Tales covers showing devils and demons, including a few from Canada (covers, not devils and demons). I have a feeling I have missed some. If I have, they will turn up eventually and I will place them here. Three--possibly four or five--of these covers show a man dressed as a devil. The others appear to be depictions of supernatural beings. The first, showing a demon lunging at two men, is genuinely frightening. Two more show Oriental-style demons. Five show a pretty conventional figure in a devil costume. One of the least conventional and one of my favorites is Virgil Finlay's devil on the cover of the April 1937 issue. That's not to take away anything from Matt Fox, a one-man demon factory, who was responsible for six of the twenty-two covers here. And I see by the cover of May 1945 that I have an addition to make to my list of Weird Tales covers featuring circles and spirals. In any case, here are the devils and demons on the cover of Weird Tales.

Weird Tales, February 1925. Cover story: "Whispering Tunnels" by Stephen Bagby. Cover art by Andrew Brosnatch. This is a somewhat poor image. It looks like whoever scanned it did not descreen the image. Below is a larger but less clear version.

Weird Tales, April 1929. Cover story: "The Devil's Rosary" by Seabury Quinn. Cover art by Hugh Rankin. Hugh Rankin was no spring chicken when he created this cover. Born in 1878, he was already half a century old when it was published. C.C. Senf, another Weird Tales cover artist of the 1920s, was only five years his senior, but what a difference those five years (and Senf's European birth and education) made. While Senf was an old-fashioned artist suited in many ways to the backward-looking tendency in weird fiction, Rankin was up-to-date, capturing in his art the look of the 1920s. There is without a doubt an art nouveau influence: the flowing grace of that art movement shows through here. But there is also a distinct art deco look to Rankin's work. Witness the geometric forms and, more to the point, the art deco/1920s female figure, small in the bust, somewhat long in the waist, with rouged cheeks and bobbed hair. There ought to be a collection of Hugh Rankin's work in book form, for he was an artist too-neglected in his time and ours.

Weird Tales, February 1931. Cover story: "Siva the Destroyer" by J.-J. des Ormeaux. Cover art by C. Barker Petrie, Jr., the second of two Oriental-style demons on the cover of the magazine.

Weird Tales, June 1935. Cover story: "The Horror in the Studio" by Dorothy Quick. Cover art by Margaret Brundage. Not an especially scary devil.

Weird Tales, August 1935. Cover story: "Doctor Satan" by Paul Ernst. Cover art by Margaret Brundage. This was the first appearance of Paul Ernst's series character Doctor Satan, who is, as I understand it, not a supernatural being but a normal person, albeit in the weird hero category.

Weird Tales, May 1936. Cover story: "The Devil's Double" by Paul Ernst. Cover art by Margaret Brundage. This was the seventh Dr. Satan story.

Weird Tales, April 1937. Cover story: "Symphony of the Damned" by John R. Speer. Cover art by Virgil Finlay. One of Virgil Finlay's weaknesses as an artist was his repetitiveness: he tended to draw the same monster or demon again and again. (See the cover for May 1952, below, for an example of that.) In this cover, however, he created an original and arresting image of a devil, despite the conventions of pointed beard, mustache, ears, and horns (at least I think they're horns).

Weird Tales, September 1937. Cover story: "Satan's Palimpsest" by Seabury Quinn. Cover art by Margaret Brundage. Margaret Brundage created works of great delicacy, grace, and beauty. She was especially good at depicting women. But she may not have had what it takes to create truly frightening and horrifying demons, monsters, or creatures. Here again, she drew a conventional and not very scary devil.

Weird Tales, Canada, July 1942. Cover story: "Hell on Earth" by Robert Bloch. Cover art by an unknown artist. The Canadian edition of Weird Tales has been neglected by people who study the magazine. I aim to correct that as best I can in a later series. For now, we'll have to settle for what we know about the series' cover artists, which isn't much and does not include the name of the creator of this devil cover of July 1942.

Weird Tales, July 1942. Cover story: "Coven" by Manly Wade Wellman. Cover art by Margaret Brundage. The American edition of Weird Tales for July 1942 came first but I have put it after the Canadian edition here because of the cover story it shared with the Canadian edition of November 1945, shown below. The cover artist was Margaret Brundage. Her approach with this cover was very much different than with her pre-war covers for Weird Tales: less Busby Berkeley, more Val Lewton.

Weird Tales, Canada, November 1942. Cover story: "Coven" by Manly Wade Wellman. Cover art by an unknown artist.

Weird Tales, Canada, January 1945. Cover story: "The Shadow Folk" by Edmond Hamilton. Cover art by an unknown artist.

Weird Tales, May 1945. Cover story: "The Shining Land" by Edmond Hamilton. Cover art by Peter Kuhlhoff. I wrote awhile back about the return to the conventions of horror and fantasy as World War II came to an end, and in the years after. This seldom-seen cover by Peter Kuhlhoff, as well executed as it is, is another example of that. It came out in the month in which the war in Europe ended. If I had to show a bunch of people flying through Hell in May 1945, more than few Nazis would come to mind.

Weird Tales, July 1946. Cover story: None. Cover art by Matt Fox.

Weird Tales, May 1947. Cover story: None. Cover art by Matt Fox.

Weird Tales, November 1947. Cover story: "The Cheaters" by Robert Bloch. Cover art by Matt Fox.

Weird Tales, March 1949. Cover story: None. Cover art by Matt Fox. In regards to the postwar artists for Weird Tales, many depicted the conventions of horror and fantasy again and again, even as the world had changed and the magazine published a lot more science fiction under editor Dorothy McIlwraith. I don't know what to make of that exactly except that weird fiction is more interested in the past than in the present or future.

Matt Fox's cover reminds me of this cover, by Wesso, for Strange Tales, March 1932.

Weird Tales, January 1950. Cover story: "The Ormolu Clock" by August Derleth. Cover art by Matt Fox.

Weird Tales, July 1950. Cover story: None. Cover art by Matt Fox.

Weird Tales, May 1952. Cover story: "The Lamia in the Penthouse" by Thorp McClusky. Cover art by Virgil Finlay.

Weird Tales, September 1953. Cover story: None. Cover art by Jon Arfstrom. I guess I could add this cover to the lists of skull covers and covers with circles and spirals.

Weird Tales, Winter 1973. Cover story: None. Cover art by Bill Edwards. 

Text and captions copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley


  1. This assortment of devilish images has given me an appreciation for the work of Margaret Brundage. I must admit that before today I was unfamiliar with her name, though I'd likely seen her art before. Your post sent me to David Saunders' incomparable site to learn more about her, where I found more examples of her beautiful, innocently erotic images. She was quite a talent; one that I'm now anxious to learn more about.
    According to Saunders, Margaret Brundage did sixty-six covers for WEIRD TALES, mostly rendered in pastel on illustration board. I wonder how many of those paintings still exist...
    Regarding your comments on her cover for the June 1935 cover: I agree that that is not a particularly scary representation of Satan. But that is how I would imagine the devil would present himself to a mortal; as someone whose immorality was cute and playful rather than frighteningly evil.
    I enjoyed your cinematic analogy regarding Brundage's cover for the July 1942 -- that it was more Val Lewton than Busby Berkeley. Before I had even read your copy I made my own film comparison; the image made me think of the movie EQUINOX...
    Thanks, as always, for these thoughtful posts, for sharing your passion to preserve and honor the wonders of the pulp era.

  2. Mike,

    Pastel is a delicate medium. Degas used pastel a lot, and I imagine his drawings survive. But that was Degas. I think that at least some of Margaret Brundage's art survives, too. In any case, she was an interesting person and artist, seemingly maligned by many readers in her time, perhaps better appreciated now.

    I finished reading The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov earlier this week. In that, Satan, in the form of the "foreign consultant" Woland, is not an evil character and in fact appears to be somewhat noble in the end. I agree with you, Satan-on-Earth would present himself in a charming or harmless way, not in a wicked or scary way.

    As for Equinox, I remember that movie from a long, long time ago. I remember it has having Frank Bonner before he was Herb Tarlek. I also know now that it had Fritz Leiber, Jr., in it.

    Thanks for writing, Mike. I'm glad you like what I put down here in electrons.


  3. Equinox was a pretty amazing low budget film. It's got a lot going for it despite its many limitations and is worth checking out.
    I wasn't aware that anyone in the cast had gone on to other, more prestigious things, so your reference to Herb Tarlek went over my head. Imdb tells me that that was a character played by Frank Bonner on the TV show WKRP in Cincinnati. (I wasn't watching much television in the late seventies or early eighties, so I missed that series.)

  4. Mike,

    I'd like to see Equinox again. I saw it when I was a kid and remember being intrigued and scared by it. If I remember right, there are some creepy Ray Harryhausen-like effects in it.

    If you missed WRKP in Cincinnati, you missed a good one.